This post has been a long time coming. After countless trips and years of “experience”, it’s finally time to take a deep dive into a subject I have become almost fluent in, and that is PALM SPRINGS. Palm Springs is just about every Angeleno’s choice destination for a weekend wellness getaway; it’s our sanctuary, our little oasis if you will, but it’s just as much a place where we go to clear our minds as it is a place we go to have some fun. (Crystals and cocktails, anyone?)
Palm Springs truly is unlike anywhere else in the world and so much of its charm and history has been preserved so beautifully. Most people think of Palm Springs as the Old Hollywood glamorous destination that was once home to famous folks like Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack to Elvis Presley, Liberace, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and so many more. Much of that quintessential Mid Century Modern design is still a part of Palm Springs identity today, even as new businesses and hotels arrive the homage to the area and its history remains.
For being just around 2 hours from Los Angeles you truly do feel like you’re entering another state or country. I don’t know about you, but the minute I pass those windmills a sense of immediate relief washes over me. Palm Springs is a magical place with plenty to experience, no matter the time of year. If you’re thinking about planning a trip to LA’s playground, here’s what you need to know:
- the busiest time of year – and the most expensive – is November – April. It’s when the temperatures are most “temperate”. The snowbirds have landed, the LA folk want to see the sun, and there you have it. Just something to consider.
- the slowest time of year – and the cheapest (WOO) – is during the summer months (May – September). It’s hot. It’s slow. But the deals you can get in Palm Springs during the summer are incredible. This is actually the time of year I usually end up visiting. 113 degrees is no joke but who cares when your room at a 5-star resort is like $100 a night!
- many restaurants and bars close during the slow season so if you’re planning your trip during those summer months be sure to check and plan ahead of time. (Trust me, there are still plenty of great options that stay open.)
- “Palm Springs” is an overarching term for quite a large area that includes Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indian Wells, Indio, Coachella, and of course Palm Springs. We shall refer to the 9 areas that make up the 1 “Greater Palm Springs”.
- Greater Palm Springs is a lot more spread out than you think it is. If you’re staying in La Quinta for example but want to be close to downtown Palm Springs, expect about a 30-minute drive each way. So when you’re picking your accommodations make sure you know this ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
- It’s a car-friendly city, so having a car is highly recommended. While you’re there there are plenty of Ubers and ride shares but for the sake of distance to most places, it’s wise to have transportation.
- this is just as great of a place for adults as it is for kids. Just make sure you don’t book an “adult-only” hotel because they exist here! Or do book it because you can fully afford that luxury and need to take advantage?
- Palm Springs is, in my opinion, a 3-day max getaway. You’ll have plenty to do in that amount of time, and it will give you plenty of reasons to come back.
WHERE TO STAY.
Note: there are an insane amount of hotel options in the Greater Palm Springs area – everything from boutique to massive resort properties. Finding your hotel is a matter of deciding WHERE you want to be in the area, as well as your budget. I am sharing my personal favorite hotels, but don’t forget there are some incredible Airbnb type properties in the area as well – if you’ve got a large group that is definitely the way to go! BUT, again, if you’re looking for a hotel situation, these have my stamp of approval:
Think golf courses, gondolas, pools plural, wildlife, restaurants, flamingos, and hundreds upon hundreds of rooms. Yeah. The JW Marriott is HUGE – and if you’re jonesing for that resort life with plenty of activity, this is the place to stay. Even if you swing by just for a meal, be sure to stop for a photo with the flamingos out front!
When I think of “chic desert oasis”, La Quinta is the first property that comes to mind. It’s a spread out more Mediterranean inspired resort property, and it just looks like vacation. This is technically a Waldorf Astoria property so it’s not the most affordable, but if you’re looking for a larger yet more luxe trip, La Quinta is an awesome option.
This is the one property I would say that if you have kids, stay at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas. They cater quite a bit to families and even though they have basically a small water park and a lazy river, it’s still A+ for the parents too. I stayed here solo a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it (and I do not have kids). Either way – beautiful hotel, fairly priced for what it is, and I’d go back.
Miramonte is on the smaller end in terms of resort property size but with their Italian villa inspired style and that beautiful desert mountain backdrop, you still feel completely transported. This is a great property to stay at if you’re looking for something a bit quieter, relaxing, and wellness-focused. It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place, and their spa is one of the areas best.
If you know Ritz Carlton properties, expect nothing less than top-notch at their Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage hotel. This is another expensive property, but you won’t get anything less than 5-star treatment here. I love that this property really embraces their desert surroundings and incorporates that into their high-end decor, and impressively so I would say this is another total kid and adult-friendly hotel.
If there is one hotel that perfectly emulates and represents the vibe that is Palm Springs, it would be the Parker. It’s an absolute favorite amongst most Palm Spring goers, and it happens to be my personal favorite property as well. I love it SO much in fact, I wrote a whole blog post last summer about it while visiting: “The Perfect 2-Day Getaway: Parker Palm Springs”. (This is THE place to take advantage of during the summer when the summer deals are hot!)
Another fun read of mine: The Perfect 2-Day Getaway: Parker Palm Springs
This place. Korakia is up there with Parker as one of most people’s favorite places to stay in Palm Springs – especially if you’re into beautiful decor and opportunities for photoshoots all around you. Korakia is absolutely stunning with its Morrocan meets Mediterranean feel, it’s incredibly private and quiet, and has one of the best locations out of most of the hotels I’ve listed as it happens to be fixed just off the hustle and bustle of the downtown Palm Springs area.
Another hotel not messing around with their A+ decor and ambiance is Sands. Sands is one of the “newer” more recently developed hotel projects in the area and has quickly become a favorite amongst Angelenos. Could be the striking pink/salmon-colored walls everywhere, could be the major Morrocan oasis vibes, the fantastic restaurant, or the beautiful spa… it’s a full luxurious retreat. Highly recommended for couples and creative types.
The Avalon is an update on an older property, and honestly, it’s what makes this particular hotel incredibly charming. It’s an older colonial meets Spanish mission-style hotel, and much like the Parker, it feels very “Palm Springs” to me. The rooms are “motel” style, the restaurant Chi Chi is great for brunch (even if you’re not staying there), there are two great pools, ping pong, and it has a great location within walking distance of the downtown.
Colony Palms is one of the areas most iconic and beloved hotels since 19-freakin-36. I love that the Colony Palms looks like it has history with its Spanish Colonial style design, but that it has been beautifully maintained and updated as time has gone on. Their courtyard pool and poolside restaurant Purple Palm are the perfect places to find yourself for an afternoon of sun and relaxation.
One of the newest and hottest hotels in Palm Springs is the new Kimpton Rowan property located in the heart of the downtown. Rowan is one of the only hotels in the area that is multi-story, so it stands out quite a bit. Kimpton Hotels have always been some of my favorite and most reliable boutique hotels – especially for the price – and the Rowan with its epic rooftop bar and pool, 2 fantastic restaurants and rooms with sweeping views is a no-brainer.
Two Bunch Palms might be a little “off the beaten path” but with 72 acres of private property, an incredible spa, access to stunning natural hot springs, and serene ambiance, this “adults only” oasis is one of the best places to head for your very own wellness retreat.
WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO
Arguably the “coolest” hotel in the desert, the beloved Ace Hotel attracts, well, the “cool” type of folk. Now I don’t mean that in a judgemental way, I mean it in an “I am a young creative, I appreciate a certain ‘vintage-inspired’ aesthetic, I have great style myself, and I buy expensive coffee” kinda way. I fully see the appeal. If you want to make people instantly jealous of your whereabouts, The Ace can help you with that.
The Saguaro is one of the most easily identifiable hotels in the area with its iconic rainbow-colored interior. If you want to come to the desert to have a good time, pool party all day, The Saguaro is the place. There is ALWAYS something fun happening here. Know going into booking this place that you’re likely going to be surrounded by people in “party mode”, and that is great if that’s the type of situation you’re looking for! But just because the Saguaro brings the party doesn’t mean it’s not a nice hotel, it’s really very cute, they have a great aesthetic, and it’s fun to swing by to see what’s happening even if you’re not staying here.
Similar to the Saguaro, Arrive always has something fun going on. Arrive is a bit more modern, sleek, and contemporary as it’s a relatively new property to the area, but already they’ve become known for their great amenities like their coffee shop, ice cream parlor, lawn games, fire pits, ping pong tables and more. There’s plenty of fun to be had here.
Another recent opening in the Palm Springs area is V Palm Springs, and much like most of these “hip” hotels listed, V Palm Springs is an updated motel with a whole new look. I stayed here two years ago for Coachella and actually really enjoyed it. You can tell it attracts a younger crowd, they host pool parties and such, but it was a nice room and a nice place to stay. It’s a somewhat smaller property, but if you’re looking for a nice room and just a place with a nice pool (where you can easily get a cocktail) V Palm Springs is not a bad option.
WHERE TO EAT.
One of the best things about Greater Palm Springs is the number of amazing bars and restaurants! If you need to branch out from the hotel, here are the spots you need to put on your radar:
The “cutest” place to eat in Greater Palm Springs is at Farm. No doubt about it. It’s a bit of a “hidden in plain sight” gem as it’s right in the heart of the downtown area but a bit tucked away within a contemporary strip mall. And, as you might have guessed, their M.O. is “farm to table” style dining. It’s casual, mostly covered outdoor seating, mismatched place settings, and fairly priced simple bites like salads, sandwiches, and eggs. It’s an absolute must for me every time I visit.
If you asked most people what their favorite breakfast spot in Palm Springs is they’d most likely say Cheeky’s. Cheeky’s is a seriously quaint and cute little diner in the downtown area where people will wait hours just to enjoy a stack of pancakes or the bacon sampler. Let me just tell you now, if you run into a line situation, it’s worth the wait. But go early and see what happens!
Kings Highway is the chic little retro diner inside the Ace Hotel so it comes as no surprise that this place offers fabulous food in a fabulous setting all the same. They truly seem to take pride in preserving that idealistic “Palm Springs diner” experience with this place. I have to say from experience that it really does feel like you’re on a movie set or like you’ve gone back in time. Pro tip: don’t skip the breakfast burrito or the date shake.
Located inside the new Rowan hotel in the Downtown area, Juniper Table offers a bit more modern yet stylish place to have a nice breakfast or lunch. It’s an all-day cafe but their breakfast is what I would highly recommend, especially if you get there early enough to enjoy the warm yet crisp breeze with your coffee or mimosa.
Chi Chi is a total classic. Whether you’re staying at the Avalon or not, their poolside Latin inspired brunch is amazing and worth traveling for. Some days are quieter than others but over the years I remain impressed with every visit!
Much like most peoples feelings about Cheeky’s, everyone loves Birba. It’s in a great location downtown, they have an amazing patio and bar area, great food (pizza.), and a great overall ambiance. It doesn’t feel super “Palm Springs” to me necessarily, but they cant all be mid-century modern-esque restaurants or that would just be boring. Birba feels a bit more warmly modern yet industrial, and still totally fun and casual.
Speaking of modern and industrial, if there was a restaurant in Greater Palm Springs that could be described as such it would be Workshop. Either you love Workshop or it confuses you a bit, I am on the “I LOVE WORKSHOP” end of the spectrum, but again I think because of the modern aesthetic that it might throw people off. Frankly, in my opinion, it’s one of the prettiest restaurants in the area, if not in California, and the menu absolutely holds up. It’s a bit on the pricier end, sure, but totally worth it for a fun and semi-fancy night out.
In terms of history, design, layout, seating, food, service, location – the whole enchilada – Copley’s might actually be my favorite restaurant in Greater Palm Springs. There is just something so special about this place – besides the fact that it was once Cary Grant’s guest house – every time I have dinner here I am just a happier person. Copley’s is an absolute staple, and after years of business, they still haven’t gone out of style.
If there’s one restaurant that fully embraces their Palm Springs roots and pays perfect homage to the era that put the city on the map, it would be Mister Parker’s at Parker Palm Springs. It’s almost annoying how “on point” this restaurant is. From the classic steakhouse menu offerings to the dim lighting and solo piano situation, you can seriously picture the rat pack going absolutely nuts over a place like this. I loved every minute of this decadent and pretty damn sexy dining adventure.
Mr. Lyons is another incredibly popular “retro” inspired steakhouse, this place just happens to have quite a bit more space so it’s a bit more “buzzy” one might say. Mr. Lyons is definitely a place to see and be seen, and fortunately, it’s always a wonderful meal. It’s a great spot for big groups, but it’s just as great for two too! I usually end up in the bar area or at their “speakeasy”, Seymour’s (keep reading).
For my foodie folk, the best and most interesting food you’ll have in Palm Springs is at Johanne’s, hands down. I realize that hot weather and schnitzel don’t often pair together but in this case, just trust me – they do. Johanne’s offers the most authentic Austrian cuisine I’ve had outside of Austria. I seriously dream about their schnitzel and strudel, it’s all that good. If you’re looking to have an unforgettably delicious meal, take me up on Johanne’s – thank me later!
You’ll hear a lot in Palm Springs that “the Rat Pack used to hang out here”, but no one can really own that quite like Melvyn’s. This place has been an upscale Palm Springs staple since the ’70s and with their recent updates, they’re doing better than ever. I had New Years Eve dinner here just this past holiday and fell head over heels for the staff who have worked here for 20+ years, the delicious food, the wonderful bar with their piano singers, the dance floor, and the droves of genuinely happy customers. Myself totally included.
Those who can’t stay at the epically chic L’Horizon hotel, dine at the L’Horizon hotel – close enough. Their signature restaurant SO.PA offers a stunning outdoor space, beautiful cocktails, and one seriously fabulous and fancy-ass menu. At night with the twinkling dim lights in the trees, the music setting the mood, and the literally delicious everything… this is hands down the most romantic dinner spot in the desert.
Koutouki is a bit off the beaten path but worth going out of your way for because not only is the food absolutely incredible, it is Greek in every sense of the imagination. Everything and everyone makes you feel like you’re home. And did I mention the food??? To my knowledge this is the best Greek food I’ve personally ever had – it has always been a total standout, and not just because it’s in Palm Springs! If we had a Koutouki in LA I’d be there all the damn time. This is definitely a casual spot, great for families and/or my total foodie types.
There’s something very local and “neighborhood” about Jake’s, perhaps because it really does feel like a place for visitors just as much as it does for locals. It feels relaxed, fun, casual, and reliable. Not to mention the menu is outstanding, they have an unparalleled dessert case, and their beautiful alfresco dining patio is perfect for lunch under the palms or dinner under the stars.
Las Casuelas has been a Palm Springs staple since 1958 and has been run by 4 generations of family members. But if that’s not already enough to sell you, they have a perfect location in the downtown area, they clearly offer great food and cocktails, and they’re known for having amazing live music nightly! It’s a bit more commercial these days, but still quintessential.
For a little more modern take on Mexican, Tac/Quila in downtown Palm Springs has you completely surrounded. Fun and vibrant decor, check, related to my favorite restaurant in Palm Springs – Farm – check, nachos/tacos/tamales, check, tequila, check check! Taq/Quila is casual but still chic, and the perfect spot to go with girlfriends or with your significant other.
I was born in Texas, I am well versed in the art of BBQ (well, from the consumer standpoint), so you could say I am somewhat inquisitive when I embark on a new BBQ adventure – especially one outside of Texas. Babe’s was so damn good I went twice in two days, so let’s just start with that. Not to mention they brew their own beers in-house as well, and they have one of the best happy hours I have ever come into contact with. I would drive to Palm Desert just for dinner at Babe’s alone. So there ya have it.
WHERE TO DRINK.
I have a serious penchant for tiki bars, so if I know I will be in a city where one exists I will make it a point to visit. Bootlegger Tiki in the Downtown Palm Springs area just so happens to be one of my top three favorite tiki bars I’ve ever been to. It’s not a big bar (in fact it’s quite the opposite so keep that in mind), it’s nothing terribly fancy, but trust me when I tell you that you will never have tiki cocktails quite like these. They’re inventive, they’re wildly fun, and they’re boozy as all get out. This bar wins cocktail competitions and awards on a regular basis, so if craft cocktails are your thing – especially those of the tiki variety – do not miss this spot.
I love a good speakeasy, and Seymour’s – located inside/adjacent to Mr. Lyon’s – is just the type of cocktail joint I can really appreciate. Seymour’s is another place at the top of my Palm Springs hit list because it’s just special. I love the intimate/speakeasy nature of it, and of course – most importantly – the cocktails really are truly fantastic. It’s a little bit more dressed up than a few of the bars on this list but again, if you’re an appreciator of a fine and well-crafted cocktail, Seymour’s is a must. (This is a great date night spot too!)
Ohh Melvyn’s. While there is no denying that this place is a Palm Springs institution I feel like these days it takes a certain type of person to truly appreciate the beauty of this wonderful establishment. If you’re over the age of 60 you get it, but otherwise, for the rest of us youngsters an old-school piano bar might not be something you’d consider your cup of tea, but to me, Melvyn’s is a total gem. I had the absolute time of my life the last time I was there; I danced, I sang, I watched everyone around me enjoying themselves, and by the end of the night my face actually hurt from smiling so much. I recently contributed to an article that Visit Greater Palm Springs wrote about the best things to in Palm Springs with your girls, and Melvyn’s was my suggestion. You can read that article HERE!
Dead or Alive is a solid neighborhood beer + wine bar. I went for the first time last summer with a girlfriend and just remember thinking, “ahhh, so this is where all the young and cool locals go.” The pink neon sign is the main lighting source, the space is minimal yet cozy, and the beer and wine options are seriously on point. They’ve mastered the corner in Greater Palm Springs and if you’re an appreciator of either type of beverage, Dead or Alive is definitely worth checking out.
For us ambiance driven types… Truss & Twine is an A+ option. It’s next to Workshop (and even has a similar atmosphere), it’s constantly busy, it’s a bit more upscale but still approachable. I would come here if I just wanted a nice glass of wine or a beer and a nice place to sit at a bar before dinner.
If there were a perfect bar for the more hip and under 40 crowd it would be the Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel. If you’re familiar with Ace Hotel properties, this comes as no surprise – they keep it all very on-brand, no matter the city or state these hotels just attract a certain customer. (Guilty.) I personally love this bar, this hotel, and this atmosphere – it feels appropriate to the location and yet familiar with the branding and cocktail program.
“Established two decades ago, Toucans Tiki Lounge in Palm Springs hosts the city’s longest continuously running drag show Tommi Rose & The Playgirls, as well as weekly theme nights, ranging from Latin Fever Monday, Neon Thursday and Dirty Pop Saturday. The club also brings in top tier cabaret and performance talent as part Toucans Live on Stage.” – Toucans. Really, need I say more? YES PLEASE!!!
The Purple Room is the epitome of “dinner and a show”. It’s an old-school supper club known for their great musical or comedic performers that pair perfectly with their surf n turf style menu. This place has been around for ages – you can definitely count on this experience being “something different”.
If there’s a bar in Greater Palm Springs that will put you straight into “vacation mode” it would probably be High Bar at the Rowan Hotel. First off, it’s the area’s only rooftop bar, they have sweeping views of those gorgeous desert mountains, it’s poolside, it’s upscale and modern, and they have a fantastic cocktail program. If you want to be there around sunset make sure you get your spot early because this has become quite the popular spot for fair reasons!
El Jefe is located at the Saguaro so with that bit of information you can already guarantee that this place is “cool”. El Jefe is known for being a tequila bar (with over 100 different types) that pair great with their Mexican bites available. Worth noting that they have a solid Happy Hour as well as a Taco Tuesday – who could say no to either?
WHAT TO DO.
Besides sit by the pool and sip on cocktails…
Let me preface this explanation with the fact that I 100% took this tour and I 100% enjoyed it. The Modern Tour (of which it sounds like there are a few outlets who host them) is basically a tour of Palm Springs most famous properties – most of which are Mid Century Modern homes, or homes previously owned by celebrities. I learned so much on this tour, and if you’re like me and could happily drive around all day looking at houses, this might the ideal activity for you too!
If there was one activity I would suggest to absolutely everyone, no matter the age or interest, it would be visiting the Palm Springs Air Museum. To this day this was probably the coolest thing I’ve done in the desert. I love history and I’m a bit of a WWII buff, but even if you could care less about either, to see some of these incredible planes in person is such a privilege and such an awe-inspiring experience. You’ll notice that there’s quite a number of elderly folks hanging around, some of which are museum volunteers, most of which are veterans with amazing stories to tell. I guarantee you’ll leave with a new sense of appreciation and a big warm smile on your face.
And for the most unique activity on this list… Cabot’s Pueblo Museum! I went for the first time earlier this year and remember walking up and thinking, “what the heck is this place?” Well, I’ll do my best to explain, but basically it’s a large Hopi-inspired pueblo home… that was built in 1941 in the hills of Desert Hot Springs… by a man named Cabot Yerxa… that is now filled with Native American art and artifacts… in addition to some of Cabot’s own works of art. It’s an odd place, but undeniably interesting and beautiful. It’s a great spot for photos as well, just saying!
Palm Springs is the definition of “art” so naturally, there’s an art museum. The Palm Springs Art Museum is small in comparison to most but it’s stunning all in its own right and absolutely worth the visit – especially on a hot day, as you can imagine.
I can’t imagine going to Palm Springs without having SOME sort of spa moment – even if we’re talking just a pedicure. But whether your accommodations offer spa treatments or not here’s a few of my personal favorites: Two Bunch Palms (you can call for day passes, take advantage of those mineral springs), The Parker (arguably the largest and most beautiful spa out of all of them, and there’s a stunning indoor pool and jacuzzi you can use), Sands, JW Marriott, Miramonte Resort, La Quinta Resort – all great options.
It doesn’t matter if you’re coming or going from Palm Springs, but on one of those trips, you must stop in at the beloved Cabazon / Desert Springs Premium Outlets. There are SO many stores, many of which are designer or big name brands like Gucci, Saint Laurent, Furla, North Face, Lululemon, All Saints, Fendi, MaxMara – honestly you name it, they have an outlet there.
Desert X is a site-specific contemporary art installation in the Coachella Valley desert. And it’s every Instagrammers dream. Right now it is closed as they’re working on the next pop up but stay in touch through the site and keep your eyes open for the next one!
It’s a zoo slash botanical garden!! All the best things in one place! The Living Desert is rated in the top 10 zoos by Conde Nast Traveler, and it’s just a great place to go and experience – kids or no kids. Everyone who goes always goes back.
I mean, obviously.
And there you have it! Palm Springs as best I know! If there’s a hotel/restaurant/bar/activity that YOU love that wasn’t mentioned, be sure to leave a comment so we can keep the updates coming!