The Coolest Things to Do in Palm Springs
Looking for a guide to the coolest things to do in Palm Springs? We've got you covered. With its chic hotels, buzzy restaurants, curated design shops, and Mid-century modern architecture, the resort city continues its legacy as a playground for LA scenesters and travelers looking to take in Coachella Valley's eye-popping views and desert air.
This stylish, mid-century modern hotel (once American performer Gene Autry’s ranch) features an inimitable cheeky and cheery style, from psychedelic shag carpets to the massive 7-foot-tall bronze banana on the main garden, courtesy of Jonathan Adler. There’s also a nautical-inspired Palm Springs Yacht Club, and, our favorite touch, a colorful set of croquet and pétanque clubs on the lawns next to the lemonade stand. If you’re looking for one of the coolest things to do in Palm Springs, a round of lawn games at the Parker ranks high on our list.
For travelers looking for bohemian-inspired digs and a relaxed vibe, Sparrows Lodge is the place. Originally built in 1952 as Castle’s Red Barn by actor Don Castle and his wife Zetta, the property feels like a summer camp for grown ups. There’s a pool, outdoor bar and fire pit, 20 rustic rooms with pitched wood ceilings and exposed beams, and the Barn Kitchen, where guests gather on communal tables under a pergola for family-style dinners.
Midcentury Modern design meets 21st century-chic at this hipster hotel. Designed by Chris Pardo, the 32 room hotel is built with rusted wood, steel, and concrete materials and centers around an outdoor pool that doubles as a buzzy lounge area at night. Guests check in at the lobby bar, before hitting up the guest rooms, complete with plush king-sized beds, Lola headphones and rain showers. For breakfast, don’t miss the new Custom Coffee next-door, which serves local roasts and house-brewed iced yerba mate from Teatulia.
Frank Sinatra lived in Palm Springs in the early 1950s and his spirit is alive and well in the plush green velvet booths, black and white striped marble floors, and old-school menu of this upscale retro steakhouse. Book a table in the Grand Salon and go for the Foie Gras Terrine, followed by the American Wagyu Beef.
Chef Michael Beckman updated a former movie theatre to create this rustic farm-to-table spot located in the historic Spanish-Deco El Paseo building. The result? A dramatic monochrome dining room featuring 27-foot-high cathedral-ceilings, where people gather for seasonal creative dishes like duck fat fries, beef carpaccio with truffle salsa, and wood-fired pizza accompanied by inventive cocktails.
In a playful pool-centric Palm Spring setting, Chi Chi at the Avalon Hotel & Bungalows mixes gold-accented luxe interiors with cheeky California-inspired touches. The small-bites menu by star chef Tara Lazar is filled with delicious Latin-Cali creations that range from healthy gluten-free pancakes to hearty soul food plates like coconut oil fried chicken and collard green enchiladas.
Set in part of a building that once housed the legendary 1950s hot spot Don the Beachcomber, this tiny tiki bar is all about a retro playful Polynesian spirit (bamboo ceiling, velvet paintings of topless island girls and blowfish light fixtures). Order a hand-crafted cocktail from the whimsical drinks menu—we love the refreshing Sophisticated Mama--then feast on Pad Thai made with rum, Thai basil, and a homemade cardamom-lemongrass syrup.
This dark ‘70s-esque bar at the Ace Hotel is still one of Palm Springs' buzziest night spots, thanks to its rotating DJs, up & coming live bands and comedians. Inside, the vibe is like a wild, rustic-chic California barn, which is overseen by Chuy, the California brown bear overlooking the bar. If you have to choose one night to stop in, go on a Monday when Palm Springs' favorite drag queen, Bella da Ball, hosts a popular trivia night starting at 9 p.m., and make sure to order The Desert Facial - vodka and pineapple with mint and cucumber.
Palm Springs is the place for vintage-obsessed shoppers with an eye for Mid-century modern style. The Shops at Thirteen Forty-Five design collective in the iconic E. Stewart Williams Designed Building houses 11 boutiques, including standout The Towne. Founded by interior designers Stephen Wilson and Brandon Hoskins, the store has all manner of retro furnishings by iconic Mad Men-era designers and contemporary home accessories like candles, books and local art.
This colorful downtown vintage boutique is all about the desert lifestyle and sells clothing in mod, resort, bohemian, and rock 'n roll styles. Choose from racks of printed caftans and tunics to oversize hats and gauze dresses.
With the arrival of new small boutiques, Main Street in Old town has become a legitimate shopping destination. Elizabeth & Prince is a favorite, packed with resort-casual clothes by big name designers like DVF and Mara Hoffman. You'll also find lesser-known labels by up-and-comers like Nanushka, along with lifestyle books and retro-0inspired bathing suits.
Wildflower season draws huge crowds to Joshua Tree, but the quieter months are just as appealing with hiking, camping and rock climbing big year-round pastimes. About 8 miles south of the West Entrance, you'll find Hidden Valley trail—a dramatic cluster of rocks ideal for travelers looking to practice their climbing skills (an easy 1-mile trail loops through it and back to the parking lot). Unless you’re day-tripping from Palm Springs, base yourself in the desert communities linked by Twentynine Palms Hwy (Hwy 62) along the park’s northern perimeter.
Get a bird’s-eye view of Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley with a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. During the ten-minute journey, the tramway rotates slowly offering 360-degree views of the desert floor as you climb two-and-one-half miles up to the San Jacinto Mountains. When you reach the peak, you can hike the 50-plus miles of nature trails in San Jacinto State Park (warning: it's 30 degrees cooler than the desert floor), eat lunch at the Tram’s Mountain Station, or visit the natural history museum
Palm Springs' biggest selling point is its mid century modern architectural gems by designers such as Donald Wexler, Albert Frey, William Cody and John Lautner. Take a self-guided drive through the city to see the landmarks or ride around in the mini-van of Trevor O'Donnel owner of PS Architecture Tours. His three-hour excursion ($110 per person) stops at eye-popping structures like the 1946 Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra and the 1965 kite-shaped former Tramway Gas Station turned Visitor Center.
What to Wear in Palm Springs
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