My grandparents lived in Banning and Beaumont, CA from 1946 or so to ~2005. I grew up in Beaumont with my grandparents almost all my life. We would travel to Palm Springs just about every weekend, where they had a second home in Cathedral City and later, Palm Desert.
As a child and teen, I rarely took notice of the desert's beauty. When I returned home during college, I was able to see the desert with a refreshed outlook and was enchanted by the subtle warm colors -- the oranges, pinks, yellows, purples.
From February 17 to 27, 2011 Palm Springs Modernism Week will celebrate its rich architectural heritage and the people who created it: William Krisel, Donald Wexler, Albert Frey, E. Stewart Williams, William Cody, and others.
For a taste of various facets of Palm Springs and the desert, I recommend watching the following:
Desert Utopia: Mid-Century Architecture in Palm Springs from Design Onscreen.
Bagdad Café (1987) quirky film but perhaps my favorite depicting my homeland. From the sun-faded vintage signage and assortment of interesting characters, this is the desert I also knew and loved -- as much as the architecture.
Palm Springs Weekend (1963) - self-indulgent teens in the 60s; not the most flattering view but you can occasionally glimpse vintage PS in the background.
Part of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure featuring the Cabazon dinosaurs - my favorite childhood landmark of all time! I used to live ten miles from what used to be an awesome roadside attraction.
The dinos are still there but they have been taken over by creationists. Rrrrahwrrrr!
Some suggestions mentioned to me from my friend, Kimberly, over at Cinebeats:
The Satan Bug (1965) - per Kimberly, "a fun sci-fi/espionage thriller and it has some nice MCM interiors."
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) - "has some great scenes that are shot in the famous Elrod House in Palm Springs."
To this day I still consider the area my first "home". The desert's mid-20th century architecture and design undoubtedly imprinted on me. I encountered many incredible people while I was growing up in this area -- I believe it draws like a magnet all sorts of interesting folks. The desert is full of interesting eccentrics, exotics, innovators, scientists and other believers. I don't know of any other place on earth quite like it.