Nestled at the base of the rugged San Jacinto Mountain Range, Palm Springs has for over a century been luring well-heeled visitors drawn to its vibrant cultural scene, stunning natural beauty, therapeutic mineral springs and mid-century architecture. While its reputation as a lively party town dates back to its early days as a desert playground for Hollywood’s rich and famous, these days Palm Springs radiates a healthier vibe.
Owing to its hot locale in the sunbaked desert, summers in Palm Springs are relatively quiet, but from milder months November to April this popular desert oasis flourishes. Tourists and seasonal residents return, shops and restaurants fling open their doors and downtown comes alive with people shopping in the galleries and boutiques and dining at the many upscale eateries that line Palm Canyon Drive, the city’s main thoroughfare. Grab a healthy salad and a smoothie to go at Palm Greens Café or enjoy a romantic meal at Farm, a charming country-chic bistro that sources seasonal ingredients from local farmers (reservations required!).
The city’s annual calendar is filled with world-class sporting and cultural events including the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, tennis and golf tournaments, and Modernism Week which celebrates the area's treasure trove of meticulously preserved mid-century architecture and all things ‘mod.’
For the active set, Palm Springs provides a wide array of attractions and activities. Runners, walkers, joggers and hikers can choose from a vast network of well-maintained trails on Mt. San Jacinto, easily accessible from the city center. The nearby Indian Canyons wilderness offers access to the ancestral home of the native Agua Caliente Indians—the area’s earliest inhabitants who arrived in the valley over 8,000 years ago. Hikers can trek through verdant oases of 80-foot fan palms, past dramatic rock formations and beneath majestic waterfalls as they explore the sacred canyons.
Those seeking a more “elevated” outdoor experience can head over to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which whisks passengers 2.5 miles to the summit at 8,500 feet above the desert floor. From there, you’ll have access to more than 50 miles of well-marked trails and 14,000 acres of pristine alpine forests. Just remember to dress appropriately because temperatures at the summit can be 30 to 40 degrees cooler than in town.
Boasting the highest concentration of golf courses in California, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley are a golfer’s paradise. While many of the 100-plus area courses are private, there are plenty open to the public, including those at the world-famous Indian Wells Golf Resort which offers two championship set-ups with spectacular views of the nearby mountains, and are rated among the top public-access courses in the country.
When you’re ready to unwind, head to the luxurious Spa at Sec-he, recently opened by the Agua Caliente Indian tribe on a site directly above the hot mineral springs that gave the city its name. Enjoy the facility’s cryotherapy chamber, float pods, salt caves and saunas, and finish it all off with a soak in a private mineral bath that draws water directly from the hot springs, the area’s original “tourist attraction.”
Whether your idea of the perfect vacation involves recreating in the pristine outdoors, indulging in leisure, or immersing yourself in the history and culture of your destination, a visit to the desert oasis that is Palm Springs will leave you mindful, rejuvenated and eager to return.