Chic, colorful, the “IT” staycation destination for West Coasters and longtime playground for Hollywood legends like Elvis and Frank Sinatra, Palm Springs is enjoying a major resurgence. Trendy new hotels, hipster restaurants, and new cultural festivals seemingly pop up overnight. With perfect weather practically year-round, iconic mid-century modern architecture, Slim Aarons style sexy pools, old school diners, retro vintage stores, and a super chill wellness vibe, Palm Springs is now on everyone’s radar. Enjoy our curated insider guide to the trendiest spots in Palm Springs, all well worth a flight or two-hour road trip from LA (with or without traffic).
The romantic, Moroccan-style resort Korakia Pension at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains and walking distance to downtown PS features beautifully restored private villas and bungalows nestled in lush gardens and fountains. Enjoy a complimentary bicycle, afternoon tea service, and the delicious scent of the property’s lovely olive trees, citrus blossoms, and date palms. The New York Times called the Korakia, a favorite of actors, writers, and photographers, one of the “sexiest” hotels in America.
Once an iconic destination for celebs in the 50s and 60s, including Marilyn Monroe, the uber-exclusive, adults-only boutique hotel L’Horizon Hotel, and Spa has recently been restored to its former mid-century modern glory. Secluded on three gorgeous acres, L’Horizon features 25 newly renovated bungalows with luxurious amenities, such as Frette linens, Le Labo toiletries, and marble baths. A few nights here and you’ll feel like you’re a glamourous member of the Rat Pack.
Le Parker Meridien
It’s not new but the posh Le Parker is a legendary destination in PS, and the perfect place to pamper yourself. Set on a lush, 14-acre estate, the Parker was designed by award-winning interior decorator Jonathan Adler, who created a brightly colored, whimsical oasis to escape, unwind, and dream, a style he calls “happy chic.” Outdoors, you can sip cocktails next to one of three pools, play croquet or Petanque, and wander the tranquil maze of herb gardens and fruit trees. The hotel also boasts two of the best restaurants in town, Norma’s and the wine bar Counter Reformation, which has excellent food.
The hottest table in town right now can be found at Bar Cecil, a lively, visually stimulating bistro designed for creative types and bon vivants. The food is pretentious in a wonderful way (the $95 Thomas Keller caviar service and the Fifty Dollar Martini served with a deviled egg come to mind), but you’ll prob ok ably walk away remembering the velvet booths, vintage glassware, and original Warhols and Calders on the walls as much.
Workshop Kitchen Bar
Chef Michael Beckman has created an exquisite, culinary experience at Workshop Kitchen Bar in the retro Movie Colony neighborhood of PS, and the food gets as many rave reviews as the classic films that used to play in this former movie house. The décor may be industrial, but the menu is anything but minimalist. Thoughtfully prepared dishes, which change often, are made with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Try the Doro Wat Chicken, Duck Fat Frites, and Dory Fleet Black Cod. Even the inventive craft cocktails include organic fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. Standouts include anything made with grapefruit, lemon, and orange oils, such as the tequila-based Bad Hombre.
You’re transported to the South of France at Farm, a traditional Provencal-style restaurant. The owners warn in advance on their website that this will not be the right place for vegans as they unapologetically use organic eggs and artisanal meats in most of their dishes, served on a beautifully landscaped patio in the heart of PS. The rich farm-to-table brunch menu includes paper-thin savory crepes, baked brie, and house-made jams, while the Price Fixe dinners change weekly.
Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage
Before you head to dinner, head up to the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, perched on a cliff in Rancho Mirage, for a sunset cocktail and the most incredible views of the entire Coachella Valley. The large veranda has cozy fire pits and a giant telescope to gaze at the moon and the stars on a clear night. At last check, you can valet park for free.
Bootlegger Tiki Bar
The Polynesian-style Bootlegger Tiki bar tucked away off the main drag is a Palm Springs icon with its kitschy and playful vibe. Sweet tropical cocktails include the Barbados Heat, Don the Beachcomber Zombie, and Coffee and Cigarettes (better than it sounds). If you can’t decide, try the Dealer’s Choice and let the bartender create something special for you. The joint offers two happy hours (4-6 pm and 12-2 am) and is very tiny, so reservations are recommended.
Traveling with your dog? Take your furry friend to Boozehounds, a popular new lounge tailored specifically for humans and their furry friends. The 7000 sq. ft. venue features a dog-friendly open-air atrium, along with a cabana bar and patio. A special menu for the pups includes Weenie-Tinis, bully sticks, and chicken gizzards. Happy hour 7-days a week from 2 pm to 5 pm.
Palm Springs is loaded with cute tchotchke and mid-century modern stores. But our favorite upscale spot for one-stop shopping is The Shops at Thirteen Forty-Five, a collective of 14 independent, retro boutiques selling pottery, textiles, vintage furniture, art, clothing, and accessories.
Want a quick bite for breakfast? The unassuming Townie Bagels sells one of the most perfect bagels in southern California, maybe even the country. Piping hot, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. Yum.
During the snowbird season from November to April, Palm Springs has no shortage of major festivals and events, including the Palm Springs Film Festival in January, Modernism Week in February, The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in March, and the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in April. But the best new one is Desert X, a free biennial outdoor art exhibit occurring next from March to May in 2023. Artists install amazing larger than life works in unexpected places in the wide-open desert. Not to be missed.
There may be more than 100 golf courses in greater Palm Springs but have no fear if you’re not a duffer. There are so many other ways to enjoy the incredible PS temps out in nature. If you don’t have time to drive up to Joshua Tree 45 miles away (you really should try though), Indian Canyons, a local Indian Reservation on the outskirts of PS has 60 miles of scenic hiking trails with an oasis of fan palms and stunning waterfalls in the spring and winter, plus horseback riding and picnic areas.
Rent an electric ride from Bike Palm Springs and you can do your own mid-century modern architectural tour through Old Las Palmas and other cool neighborhoods. They’ll even give you a map so you can do your own “Door Tour” and see Palm Spring’s most famous brightly painted front doors.
Take a tour of the historic Sunnylands Center & Garden, a 200-acre Annenberg Estate, and architectural masterpiece that is frozen in time from 1966. Many key figures of the 20th century enjoyed Sunnylands as guests of the Annenbergs. The list includes seven U.S. presidents, the British royal family, and Hollywood icons like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, and Ginger Rogers.
Nearby Palm Desert, Living Desert Zoo has our vote for being one of the best in America — the animals here thrive in their natural desert habitats. You can feed giraffes, visit the new butterfly pavilion Winged Wonders, and get up close and personal with kangaroos in the Australian Adventures exhibit, an immersive experience featuring Bennett’s wallabies that bounce alongside exploring guests.