In the 20th century, Palm Springs became a favorite retreat of Hollywood royalty and wealthy vacationers fleeing the harsh winters back east. They were attracted not only to the desert town’s sunny weather but also to its relative seclusion (it lies in the Coachella Valley about a hundred miles from Los Angeles). By the middle of the century, Palm Springs was a thriving resort community known for its prime golfing, hiking, and shopping opportunities, as well as a distinctive architectural style known as “desert modernism” (think Mad Men with palm trees). The town retains the same stylishly retro look to this day, and there is as much natural beauty and as many ways to kick back as ever.
Art and Architecture
- Palm Springs Art Museum: A small but expertly curated collection includes works by Pablo Picasso and Robert Rauschenberg, along with significant contemporary and Native American art.
- Mid-century modern landmarks: To explore the area's famed architecture, grab a map at the visitors’ center, itself housed in an iconic building: the retro-futuristic Tramway Gas Station designed by Albert Frey.
- Guided tours: Sign up for a group tour to benefit from the knowledge of docents who can take you to lesser-known gems and spill the dirt on the A-listers who’ve lived here.
- Where to stay for a mid-century vibe: The Riviera Palm Springs hotel has a swanky, Rat Pack feel, from the neon sign out front to the tropical pool area out back.
The Great Outdoors
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Get a bird’s-eye view of the area in tramcars that rotate 360 degrees as they carry you to the top of Mount San Jacinto, located 8,516 feet above sea level.
- Golfing: More than 100 golf courses, including the award-winning public Desert Dunes Golf Club and the posh Cimarron Golf Resort set against the San Jacinto Mountains
- Hiking: Hit the trails in the nearby Agua Caliente Indian Canyons or head 40 miles northeast to the nearly 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park.
- Where to stay to be near nature: The Agua Caliente Casino Resort, just outside of Palm Springs, is minutes from the Indian Canyons.
- The Movie Colony: This area of town had its heyday between the 1930s and 1960s, when stars like Dean Martin, Bob Hope, and Marilyn Monroe all had homes built here.
- Palm Canyon Drive: Go shopping in the upscale furniture and clothing boutiques along Palm Spring’s main drag.
- Where to stay for classic Palm Springs atmosphere: The Desert Hills Hotel, built in 1957, can be found right downtown. All hotel rooms are poolside.