Palm Springs needs to be on your bucket list immediately.
Palm Springs needs to be on your bucket list immediately.

Why this should be on your travel bucket list

Many people didn't know much about Palm Springs until the Coachella music festival put it

on the map - the Californian desert becomes the hottest place on earth each April as Instagram clogs with photos of influencers throwing peace signs at pool parties with palm trees swaying in the background.

But if your days of wandering around in the dust wearing a crop-top are behind you, thankfully there's a whole other side to the greater Palm Springs area. And it's terribly appealing.

As well as doing my own on-the-ground research, I asked some of Palm Springs' most well-connected residents for their insider secrets.

Architecture so beautiful it will give you heart pangs

In the mid-20th century, a gaggle of wealthy celebs like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin commissioned homes in the desert oasis to escape life in Los Angeles (which is about a 3-hour drive down the road).

As a result Palm Springs now boasts one of the most stunning displays of modernist architecture in the world.

 

So quintessentially Palm Springs.
So quintessentially Palm Springs.

The immaculately tanned Kurt Cyr is a designer and architecture expert who runs Palm Springs Mod Squad tours. Jump in his mini-van for a 90-minute crash course in mid-century

design (with some excellent old school Hollywood anecdotes thrown in).

 

Few people know as much about Palm Springs as Kurt Cyr.
Few people know as much about Palm Springs as Kurt Cyr.

 

As a by-product of Palm Springs' glorious architectural history there are some very photogenic hotels to choose from. Some of the most Insta-friendly are Holiday House, Sparrows Lodge, Parker Palm Springs, The Avalon, The Ace Hotel and the Sands Hotel & Spa.

Pampering

If you can't treat yo'self while on holiday, when can you?

I've been lucky enough to have some great massages in my time and it's not a word of a lie to say the best one I have ever had was at the Estrella Spa (tucked away behind the leafy Avalon Hotel in downtown Palm Springs). Ask for Yolanda - it's like she has magic fairies on

the end of her arms instead of hands.

Palm Springs was named in part for the rejuvenating desert hot springs, and Katy Carrier, owner of the glorious Palm Springs Style retail store and Instagram account, recommends

you visit while you're in town.

"The hot springs in Desert Hot Springs are so relaxing - Two Bunch Palms and The Springs

are both outstanding spots for day spa treatments and soaking in the mineral-rich water," she says.

 

What’s even better is the year-round awesome weather.
What’s even better is the year-round awesome weather.

 

Bars

According to publicist Joe Enos, who has called Palm Springs home for 14 years, one of the

area's best-kept secrets is the "lively scene of small, hidden bars, much like I imagine speak-easies were like during Prohibition".

His favourites include Bootlegger Tiki Bar, Del Rey at Villa Royale, Paul Bar and Seymour's for great cocktails.

Another stellar find with ambience to burn is Counter Reformation, tucked away at the back

of the Parker Hotel. It's a visual feast (with a confession booth imported from Italy making a

great talking point) and also offers a delicious array of share plates.

The decor is as delicious as the food.
The decor is as delicious as the food.

If you want a party atmosphere, Nicolas Delgado (owner of vintage clothing store The Fine Art of Design), says "The Nest in Indian Wells is the best people watching and uninhibited dancing" while Katy loves the Sunday night drag show at Toucan Tiki Lounge.

Another raucous affair is The Ace Hotel's trivia night, hosted by Bella de Ball, the town's most beloved drag queen (who even has her own star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars).

 

Now this is a bingo night we can get on board with.
Now this is a bingo night we can get on board with.

If day drinking is more your speed (hey, you're on holiday, no judgment), head to The Pink Cabana at the Sands Hotel and Spa. The recently renovated restaurant and bar is a modern take on the great tennis and racquet clubs of the '50s and '60s.

It's just so damn pretty you won't be able to stop photographing it. They also do a lazy brunch on Saturday and Sunday by the pool. Heaven.

 

The dreamy Sands Hotel & Spa.
The dreamy Sands Hotel & Spa.

Restaurants

Thanks to the dazzling year-round weather, al fresco dining is big.

Joe recommends the family style dinners served under the citrus trees at Sparrow's Lodge, while Birba serves up excellent Italian fare in a buzzing courtyard.

 

There’s great atmosphere alongside the great food at Birba.
There’s great atmosphere alongside the great food at Birba.

Katy's favourites include The Pantry at Holiday House (try the Friday night fried chicken

dinner and Cantina Tuesdays), Las Casuelas Nuevas in Rancho Mirage for Mexican food and

Chef Tanya's Kitchen for excellent vegan fare.

Natural beauty

Nothing prepared me for the natural beauty of the Californian desert. Every now and then you look up from your daily activity and are met with a breathtaking vista of lofty mountain

ranges, cacti and swaying palm trees.

If you need a break from "city" life in downtown Palm Springs you can take a hike around

the nearby mountains, or a day trip to the nearby Joshua Tree National Park for a nature hit.

 

 

Yes, U2 did name an album after this tree.
Yes, U2 did name an album after this tree.

 

 

Another popular activity is a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for spectacular views of the valley below - locals head up the mountain for picnics in summer, as it's a few degrees cooler at the top.

 

An unbeatable way to check out the area.
An unbeatable way to check out the area.

 

Katy also recommends a stroll through the Moorten Botanical Garden, which is home to

thousands of cactus species.

Art, culture and activities

Give yourself a serious case of house-envy by visiting the iconic Sunnylands property in the Rancho Mirage area. It's not only a breathtaking example of mid-century modern design, it's also rich with historical significance, having hosted many celebs and political leaders since it was completed in 1966.

 

Spectacular Sunnylands.
Spectacular Sunnylands.

 

You could also time your trip to coincide with Desert X (a festival that has amazing site-specific art installations throughout Greater Palm Springs) or Modernism Week, which draws design buffs from around the globe. 

Local delicacy

Dates are grown in abundance in this part of the world, and it wouldn't be a trip to Palm Springs without trying a Date Shake. They are utterly addictive.

According to every local we spoke to, the one at Hadley Fruit Orchards is hard to beat. Otherwise there's Sheilds Date Garden.

 

Shopping

If you are into mid-century design, then this is paradise. Nicolas' store The Fine Art of Design is a treasure trove of vintage pieces, many of which are sold through consignment from the fabulous old dames who have lived here over the decades.

 

The Fine Art of Design is a vintage shopper’s dream.
The Fine Art of Design is a vintage shopper’s dream.

 

The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five are a must-visit, with an array of eclectic stalls selling vintage pieces and local designs. It's a beautifully curated space.

 

Katy Carrier in her store at The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five
Katy Carrier in her store at The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five

If vintage isn't your thing, never fear - one of the largest outlet malls we have ever encountered can be found on the outskirts of Palm Springs. It seriously took us a full day to peruse the 180 designer shops at Desert Hills Premium Outlets, but if you have the time and inclination there are plenty of cracking bargains to be found. It's about half an hour out of town on the way to LAX so lots of people visit the outlets on their way to the airport.

When to go

Nicolas recommends his friends visit Palm Springs in "May or October when hotel prices are a little less and the heat is not as intense but still warm enough to lay by the pool".

- Simone Mitchell travelled to Palm Springs as a guest of Greater Palm Springs.


Building bonds in club

Building bonds in club

Focus on family, mentoring.

Motel owners retire after two decades

Motel owners retire after two decades

They ran a local motel for 23 years.

Just not enough rain

Just not enough rain

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