Palm Springs, California
The oasis in the desert offers you a relaxed, non-pretentious vacation you will want to return to again and again.
After passing along some travel tips to a friend recently, I only just realized I never wrote a stand alone post on Palm Springs – a place I frequent often. So here we go!
Set at the foot of several mountain ranges, this modern and vibrant city is just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, and has always been a welcome getaway from Angelenos, Canadian snowbirds, and yes, Frank Sinatra & various stars of old hollywood. It’s restful – no big scene (though it certainly offers an eclectic food and drinks scene, and endless outdoor activities), so you don’t ‘have’ to be anywhere but poolside sipping a cocktail in a caftan – and is known for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses, spas and midcentury-modern architecture. Its core shopping district along Palm Canyon Drive features vintage boutiques, interior design shops and restaurants, while the surrounding Coachella Valley offers hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. Also just 45 miles from Joshua Tree National Park and 1 hour from the mountain town of Idyllwild.
Palm Springs is only one part of a big collective area, though it holds most of the action/scene. In addition to Palm Springs, other cities of the area include Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs, sometimes referred to collectively as the Coachella Valley, The California Desert, or The Palm Springs Metro area. While Palm Springs has a more local business feel (for the most part), if you need to hit Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Cardenas Market, Target or luxury stores, head over to Cathedral City or Palm Desert. Also, the San Jacinto Mountains are also a welcome escape from the heat.
Palm Springs is only a two hour drive from Los Angeles (more like three hours these days, with traffic), but it’s also a quick flight from just about anywhere. The airport is small and centrally located, so it’s a low key transportation affair.
Keep in mind that while the weather is scorching in the summer months (and I do mean scorching, around 115 degrees), it does “cool” in the winter, with average days in the 70s but the nights are chilly (40s) so don’t expect hot weather year round – this is the desert after all.
There are a wide variety of options here, from luxury hotels to charming B&B’s, to my personal favorite – home rentals. The reason I love the latter is that with the relaxed vibe of the experience, having a private pool and my own kitchen. Perfect for families or groups of friends!
Home Rentals – There are so many wonderful options to rent houses with like Airbnb, VRBO, One Fine Stay, and more, many of which are managed by local companies, so check is running the rental for the best experience. For families, groups, or people planning the stay a week or more, I would highly recommend this option.
Boutique Hotels – Sparrows Lodge, Korakia Pensione, La Masion Hotel, Avalon Hotel, The Amado, La Serena Villas and Del Marcos Hotel (neighbors, same owner, now adding Three Fifty Hotel to the mix too).
Hotels – There are some very large resorts outside of Palm Springs central, but in town I would recommend The Parker (one of my faves), Ace Hotel & Swim Club (I am not a fan of the rooms – or noise – but the scene is lively), Arrive, Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, Kimpton Rowan for general hotel stays. But I really love the boutique stays, and local hoteliers are doing great things: PRG Hospitality Group (Sparrows Lodge, Holiday House, Sands Hotel Spa), PS Boutique Hotels (La serena villas, Del Marcos Hotel, Three Fifty Hotel), Arrive Hotel, Alcazar Hotel , Korakia Pensione and more.
Breakfast – Farm, Elmer’s Restaurant, Cheeky’s are all good options, but there are endless options for brekkie. Good brunch at both the ARRIVE and Ace hotels too. There is also a lot of good locally owned coffee joints like Kofi and Ernest, many that brew the local Joshua Tree Coffee Company goods.
Dinner – Jake’s, Farm, Copley’s, Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Birba, Paul’s Bar/Food, Rooster and the pig, Mister Parker’s (at the Parker), Kings Highway (diner at the Ace), the new Sandfish Sushi Whiskey or Tac/Quila…lots of tasty Mexican choices around too depending on what you are looking for. Also, love the burgers at Tyler’s.
Happy Hour: See the wine selection at Dead or Alive, or hit Bootlegger Tiki
*Eater also put together this essential PS restaurant list
*If you want Vegan/Healthy options, I always enjoy Palm Greens Cafe for everything from wraps to shakes, and I am not even vegan!
*I also shop at the Mexican food market - Cardenas - in Cathedral City for fresh cerviche, salsa, tortillas and more.
Go hike/golf/play tennis, hit the spa, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a great view and hike in cooler temperatures, Palm Springs Modern Tours to check out architecture, Palm Springs Art Museum for contemporary art and….
Shop at Desert Hills Premium Outlets – I never miss it – or stroll the many unique stores on the main strip, especially the many Antique & Design shops. I really like Thick as Theives, Frippery, and Gallerie too. If you want the big chain or luxury stores, head to Palm Desert - where I always visit The Fine Art of Design for chic vintage. Also, the Palm Springs Vintage Market and Palm Desert Market for great finds, and the many art & furniture consignment shops - this is where many interior designers shop.
NEARBY DAY TRIPS
Head up into the San Jacinto Mountains and spend time in the relaxing town of Idyllwild and enjoy its many hikes.