Escape: Palm Springs
● By Megan Wiskus
Forget the notion that this seductive desert playground is solely a getaway for golfers, So Cal weekenders or the retired rich—the new and improved Palm Springs welcomes visitors from all walks of life with plenty of reasons to stay and play a while.
Arriving at nightfall, the illuminated “V” on the hotel’s exterior is your official welcome to V Palm Springs, the city’s recently remodeled boutique inn that’s sandwiched between the San Jacinto Mountains and less than a mile to downtown. Whether driving or flying, you’ll find comfort in knowing that your crash pad has cozy beds, a private balcony replete with a dream catcher swing, and easy-on-the-eyes desert-inspired décor. A V-shaped pool provides plenty of revelry and relaxation—where you can live like a local while sipping on a classic tiki cocktail from the on-site Elixir Pool Bar and Grill—while front door access to the Palm Springs BUZZ (a free trolley service that takes riders around town till 1 a.m., Thursday through Sunday) makes it easy peasy to explore your surrounds.
Experience the stunning scenery with a visit to Indian Canyons. A mere 10 minutes from your hotel, the palm-filled oasis is truly a breath of fresh desert air and delights with hiking, waterfalls, gushing streams and indigenous flora and fauna. Arrive early to beat the heat (and crowds) and be prepared to pay an entrance fee. For an easy-to-navigate, well-marked and maintained, kid-friendly hike, the one-and-a-half-mile Andreas Canyon Trail is your best bet. The loop takes passersby through a creek and provides spectacular views of the awe-inspiring oasis that you have to see to believe.
Relaxation and Palm Springs seem to be synonymous, and your skin will thank you after treating it to a hydrating Milk and Honey Wrap at Azure Spa. Located at the luxuriously retro Riviera Palm Springs, the 11,000-square-foot space is equipped with a Watsu pool, steam room and expansive Jacuzzi that’ll have you on desert time in no time.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating tram, is equal parts unnerving as it is unforgettable—and sited just outside of Palm Springs proper. You’d be remiss to not throw your fear of heights aside and jump on board. As you soar and sway two-and-one-half miles over hair-raising cliffs, you’ll be reminded just how powerful Mother Nature really is. Following the 10-minute ride, you’ll reach Mountain Station, located at 8,516 feet in Mount San Jacinto State Park, where you can enjoy over 50 miles of hiking trails, a restaurant, observation decks and more. Word to the wise: Bundle up—when you’re that high up, the temps are not!
A Heart for the Arts
Creativity runs as rampant as the cacti around these parts, so for those with a heart for the arts, Palm Springs is a prime place to be. Mirage, an aptly named installation (on display through October 31) that sits high on the desert hills, is a ranch-style house made entirely of mirrors. Crafted by artist Doug Aitken, the literal fun house is particularly stunning at sunrise or sunset, when you can catch the sky’s sherbet-hued shades and surrounding environment reflecting off the architectural delight.
The Palm Springs restaurant scene is full of places to be seen, prime patios and enough Happy Hours to keep you smiling all weekend long. For breakfast and brunch-goers, there are plenty of cool-kid spots to sip mimosas (Cheeky’s and Workshop Kitchen + Bar, to name a few), but for a taste of local flair, head to under-the-radar Elmer’s Restaurant. The coffee is strong and bottomless, and the as-big-as-your-face German pancake is worth every sinful calorie. What’s more, the laid-back vibe means you can roll right out of bed and into the eatery (Trust me: Elmer won’t judge). When it comes to dinner, the posh without being pretentious EIGHT4NINE is worth the splurge. Sited in a 1950s building amid the fashionable Uptown Design District, the dazzling décor (think bright white accented by punches of electric pink) is tame in comparison to artfully presented plates that run the gamut from a Dungeness crab and sweet corn-bacon chowder to mesquite-smoked carne asada. For something slightly more romantic that’ll transport you to the hills of Austria, a meal at award-winning Johannes should soar to the top of your “must-eat-here” list. Chef-Owner Johannes Bacher’s schnitzel puts every other version to shame; mixed with the stellar service and impressive wine list and you’ll have a new favorite restaurant.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Get the lowdown on even more places to eat, drink and stay cool at by following @visitpalmsprings on Instagram.
The prime time to visit is between January and April when daytime temps reach the 70s and 80s, but summer and fall are ideal for posting up poolside, exploring museums and other indoor attractions, or treating yourself to a spa day (or days!); plus, as the heat rises, room rates often fall.
Drive time from Sacramento is approximately seven hours; for those who’d rather fly, check for deals into the array of So Cal airports then rent a car, or fly directly into Palm Springs (just be prepared for a layover).
Did you know? Greater Palm Springs has more pools per capita, than anywhere else in the U.S., so there’s no reason not to make a splash! What’s more, they have the largest concentration of mid-century modern residential architecture in the world.