What are the best things to do in Palm Springs?

Marissa Willman

From architecture to natural wonders, there’s no shortage of things to enjoy Palm Springs. Here’s a look at the best things to do in Palm Springs:

1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. For the best vistas of Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley, get a bird’s-eye perspective with a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The world’s largest rotating tramway offers 360-degree views of the desert floor as you climb up the San Jacinto Mountains. At the peak, enjoy summer nature trails and winter snowfall in San Jacinto State Park.

2. Palm Springs Art Museum. Contemporary art lovers swoon over the 24,000-piece collection at the Palm Springs Art Museum. The 150,000-square-foot building features modern art, Native American artifacts and impressive sculptures. If you enjoy performing arts, don’t miss the high-caliber live shows and film screenings at the museum’s Annenberg Theater.

3. VillageFest. The streets of downtown Palm Springs turn into an outdoor marketplace on Thursday nights during the year-round VillageFest street fair. Shop for local goods such as Coachella Valley honey, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown or nosh on tender tri-tip sandwiches, all as live performers keep the energy high with electric cello and acoustic guitar performances under the desert sky.

4. Mid-century modern architecture. Palm Springs is filled with architectural gems by designers such as Donald Wexler, Albert Frey, William Cody and John Lautner. Take a self-guided drive through the city to see architectural beauties such as the Wexler steel houses or the Frey-designed Palm Springs Visitor’s Center. In February, don’t miss the annual Palm Springs Modernism Week celebration, when icons like the Frey House II open up for tours.

5. Indian Canyons. Delve into the natural side of the area with a hike into the Indian Canyons, tucked into the very San Jacinto Mountains that paint the backdrop for Palm Springs. Sights in the Indian Canyons include striking rock formations, palm tree oases and natural waterfalls.

  • On October 22, 2013
    Marissa Willman answered the question: Marissa Willman

    What are the best places for live music in Palm Springs?

    Whether you love old-time piano bars or the latest indie-rock releases, you’ll find your groove in Palm Springs. Here are three of the best places for live music in Palm Springs:

    1. Casablanca Lounge at Melvyn’s. You have to look twice to make sure it’s not Ol’ Blue Eyes himself behind the piano when you walk into this piano bar. Many nights at Casablanca Lounge are filled with nostalgic show tunes, but you’ll also find jazz, pop and salsa performers setting the mood at this intimate lounge.

    2. Starlite Lounge at Riviera Palm Springs. Live music sets the tone throughout this classic hotel. The Riviera’s lobby is where you can enjoy small plates and cocktails while jazz singers and soulful DJs play into the night. The hotel’s Sidebar Lounge and its adjacent patio also host singer-songwriters, flamenco musicians, blues bands and saxophone musicians on the weekends.  

    3. Bar. This contemporary downtown watering hole is more than just a place for craft cocktails and a killer bar menu — Bar also hosts some of the desert’s top indie, electronica, reggae and jazz musicians, just to name a few of the genres represented on the venue’s stage. The constantly changing lineup has featured local songwriters, regional bands and respected DJs.
  • On October 22, 2013
    Marissa Willman answered the question: Marissa Willman

    What should you pack for a trip to Palm Springs?

    Palm Springs’ abundant sunshine and warm weather calls for a packing list that will help keep you cool in the desert. Must-packs include sunscreen and a hat, especially important if you’re not used to the desert sun. Sandals are a good idea for strolling down South Palm Canyon Drive, and tank tops and shorts will help you work on your tan in true Palm Springs style. Ladies can bring a sundress or two, and light sweaters are a good idea for the surprisingly cool desert nights. Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit so you can enjoy your hotel’s pool or the local Knott’s Soak City water park (May through mid October).
  • On October 22, 2013
    Marissa Willman answered the question: Marissa Willman

    What are the best places for brunch in Palm Springs?

    If you’re looking for the best spots to do brunch in the desert, don’t miss these three beloved breakfast restaurants in Palm Springs:

    1. Cheeky’s. This funky find in Uptown Palm Springs specializes in creative and comforting brunch dishes, ranging from custard eggs to chilaquiles (chicken, eggs and other ingredients over tortilla chips) to the ever-popular bacon flight (a sampler with five rotating bacon flavors). Cheeky’s focuses on local, farm-fresh ingredients and debuts a new menu every week.

    2. Spencer’s. Two things make Spencer’s one of Palm Springs’ top dining destinations: its gorgeous tree-lined patio and the impressive eggs benedict menu. Sunday brunch offers a taste of both, with top-notch service and a full roster of other breakfast and lunch items completing the experience.

    3. Norma’s. Feeling a bit on the extravagant side? Then head to this all-day diner at the upscale Parker Palm Springs to feast on a brunch menu fit for a king. The pièce de résistance? Norma’s Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata, an extravagant omelet served with 10 ounces of Sevruga caviar for $1,000.
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  • On October 22, 2013
    Marissa Willman answered the question: Marissa Willman

    Where is the best nightlife in Palm Springs?

    Nightlife options abound throughout Palm Springs, so designating the “best” areas depend on how you enjoy spending your evenings out. For contemporary bars, local beers and live music, you’d do well to check out the lineup on South Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. Bar offers DJs and live entertainment nearly every night with craft cocktails, while joints such as Fame Lounge offer a more sophisticated evening filled with hand-selected wines and fine cigars.

    If you like to roll the dice or catch a concert by one of your favorite performers, you’ll enjoy the nightlife offerings at Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa and Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, both of which are known for their gaming as well as their impressive headlining acts. Both casinos also offer late-night lounges where you can dance the night away.
  • On October 22, 2013
    Marissa Willman answered the question: Marissa Willman

    What is the best way to see Palm Springs in one day?

    If you only have one day to see Palm Springs, it’s important to make it count. Start your day with a look at Palm Springs’ natural wonders by taking a Desert Adventures tour of the Indian Canyons or San Andreas Fault. From the back of one of their red, open-air Jeeps, you’ll be led through the impressive fault line or striking canyons that surround Palm Springs. Tour guides offer a look at both the geological marvels and the native history of the Coachella Valley, giving you an idea of what this desert oasis looked like before Hollywood’s elite came to play in Palm Springs.

    Speaking of Old Hollywood, you can see how celebrities such as Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope lived by taking a self-guided drive of the city’s famed mid-century modern architecture. Must-see buildings include Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway, Bob Hope’s “Volcano Home” and the steel houses designed by Donald Wexler. If you’re more of an art fan than an architecture buff, skip the homes and head to the Palm Springs Art Museum for a look at contemporary galleries and Native American artifacts.

    In the afternoon, get a better view of the desert with a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the largest rotating tramway in the world. At the top of the tram, you can explore the nature trails at San Jacinto National Park or dine with a view of the entire Coachella Valley at one of the tram’s two eateries, Peaks Restaurant and Pines Café.

    Speaking of dining, you’ll find the desert’s best dinner experience at Spencer’s in Palm Springs. Tucked against the San Jacinto Mountains, you can enjoy an array of Pan-American dishes under the lanterns and stars while sitting on Spencer’s picturesque patio.

    After dark, take a leisurely stroll along South Palm Canyon Drive to enjoy the desert vibe as locals unwind and night rolls over the desert. You’ll find plenty of shops to explore, as well as bars for an after-dinner drink before ending your day in Palm Springs.
  • On October 22, 2013
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best hotels in Palm Springs?

    When it comes to the best hotels in Palm Springs, the desert is filled with everything from 10-room boutique properties to sprawling resorts that never give you a reason to leave. Here are the five best hotels in Palm Springs:

    1. Parker Palm Springs. Everything about this luxurious property gives the feeling of a whimsical escape to a secret garden in the middle of the desert. The chic, mid-century modern hotel (once Gene Autry’s ranch) was designed by Jonathan Adler and has overlooked no detail when it comes to luxury, from its nautical-inspired Palm Springs Yacht Club spa to the impressive selection of luxurious bath amenities by the likes of Hermes and L’Occitane.

    2. Viceroy Palm Springs. The Viceroy Palm Springs is so committed to pampering its guests, even the dogs can get a full-body massage while staying at the posh address. Designer Kelly Wearstler outfitted the Viceroy in black and white with sharp pops of yellow hues, embracing both the city’s iconic modern designs and year-round sunny weather. Several pools allow you to soak up the beloved sun, while the gourmet continental cuisine at Citron, the onsite restaurant, shouldn’t be missed.

    3. Riviera Palm Springs. Playing on Palm Springs’ Hollywood past, The Riviera embraces the celebrity culture that put the Coachella Valley on the map. Pictures and artwork of icons like Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra can be found throughout the resort, from the 70s-chic lobby to the intimate Circa 59 restaurant.

    4. Miramonte Resort and Spa. This Indian Wells resort focuses on relaxation, with its weapon of choice being The Well Spa. You start your spa experience by tossing a special coin into the spa’s wishing well before enjoying a decadent treatment such as a water massage or facial with customized aromatherapy oils. Beyond the spa, you can enjoy two pools, farm-to-table dining at The Grove Artisan Kitchen, a rose garden and plenty of green spaces lined with hammocks and chairs.

    5. JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. This vast resort dares guests to find a reason to leave. A range of restaurants and bars, a full-service spa, a shopping plaza, two golf courses, tennis courts, gondola rides and aviaries are just a few of the onsite amenities that await you at this 833-room escape.