Ultimate Palm Springs Travel Guide!
One of the best things about Palm Springs is that when the rest of the U.S. is bundled up & cold: you can almost always count on warm, sunny days in the desert. Once you exit your plane at Palm Springs International Airport & feel that balmy breeze waft over you: you’ll know you’re in the desert, & you’ll understand why its been a special getaway for the stars since the 1920’s. I lived in the desert for seven years, & return every Christmas to visit my family, & am intimately familiar with all the best things to do & places to see! Here’s your “Ultimate Palm Springs Travel Guide…“
Fast Facts About Palm Springs
- How to Get to Palm Springs: Fly into Palm Springs International Airport, a gem of an airport. It’s so small & convenient, your bag will most likely be at the baggage carousel by the time you reach the terminal. Renting a car here is easy ~ no shuttles necessary; just walk the main doors, turn right, & you’ll find all the rental car centers there.
- When is the Best Time to Visit Palm Springs? Most blogs will tell you to visit between January & April, & these are indeed the busiest (& most expensive) months in the desert. Weather is near-perfect during this time, ranging from the 70’s to the 90’s ~ but hotels will be busy & charging peak prices. What most blogs won’t tell you about are the shoulder months: November is a great time to visit the desert, if you like average highs around 80 degrees (who doesn’t?!). Thanksgiving Week is always crazy busy, but the rest of the month you’ll find lower prices & fewer crowds. My other favorite month in the desert is May; sure, temps are warming up to the 90’s, but that also means you get beautiful, balmy nights with warm breezes ~ & hotels start to drop their prices. And yes, summertime is insanely hot: but if you’re an avid golfer, don’t rule it out ~ you can play some of the top courses for pennies on the dollar.
- Special Events in the Desert: Every year in January, the Bob Hope Golf Classic (now called the “American Express Classic”) comes to courses in La Quinta; buy a ticket & watch some of your favorite pros & celebs hit the links. Also in January is the world-renowned Palm Springs International Film Festival, which always draws major celebs & a line-up of stellar international movies. Then, for the last two weeks in February, Modernism Week lands in Palm Springs, where you can tour some of the town’s most famous mid-century modern homes. Every March, the BNP Paribas Open brings some of the finest tennis players in the world to compete in Indian Wells; this is a fun one! April is time for two of the world’s most famous music festivals: Coachella & Stagecoach; book WAY in advance as the town gets crazy busy during this time. And you may think nothing’s going on in the desert during the summer ~ but you’d be wrong: check out Splash House, which brings DJ’s & EDM music to rotating pools in August….this is like a pool party on steroids.
Best Things to Do in Palm Springs
Where to Hike, Spa, Golf, Brunch, & Lay Out in Palm Springs
- LAY OUT: Chances are, your hotel will have an amazing pool (most in the desert do) ~ but some of my favorites are: the La Quinta Resort & Spa (they have about 35+ pools spread throughout their property), Miramonte Resort & Spa, Renaissance Esmeralda, & Margaritaville’s (at the former Riviera) in Palm Springs.
For a complete run-down of the best Palm Springs hotel pools, read this article.
- GOLF: Palm Springs is one of the premier golf destinations in the country ~ this is a perfect spot for a guy’s golf getaway. My parents’ live on one of PGA West’s top courses, & ALL DAY LONG, groups of guys come through, stoked to be playing such an iconic course. If you’re a serious golfer, I’d stay in La Quinta, which has some of the best courses in the world: like the PGA West Stadium Course, among many others.
Here’s my thorough list of the best golf courses in the desert.
- BRUNCH: Everybody’s got to eat ~ & in the desert, you can do it in style….al fresco, of course. Some of the best brunch spots in Palm Springs include Wilma & Frieda’s, Cheeky’s, Spencer’s (with a view), & for old-school vibes, there’s Billy Reed’s. For a more complete list of great Palm Springs brunch spots, click here.
Ultimate Palm Springs Travel Guide
- HIKE: You’ve got all kinds of iconic hikes in the desert, from the massively popular (& often with a HUGE line at the entrance) Indian Canyons, to the main destination for the super-fit: the Bump N’ Grind Trail, located in Palm Desert. Then you’ve got further afield-trips, like stunning Ladder Canyon in Mecca, or the lower part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which can be accessed up Highway 74 by Idyllwild. If you’re wanting to hike with kids or dogs, read this article that lists my top five favorite hikes in the desert.
- SIGHT-SEE: If you’re traveling with kids, the Living Desert is one of the most popular desert attractions, along with the Palm Desert Air Museum, & of course, the legendary Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ~ which takes you up to the tippy-top of the San Jacinto Mountains, giving you amazing views over the entire valley. There are several hikes you can do at the top of the tram, or simply enjoy a picnic lunch with a view. Another spot that’s popular for photographers are the iconic Palm Springs windmills. Read this article for all my best tips on creating your own photo shoot at the windmills. And for avid gardeners & history buffs: check out Moorten Botanical Gardens or the historic Sunnylands Estate & Gardens, which is a great place to soak in both Presidential history as well as the history of Palm Springs.
- SPA: If you’re headed out to the desert for a girl’s getaway or bachelorette party, you may want to visit one of the area’s world-class spas. In this category, don’t rule out Desert Hot Springs, which has some of the most famous spas in the desert: such as celebrity haunt & juice-fasting haven We Care, to the hot springs at Two Bunch Palms (they even do water massages here). In Palm Springs, the Parker has the biggest “WOW” factor spa, & it’s highly likely you’ll run into a celebrity or two here. Two more of my favorites are The Well Spa at the Miramonte (which is the most tranquil), & the La Quinta Resort Spa, where you can luxuriate in an outdoor bath, surrounded by citrus trees.
Ultimate Palm Springs Travel Guide
- SHOP: The two most popular, high-end places to shop in Palm Springs are along El Paseo in Palm Desert (where you can also grab a tasty lunch at Tommy Bahamas), or right along South Palm Canyon Drive, in the heart of Palm Springs. The shopping in Palm Springs tends to combine the eclectic with high-end, while El Paseo is pretty much just high-end. If you’re in La Quinta, check out the shops at Old Town La Quinta, & grab happy hour at super popular Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill.
FIND MID-CENTURY MODERN HOMES: Palm Springs is renowned for its mid-century modern architecture, & is home to more mid-century homes than anywhere in the country. Take a drive around Indian Canyons Golf Course or the “Movie Colony” neighborhood in Palm Springs to find some….
“Mad Men” in Palm Springs.
- MINI-ROADTRIP: Use Palm Springs as your base for exploring the greater desert area. Great road trips include heading out to adorable Pioneer Town & Joshua Tree, which is currently one of the most-visited National Parks in the country. If you love c-o-l-o-r, rainbows, & the eclectic: head out to Salvation Mountain, which looks like Candy Land come to life. While you’re out there, check out the innovative & kooky housing of Slab City (some of the “houses” even look like space ships!), made famous by Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into the Wild.”
- HAPPY HOUR: You can’t come to the desert without pretending you’re a member of the Rat Pack & tipping back a libation while listening to some groovy music: here’s a list of all my favorite happy hour spots in Palm Springs & beyond.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs…
When choosing a hotel in Palm Springs, the first question to ask is: should you stay in Palm Springs, or another desert city? Palm Springs is the best choice for couples, as it has a plethora of romantic hotels; it’s also great for girl’s getaways, with loads of shopping & great restaurants lined along Palm Canyon Drive. For families, Rancho Mirage & Palm Desert are better choices: Palm Springs is in general a more “adult” destination. And if you’re headed to the desert for golf or are just looking for relaxation: I’d head to La Quinta or Indian Wells, which are less hectic than Palm Springs, & where you’ll find the best golf in the desert.
- Most Romantic Hotels in Palm Springs: Palm Springs is the place to go for romance. Great sexy hotel choices include: the upscale, Moroccan-themed Korakia Pensione, adult’s-only mid-century modern & Mad Men-inspired Del Marcos Hotel, the intimate Colony Palms Hotel, or Angelina & Brad’s choice: Parker Palm Springs.
- Best Party “FUN” Hotels in Palm Springs: Again, you’ve got lots of choices here: the Ace Hotel & its pool is one of the most well-known party spots in Palm Springs, as is the colorful Saguaro Hotel, while ARRIVE Palm Springs is the newest & hippest kid on the block: a place to see & be seen.
- Best Hotels for Families: If you’re traveling with kids, I’d stay in Palm Desert or Rancho Mirage ~ where you’ve got more kid-friendly options & some of the best pools for kids, like at the JW Marriott in Palm Desert, or the Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage ~ which has slides for kids, waterfalls, & hidden jacuzzis for the adults…
For a complete run-down on my favorite Palm Springs hotels, read this article.
Ultimate Palm Springs Travel Guide
Thanks for reading the “Ultimate Palm Springs Travel Guide!” I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible without being too overwhelming ~ if you’ve got any questions about the desert, please reach out in the comments below…
Read Next: Best Pools for Laying Out in Palm Springs