Nine cities. One oasis. Endless experiences. That’s Palm Springs’ tagline and rightly so. It’s an international destination filled with fashionable hotels and restaurants, chic shops and boutiques, a vibrant artist community, fun entertainment options and a dynamic downtown. There is something for everyone here. Located about 3 ½ hours from Bakersfield, Palm Springs has embraced its Rat Pack/Hollywood celebrity past and turned into a thriving modern, yet retro playground.
Things to do
Golfing: The Greater Palm Springs area is a golfing destination with more than 120 irrigated golf courses. It’s home to five of the top 30 courses in California. Many are designed by legendary architects like Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.
Casinos: There are several casinos to choose from in the general area. We went to the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage. The casino is over 71,000 square feet of slots, video poker and table games. Plus it has multiple dining options, a spa and resort-style pool area. As luck would have it, we did walk away with some extra dollars!
Hiking: Trails are abundant around Palm Springs as it is situated right next to the San Jacinto Mountains. We chose to do the Indian Canyons, which includes a couple of different areas to hike. The first one we took was the Andreas Canyon Loop Trail. This 1-mile hike follows a mountain stream up the canyon, which is lined by palm trees and magnificent rock formations jetting up out of the earth. From there, we went over to the Murray Canyon Trail, which leads you through a forest of palm trees where you have the option of two paths – one down by the creek and one up in the hills. The early Agua Caliente Indian tribe chose this area to settle in and I can see why. Gorgeous views and probably very cool in the hot summer months.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: A visit to Palm Springs is not complete without a tram ride to the top of San Jacinto Peak. It’s at an elevation of 8,516 feet and takes about 10 minutes to get to the top. On our visit, even though the base was a nice 60 degrees, the top was 9 degrees with snow flurries and the wind blowing, so plan well with what you wear. The top lodge area has two restaurants, a museum and multiple observation decks. Many locals buy passes and take advantage of the 50-plus miles of hiking trails.
No matter where you stay, there will be a gorgeous mountain view and a sparkling pool nearby. Accommodations vary from luxurious golf resorts to swanky hotels to retro retreats. In booking our hotel, I learned there’s mid-century modern hotels from the ’50s with bright-colored paint jobs and there’s mid-century modern hotels new and nice. We stayed at Alcazar Palm Springs, a Spanish-style boutique hotel with a modern twist and fully enjoyed our time there.
Palm Springs is a foodie’s delight. There are several types of restaurants to choose from, like swanky and colorful, modern chic to charming European bistro.
I would recommend these locations on Palm Canyon Drive: Lulu California Bistro is the quintessential Palm Springs place to eat. It’s glitzy, colorful and fun. Also try Cheeky’s, a Palm Springs institution known for its breakfast. The menu changes weekly and is praised for its farm-to-table cuisine. Lastly, Las Casuelas Terraza has been serving up authentic Mexican cuisine for more than 60 years. A great place to relax after a day of shopping and enjoy a margarita under their massive palapa bar.
The heartbeat of Palm Springs is Palm Canyon Drive. It’s dotted with local stores to national retailers, numerous restaurants and hotels. The south side is more of the tourist-type shopping and the north end is known as the “Uptown Design District” with home furnishing stores.
To fully appreciate the Palm Springs lifestyle, some appreciation needs to be put toward the mid-century modern looks. Several stores offer vintage, colorful retro-looking home decor items from the original to today’s twist on mid-century. Stores like Victoria’s Attic Antique Mall, Christopher Kennedy and Just Modern are fun to look around in.
The city of Palm Springs is noted for its many examples of mid-century modern architecture. Many well-known architects have given Palm Springs its unique look, dating back to the early ’30s with Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. Whole neighborhoods are mid-century modern style with many of them lovingly restored and updated, complete with desert landscape yards. Celebrities have flocked here for years and tours are available to see the likes of Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate to Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway and more.
For a town of its size, Palm Springs has a wonderful art museum downtown on the strip with three levels of interactive exhibits, Indian culture artifacts, modern art pieces to a full-size modern house to walk through. Your admission fee also gets you into the Palm Springs Art Museum of Architecture just a few blocks away. Mid-century modern architects are revered here. Their hand drawings, models and architecture photos are on display here. ￼￼