Tell people you’re headed to Palm Springs for a getaway, and you’ll likely conjure up one of several images: golf games, shopping, spas and very hipster music festivals. And while Palm Springs does offer ample opportunities to experience each of these, the truth is that it is this and so much more. I recently had the opportunity to take a getaway to Palm Springs with a girlfriend; both of us were first-timers in town and ready to discover everything this famous desert oasis has to offer. Palm Springs and the surrounding desert did not disappoint.
Although not the traditional beach or theme park getaway, Palm Springs is a great destination for families. Something about this desert town just makes you want to slow down and relish every second of your time here, and enjoying quality time together is what family vacations should really be all about.
The sense of time standing still is reinforced by Palm Springs’ famous mid-century modern architecture and classic cars as well as the intense desert heat, which inspires nothing so much as leisurely strolls and hours spent poolside. It’s really the perfect place to relax and unwind, which means its well-suited to a getaway with friends or a romantic sojourn as well.
I’d recommend perusing the information at www.VisitPalmSprings.com when you plan your own visit to this beautiful desert oasis, but for a personal take on the town, I’ve shared some of my favorite experiences.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs
Palm Springs has an array of accommodation choices, with hotels ranging from vintage mid-century to uber-hip to sprawling luxury suites, but this savvy traveler’s tip is to explore vacation rental options. One of the best things about vacationing in Palm Springs is how relaxed everything feels here, and having the space to spread out, find a quiet corner, and just unwind is priceless. Our rental through Vacation Palm Springs was central, spacious quiet and – best of all – had a pool that was all our own. Explore some great rental options at www.vacationpalmsprings.com.
What to Do in Palm Springs – Urbane
No Palm Springs getaway would be complete without a visit to the iconic Palm Canyon Drive. Ending in views of the majestic San Jacinto mountain range and flanked on either side by rows of towering palms, this strip of roadway perfectly embodies the Palm Springs “vibe”. Mid-century modern architecture, high-end dining, amazingly eclectic shops and amazing art are everywhere you turn. Downtown Palm Springs exudes an air of Old Hollywood glamour, and nowhere is this more apparent than amidst the palms and the statues of greats like Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe (or even Sonny Bono).
Taking its name in part from local “Agua Caliente” hot springs, Palm Springs has been a spa hotspot since the turn of the last century (and even earlier). To honour the traditional nature of the place, my girlfriend and I felt it was important to partake of some spa treatments while we were visiting, naturally! We indulged in two treatments at the luxurious spa at the Riviera Palm Springs, and made sure to spend time unwinding in the expansive Watsu pool before enjoying a delicious (and healthy) lunch.
What to Do in Palm Springs – Wild
When you’re strolling down Palm Canyon Drive, it can be easy to forget that Palm Springs really is an oasis in the middle of the desert, but don’t let the Old Hollywood glamour of downtown entice you completely…be sure to save some time to explore the amazing surrounding wilderness.
A great place to start is with the Palm Springs Aerial tramway. Climb aboard the world’s largest rotating tramcar and enjoy breathtaking views on the ten-minute ascent through the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon into the San Jacinto State Park. Once you arrive at the Mountain Station, there are many hiking trails to explore. Find more information at www.pstramway.com
A definite must when you’re in the Palm Springs area is a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. The stark desert landscape and twisted Joshua trees that give the park its name are otherworldly in their beauty, and the sheer open expanse of it all are the perfect contrast to the backdrop of endless dark blue skies. I recommend going early and aiming to arrive before the park opens to enjoy its stunning vistas in the stillness and quiet of early morning, with hardly any other people around.
While you’re visiting Joshua Tree, be sure to stop in for a bite at Crossroads Café, where you’ll enjoy a great meal in an authentic Western diner.
Where to Eat in Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs boasts almost an embarrassment of incredible dining options, and it’s hard to imagine how a visitor could go wrong with any choice. However, since we try to be civilized and restrict ourselves to a mere three meals a day, choices must be made. Based on our experience, I’d recommend trying these two eateries:
Smoke Tree BBQ
The best way to describe Smoke Tree BBQ is “refined casual”. Chic yet rustic design meets southern cooking with an urban flare, and a diverse selection of spirits and craft beer. Served on stainless steel trays complete with red checkered paper, all of Smoke Tree’s meats are custom smoked in house and paired with classic sides like creamy cole slaw, creamed sweet corn and smoked Bbq beans.
Las Casuelas Terraza
A Palm Springs institution since 1958, Las Casuelas (there are four locations now) is consistently voted among the city’s most popular restaurants. With excellent Mexican fare and an astonishing array of over 75 varieties of tequila, diners can indulge in excellent fresh food and drink either indoors or on one of two outdoor patios while enjoying live music. Arriba!
Palm Springs is a perfect home base while you and your partner, girlfriends or your whole family can take in the amazing sites and scenes while still enjoying the luxury of this desert oasis!