If you’re looking for a truly underrated destination for a sunny getaway, head to the American Southwest for some true rest and relaxation in California’s natural oasis: Palm Springs.
This town became famous in the 1900s, as a favorite retreat for John Muir and his daughters early in the century, and developed into a refuge for glamorous movie stars into the 1930s. Now, it’s no less fabulous, but has a more robust tourism industry accessible to all budgets!
Palm Springs is a great stop to add to a California and Arizona road trip. The roads are easy and there are so many other incredible desert destinations within a couple of hours drive.
If you’re looking for a long-weekend getaway, however, Palm Springs is the perfect location for a girls trip, a photography adventure, or just some time in the sun amongst beautiful nature to rest and reset. With excellent food and trendy restaurants, unique hotels, dreamy desert landscapes, year-round warm sunny weather, and tons of art and cultural activities, you’ll be sure to never have a boring moment.
In between lounging by the pool at your hotel with a cocktail in hand, here are the best things to do in Palm Springs, California.
1. HIKE THROUGH ANDREAS CANYON
While in Palm Springs, be sure to spend an early morning wandering through the massive, “furry” palm trees in Andreas Canyon (part of the Indian Canyons). The light is especially beautiful early in the morning, and it’s nice to be able to explore the area before the crowds start to arrive around 9:30/10:00am.
2. WANDER THROUGH THE MOORTEN BOTANICAL GARDEN
Afterward, stop at the Moorten Botanical Garden to wander the really beautifully curated maze of exotic desert plants and cacti. It’s only $5 to enter, and you can also pick up some pretty little potted succulents to take home with you as a souvenir (if you can manage to transport it!).
3. TOUR ICONIC PALM SPRINGS ARCHITECTURAL SITES
You also won’t want to miss some of the famous Palm Springs design and architecture. You don’t need to book an official tour for this — just plug these spots into your Google Maps, rent a bicycle from your hotel (or drive in your car), and check out the places that interest you most!
My favorite spots are the Parker Hotel (a pricey but beautiful spot for lunch or drinks, with giant portion sizes on meals), the Palm Springs Architecture Museum, Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Center, Twin Palms Estates, Coachella Valley Savings and Loan, Elrod House Interior, and the Tramway Gas Station are just some of the truly impressive examples of mid-century modern architecture for which Palm Springs is so famous.
You can also just wander through the neighborhood to find all those cute colorful doors, mid-century facades, and typical Palm Springs landscaping of a minimalist double palm tree.
4. SHOP ALONG THE MAIN STREET
Be sure to wander the main street to check out the beautiful mid-century home design shops and funky clothing boutiques — even if you don’t buy anything, it’s fun to look around!
My favorite boutiques are The Shops At Thirteen Forty Five and the Trina Turk shops with a new home collections shop.
5. ENJOY THE BEST OF PALM SPRINGS DINING
The food scene is incredible in Palm Springs, and you can find almost any kind of cuisine that sparks your fancy.
Get a truffle grilled cheese sandwich or poached pear salad at Eight4Nine, grab locally famed Vietnamese food at Rooster and the Pig (come early and be prepared to queue!), have a quaint authentic Italian meal at Il Giardino, enjoy fine dining at Farm or Workshop Kitchen + Bar, or grab delicious Mexican food on the patio at El Mirasol.
6. SNAP PHOTOS AT THE WINDMILLS
If you have free time, or perhaps on your way out of town, stop by San Gorgonio Pass, where you can see the massive white windmills spread across the desert for miles, with the towering San Gorgonio Mountain and Mount San Jacinto on either side. It’s pretty cool to see these up close, and it’s an excellent spot for photos!
The entrance fee to Andreas Canyon (which also includes access to neighboring Murray and Palm Canyons) is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and $5 for children 6-12.
The entrance fee to the Moorten Botanical Garden is $5.
- Korakia Pensione (historic Moroccan style villa with a delicious homemade breakfast, activities like yoga and outdoor movie nights, and the most beautifully decorated rooms)
- Parker Palm Springs
- Sands Hotel & Spa
Whether you're looking for the perfect spot for a road trip, girls getaway, photography adventure, or just some rest and relaxation in the desert's most iconic setting, Palm Springs is a can't miss destination!
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