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Welcome to John Wayne’s childhood hometown of Palmdale, California.
This is a city steeped in history, so don’t overlook it as just a dot on a map of the desert.
Every Space Shuttle was built in Palmdale for NASA, and many other space and flight companies have a strong presence to this day in this desert oasis.
This city is also where a good portion of the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal was filmed.
Kill Bill movie fans will recognize the Sanctuary Adventist Church as the church from the film.
Lady Gaga filmed a video here.
There’s so much more to learn by visiting the Four Aces Movie Set as it has a strong place in cinematic history and for future films.
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, this is a great place to explore the outdoors and the unique varieties of desert plants and wildlife.
If you need a break from the desert heat, Palmdale has the only waterpark in the Antelope Valley.
It was named the Antelope Valley due to the overabundance of antelope in the hills, but since that name was given, most of the antelopes have been hunted or died off.
Warnings & Dangers in Palmdale
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Palmdale, but there's also not a whole lot to do if you are staying a long time. That's the biggest complaint from locals under 30. If you're staying here as a cheaper alternative to Los Angeles costs, it's going to be one heck of a commute and was ranked the worst commute in the nation by Insider magazine a few years back.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
One bonus of Palmdale is if you get bored there are plenty of transportation options to get somewhere else. There's a local bus route, a transit authority through Antelope Valley, the FlixBus to get to Las Vegas, MetroLink to go to San Bernardino, and Santa Clarita Transit to get you throughout that county. There is also a summer shuttle right to Santa Monica to enjoy the beach. Taxis and rideshares are available and all come with low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There were just two pickpockets reported in 2020, so that's a low risk.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Earthquakes, fires, floods, and extreme winds can rock this city. Despite the 300+ sunny days each year, a sunny day isn't that fun with a sustained wind of 30 miles an hour. There's a medium risk here. Study up on emergency management before you go. The city has a lot of information on its website, so you can be Palmdale Ready.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is three times higher than the national average. This is a community with a certain amount of violence, so we'll call this a medium risk.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have a strong presence here, as well as the military with Andrews Air Force Base to the north. These all add up to medium risk. Follow the suggested protocol of "See Something, Say Something" if you notice anything odd.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of scams here. While the locals might get bored, tourists love to see some of the hallmark pieces of the city's history, and the vacation home rental industry is growing. With that growth, comes scams. Never wire money ahead of time to reserve a home and ask for proof the landlord has a tenant's license.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's nothing in the crime numbers to suggest a woman is at any more risk than a man, so there's a low risk. This is assuming you're taking basic safety precautions and not meeting up with random people you meet online.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in tap water. The water utility posted in its 2020 report "Despite challenging times, we have continued to uphold our mission of providing high-quality water to customers. Our advanced water treatment process, which removes and kills viruses, has been a source of comfort during a time when coronavirus was a major concern for many of us."
Safest Places to Visit in Palmdale
A top stop in Palmdale is the Air Force Test Museum Blackbird Airpark.
Not only can you see some of the fastest planes of their time, but there’s also a look at planes you can’t see anywhere else — top-secret spy planes used during the Cold War.
Feel the need for more speed?
Check out Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale as well.
Dry Town Water Park is a great way to cool off from the summer heat of Palmdale.
It sits on the site of a former mining town with ruthless thieves trying to steal gold, but now it’s a relaxing oasis.
Walk a few miles on the Barrell Springs Trail to see desert fauna and wildlife.
You can let a horse do the walking with a horseback ride along Rainbow Ridge.
Book a reservation through the Ranch.
There’s the Mulligan Family Fun Center, where you can spend a whole day playing mini-golf, racing go-karts, batting 1000 at the cages, or rock climbing indoors.
Movie buffs will want to check out the Four Aces Movie Set.
I’m particularly a fan of Rob Zombie and I instantly recognized the gas station from House of 1000 Corpses.
Take pictures if you’d like, but this is private property, and if you are asked to leave, do so.
Places to Avoid in Palmdale
There is a crime across the Palmdale area when you look at the crime map, but it gets less pronounced south of E Street and west of Highway 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway).
There are reports that the east side of town along Palmdale Boulevard isn’t the best neighborhood, so unless you have a reason to be there, you might want to avoid it.
You want to avoid going into the desert in the heat without having hydrated yourself well for a few days.
You’ll also want to bring twice the amount of water you think you’ll need.
By the time you feel thirsty, dehydration is already setting in.
Avoid wearing fancy clothing here.
It’s not a dressy kind of town, but that’s not the main reason.
The winds here can kick up dust and dust storms.
That dust gets into your clothes and ends up leaving your laundry a muddy mess.
I lived in the desert much of my adult life, and I can’t tell you the number of times I sneezed mud just because the dust was so intense.
On a dry, windy day, you might want to plan an indoor activity.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Palmdale
- Sign up for Nixle.com alerts from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD). You’ll get weather, crime, and civil emergency information right on your phone.
- It’s a rare day that it rains in Palmdale, but when it does, flooding isn’t always far behind. Never drive through a flooded road. It only takes six inches of water to carry a car away. Follow the motto “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.”
- This area has had wildfires in or near the area over the past few years. If there is an evacuation order, don’t ignore it. Follow emergency instructions promptly. Fires are at the mercy of changing winds, and a place that is safe one day could be on fire the next.
- Several of the parks and outdoor areas south of Palmdale were badly damaged in the 2020 Bobcat Fire. Don’t go into fire zones that are marked off. It’s a delicate ecosystem and human interaction could impact the healing process.
- Keep up with wildfire season using a website called Inciweb. It has real-time updates from the firelines with maps and notes from fire leaders. This is the best way to see if a wildfire is nearby or if air quality will be impacted.
- When conditions are very dry and a storm is approaching, the power company might shut off power in advance of the storm. This is to keep downed powerlines and transformers from sparking wildlife in the winds. Californians are used to this, but it can catch tourists off guard to not have any power for days at a time.
- Crime trends can change in a rapidly growing city like Palmdale, so check the crime map before your visit. It’s on the LASD website. You can see right down to street level what crimes have occurred most recently.
- Your mapping system is going to tell you it will take about an hour to get to Los Angeles. That’s assuming smooth traffic and no delays, two things that rarely happen in Los Angeles. Plan for at least 90 minutes, if not two hours, for that commute.
- If you see graffiti while you are there, call the Graffiti Hotline at (661)947-7433. The city cleans up graffiti as soon as possible to stop the spread of gang messages contained within that spraypaint.
- Just because the city doesn’t have a police department of its own, doesn’t mean it isn’t policed. The LASD provides its service to many communities in the Los Angeles area. There’s a station in Palmdale. The phone number for non-emergencies is (213)229-1700.
So... How Safe Is Palmdale Really?
Like most cities in this region, there’s gang activity and a drug problem that deputies spend a lot of time and energy on to make the problem areas improve.
The crime trends have gone down significantly in the past decade in areas like theft and robbery.
This is a place where you can find trouble if you’re looking for it, but if you’re just doing tourist things you’re going to be fine.
It’s a family-friendly community, so there’s little nightlife.
There’s not much nightlife in neighboring Lancaster either, so you’ll have to go to Los Angeles for that.
The crime statistics break down like this as far as your chances of being a victim of a crime:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 227
- Robbery: 1 in 396
- Theft: 1 in 145 (a very low number compared to other cities in California, which are generally around 1 in 50)
Keep in mind too that some of the greatest scientists and aeronautic minds on earth live here and are building the next generation of aircraft.
If a city was categorically unsafe, I doubt Boeing and Lockheed Martin would stay there and continue to be two of the biggest employers.
How Does Palmdale Compare?
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- Visas - Your Visa is processed at the airport or port of entry, so you don't need to do anything else in Palmdale.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar here. There's little need for cash as everything can be purchased with a credit card. Make sure you let your bank know you'll be traveling and have some different spending patterns and check your account every few days to make sure there are no unauthorized charges.
- Weather - The weather here is hot and cold, literally. In summer, the temperatures get up to triple digits but cool off nicely in the evenings. There's also low to no humidity here, so it's not that sticky-sweaty heat. The best way I can explain it is — the humidity makes you feel like you're melting. The desert makes you feel like you're baking. Winters can get cold into the 30s and 40s and every now and then you might see a dusting of snow. Layers are always good here because the temperature can rise and fall significantly from daytime to nighttime.
- Airports - There's a transportation plan to make Palmdale a commercial airline airport location, but it's still in the planning phase. That means you'll have to go to LAX or Hollywood Burbank Airport, each about an hour to an hour and a half away.
- Travel Insurance - Don't book a trip without travel insurance, because wildfires and related smoke can quickly shut down flight patterns.
Palmdale Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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