The Palm Springs Guide
Palm Springs first drew crowds as a wellness destination in the early 1900s (dry heat), before evolving into a super-mod Hollywood escape in the ’50s. It’s changing again—a little more hipster, a little less swinging ’60s—though the awesome dry heat remains. And did we mention that it’s just two hours from LA, assuming you don’t get stuck in traffic? We’ve rounded up the best accommodations, restaurants, and cultural highlights.
Palm Springs Art Museum101 Museum Dr., Historic Tennis Club | 760.322.4800
It shouldn't come as a surprise that this well-cultured city of 50,000 has an art museum that rivals something you'd find in New York or LA. The building is architecturally significant (of course), there's an ongoing calendar of great events (it has a 400+ person theater), and the gift shop is excellent, too.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens37977 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage | 760.202.2222
The fact that Sunnylands serves as the Camp David of the West Coast kind of does this stunning estate a disservice: And while it's still frequented by many presidents and politicians, it's open to the public. Designed for the Annenbergs by A. Quincy Jones in the '60s, it is one of the more stunning examples of mid-century architecture, and it's situated on meticulously manicured grounds. Book well in advance for tours, though you can always stop by to see the permanent exhibition, which offers a great survey on some of the home's big moments over time.
Palm Springs Aerial TramwayOne Tram Way, Desert Highlands | 760.325.1449
The concept for the tramway was born in 1935, but the project didn’t come to fruition until 1963: It was really ambitious. After boarding at the Valley Station, the ride up the mountain (elevation 8,516 ft) takes no longer than ten minutes and the views of Chino Canyon from the rotating tramcar are nothing short of breathtaking. At the top you’ll find Peaks restaurant (the food isn’t too memorable but the setting is extraordinary), the ultra laid back Pines Café, and The Lookout Lounge cocktail bar. There are hikes and the like available (you'll probably share your tram with a troop of eager campers). Because temperatures in the valley and the top of the mountain vary drastically, riding the tramway offers a much-needed reprieve from the desert’s sweltering heat in the summer—off-season, pack a sweater.
The Modern Tour| 760.318.6118
While Palm Springs packed with modern and mid-century architecture (drive around for a few minutes and you'll see several marquee name homes), the best way to see it all and get the backstory is by guided tour. A three-hour, fully-immersive tour (we told you there's a lot to see!). To keep things intimate and encourage conversation, groups are kept to six people tops. These sell out fast, so a self-guided tour using the Palm Springs Modern app is a great alternative.
Integratron Sound Baths2477 Belfield Blvd., Landers | 760.364.3126
It sounds a tad new age-y to the uninitiated, sure, but it's worth taking the 45-minute drive to Yucca Valley for a sound bath (some refer to them as sonic healing sessions) inside the Integration chamber. The hour-long experience consists of listening to a combination of live crystal bowl playing and pre-recorded music, which when combined with the chamber’s extra-strong energy levels, results in intense levels of relaxation. According to Integration’s creator, George Van Tassel, the all-wood structure was built on a geomagnetic vortex with guidance from Nikola Tesla’s writings and, umm, extraterrestrials. Though it sounds unlikely, there's something magical about the place. Call ahead to reserve.
Joshua Tree National Park
Just 45 minutes from Palm Springs, Joshua Tree is at its most majestic at night, when the sky glitters with stars and all you can hear are the yelps of resident hyenas (weirdly romantic). At almost 800,000 acres, the stunning terrain should be experienced by everyone at least once. This geologically unique intersection of the Mojave and Colorado deserts was granted national park status in 1994 and is home to all manner of intricate ecosystems. You can get a feel for Joshua Tree by driving through but we recommend booking a spot at one of nine designated camping grounds. There are also a ton of hiking trails, bird-watching expeditions, rock-climbing oops, and historic tours on offer.
PGA West Golf Academy49499 Eisenhower Dr., La Quinta | 760.564.4111
The Waldorf Astoria resort, La Quinta is also home to the PGA West's legendary golf academy (which is, apparently, a big deal if you play). Golf school and private lessons are obviously on offer, but they also do custom club fittings, health and wellness consultations, and high-tech video analysis. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to take a lesson or book a tee time.
Two Bunch Palms Hot Springs67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail, Desert Hot Springs | 760.329.8791
While we wouldn't suggest spending an entire weekend at the Two Bunch Palms hotel (unless you’re in the mood for something a bit more quaint and off the beaten path), the on-site hot springs justify the 30 minute drive. Here, the mineral healing waters are pumped into a picturesque grotto which is made up of two pools, one at 99 degrees and the other at 104 (those extra 5 degrees make a huge difference, actually). There’s also a respectable spa menu—some of the services are performed in individual gazebos—and a simple but good restaurant.
Palm Springs Air Museum745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Sunmor | 760.778.6262
If you have a plane-obsessed child, or any interest in military history, this is a pretty great way to pass a couple of hours. Occupying several hangars—and staffed by some pretty wonderful and knowledgeable military veterans—you can explore any number of planes (you can climb into the cockpits of several). There are also some great exhibitions lining the walls.
Janssen Artspace255 E Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs | 323.481.0988
We’ve long been admirers of Janssen Artspace, which closed its doors in 2010 after years of great exhibitions and events. Now, nearly a decade after its first opening party, artist and owner Steven Janssen brought the space back to downtown Palm Springs permanently. Twice a month, the gallery hosts a drawing workshop where participants have the opportunity to draw a nude model while getting feedback from Janssen as they work. During the day, you’ll find Janssen’s own work on display in the light-filled, open environment (as well as many other artists to come).