Long before it was known as a winter destination for retired Canadians, it was the escape hatch for Old Hollywood giving it a layer of culture, history and style that’s alive and well today. The culture of architecture, hedonism and escape make Palm Springs a special place to dive into.
The great thing about Palm Springs is the layout, it’s a small grid that backs into the San Jacinto Mountains which makes it easy to get your bearings once you’re in town. There’s lots to see and do in Palm Springs but the best thing to do is nothing. Make sure you make time for slicing citrus and reading by the pool.
For an old school California Tennis Club vibe with a lovely outdoor lounge and great value Eggs Benedict, hit Spencer’s for breakfast. They have valet parking only but you can usually find free parking down the block and enjoy a short walk. If you look up you’ll see the Albert Frey House on the hillside. You could opt for Norma’s at the notorious Parker Hotel for a current Hollywood experience but Spencer’s breakfast is as good and won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Cheeky’s is also really good but there are usually lineups. Birba is great for open air pizza and if you want to eat 1950s style, go to Sherman’s, you will not leave hungry.
After breakfast head up to the excellent Palm Springs Desert Museum designed by E-Stewart Williams. The building is as good as the collection and worth exploring every angle. The Museum also has the Architecture & Design Museum just down the road. They are now offering tours of Albert Frey’s home in the rocks above the Museum. Check the Modern Tours page for architecture tour details and also the popular annual Modernism Week every February.
After all that immersive culture you might want to pop in to The Kings Highway for lunch at the ever popular Ace Hotel & Swim Club who have an eclectic calendar of events worth keeping any eye on. The Ace also offer pool access to non-guests during off hours for a fee if you’re dying for some cocktails by the pool. The Kings Highway is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Whether you’re jogging, cycling or driving, Palm Springs will yield some remarkable mid-century modern architecture if you’re willing to head out and explore. From private homes to public buildings like Albert Frey’s City Hall, Palm Springs is a well preserved Modernist Mecca. If you see an interesting building, pull over and go have a look. Check the PS Mod Committee for more info or purchase the Mid Century Modern App for precise coordinates of the architecture treasure.
Bob Hope’s House home is next to impossible to access as it’s on a private road but visible from parts of the city.
There’s a good selection of vintage shops that are worth a peak if you have some spare time. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a trip through Palm Springs history and culture. There’s also a regular outdoor vintage market on the first Sunday of each month.
Horse back riding & Hiking
Riding horses sounds like a bit of work but it’s a great way to see some of the desert that surrounds Palm Springs. Smoke Tree Stables is literally 5 minutes from the action and a great way to do something different. There are loads of low commitment hikes to explore in the area too.
Joshua Tree Day Trip
Well worth the drive out of town, the Joshua Tree National Park is visually unlike anything I’ve seen before. You can go as deep as booking camping, rock climbing and horseback riding to simply driving through and exploring some of the trails on foot. You’ll need some lunch on the way so a stop at the Crossroads Cafe is a must.
If you see citrus, take some citrus. You’ll make better drinks if you do.