A Travel Guide to Palm Springs
The desert oasis of Palm Springs is just waiting for you to arrive.
Just a two hour drive from Los Angeles, the desert town of Palm Springs is a sunny gem of the West coast. It was a wellness destination as far back as 1900, thanks to its ever-present dry heat, and evolved as an escape from the pressures of the big city of LA in the 50s and 60s. This personality is very visible in the many impressive mid-century houses and buildings found here. With a gorgeous landscape, many hikes to explore, some incredible restaurants and lots to do, it’s an ideal spot to spend a few days in. And of course, Plum Guide has the best selection of luxurious properties to stay in. Here’s our travel guide to Palm Springs.
When to go
Thanks to its location in the desert, the temperatures in Palm Springs are pretty balmy all year round, meaning that whether it’s January or August it’s a good time to visit (although be prepared for high temperatures in the summer months). Standout times of year to visit are February, when the town holds its annual Modernism Week. Architecture buffs, now’s your moment to shine. Many of the large number of architecturally interesting homes open their doors for tours and there are also lots of events and talks happening, so if you prefer your vacations to be all about culture rather than all about lying by the pool, this is ideal for you.
December to April tends to be high season, but our favourite time of year to visit is the spring, when the bougainvillea are in bloom and it’s warm enough to swim early in the morning. Of course, this is also when the music festival Coachella happens, so unless your idea of a fun holiday is standing in a crowd with thousands of others watching the latest pop singer croon (no judgement if so), make sure to research your travel dates thoroughly before you leave.
Where to stay
While there are other towns nearby, it’s the city of Palm Springs itself which takes the crown as the most popular place to stay in the area. Many of the best restaurants are here and it’s the hub of the trendy local scene – simply put, this is where people hang out. However, outside of the main drag it can be a little quiet, as this is a popular place for people to retire to.
We also recommend the nearby area of Palm Desert as a place to stay. With three college campuses here, it’s a more buzzy, funky vibe with some great shops selling unique, hard-to-find items.
What to do
You’re truly spoiled for things to do when you’re looking for a travel guide to Palm Springs. With your teenage kids out of your hair either having fun at Coachella or lying beside the pool enjoying the sun, one great way to see the area is to rent bikes and simply head out and explore. As it’s the desert, it’s very flat, so cycling is easy work.
No travel guide to Palm Springs would be complete with recommending some of the truly beautiful hikes you can do in the area. For an achievable yet very photogenic walk, head to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians tribal grounds. One of the most popular in the 60 miles of the Indian Canyons, it has a stream very close by to the hiking path, making it lush with vegetation and flowers – in striking contrast to the bare, rocky landscape surrounding it.
For a classic holiday day out, the Moorten Botanical Gardens are a peaceful place to spend a few hours wandering round, or pop to the Living Desert zoo to feed the giraffes.
Where to eat
Ah, the most important question of all – where’s the best place to eat? The food scene in Palm Springs is impressive, mostly thanks to the large numbers of food snob Angelenos who visit frequently enough that they expect what they’re eating to be top-notch quality.
One of the hottest spots right now is Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Housed in a 90-year-old Spanish-inspired former movie theatre, it serves an adventurous, ever-changing menu. We recommend that you go off-menu and ask for the secret option of the whole striped sea bass, cooked in the wood-fired oven with ingredients that change seasonally.
For a dining experience a little more focused on making sure that everyone’s dancing in their seats, King’s Highway is inside the fashionable spot the Ace Hotel & Swim Club. Previously a Denny’s, it’s a homage to sixties Americana in the chicest way possible. Most nights have themes, with Mondays being when 90-year-old ex showgirl Shirley Claire sings and dances while hosting Fabulous Bingo. Tuesdays are karaoke night, Wednesdays are half-off bottles of wine night and Thursdays are taco night. The fare is Californian with a Mexican twist, and the cocktails are excellent.