To gain a bird's-eye perspective on the Coachella Valley, take this 14-minute ascent up nearly 5,900 feet to the upper slopes of Mount San Jacinto. While the Albert Frey-designed boarding stations retain their 1960s ski-lodge feel, the Swiss funicular cars are sleekly modern and rotate during the trip to allow each passenger a panoramic view—so don't worry about where you stand. The ride can be nerve-wracking for the height-averse, particularly the gentle swing that happens after ascending past the third support tower. Once you arrive, you will be thrust into alpine scenery, a ski-lodge-flavored restaurant and gift shop, and temperatures that are typically 40° cooler than the desert floor—bring a jacket or you'll probably be uncomfortable, even in summer. The most dramatic contrast is during the winter, when the mountaintop is a snowy wonderland, irresistible to hikers and bundled-up kids with saucers; snowshoes are for rent then. The excursion might not be worth the expense during the rest of the year unless you take the time to hike from the upper station, although there is an unintentionally hilarious historical video about the tram's construction that purports to be narrated by the tram cars themselves. An upscale restaurant, Peaks, serves contemporary California cuisine. Appetizers begin at $10, entrees $21–$38. Wait and take the tram to the top after 4pm for a lower rate and "Ride and Dine" at the Pines Restaurant, a cafeteria-style place to grab decently priced casual food, $36 adults, $24 children. Peaks is open 8:30pm daily, and reservations are recommended (tel. 760/325-4537). The turnoff for the station is three miles north of downtown on 111.