Palm Springs is an upscale city in the Sonoran Desert, in Southern California that will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time. Palm Springs is just a one-hour, forty-five-minute drive from Los Angeles which makes it an ideal destination for a weekend escape!
Palm Springs is known for its upscale hotels, midcentury modern architecture, excellent dining, vintage boutiques, golf courses, spas, and hot springs. The surrounding Coachella Valley (made famous by Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival) also offers excellent hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.
Whether you’re looking to relax poolside, unwind at a spa, get outdoors, shop, or dine, Palm Springs has something for everyone. To help you make the most of your visit to this desert oasis, here’s my Palm Springs ultimate guide!
Top 12 Things To Do In Palm Springs
There are a plethora of things to do and see in and around Palm Springs, and as I mentioned above, there is something for everyone! Palm Springs is a popular destination year-round, but especially between December and April when it’s not quite so hot.
Regardless of when you visit, you should pack plenty of sunscreen, and plan to do most of your activities in the morning or in the evening to avoid the harsh, mid-day heat.
1) Wander Downtown Palm Springs
The Block in downtown Palm Springs offers upscale shopping, dining, art, museums, and great public spaces. There is so much to do and see here that you can easily spend an entire afternoon exploring downtown!
2) Take In The View From Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
On the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, you will ascend two-and-one-half miles to the beautiful mountains above Palm Springs. This is the world’s largest rotating tramcar and at the top, you will be rewarded with sweeping views of Coachella Valley!
3) Visit The World’s Largest Dinasour Museum
You’ll feel like a kid again at the Cabazon Dinosaurs Museum which claims to be the world’s largest dino museum. Located in the town of Cabazon (which is off the 10 freeways just north of Palm Springs), this museum includes a dinosaur garden and robotic dinosaurs.
This educational facility features work from scientists around the world and offers an opportunity to learn the cool dinosaur facts and the history of the planet and the human race. Open daily 8:30am-8pm.
4) Explore Palm Springs By Bike
A fun way to see Palm Springs is by bike! Head over to Bike Palm Springs for bike rentals and tours. My tip is to go on your bike early morning or early evening and save this activity for late fall, winter or spring because in June, July, August, and September the temperatures in Palm Springs hit highs in the 100s Fahrenheit!
5) Spend An Evening At Palm Springs Village Fest
Palm Springs Village Fest is a street fair held every Thursday night from 7pm-10pm in downtown Palm Springs featuring arts, crafts, food, and entertainment.
6) Read Poolside
Palm Springs is the perfect destination to throw on your swimsuit and spend an afternoon catching up on reading, poolside – preferably with a cocktail in hand! I recently spent a long weekend in Palm Springs and spent an entire afternoon doing nothing but reading at my hotel pool. It was the perfect way to relax, unwind and dive into a book I had been meaning to read for months.
7) Hike And Stargaze In Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is 1,235 square miles of protected desert wilderness that lies just 40 miles from Palm Springs and is known for excellent hiking and stargazing. Whether you take a day trip to Joshua Tree or book a unique Joshua Tree Airbnb for the night, it’s worth the short drive from Palm Springs to experience the peacefulness and beauty of this quiet desert landscape.
8) Visit The Palm Springs Art Museum
Spend an afternoon at the Palm Springs Art Museum to experience incredible art and architecture. The museum features 19th, 20th, and 21st century works focusing on contemporary California art, classic western and Native American art; Mesoamerican art, Mexican art, European modern art; glass studio art, American mid-twentieth century architecture, and American photography.
In addition, the Annenberg Theater offers an eclectic calendar that includes Broadway, cabaret, jazz, classical, opera, dance, and entertainment industry speakers.
9) Golf At A World-Class Course
With over 300 days of sunshine each year and an array of excellent golf courses, Palm Springs is an ideal destination for golfers. Check out this Palm Springs Golf Course Guide for a list of the best golf courses in Coachella Valley.
10) Wander Moorten Botanical Garden
Moorten Botanical Garden is a family-owned garden that dates back to the 1930s and is home to more than 3,000 desert plants from around the world, all grouped by region. There’s also a nursery if you want to shop for plants to take home.
This whimsical garden is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 9am-1pm. Admission is $5 for adults and seniors, $2 for children 15 to 5, and free for children under 5 years old.
11) Experience Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
If you’re going to be visiting Palm Springs in April checking out the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is a must! Coachella is held annually, just south of Palm Springs at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.
At this infamous festival, you’ll get to see top artists performing rock, pop, indie, hip hop, and electronic dance music. The next Coachella dates are April 15th -24th, 2022!
12) Take Instagram Worthy Photos
Palm Springs is a Crayola-colored oasis, where the architecture, desert landscape, and bright colors allow you to step back to the 1960s (when the area was at its peak of popularity), making it the perfect destination to snap drool-worthy Instagram photos.
Check out our Instagram Guide To Colorful Palm Springs by contributor Anna Kloots!
Where To Stay In Palm Springs
Palm Springs has an array of chic hotels and resorts spread across many neighborhoods. Here are 10 of the best hotels in Palm Springs:
- L’Horizon Resort & Spa – Adults Only, luxury resort, all guests must be 21 and over.
- Ace Hotel & Swim Club – Retro vibes with a younger crowd, affordable, and in the city center.
- Avalon Hotel & Bungalows – 67 eclectic Spanish-style lodgings, romantic studios and 13 private villas.
- Ingleside Inn – A romantic retreat that began as an invitation-only estate for Hollywood’s Golden Age.
- The Saguaro Palm Springs – Budget-friendly, retro style with bright colors, in the city center.
- The Colony Palms – Sister property to L’Horizon, 57 fully renovated guest rooms spread over 3 acres.
- La Serena Villas – Adults only on over an acre of beautifully landscaped grounds in the heart of DT.
- Kimpton Rowan – Ethereal desert beauty permeates from this luxury hotel with a rooftop pool and bar.
- ARRIVE – Located in the Uptown design district, this Palm Springs hotel is chic and affordable.
- Parker Palm Springs – This is by far my favorite hotel in Palm Springs. The property is lush and whimsical, there is an adults-only pool with a chic lemonade stand serving up fresh, blended vodka lemonades, a hidden speakeasy bar, a killer spa, and every inch of the hotel exudes old-school charm. For more info and photos, check out my article Follow Me To Parker Palm Springs.
You can also check out our top Airbnbs in Palm Springs article!
Where To Eat In Palm Springs
Palm Springs has a top-notch food scene and an array of excellent upscale dining options making it a foodie paradise. Here are 10 of the best restaurants in Palm Springs:
- Farm – Traditional French restaurant in downtown Palm Springs in the historic Plaza.
- Workshop Kitchen + Bar – Farm-to-table New American fare in the Uptown Design District.
- Mr. Lyons – Upscale, retro-style steakhouse serving hand-cut meats and classic cocktails.
- Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge – Contemporary eatery offering refined New American cuisine.
- Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey – Small, upscale, hip decor offering sushi + whiskey cocktails.
- Mister Parker’s – Classic and modern French fare served in the posh Parker Hotel.
- Boozehounds – Open 8am- 11pm daily, American cuisine, great breakfast or brunch spot.
- Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn – Traditional American Fair with a modern twist.
- French Rotisserie Cafe – Located in nearby Palm Desert, serving upscale Parisian Bistro.
- Norma’s – Located at the Parker Hotel, excellent breakfast, brunch, and fresh smoothies.
The Best Bars In Palm Springs
Palm Springs is home to an array of upscale watering holes. Here are 10 of the best bars in Palm Springs:
- Counter Reformation – New speakeasy-style wine and beer bar located at the Parker Hotel. Open 5-10pm Thurs-Mon (closed on Tues and Wed). Reservations are required if you’re not a hotel guest.
- High Bar – Located at The Rowan Hotel, this rooftop pool bar is a great place to enjoy classic and retro cocktails with sparkling views of the city.
- Toucans Tiki Lounge & Cabaret – Established two decades ago, this is the city’s longest-running drag show. Toucans is also a place for many parties surrounding the Coachella Music Festival.
- The Alibi – New cocktail bar serving tapas and small plates.
- Dead or Alive – Excellent locals bar with a great selection of small production wines.
- Boozehounds – Open 8am- 11pm daily, this dog-friendly open-air cabana bar and patio serves up unique cocktails and American cuisine.
- Bootlegger Tiki – Open 3pm -12am daily, serving hand-crafted tiki cocktails, in a dim, playful atmosphere.
- Soleil Pool Bar – Located at the Riviera Hotel, this bar is a fun place to spend an afternoon mixing and mingling poolside. Open 11am-9pm daily.
- Truss & Wine – Industrial-chic spot for craft cocktails & a desert-inspired menu in the historic El Paseo building. Open Thurs-Sun 6pm-12am. Closed Mon-Wed.
- V Wine Lounge – Mid-century style lounge serving boutique California wines, small production international wines, craft beers, throwback cocktails, and a small, cheese-heavy (yum!) menu.
How To Get To Palm Springs
A huge plus of Palm Springs is that it is very easy to get to. You can fly into Palm Springs International Airport, which is just a five-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs. Or you can fly into LAX and then drive down to Palm Springs.
Palm Springs is just an easy one-hour, forty-five-minute drive from Los Angeles via 1-10 East but be warned – avoid making the drive there on Friday afternoon or back to LA on Sunday afternoon. I recently made the rookie mistake of leaving Malibu at 3pm on a Friday to drive to Palm Springs for the weekend and let’s just say I was ready to jump out my car window after over three hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic!
When Should I Visit Palm Springs?
Palm Springs is a popular destination year-round, but especially between December and April when it’s not quite so hot. Winter is peak season in the desert. The weather in the winter is perfect for all the fun activities Palm Springs has to offer but expect to pay top hotel prices and for tourist attractions to be crowded.
Weatherwise fall is a nice time to visit Palm Springs but a lot of big conventions take place, so if you want fewer crowds, better rates, and good weather I suggest visiting in mid to late spring.
Unless you love the heat, I would not recommend visiting Palm Springs in the summer, when daily highs often reach the triple digits. Summer is low season in the desert though, so if you want to get the best hotel deals and fewer tourists then summertime is worth considering.
Palm Springs Ultimate Guide Wrap Up
Palm Springs is the perfect destination for a couples weekend, a family escape, or a girls’ getaway. It’s a Southern California gem that has so much to offer and will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the peacefulness of the desert. Whether you’re popping in from another US town or visiting from across the world, Palm Springs is a destination not to be missed!
We hope that this article has inspired you to want to visit Palm Springs. If you have any questions or advice to share with our readers, please leave these in the comments below.
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