Palm Springs is one of Southern California's most underrated gems, where beautiful landscapes, award-winning restaurants, and outdoor adventures await. Where to begin? Situated on the edge of the Colorado desert and along the San Jacinto Mountains, this desert oasis has natural beauty just waiting for your Instagram feed. Midcentury architecture and Native American cultural museums divulge the city's history, while local restaurants source the freshest and finest ingredients from farms in and around Coachella Valley. Whether planning a romantic getaway, taking a short day trip, or just passing through, there's an itinerary to make the most of your Palm Springs visit.
Let's say you only have one day to explore Palm Springs. Make the most of your trip by heading straight for Downtown. Park the car and walk down Palm Canyon Drive, where you'll find over a dozen museums and art galleries, including the Palm Springs Art Museum. If you have time, take the 15-minute drive to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to ride the world's largest rotating tram car. End on a high note by eating a fantastic dinner at Taq/Quila or spending a very happy hour at Trio Restaurant.
Some people crave a little variety while on vacation, and Palm Springs does not disappoint. Stay local on your first day and visit both the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. Then, recharge with a cup of coffee as you stroll along the Walk of the Stars honoring Palm Springs' most prominent citizens. Day two is perfect for a scenic drive to Joshua Tree National Park. This vast wilderness has about 300 miles of hiking trails, backcountry roads for 4-wheel driving and mountain biking, and a stunning display of wildflowers in springtime. Spend your final day soaking in luxury at one of the dozens of spas in town. Check hotel websites for spa packages or book an appointment at a private salon.
With seven days in the Palm Springs area, you've got time to pack for an overnight camping trip at Joshua Tree National Park. After a night of stargazing, spend a day exploring the Skull Rock and Arch Rock trails. Take it easy on day three with a self-guided driving or walking tour of local modern architecture and historic homes, and the Palm Springs Windmill Tour on day four, which gets close to these engineering marvels. Day 5 is for sports, like golf at the Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort or off-roading in the desert in a 4-wheel drive adventure. You'll need all of day 6 to shop at the boutiques along Palm Canyon Drive and the thrift shops in the design district. Finish your vacation with brunch at FARM, then stop by Sherman's Deli and grab some pastries for the trip home.
A romantic getaway in Palm Springs is as easy as booking a ticket on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Watch in wonder as you rotate 360 degrees for breathtaking views of the city and surrounding valleys. Admire the scenery atop Mount San Jacinto from the hiking trails before heading to Peaks Restaurant for a dinner overlooking the Coachella Valley. For a more intimate date night, enjoy some clandestine cocktails by discovering a speakeasy together. Try Seymour's, an elegant bar inside Mr. Lyons Steakhouse, or PS Air, which is located inside Bouschet Liquor Store. If you're interested in the region's history, head for the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons. You'll find information at the Trading Post, as well as any last-minute supplies for a romantic picnic. Finally, don't leave town without scheduling a couples spa treatment at a resort or boutique hotel.
If you're in town on a business trip, your best bet is to stay as close to downtown as possible. Everything you need will be on Palm Canyon Drive and Indian Canyon Drive. For your early caffeine fix or a workspace with a view, go to Cafe La Jefa. The sleek modern coffee shop with a zen-like outdoor patio is perfect for focusing before your big meeting. If you've got a free afternoon, book a seat on the Palm Springs Mod Squad tour. This 90-minute excursion highlights architectural gems while touching on local history and pop culture. For cocktails and light bites after a long day, grab a seat at Truss & Twine, or head to Norma's at the Parker Hotel if you've got an appetite. This swanky modern restaurant serves breakfast all day but also serves delicious dishes like their wagyu lasagna.
Palm Springs isn't just galleries and high-end eateries — it's also a desert playground for the family. Take the clan on a trip to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, where you'll encounter animals from tortoises to giraffes. Explore the hiking and nature trails within the park or book an animal encounter for an up-close look at wildlife. Then, hop in the car and drive 20 minutes to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs. This iconic roadside attraction features dozens of life-sized dinosaurs and photo opportunities — including a giant T-Rex. If your brood is in the mood for something more intense, spend a day at the Palm Springs Surf Club. With a lazy river and wave pool for surfers of all skill levels, everyone can have a good time.
If you're staying in Palm Springs during Coachella, don't miss out on the full experience. Shop at the thrift stores along Palm Canyon Drive to round out your festival attire, and look for the public art Downtown. If you're in the mood for a swanky hangout, visit the High Bar at the Rowan. The seventh-story rooftop bar features locally sourced ingredients and one of the best views in the city. The Palm Springs International Film Festival comes to town every winter, with screenings at six different theaters in and around Downtown. Attend a screening and Q&A session, then enjoy delicious cocktails and bar food at Blackbook, a laid-back hangout in Palm Springs' LGBTQ district. Check out the festival's website for great hotel deals and theater locations.
Sure, there's bingo and golf in Palm Springs, but that's not where you'll find other seniors on a sunny day. You'll find them at such places as Sunnyland. This gorgeous 200-acre estate was once the winter home of philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg. Now, the desert ranch oasis is open to the public, with no charge for parking or to tour the exquisite grounds. Speaking of the Annenbergs, check out the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Museum of Art for cabaret performances, lectures, and other events. Or, spend a day soaking in the natural healing waters of the 12,000-year-old hot springs at The Spa at Sec-He. Once you've recharged, head to El Paseo, Palm Springs' high-end shopping and dining district. Indulge in comfort foods at Wilma & Frieda's Cafe, or spoil yourself with a dinner at Mastro's Steakhouse.
Traveling solo in Palm Springs is just an opportunity for adventure. Need proof? Head downtown between 6 P.M. and 10 P.M. on Thursday for VillageFest, a weekly street fair that features entertainment and vendors selling art, food, and more. For a more intimate experience, head to Moorten Botanical Garden. The one-acre estate is owned by the same family that landscaped the homes of celebrities like Bing Crosby and Walt Disney and features plants from over a dozen different biomes. Take the guided tour, and don't forget to stop at the nursery to take a piece of the desert home with you. Dining solo? No problem at the King's Highway. This retro eatery is an homage to midcentury diners, with plenty of seating at the counter. If you'd rather stay downtown, enjoy some Mexican food on the patio at Las Casuelas.
The first step in embarking on an eco-friendly vacation is to book eco-friendly accommodations. Hotels like Azure Sky Hotel or Kimpton Rowan do their part by using recycled materials, energy-efficient HVAC systems, water-conserving appliances, and similar green tactics. Next, you'll want to support local farms and dairies by shopping the Palm Springs Certified Farmer's Market. Keep the momentum going by exploring the beautiful scenery on an electric bike or a covered wagon adventure. If you're in the mood for shopping, look for some quality vintage threads at a thrift store like The Fine Art of Design or The Frippery. Finally, satiate your appetite with a delicious farm-to-table meal from FARM, where ingredients are locally sourced and the menu changes seasonally.