Desert Getaway: Palm Springs, CA

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Brittnee Haley

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  • Palm Springs

  • Adventure Travel

  • Active Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Outdoors

  • Sightseeing

  • Entertainment

  • Local Food

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Curator’s statement

Being from San Diego, Palm Springs is just a quick two-hour drive away, making it one of my absolute favorite getaways. The stunning mountain vistas and breathtaking sunsets alone make the journey (whether by car or plane) well worth it. Renowned for its midcentury modern architecture and lively cultural scene, Palm Springs transports you back in time in certain neighborhoods with their charming 1950s ambiance. The city boasts an extensive selection of both vintage and modern hotels, delectable cuisine, and fantastic shopping options. My ideal Palm Springs retreat involves a perfect balance of spa relaxation, poolside lounging, and nights out at the myriad of stylish desert lounges.

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Where to stay in Palm Springs

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Parker Palm Springs

Classic Palm Springs accommodation with stylish decor, plenty of leisurely areas and a private Yacht Club.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel

Sleek property in downtown Palm Springs with chic rooms that offer views of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Fora Perks
  • $50 hotel credit.

  • Welcome amenities.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.

Ace Hotel & Swim Club

Mid-century style hotel with an air of stylish modern Americana in San Jacinto.

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Things to do in Palm Springs

A hotel sign reading "Casa Cody" next to a flowery bush

Hike the Andreas Canyon Loop (Indian Canyons). It's really more of a nature walk at 1.2 miles roundtrip. You can walk through magnificent palm trees and past unique rock formations. Best for spring or fall when it's not too hot.

If you're wanting to shop for fun vintage finds I suggest checking out Market Market or great finds made from local merchants at the Mojave Flea Trading Post. Take a drive down North Palm Canyon Dr. and you'll see other cute local shops along with larger stores like H&M and Sephora. If you're looking for a more high-end shopping experience hop over to the El Paseo Shopping District in Palm Desert featuring over 300 stores.

For an in-depth history of the artist and architects who helped create some iconic buildings, there are a variety of architectural tours offered by Palm Springs Mod Squad including Frank Sinatra's estate. For a tour focused on luxury midcentury modern architecture, The Modern Tour is going to be a must.

I personally like to incorporate a spa service into my itinerary when in the desert. My two favorites are The Feel Good Spa inside the Ace Hotel & Swim Club. I love that they offer mini facial add ons to your service. When wanting to really splurge, the Palm Springs Yacht Club on the Parker Palm Springs grounds is the only place to be. Take your cucumber-infused vodka welcome drink and enjoy this nautical spa dream.

If museums are your thing, check out the Palm Springs Art Museum and their special exhibitions. For anyone interested in aviation and vintage aircraft, check out the Palm Springs Air Museum.

For those who aren't afraid of heights, The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a fun activity for everyone. Take the world's largest rotating tram car on a 10-minute ride up into the mountains taking in picturesque views along the way. Once at the top, you can take your pick between two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, and over 50 miles of hiking trails.

There are too many great golf courses to choose from, so I'll suggest a few notable ones. Classic Club was designed by Arnold Palmer and is a nationally recognized championship course. PGA West has nine iconic courses and has been recognized as the Western Home of Golf in America for the last three decades.

The art district known as the Backstreet Art District is worth strolling through for art lovers. There are studios and galleries with an assortment of original art. “The Art Benches of Palm Springs” include more than 50 benches up and down Palm Canyon Drive. There is also the Desert Art Center which showcases established and emerging artists.

If you're looking for a place to dance the night away, check out Pretty Faces Nightclub located inside Hotel Zozo. Hunters is a local favorite. A pillar in the LGBTQ+ community, this bar/club offers inclusivity and fun for all.

Places to eat & drink in Palm Springs

Kid having a juice in a parker's pool

Breakfast

Norma's: Walk through the famous large orange doors in front of the Parker Palm Springs, through the amazing Jonathan Adler designed hotel and outside onto the patio where Norma's sits. With dishes that include Norma's super blueberry pancakes and short ribs benedict, you can't go wrong. Service is as good as it gets, and views of charming landscape while you eat make for a lovely experience.

Kings Highway: I try and stop by here for at least a coffee if nothing else. This retro vibey space makes for a memorable breakfast spot. This and their locally sourced ingredients and California-inspired dishes. I'm a millennial, so I obviously get the avocado toast ;). You can add a bloody mary or mimosa to your order or like I prefer to do and walk through the Amigo Room to the pool and enjoy a post-breaky drink of your choice.

Cheey's: Celebrating their 15-year anniversary, this restaurant has a cult following and a long line of people waiting to get in every day to prove it. While also prioritizing seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, they take a creative spin on traditional dishes like adding buttermilk & fresh corn pancakes and custard cheesy scrambled eggs to their menu. They're famous for their bacon, and the bacon flight is the best way to taste them all.

Brunch/Lunch

Pink Cabana: This insta-worthy restaurant is inside The Sands Hotel. Designed by the famous Martyn Lawrence Bullard to be a fresh modern take on the great Tennis and Racquet Clubs of the 50s and 60s in Palm Springs. I really enjoyed the d’anjou pear tartine and the Moroccan club. Known for their libations pair with any of their unique cocktails to elevate your brunch experience.

Boozehounds: This beautifully designed restaurant, cafe, and bar concept is also pooch-friendly. If you'd like to bring your furry friends sit in their atrium or patio. For humans only, sit inside this historic midcentury modern building where you'll find cozy living room-like spaces and desert-inspired chic decor. Their fresh SoCal cuisine includes 48-hour miso-marinated Chilean sea bass give and to die for crispy brussels sprouts. Oh, and happy hour happens every day so cheers to that!

Taq Quila: Here you will taste delicious Jalisco style Mexican food. Their menu includes authentic dishes like street tacos and chicken tortilla soup. I recommend the taco chips to start and a flight of margaritas.

Dinner & Drinks

Birba: I dream about this restaurant. It's one of my all-time favorites. Between the romantic ambiance and exquisite Italian dishes, it's not hard to fall in love with. The Birba pizza is a must. Also try their spaghetti pomodoro with Nonna's meatball, kale salad, and the garlic knot (or five because it's heaven).

Workshop Kitchen: My friends and I have been coming here for years. This Michelin Guide recommended restaurant earned its praise due to owner/executive chef Michael Beckman and his diverse culinary expertise. Committed to serving a unique and visually stunning experience with their locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Inside this modern industrial concrete dream, you can find dishes like steak au poivre and red garnet yam & apple soup. You're in for a treat no matter what you decide to order here.

Bar Cecil: This coveted bar exudes an air of exclusivity, and therefore you will want to make a reservation in advance. Named after notable British artist, Cecil Beaton, Bar Cecil (pronounced Sessil) offers an atmosphere filled with artistic decor with a sophisticated ambiance. It will have you feeling like you've stepped into another era. You can expect everything you order to be unique and top-notch. Try their deviled eggs (add regiis ova royal caviar if you're feeling fancy) or the fifty-dollar martini which includes a deviled egg w/caviar and sunchoke chips.

Need to Know

Craving more travel tips? Check out Grace Hilty's guide, Three Days in Big Sur, California.

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.

Brittnee Haley in an off-white sweater

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Brittnee Haley

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