Palm Springs Travel Guide
Palm Springs has always been on my travel bucket list, and I was so excited when I got the opportunity to travel there in March. I had the best time, but I have to be honest and say Palm Springs wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. I had all of these expectations through pictures and blogger’s projections that Palm Springs was this dessert oasis where all the young people go to dress up in boho outfits and party the whole time. Sure, this happens around Coachella and during bachelorette parties, but the Palm Springs I experienced was a lot more relaxed and chill.
Think about it: the locals that live there are mostly retirees, and the public party scene is minimal. Unless you’re staying at The Saguaro, a famous rainbow colored mid-century mod hotel that is similar to college dorm atmosphere. Despite all of this, Palm Springs is definitely a must-do at some point in your life. It’s a great girl’s trip, or even a great golfing couples trips or spa mom and daughter trip.
The vibe was my favorite part about Palm Springs. It truly feels like you’ve stepped back into the 60s and 70s. The mid-century mod architecture is stunningly unique and all of the stores sell retro clothing and home decor. It was very hot when we visited in March, so I would imagine it would be stuffy and nearly unbearable in the Summer. I also hear that’s when the dessert creatures and snakes come out… eeeek! It is definitely best to visit in Spring or Fall, IMO.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the cutest hotel while in Palm Springs and I can’t recommend it enough, La Serena Villas. It is located in the heart of the city, and it’s all white decorated with colorful boho/aztec chic decor. It was exactly what I would have imagined in a Palm Springs hotel (though not mid-century mod). For someone coming from North Carolina, it was so refreshing to stay in a hotel that felt Californian. The poolside hotel was quaint and provided the perfect spot for relaxing and getting some sun. We enjoyed some yummy cocktails (or a few) from the hotel restaurant, found a cabana, and we were set.
Speaking of the hotel restaurant, YUM. It’s called Azucar and it’s modern contemporary cuisine. The restaurant has won several awards and is one of the top in Palm Springs. For lunch, I highly recommend the fish tacos! We had severaaaaal spicy margaritas, too! My favorite thing about the restaurant is it has a second story rooftop that you can sit on to enjoy your food and drinks. It overlooks the pool area as well as the beautiful Palm Springs mountains. Seriously the prettiest view! The photo below was taken on the rooftop.
I was really impressed with the rooms. They were so spacious and decorated in the most gorgeous accents: ceramic tile and gold hardware. I know this is so weird, but it’s really important to me to have drawer space in a hotel room because I like unpacking my suitcase and feeling like I live somewhere when I visit. The hotel rooms had SO much space! It was nice being able to spread out especially with two bloggers in the room. 🙂
The villas weren’t traditional villas like you probably have in mind. The were not separate buildings, but instead were all connected to each other giving it a hotel feel. Each villa had it’s own front and back porch and I loved sitting in the hanging swing out front. It was the perfect spot for enjoying morning coffee. Which BTW, the hotel brings to you complimentary each morning. It includes a muffin, croissant, yogurt parfaits, fruit and coffee. It was the perfect start to our day every morning!
What to Do
What you decide to do in Palm Springs will definitely be dependent on the purpose of your trip. Are you attending for a bachelorette party or are you visiting with your mom? You know what I mean? There are many ways to conquer Palm Springs, but here are some fun things we enjoyed that I recommend for first timers like us. 🙂
- Go for a bike ride (available to rent at La Serena Villas for guests), and admire the beautiful mid-century modern homes down millionaires row. We didn’t see it but I hear Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway is in Palm Springs!
- Party at the Saguaro – highly recommend for a bachelorette party. We visited on a Thursday so there wasn’t a lot of party action while we were there. I hear the Saturday parties get packed, though.
- Go shopping at all the retro stores – there are SO many good stores that play on the Palm Springs vibes, especially home decor. If you like West Elm style (tends to play on mid-century mod), then you will no doubt be in heaven in Palm Springs
- Ride the aerial tramway – we didn’t do this due to lack of time, but it was recommended to us several times. Would love to do this when I go back.
- Golf at the nearby course – again, another thing I didn’t do this trip, but something Drew and I love to do together when traveling. He is big on golfing and checking out all the amazing courses. Palm Springs is known for golf, so if you enjoy playing then this would be the place!
- Relax by your hotel pool – something we did all too much 🙂 Grab a cocktail and recover from the dessert heat
- Visit the Cabazon Dinosaurs – I really wanted to do this but we were only in Palm Springs for a couple of days so it didn’t top the list.
- Visit the famous Parker Hotel – it has great restaurants, but it is even more so known for it’s decor, all done by Jonathan Adler. It’s likely all the images you see from Palm Springs when exploring bloggers’ Instagram feeds. Be careful though, we were told photos were not permitted on the property.
- That Pink Door – located at 1100 East Sierra Way. This is the famous door that even has it’s own Instagram. Just days before we visited the door, the owners decided they did not want visitors on the property, so we were able to get photos but only from the sidewalk.
Where to Eat
Again, we were not in Palm Springs for very long, so I unfortunately didn’t get to try all of these restaurants. However, the owner of our hotel was very in tune with the restaurant scene and all of the places listed below came highly recommended by him:
- Rooster and The Pig – a Vietnamese-American restaurant located inside of a strip mall. Off first look, I almost turned around running because this place seemed a little sketchy, but I recommend you stick it out, the food is really good! If I’m being honest we weren’t too crazy about the cocktails but the chicken-stuffed rice curry balls were amaze!
- Workshop Kitchen + Bar – this was definitely our favorite dinner spot! It’s very Palm Springs posh with a great atmosphere and the food and cocktails are amazing! Order the black cod – highly recommend!
- Azucar Restaurant (in La Serena Villas) – this is the restaurant I mentioned earlier that is located at La Serena Villas. We had several meals here and all the food was solid. The cocktails were even better. I would say it’s probably a better lunch spot than a dinner spot, though, simply due to the amazing views that aren’t visible at night.
- Norma’s – this is a must-do while in Palm Springs. It’s Mexican-inspired cuisine, and we went there for brunch. I ate the huevos rancheros but envied the french toast from afar.
- Cheeky’s – another brunch spot that comes highly recommended from anyone that has been to Palm Springs. It was a solid brunch spot, and I definitely approved of the Bloody Mary’s, but they were veryyyyy spicy! Order the bacon sampler!
- Melvyn’s Restaurant – we did not eat dinner here, but we did have dessert and it was really good. It’s another must-do in Palm Springs, not for the food but for the atmosphere. It’s a swanky bar that usually has live music, and it’s a bunch of posh older people dressed to the 9’s. I’m not kidding when I say most everyone was wearing tuxes and fancy dresses, lol! I think it’s where the divorces and widows go for a social night. Either way it’s the BEST people watching and great to get drink and a dessert at the bar just to take in the scene.
Did not try but came highly recommended. I recommend you give the menu’s a look because these were mentioned to us several times while visiting Palm Springs:
- Birba Palm Springs
I had a lot of people ask what the best way is to travel to Palm Springs, so wanted to mention it here. In my opinion the best way would be via flight just so you can avoid the long drive from L.A. However, the flights can get very expensive depending on the time of day you book and flights to L.A. are generally much more reasonable.
If the price difference is large enough that it makes sense to rent a car and drive than I would say do that because it wasn’t THAT bad. It’s about a 4 hour drive from L.A. airport and the drive itself is pretty cool. You go from city driving straight into the dessert and I loved checking out views of the windmills on our way in. I went to San Francisco following Palm Springs, and I was able to get a look at the airport which was actually pretty cool. Because it never rains in Palm Springs the entire airport apart from security is outside. So literally the hallways are outdoor walk ways, pretty cool!
Hopefully this thorough guides helps you out when planning your next trip to Palm Springs. If I didn’t cover any details you’re curious about you can always send me an e-mail, or leave a comment below and I’d love to get back to you! Travel is my favorite thing so I’m always happy to help out!