A Weekend in Palm Springs
Once known as a retreat for famous movie stars, a drive through Palm Springs will have you passing streets named after Bob Hope, Gene Autry, Frank Sinatra and many other celebrities who helped make the area famous. However, the iconic desert of Palm Springs is now renowned for its golf, spas, stylish hotels, great restaurants and modern architecture.
My mom and I did not get around to scheduling our annual mother-daughter trip until October. We’ve never waited this long and decided last minute to forgo more adventurous international destinations in favor of somewhere warm and more relaxing. Since Palm Springs seemed to have everything we were looking for (sunshine, spa, hiking and good food), it seemed like the place for us! And it certainly did not disappoint. We had a rejuvenating long weekend and decided it would not be our last time in the desert!
No matter which interests bring you to Palm Springs there is plenty to keep you occupied for a long weekend (or more!).
For the art enthusiast
The Greater Palm Springs area has long been known for its diverse collection of artistic assets. The primary venue is the Palm Springs Art Museum, located downtown and featuring art loaned or donated by the area’s residents. Work from Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso lines the walls over the 150,000 square feet of space. However, the other art that the area is known for is its mid-century modernism which can be experienced by taking a guided tour of landmarks or even staying in one of the many small hotels which have been preserved or renovated to channel the golden age of Hollywood through its design and glamour. Additionally, galleries line the streets of downtown Palm Springs as well as the nearby El Paseo Shopping District in Palm Desert. We found this area very easy to get to from the Rancho Mirage / Palm Springs area and was a great spot to visit galleries and shops side by side. Lastly, live theater is also popular in the Greater Palm Springs area. We saw so many great shows coming to town at some of the nearby performance venues – next time we head to Palm Springs we will be checking performance schedules first! There are so many opportunities to soak up culture during your stay whatever your interests are.
For the foodie
One of the hardest decisions in planning our trip to the desert was deciding where to eat (surprise, surprise!). There are so many great restaurants in Palm Springs from old institutions with white linen tablecloths, to fun pool settings, to outdoor venues serving fun cocktails. We decided to mix it up and do a little bit of everything to get the best feel of the dining scene!
For the formal old-world setting with impeccable service and delicious French food and wine, look no further than Le Vallauris. All guests are seated outside in the tree-filled patio which adds to the ambience and is the perfect spot to enjoy a bottle of French red from the plentiful wine list and the house duck specialty. Copley’s on Palm Canyon is another beautiful restaurant which has a large outdoor patio, fire pit and a wide selection of meats, salads and fishes (we were partial to the lamb and salmon). The restaurant used to be part of Cary Grant’s estate and the restaurant has done a great job of keeping up the exterior.
If you are looking for a lively spot for dinner, the award-winning Workshop Bar + Kitchen in the Uptown District is a great choice. While the interior won Palm Springs’ first James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant Design in 2015, due to the warm temperatures (and the fact that we had to head back to Boston snow the following day), we chose to eat outside in the Spanish courtyard. The selection of small plates made it almost impossible to choose, but we were reassured we couldn’t go wrong! Our favorites included the mezze platter with homemade hummus, roasted Brussel sprouts, mussels and of course, French fries!
Lunch is fun time in Palm Springs – whether dining by one of the pools or one the main strip, it is bound to be lively! We were lucky enough to get in as the last lunch customers at Purple Palm at the Colony Palm Hotel before they closed for the weekend for a wedding. It was once a hotel owned by bootlegger and Purple Gang member, Al Wertheimer, and the basement was previously a speakeasy. Today the poolside patio is a great spot for outdoor dining with great lunch options and crafty cocktails. Another lunch option on Palm Canyon Drive is the bright and open, Lulu’s. This California bistro has one of the largest menus I have seen, including a full gluten free menu. The patio opens up to one of the main streets in Palm Springs and we were lucky enough to grab a seat during the set up for the Festival of Lights parade.
It would not be vacation without a sweet treat, and Palm Springs has plenty of ice cream shops to cool you down in the warm weather. Our favorite was Lappert’s which has fun flavors and is located conveniently amidst all the shops.
For the relaxer
Part of the reasoning for picking Palm Springs was that unlike our normal trips of going at 1000 miles per hour, this time we wanted to incorporate some relaxing into the itinerary. Due to the strong pool culture and high temperatures, many people tend to stay at their hotel during the day. As a result, many of the hotels in the area have built great spa facilities so that patrons never feel inclined to leave. Part of the reason we booked our hotel was due to the fact that it was set back from the main downtown area and provided some solitude. The other reason we booked our hotel was for the spa. We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage and could not have been happier with the facilities – from the restaurants to the spa to the free candy bar (yes, free candy bar). Everything was fabulous and we relished our last day on the property by not leaving, reading our books by the pool and enjoying the spa. There are many spas in the Palm Springs area though so just make sure you find one that fits your needs!
For the exerciser
Palm Springs has an abundance of hiking trails for visitors of all levels. Whether you are looking for an easy walk or a difficult hike – there is plenty to keep you moving! Outdoor enthusiasts will particularly love the vistas looking down over the canyons. While there were many canyons to hike close by, we chose to drive the 50 minutes out to Joshua Tree National Park. Known for its desert landscapes and vast rock formations, the park is at a higher elevation than Palm Springs and therefore cooler. Even if you are warm leaving your hotel, heed their warnings! We saw the temperature drop about 15 degrees from our hotel to the top of Ryan Mountain – our strenuous hike of choice for the day. The 5,456 feet to the top was worth it though for the views over the valleys. We both agreed this was different than any other national park we had been to, but it certainly carries its own beauty.
For the golfer
This is the area where I have the least expertise. We did not golf during our time in Palm Springs, but the Greater Palm Springs Area is home to more than 110 golf courses, designed by many of golf’s greatest players. For those are looking for places where the whole family is happy, this is always a good activity to have readily available!
Thank you Palm Springs for providing everything we needed for our 7th annual mother-daughter trip, especially much needed sunshine! We will be back!
Have you ever been to Palm Springs? Is it somewhere you would want to go?