Before becoming a popular Hollywood escape in the 1950s, Palm Springs was first a wellness destination in the 1900s. Only two hours from Los Angeles (traffic permitting), it’s the perfect getaway for both Angelenos and visitors alike.
Palm Springs was actually the first place my parents ever took me as a baby. I was about four months old when we ventured to this mid-century modern dream of a destination. I like to think that a small part of me remembers that first holiday and I’ve had a desire to return ever since…
When booking our accommodation, I did extensive research to find the most colourful, most PGM hotel I could get my hands on. We ultimately decided on The Saguaro, which was transformed from a Holiday Inn into the most magical Rainbow paradise. Rainbow in more ways than one, Palm Springs is a gay mecca and our hotel was filled with incredibly attractive same-sex couples. It also seems to be a hotspot for bachelor and bachelorette parties and one of my favourite designers actually had her wedding nearby. The other hotels we considered were:
Parker Palm Springs
If you’ve got some cash money to spend, then stay at The Parker. It’s a gorgeous hotel with three restaurants and the most luxurious rooms. We cycled to the Parker for brunch at Norma’s to celebrate our engagement (we decided California would be our mini moon) and to check out the beautifully-styled lobby. Decorated in true mid-century modern fashion, be sure to grab a few snaps for the gram while you’re there!
Known for their kitschy, electric rooms and excellent food offerings, (not to mention the Stumptown Coffee available at all their locations), is one of America’s original boutique hotels. We couldn’t resist stopping by for breakfast at King’s Highway. The 70s style diner is worth a trip even if you’re not staying here. They have California’s own Linus bicycles available for hire, which is my preferred brand.
We chose The Saguaro for its amazing pool (of which I took 23528 photos…) and rainbow selection of rooms. They also have free bikes for hire, but it was 47 degrees Celsius when we were visiting, so we didn’t make it much further than a few kilometres…
Palm Springs Art Museum
Much like the architecture, the art in Palm Springs is worth writing home about. Founded in 1938, it showcases art from the region in addition to natural science and performing arts. We focused on the regional arts, in particular contemporary art, sculpture, studio art glass, and architecture archives. There’s currently an incredible glass exhibit on called Narratives in Glass that’s on until early November. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in town.
That Pink Door
While we were tempted to lounge by the pool (the temperatures hovered around 45 degree celsius at all times…) we knew we’d regret not taking it the city’s architecture. I had a list of places I wanted to visit, including that pink door. Unfortunately, the owners are no longer allowing photos after invasive Instagrammers and bloggers went right up to the door (some even grabbing the doorknob!) We still decided to swing by and capture a quick snap from the street. This house is so dreamy, so make sure to add it to your itinerary. The address is 1100 Sierra Way and it’s two minutes from The Saguaro.
Take the aerial tramway
Another fun activity that actually helped cool us down was taking the tram. The Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car. It travels over four kilometres along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting you to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The journey up takes about ten-minutes and the tram car rotates slowly, which offers spectacular views of the valley below. Once you reach the top, there’s plenty of observation decks and heaps of hiking trails.
Another amazing example of mid-century style of architecture, the Palm Springs Visitor Center (sorry, it’s ‘er’ in American English) is well worth a visit. My photos don’t do it justice, but the angles are remarkable!
Pappy & Harriet’s
Slightly outside Palm Springs in Pioneertown stands Pappy & Harriet’s. I wasn’t sure whether to categorise this under food and drink or sightseeing (it’s both). The live music venues features classic American fare and rustic decor. The walls are lined with license plates (we even found one from Saskatchewan). Drinks are served in mason jars and there’s live music every night. It’s well worth the drive, but be sure to make a reservation if you’re going for dinner.
We had planned to go bowling at Palm Springs Lanes, but ran out of time. If you have extra time, I’d suggest playing a round or two!
Eat & Drink
For its small size, Palm Springs has so many incredible food options. I had to take Nick to In ‘N Out Burger (he had never been before) and he raved about it. He actually thinks it’s better than Shake Shack (debatable, but it’s way more cost-effective). Be sure to check out the following spots as well:
The roadside diner at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, King’s Highway serves up a Cal-Mexican menu with locally sourced ingredients and Stumptown cold brew (seriously, it’s one of the best coffee roasters in America). Formerly a Denny’s restaurant, King’s Highway “celebrates the ineffable, bohemian spirit of the wide open West”. They’ve also got Bingo on Monday nights, and we’re all about that!
You’ll want to make sure you check out the Parker’s lobby and while you’re at it, head to Norma’s for an indulgent, outdoor brunch. The offerings here are indulgent, so come hungry. Nick and I share the crispy french toast (coated in Rice Crispies) and the Huevos Rancheros, both were incredibly delicious. As expected, we couldn’t fault the service here. Our waiter was hilarious and told us stories about local life in Palm Springs.
If you love margaritas and Mexican food, there’s nowhere better than El Jefe at The Saguaro. The lavender margarita was my personal fave and Nick, who strictly a beer drinker, even drank (and loved) a few.
Somewhat hard to pin down, The Tropicale caters to everyone with its pink, neon-lit exterior and retro, tropical interior. The festive eatery serves an eclectic menu alongside large and delicious drinks. There’s a patio, which is worth nabbing a seat on if the temperatures are slightly lower. Nick and I both loved the service and people watching here.
We didn’t do any shopping in Palm Springs (I was saving my pennies for Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles, stay tuned for that city guide next!) but there are a few neat spots if you’re looking to spend some of your hard earned cash.
Desert Hills Premium Outlets
If you’re looking for a bargain like no other, you can’t miss the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. While they’re technically thirty minutes outside Palm Springs, this massive shopping complex is the size of a small town with outposts for Calvin Klein, All Saints, Kate Spade, Jimmy Choo, Barneys New York, Frette, Bottega Veneta, Prada, YSL, James Perse and so many more.
If you’re a fan of mid-century furniture, stop by Modernway for an amazing selection of pre-loved furniture from decades ago. Expect an assortment of lucite seating, wall art and plush rugs. The prices are steep, but it’s fun to look!
A La Mod
One of the biggest and well curated home decor showrooms in Palm Springs, you can find pieces from the 80s and 90s in addition to mid-century modern gems. A la mod is a wonderful place for vintage lighting as well.
You could easily spend a week in Palm Springs, uncovering all the hidden gems and admiring all the mid-century modern architecture, but a weekend is ideal for a mini getaway. We loved spending two nights in this dreamy desert destination.
Have you ever been to Palm Springs? If so, I’d love to hear about your favourite spots!