What to Do in Palm Springs, California's Timeless Getaway

Palm Springs has been a hideaway for Angelenos since the Rat Pack days, and it’s no wonder. This colorful, boho chic desert escape offers everything you need to unwind, and it’s less than a two-hour journey from the city center of Los Angeles.

The desert cities, especially Palm Springs, are particularly well-suited for the outdoor lifestyle that has become requisite within the past year, with popular brunch spots along the palm-tree-lined main drag offering sprawling shaded patios perfect for people watching and sipping mimosas. (We’re looking at you, Cheeky’s.)

The main draw for snowbirds is the year-round sunshine, but modern art and architecture buffs are attracted to the works of the architects who put their mark on the town, like Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, and William Krisel. Given its residents’ penchant for art and design, the area is also home to some of the state’s best vintage shops. And, there plenty of stylish poolsides to traipse around while sporting that thrifted seventies caftan.

Whether you’re heading out for a change in scenery for your remote office or for the annual Modernism Week, here’s how to plan your stay in the area.

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Where to stay in Palm Springs

Palm Springs is known for architecture and design, with spots for every taste and price range. The new Les Cactus (from $286 a night) and its unending Insta-worthy nooks looks like the Beverly Hills Hotel went on a road trip. There’s retro desert design, including rattan furniture and hammocks, as well as house beach cruisers, and of course, plenty of cacti. While the hotel is pet friendly, it’s an adults-only place, allowing only guests 21 and over.

PRG Hospitality has three hotels in the area—Holiday House (from $351 a night) and Sparrows Lodge (from $319 a night) in Palm Springs proper, and the Sands Hotel & Lodge (from $123 a night) a bit further afield in Indian Wells—each with its own distinct personality and appeal. The lighthearted and appropriately named Holiday House is a kitschy, design-forward hideaway tucked right off Palm Canyon Drive. Originally opened in 1951 and designed by noted architect Herbert W. Burns, the pool and attached shuffleboard court are surrounded by citrus trees, and there’s an awesome complimentary continental breakfast available to guests, too.

On the other end of the spectrum in terms of glitz, there’s the Parker Palm Springs (from $429 a night), whose interiors, done by Jonathan Adler, fizz with bright colors and eccentric, eclectic design touches throughout. There’s a fire pit for marshmallows, and each room has a carefully selected mix of pulpy paperbacks and art books in each room, depending what you feel like reading by their retro-chic pool.

What to do in Palm Springs

Book a morning reservation for an early hike to Tahquitz Falls before the desert temps start to rise and you’ll be rewarded with well-maintained trails within the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation that lead to a seasonal 60-foot waterfall, native wildlife, and ancient irrigation systems.

Once you’ve rinsed off, it’s time for some serious retail therapy at some of the area’s famed vintage and antique dealers. There are tons to choose from, but some favorites include the Fine Art of Design, Angel View Thrift Mart, and the Palm Springs Vintage Market, the latter of which is an open-air vintage flea that takes place the first Sunday of each month.

While many museums and other public attractions are still currently closed, check back in before your trip to see if restrictions have lifted. Soon, the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center will reopen their impressive collection of modernist works and photography. But in the meantime you can stroll the historic 200-acre estate at Sunnylands Gardens in Rancho Mirage, and marvel at the 70-some odd species of arid-adapted plants suited to the desertscape, or wander labyrinths and gaze in reflecting pools.

Then, head back into town to catch the golden hour at the rooftop cocktail bar at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, where you can overlook the public art installations below by Czech Republic artist David Černý.

Where to eat in Palm Springs

There is no shortage of great dining options in Palm Springs, but an absolute must is Vietnamese-American fusion favorite Rooster and the Pig, where you’ll find dishes like a banh mi burger with pickled daikon and charred Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage and tamari. If you’re after slightly more traditional Vietnamese food, Viet 533 has its own spring roll bar, bun bo hue noodle soup, and some of the best bun cha outside Hanoi, as well as some more fusion style dishes on offer.

Kings Highway at the Ace Hotel always makes an excellent brunch option, where you can pad your belly for day drinking at the pool with both naughty and nice options like chia pudding with toasted coconut and fresh berries, or Anson Mills grits with house chorizo, parmesan, lemon, and a fried egg.

When dinnertime rolls around, get gussied up and head to Mr. Lyon’s steakhouse for rib eyes and martinis. And don’t forget to pick up some BBQ and fried chicken for the road at Brown’s BBQ. Much as we all love In-N-Out, you probably already had your drive-through moment on the way in, anyway.

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