Stepping out in Palm Springs is a little bit like being transported back in time. At least, that was my first impression as we drove our hire convertible 2 hours from LA to this mystical desert paradise. With stretches of palm trees lining the streets as far as the eye can see, Palm Springs seems to spring up out of nowhere like a mirage – albeit one from the 1970’s.
Palm Springs gets its name thanks to its status as a tropical oasis in the midst of miles upon miles of dry California desert. With a population of an average age of 50 (give-or-take), it’s surprising that this little bubble of nostalgia has become a go-to location for hipsters and trendsetters seeking solace from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Just a quick scroll on Instagram during Coachella and you’ll see that Palm Springs is transformed into a festival paradise, swarming with twenty-somethings in bikinis, but once festival fever has subsided, why are people still choosing to visit Palm Springs?
Whilst it may at first glance seem dated, beyond the exterior it turns out there are many reasons to love this kooky, characterful city. From the charming locals to the year-round sunshine and unwavering inclusivity, Palm Springs is certainly one-of-a-kind. Here’s what we got up when we visited for a weekend off-season.
Where to stay
We fully embraced the retro vibe that Palms Springs is synonymous with and opted to stay at Colt’s Lodge, a quaint adults-only B&B just off the main road – Palm Springs Drive. With only 11 rooms, a spacious pool and a kitchen/dining area, it’s a small but perfectly formed hideaway that served as the ideal base for our short stay. We ended up being the only people staying there on our first night so we had the whole place to ourselves!
Where to eat
What’s an American town without a proper down-home diner? Elmer’s is a favourite of locals, serving up hearty breakfast dishes like pancakes, bacon, hash browns and the most delicious buttermilk biscuits. The waiters are cheery, the coffee is piping hot and the food is flavourful. It’s the perfect spot to fuel up before a day of exploring or lazing by the pool.
Las Casuelas Terraza
This Mexican restaurant specialises in cantina-style cuisine and mega margaritas, served on a huge outdoor patio while a live band jams in the background. We opted for tacos with all the trimmings which were typically enormous, but we still managed to put away a lot of chips and dip too, naturally! We were incredibly fortunate to be there during the Space X landing, and caught a glimpse of it shooting across the sky from the patio. A once in a lifetime experience!
Kings Highway at the Ace Hotel
Monday night at the Kings Highway is bingo night, hosted by an all-singing, all-dancing compere and we had a blast playing along with our fellow diners as we chowed down on finger-lickin’-good chicken burgers and tacos. Situated in the über chic Ace Hotel, this roadside diner was formally a Denny’s and it has kept this retro spirit, but seriously upgraded its food offerings. The Ace Hotel attracts a cool, California crowd which makes it a great spot for people watching. The next-door Amigo Room also hosts quiz nights and karaoke, so it’s truly a one-stop destination for kitsch entertainment.
What to do
The aerial tramway is Palm Springs’ biggest tourist attraction, and for good reason. Hop on a cable car and soar one-and-a-half miles through Chino Canyon, surrounded by mountains and with picturesque views as far as the eye can see. With a mountainside restaurant at the top and tons of hiking trails to choose from, it’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
With an outlet mall just 20 minutes outside of Palm Springs, plus dozens of vintage stores and a sprinkling of high street brands in the downtown area, shopping is serious business here. It’s a great way to while away a few hours; exploring the neighbourhood and picking up some one-of-a-kind bargains along the way.
Day trip to Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is just over an hour’s drive away from Palm Springs– ideal for a day trip if you’re in the mood for exploring the great outdoors. With dozens of hikes and miles of parkland to explore, you could easily spend a whole day surrounded by giant cacti, huge boulders and stretches of winding trails. Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden and find yourself immersed in rows-upon-rows of stunning succulents – a millennial’s dream.
I’d highly recommend a visit to Palm Springs – it really is a special place. Have you visited this area of California?