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Twentynine Palms


Twentynine Palms

Out on edge of the desert, the City of Twentynine Palms has long been a place of refuge for the desert traveler.  The cool waters of the Oasis of Mara and the shade of its palms beckon to the weary wanderer, the way they have for thousands of years.  Smoketree Cottage continues this tradition of welcoming the desert traveler for a stay of renewal and rejuvenation.

Known for its clear skies, brilliant star-filled nights, desert and mountain vistas, wide-open spaces, murals and public art, the city offers a haven for artists and nature lovers, a quiet getaway for visitors, a scenic location for photography and filming, and a friendly community for families and retirees.

The area was first inhabited by Serrano, and later Chemehuevi and Cahuilla Indians, who lived at the Oasis of Mara, the original heart of the community and location of its namesake, the legendary 29 native Washingtonia filifera palm trees, counted by desert surveyors in the 1850s, that gave the city its name.

Miners and cattlemen arrived in the 1870s, lured by gold and silver in the nearby Dale Mining District, and open pastures, followed by World War I veterans and homesteaders in the 1920s.  In the years following World War I, veterans arrived, seeking restoration of their health and vitality in the dry desert air, along with resourceful, determined homesteaders, and a community began to take hold.  

Now, Twentynine Palms is the home of the headquarters of Joshua Tree National Park and proud host of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the world’s largest Marine Corps training base.

Serving as a gateway community to  Joshua Tree National Park and the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms is also a gateway to the new Mojave Trails National Monument, the Mojave National Preserve, Mojave Desert wilderness areas, Route 66, the Colorado River, and other exciting desert destinations.

Today, the city provides accommodations for many of the nearly three million annual visitors to Joshua Tree National Park and convenient lodging and dining for contractors and families visiting the Marine base.  The City of Twentynine Palms operates a visitor information center downtown on Route 62, and Joshua Tree National Park’s Oasis Visitor Center is located on Utah Trail and National Park Drive.

Twentynine Palms is also home to the hi-desert’s only casino, Tortoise Rock Casino, which also serves as a live music and entertainment venue for the community, and is only a few minutes drive away from Smoketree Cottage.

Smoketree Cottage is perfectly located for exploring Twentynine Palms.  The cottage is located next door to the Old Schoolhouse Museum and across the street from the 29 Palms Art Gallery, a block from the 29 Palms Inn at the Oasis of Mara, and a short walk from the Joshua Tree National Park Oasis Visitor Center and Oasis of Mara interpretive trail.  Walk into town to explore the Oasis of Murals and the public art of Twentynine Palms.

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Things to Do

Note: Many of Twentynine Palms' attractions are within walking distance from Smoketree Cottage.  The old adobe 29 Palms Art Gallery is just across the street, while the Old Schoolhouse Museum is next door.  The Oasis Visitor Center for Joshua Tree National Park is only a short enjoyable walk, while the historic 29 Palms Inn on the Oasis of Mara - a great stop for lunch, dinner, cocktails and live music, or Sunday brunch - is a very short walk.  It is possible to take a walking tour of most of the murals and public art in downtown Twentynine Palms from Smoketree Cottage, and many of the city's restaurants and bars are within walking distance.

Joshua Tree National Park

Twentynine Palms is home to the headquarters of Joshua Tree National Park, as well as the Oasis Visitor Center at the Oasis of Mara.  The Oasis Visitor Center offers an accessible half-mile walk that helps visitors understand better how this desert oasis has been used by wildlife and people throughout time.  From the Oasis Visitor Center, continue south on Utah Trail to enter Joshua Tree National Park. 


Remember - the park offers no concessions inside its borders, so gas or charge-up your vehicle prior to going into the park, and bring plenty of water with you, along with any snacks or meals you may desire.

Tour the Arts of the Oasis of Murals

Once a budding art colony in the 1940s-50s, Twentynine Palms experienced a renaissance in the mid-1990s that spawned a world class Oasis of Murals, a resurgence of artistic residents, and an Art in Public Places program that features ongoing exhibitions and public art installations throughout the city. 

Pick up a murals map at the Visitor Center & Gallery (at the Chamber of Commerce office downtown) and tour the dozens of murals and public art installations throughout the city.  Take in the gallery showing of desert art while you’re at the visitor center too!

Additional arts attractions feature several galleries, including the 29 Palms Art Gallery, home to the 29 Palms Artists’ Guild, located in a historic adobe building. The guild is the oldest arts organization in the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities, started by famed desert landscape painter John Hilton and other artists in 1951.  The adobe, originally built as the home of western author Tom Hopkins, hosts rotating art shows, classes, receptions, and special events throughout the year.

Drop by the 29 Palms Creative Center where you can not only view and purchase works by desert artists, but you can join in an arts class or arrange a private session to learn how to make monotype prints, mosaics, and more.  Make your own souvenirs and gifts for those back home!  And check out local artists on display inside the restaurant at the 29 Palms Inn.

For a real desert art experience, The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery, located east of town on the 29 Palms Highway, can't be beat.  Yes, there is a glass outhouse, along with monthly art shows and receptions that often feature live music.  Stroll the grounds, stop at the Wayside Chapel, and enjoy the art installations on the property.

Art Cruise 29! is held the first Saturday of each month.  Combine your self-guided Oasis of Murals tour with Art Cruise 29! for a great day in the desert!

Go Back in Time

A visit to the Old Schoolhouse Museum, next door to Smoketree Cottage, is a trip back in time.  Home to the 29 Palms Historical Society, the museum includes the city’s original 1927 one-room schoolhouse, and the Hastie Bus, a 1928 Chevrolet/Eckland bus that served as the 29 Palms Stage & Express during the Great Depression.  When Johnnie Hastie first began driving his bus route, there were only around 150 people living in the entire hi-desert area.  His service provided a lifeline to the outside world, and passengers could keep warm on cold winter days by stoking the wood stove, Old Betsy.

The museum provides an excellent introduction to the history of Twentynine Palms and hosts regular lectures on topics of historical interest.  It also is the site of two famous annual events—the Old Timers Gathering during Pioneer Days, every October, and the Weed Show (a true desert classic) in November.

Catch a Play

Theatre 29 produces musicals, comedies and dramas throughout the year. Nearly all plays performed are family-oriented.  Plays by local authors are occasionally staged here. 

Drive Into Classic Americana

While they’re getting increasingly hard to find across the country, in Twentynine Palms you can still pile into the car and head for the drive-in movie theater. Smith’s Ranch Drive-In opened in 1954 and still screens first-run movies today, Thursday through Sunday nights.

Get Stars in Your Eyes

The Sky’s the Limit Observatory & Nature Center next to the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park provides opportunities for exploring the desert’s deep, dark night skies.  Remember the Milky Way?  It’s still up there.

Visitor Tip:  Use the Twentynine Palms entrance to Joshua Tree National Park to avoid long lines at the Joshua Tree gate.

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