Cozied up in the Coachella Valley of California with the back drop of the San Jacinto Mountain range is the not so secret desert oasis, Palm Springs. In this weekend guide to Palm Springs you’ll get a glimpse of the mid-century modern vibes and the importance of this unique architecture, you’ll find the best shop recommendations and where to indulge in the most delicious grub (I’m talking about you, Date Shakes!).
Much like its distant cousin, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs is a place of mystery filled with fortune tellers and ghost stories. It is also a place of wild night life, beautiful hikes and a mecca for art. There is a whole experience waiting for you in the desert. Here is the perfect weekend guide to Palm Springs!
How to Get to Palm Springs
Your best bet for traveling to Palm Springs is via Los Angeles by car. The modes of transportation are endless however, renting a car is the most convenient option. Plus, it’s only a two hour and forty five minute drive from the city!
While Palm Springs is navigable without one (bike rentals, walking, etc), it’s nice to have a car for day trips to places like Joshua Tree National Park, Pioneertown and anywhere else you might want to visit. Check with your hotel should you forgo the rental, opting for the train or bus instead, to see if there are complimentary shuttle and taxi services available.
Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is another option if you want to bypass LA completely.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs
The Sparrows Lodge keeps to Palm Springs’ mid-century roots while adding a rustic cabin twist. Think log cabin meets art deco meets industrial. Not to mention it’s adult summer camp vibes! With just 20 rooms it’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day of exploring. Perhaps the best detail, aside from the delicious food served out of The Barn Kitchen, are the misters that cool you off while you’re laying poolside. Ideal for those hot summer days. Cause lemme tell ya, the desert is H O T.
Another detail that I loved were The Sparrows Lodge customized maps. This was a detailed map of Palm Springs featuring the lodge staff’s favorite places to eat, favorite things to do and lesser known spots scattered across the valley. The lodge also offers bike rentals, a breezy and eco-friendly way to explore.
Where to Eat and Drink in Palm Springs
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but here are few favorites loved by locals and travelers alike (aka me) that I had to include in my weekend guide to Palm Springs, along with some honorable mentions!
The Barn is located in Sparrow’s Lodge. Serving up a continental style breakfast of delicious coffee, muffins, yogurt, granola, fruit and toast. Outside of that, the kitchen is open daily from 11-6pm serving sandwiches, salads and small bites. And yes, this is better than the hotel food you have in mind. Opt for lunch by the pool followed by a mid-afternoon swim.
YOU CANNOT MISS CHEEKY’S. A Palm Springs staple for breakfast and brunch. In fact, breakfast and brunch are served all day, every day. Yes, seven days a week from 8am to 2pm. The menu at Cheeky’s changes weekly and seasonally but the world famous bacon flight is a year round staple. I opted for the BLT. My heart was set. I ordered it, with gluten free bread, but, to my demise, they didn’t have any. The waiter kindly offered an alternative, gluten free waffles. My response: ‘do people actually do that?’ Turns out they do. Even if you’re not GF, you should try Cheeky’s GF waffles- delish!
I searched high and low for *the best* vegan Date Shake in Palm Springs. What is a Date Shake? Happy you asked. Date Shakes are milkshakes, traditionally made with dates, vanilla ice cream and ice cold milk. So why here? Coachella Valley became the date capitol of the world in the 19th century when it was discovered that the climate in the valley was ideal for growing dates. Fast forward years later, its now a multi-million dollar industry. Moving on.
Serving up the infamous Date Shake right in town, Great Shakes! They have many milkshake options and are conveniently located. You can really customize your date shake here: with or without banana, add cinnamon and walnuts, make it vegan, whip cream or no whip cream and the signature Great Shakes touch on every milkshake, a donut on top. I enjoyed the vegan which, in my opinion, was delicious. Hadley Fruit Orchard and Shields Date Garden are two other recommendations just outside of Palm Springs.
Ernest Coffee is one of the most popular coffee shops in Palm Springs AND it is the only independently owned coffee shop in town. Their cold brew with coconut milk is delicious and a refreshing escape from the summer heat that blankets Coachella Valley. Pro tip: sit on the south facing patio for mountain views.
Envision this: it’s dusk, you’re sitting under an olive tree surrounded by twinkle lights and tuxedo clad wait staff. Well this is exactly the atmosphere of the ultra modern Workshop Kitchen + Bar. The interior is minimal; concrete walls and tables, industrial lights and family style seating fill the space.
Entrées range from $16-$36 and, in my opinion, are totally worth the price. Produce is harvested from local farms whenever possible and the menu reflects those changes seasonally.
High Bar is the rooftop dining option at the Rowan Hotel. It is also right next to the pool. Win win for a day time turned night time activity.
I spent sunset here and I’m happy to report it is the perfect place to watch the sunset, drink some drinks and eat some snacks. As the sky faded from orange to pink I sipped on my fruity drink and took in the views.
Honorable Foodie Mentions
- Bootlegger Tiki, tiny tiki bar
- FARM, french food with a patio
- Cartel Coffee Lab, organic coffee
- Wilma & Frieda, comfort food with a twist
- Birba, pizza and small plates
What to see and do in Palm Springs
Moorten Botanical Gardens is a true green escape from the desert landscape that is Palm Springs. This arboretum is home to different desert trees, cacti, and plants from desert ecosystems around the world. The nature walk features 3,000 species of desert plants, a unique collection of plants you may not see elsewhere. Unless, let’s say, you find yourself in South Africa or some other international destination.
The gardens hours change seasonally so be sure to check their website (not Google) for the most up to date hours.
Explore Palm Canyon Drive + Shop Local
An eclectic mix of shops, high end boutiques, and a mixture of restaurants, tiki bars and cafés make up this quaint downtown area. The main street is Palm Canyon Drive but one of my favorite shops is Thick As Thieves just off the main drag.
When I visited I had the opportunity to chat with Samantha, co-owner of the shop alongside her husband. The highly curated shop is chock full of handmade goods, one-of-a-kind furniture, bohemian style clothing and a collection of sundries unique to the shops aesthetic. The two stock the shop with artisan’s goods locally and from around the world.
Other shops along Palm Canyon Drive:
- Just Fabulous
- Crystal Fantasy
- The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five
Spot the Mid-Century Homes
House hunters, anyone? Maybe more figuratively, unless you’re on the market the by all means. I mentioned the architecture of Palm Springs before and the homes are the perfect example. For Old Hollywood, Palm Springs was an easy escape from the chaos of LA which lead to many of the celebs building homes in the Coachella Valley.
It isn’t hard to spot the mid-century homes because, well, they’re everywhere. Its this beautiful mix of Spanish influence and mid-20th century modern, with a few vibrant doors here and there. Vista Las Palmas, Twin Palm Estate and Deepwell Estates are among the most photographed neighborhoods/estates in Palm Springs. But my recommendation is to wander along on your own and find those spots that are just for you.
You cannot go wrong while shopping in Palm Springs (as I’ve highlighted) but you especially can’t go wrong when shopping vintage. There are a few vintage shops in the area, but Gypsyland is one you simply can’t miss. Further down on Palm Canyon Drive, the moment you step into this brick and mortar shop you will feel like you’ve just traveled to the 70’s or some other distant time.
Other vintage shops:
- Modernway, midcentury modern
- Revivals, resale
- Iconic Atomic
- The Frippery
Ride the Aerial Tramway
The Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car. The ride takes you up 2.5 miles above Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley to an elevation of 8,516 feet above sea level. Once you’re up top you must take advantage of the 50 miles worth of hiking trails! There’s also two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum and two documentary film theaters. Bird’s eye views are always the best views, amiright?
Art Museums and Architecture Galore
Palm Springs is well known for its contemporary art and architectural contributions and the Palm Springs Art Museum is an ode to that. A sub division of the Palm Springs Art Museum is the Design and Architecture Center located about a 3 minute drive away on Palm Canyon Drive.
Other art stops:
- Antique Galleries of Palm Springs
- Palm Springs Art + Design Gallery
- Heath Gallery
- Grace Home Gallery
Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park
A visit to Joshua Tree National Park is an absolute must. It’s about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs and the car ride is a beautiful one. Passing through little towns speckled along the desert landscape is one to remember.
Once you get to Joshua Tree National Park you’ll immediately notice how otherworldly the landscape is. Distinctive flora and fauna, red hue sand, and towering rock formations are a tell-tale sign you’ve entered Joshua Tree National Park. A great escape into nature.
Pit Stop in Pioneertown
After Joshua Tree head to Pioneertown. What was once an old Western movie set (read the list of films made here) is now a deserted little town. It is home to a few shops like a MazAmar Pottery which functional pottery goods, and Pioneertown General Store.
Legend has it Pappy & Harriet’s, the live music bar, makes this ghost town come alive at night. So if you have time, stop in and see what it’s all about.
Honorable Activity Mentions
There you have it. My complete weekend guide to Palm Springs! Have you visited this desert oasis yet?