Things to Do in Palm Springs: Mid-Century Heaven
Located in Southern California, Palm Springs is a desert oasis of mid-century architectural gems, and it feels like a wind back and a slow down of the clock. Just a short drive from Los Angeles, this small city was once an escape for Hollywood's rich and famous and remains a perfect spot to soak up some winter sun beside a kidney-shaped pool. The mountainous backdrop and towering palms add to the drama provided by the modernist architecture, which is best appreciated from the comfort of a sun lounger, cocktail in hand.
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Where to stay
Candy-colored converted motel away from the downtown fray, with hotspot restaurants and a huge pool.
A stay at The Parker is a step into a wonderland of eclectic design and sculptural furnishings.
Ace Hotel Palm Springs
Another winner for this hip hotel chain, with a big pool, organic spa, and throwback restaurant.
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Things to do
The concentration of mid-century modern residential, commercial and public buildings makes Palm Springs such a unique place to visit. Self-guided tour routes can be obtained through local hotels or online to peep the best examples from the street. To get inside some of these gems, private tours have to be requested from the owners or historical societies that manage the properties. The best availability is during Palm Springs Modernism Week, an event series which typically takes place in February. If architecture’s not your thing, check out the Palm Springs Air Museum dedicated to WWII combat aircraft, or explore contemporary art pieces at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert.
Coachella Music Festival
Of all the Palm Springs attractions, this one may just be the most popular amongst visitors. Thousands descend on the Coachella Valley (where Palm Springs is located) for the annual music phenomenon that falls over two weekends each spring. Global stars headline the festival every year, while smaller acts also play on the many stages set up in the middle of the desert. Although one of the world's biggest music events, tickets sell out almost immediately after release, so plan well in advance.
Joshua Tree National Park
This park offers a desert wilderness just a short drive from the city, where visitors can hike trails while marveling at the boulder-strewn landscape. Beautiful early morning and at sunset, not so enjoyable in the sweltering midday sun.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The world's largest rotating tramcar, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway runs over two and a half miles down Chino Canyon's spectacular cliffs, carrying passengers to the unspoiled wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Tram vehicles spin slowly throughout your ten-minute ride, providing charming and stunning views of the valley floor below. Of all the fun things to do in the Palm Springs area, this is a favorite.
Palm Canyon Drive / Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Canyon Drive is home to Palm Springs’ Walk of Stars, lined with palm trees wrapped in twinkling lights. Indian Canyon Drive is the street over, and these two make up the historical heart of Palm Springs. These streets have something for everyone: restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries and everything in between.
A note from Dan
Remember that this is the desert, so temperatures can frequently pass 100 degrees during the summer months, and even at other times of the year. Winter is therefore the most popular (and expensive) season to visit, but spring and fall are good options if you don't mind a little heat.
Eat & Drink
Farm: Provençal-style dishes served on a verdant patio. Breakfast and lunch are more casual affairs, while dinner is a delicious prix-fixe menu that requires a reservation. Not vegan-friendly.
Birba: Arguably the best pizzas in town join a full Italian menu, best enjoyed family-style outdoors.
Mister Parker's: Moody, romantic, somewhat-bizarre interiors make this restaurant at the Parker Hotel a unique setting for classic and modern French fare.
Boozehounds: Heading to Palm Springs with your furry companion? Boozehounds is a trendy community spot where dog owners and their pups can mingle. There’s a main indoor dining room and bar and an open-air lounge and patio bar. The menu is full of locally sourced ingredients and craft cocktails.
Hunters: This gay club is somewhat of an institution, with multiple rooms for dancing the night away to pop, disco, R&B and throwback favorites. Catch happy hour for drink deals.
Bar Cecil: Great cocktails are served at a chic spot, which also has a late-night food menu in case you get peckish.
El Jefe: The tequila bar at The Saguaro is the place to get margaritas (and tacos), with deals on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Counter Reformation: Wine connoisseurs should head to the back of the Parker Hotel for a glass or two after dinner on the property.
Cheeky's: Don't leave without a cinnamon roll.
A note from Dan
Palm Springs is a relatively sleepy town, and city ordinances forbid private residences from playing music outdoors at any time. So if you're looking for a wild time, this might not be the destination for you. That being said, the bars and hotels tend to get lively during holiday weekends like Memorial Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving, as well as for Palm Springs Pride (typically falls on the first weekend in November).
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