Palm Springs is my happy place.
The California desert destination holds a special spot in my heart, and for good reason: I got married in Palm Springs, so I automatically associate it with the best memories of my life.
That said, I’ve been there plenty of times when not getting married, so I happen to think it’s a pretty great place even when you’re not planning to walk down the aisle. (Though if you are looking for a wedding destination - it’s a great place to tie the knot!)
This week specifically, I'm heading back on our annual pilgrimage to the desert for Coachella. In addition to my excitement for three days of festival-laden sunshine and music, I also just can't wait to be in one of my favorite places in the world. One of these days I'll write something about my love for Coachella specifically, but that's probably a whole post in and of itself.
Anyways, Palm Springs is on the short list of places I love to travel back to a few times every year. With a long bucket list that spans the globe, I tend to lean towards trying new spots over repeating ones I’ve been to before. Palm Springs is an exception to that rule. It’s such a great blend of weather, scenery, food, and activities that I kind of think it belongs in everyone’s travel rotation.
But, like I said, I’m biased. Still, I thought I’d still share some major selling points, mostly because I love to share my stories from Palm Springs spots with anyone who’s willing to listen.
Scroll for some of my favorite things to do in my favorite desert oasis.
SLEEPING, LOUNGING & HANGING OUT BY THE POOL
STAY HERE. Seriously. It's worth the splurge. When I first stepped inside The Parker, it was love at first sight (actually, it was love at first drive-up: the large white midcentury facade that greets you as arrive at the hotel is perhaps the most gram-worthy moment on the entire property). Anyways, at that time, I was searching for a wedding venue, and I knew The Parker was a perfect fit because its eclectic, irreverent, and iconic midcentury décor spoke to me. The hotel is chic without feeling slick; sophisticated with a casual, quirky edge. It's easy to get lost in the winding garden paths within the courtyards, and it's just as easy to get lost at the bottom of an adult lemonade by the pool. I could go on and on... but I think you get the idea.
If you have a group, renting a house is a great option for Palm Springs because (1) so many of the houses feature super cool midcentury architecture and (2) a house always gives you the freedom to share common spaces (including a pool, obviously) on your own timeline. We've stayed in a few different rental homes over the years and have never had anything but great feedback.
For a more current riff on Palm Springs' retro vibes, the Ace Hotel is your best bet. Situated in a renovated motor inn, the Ace has rooms outfitted in a more minimal, desert-industrial fashion and a happening pool party scene on weekends that often includes a DJ.
EATING & DRINKING
Inventive craft cocktails and apps in a super cool, modern industrial setting. In my opinion, quality of drinks and apps is higher than entrées here, so I’d do drinks at Workshop before dinner, then move onto dinner somewhere else.
Really good al fresco Italian - pizzas, burrata, etc. I'm super partial to this place because it's where Marc and I had our rehearsal dinner, but even regardless of that fact, it's delicious. If you like spice, order the braised greens pizza, then save room for the salted caramel tart. One of my favorite desserts of all time (I even ate it while on the wedding diet).
Fresh Mex restaurant in the Arrive hotel. It's young and hip (do hip people say the word "hip"? Probably not...), the best ceviché and guacamole in town, and good tacos as well. I might have inadvertently thrown guacamole at some friends here one time after a few too many margaritas. Sorry I'm not sorry. Also, don't forget to fit in a poolside game of ping pong after dinner.
If you love a good steakhouse, this is a great modern-classic remix. They have this old school cocktail bar called Seymour's in the back for a drink before or after. The steak I had here was so good.
This is a restaurant in Cary Grant's former guesthouse. American bistro fare. Sit outside on the patio.
This is the Parker’s casual breakfast-brunch-lunch spot, and like everything at the Parker, I'm obsessed. Portions are huge, so you should split something. The huevos rancheros are basically served on a quesadilla and are amazing. Plus, the Parker is über instagrammable, so it's a great place to wander around before or after.
Best brunch in town. They serve their bloody mary in a boot.
Are diner tapas a thing? Even if they aren't, this is how I would describe eating at King's Highway, and I like it.
DOING THINGS AKA HIKING
If you only pick one outdoor activity to do in Palm Springs (beyond the pool, of course), do this. These hiking trails are like 5 minutes south of downtown (near the Ace Hotel) and are real life oases. I think they look legit prehistoric. There are 3 hikes (I believe), but we have only ever hiked Andreas Canyon. Insider tip: I’d recommend getting there early like 8 or 830am, before it gets crowded so you basically have the trail to yourself.
Joshua Tree NATIONAL PARK
If you're willing to drive 45 minutes(ish) from Palm Springs proper, this national park is pretty cool to see. If you do it, similar to Indian Canyons, go early. Insider tip: There are multiple entrances to the national park and the Cottonwood Visitor Center entrance is waaaaay less crowded so you should plan to go in that way, then drive through the park, see the sights, and exit through the main entrance. Also, people always rave about the pioneer town that's near the main entrance (the one where you will exit), but I honestly thought it was hokey and would recommend skipping it.
Go high. You can take a large cable car up Mount San Jacinto from the north end of Palm Springs. The ride up is fun (don't worry too much about your standing spot within the cable car because the cable car rotates) and then, at the top, you get panoramic views of the canyon and can do lots of different hikes. Insider tip: It’s like 20 degrees cooler than the temperature in Palm Springs at the top, so dress accordingly.
Ready for a desert trip? I hope so - and I welcome you hitting me up for any additional questions you might have as you plan your Palm Springs adventure!
All photos by Jonathan Steinitz unless otherwise noted