Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Courtesy of Palm Springs Aerial Tram

Palm Springs Aerial Tram

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Palm Springs Aerial Tram
Soar from the desert floor to surprising alpine beauty

Got 10 minutes? That’s all it takes to go from the hot desert floor to cool, piney highlands, thanks to this engineering marvel. Spinning slowly as it ascends—it’s the world’s largest spinning tramcar—the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway traverses 2.5 miles along Chino Canyon in one smooth ascent to 8,516 feet at Mountain Station, on the flanks of towering Mount San Jacinto. On the ride up, you’ll be Instagramming nonstop as you take in wonderful views of jagged cliffs and canyons (keep your eyes peeled for waterfalls in spring). Celebrated naturalist John Muir once wrote that “…the view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth,” and he wasn’t exaggerating.

Up top, there’s access to more than 50 miles of trails into the Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. The tram operates through winter, and don’t be surprised if fellow tram riders are carrying snowshoes or cross-country skis to explore the snowy backcountry (rentals are available at Winter Adventure Center, at Mountain Station). Tip for outdoor lovers: it’s a short hike to Round Valley, offering picturesque campsites (reservations must be made five days in advance), even in winter.

But you don’t have to hike or ski to have fun. At the top there are two restaurants (fine dining at Peaks Restaurant; cafeteria fare at Pines Café), a full cocktail and beer bar (aptly named The Lookout Lounge), an observation area, natural history exhibits, and a small theater showing documentary films.

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Spotlight: Greater Palm Springs

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76
October
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
100°
High
52°
Low
Dec - Feb
30°
High
25°
Low
Mar - May
93°
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53°
Low
June - Aug
107°
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71°
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California Dreamer: Nick Hart and the Rebirth of Cool
British menswear designer Nick Hart creates custom clothing for some of the biggest icons in music and Hollywood today.

Fed by underground springs, the desert comes alive here, not only with signature palms, but also with a string of resort communities—Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, and others, as well as the namesake town of Palm Springs—sporting a cool, mid-century modern vibe and countless ways to relax. Back in the 1950s, stars like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley built sleek estates, played rounds of golf at championship courses, and wined and dined the desert night away. Today, the region still has plenty of retro hipster swagger but also next-gen energy, with hot new restaurants, luxury lodgings, and fabulous shopping. Plus, there’s the beauty of the California desert all around. Step away for a moment and gaze up at a million stars—nothing but you, your thoughts, and the sound of the desert wind.

Palm Springs Aerial Tram Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 4.44.42 PM
California Dreamer: Nick Hart and the Rebirth of Cool
British menswear designer Nick Hart creates custom clothing for some of the biggest icons in music and Hollywood today.
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Courtesy of Visit California

5 Impeccably Luxurious Palm Springs Properties

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5 Impeccably Luxurious Palm Springs Properties
Elegant design, Hollywood-style glamour, and epic pools are the main draw at these lush locations

The Lautner

Some people dream of private islands with snowy sand and palm trees. Others fantasize about sleeping in a John Lautner house. For the latter, nothing beats this remote 1947 compound of luxury “living units” designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, the only Lautner residence open to public bookings. All concrete, redwood, glass, and steel, the four flats, which sleep two adults each, are distinctly designed with vintage furniture, organic cotton pillow-top mattresses, Heath Ceramics–tiled showers, and contemporary kitchens. Spend the day sunbathing from your private patio and cooling off in the saline plunge pool, and stargaze from the skylight above your bed at night. The micro-resort is self-catering, but that makes it all the more special—instead of eating in a restaurant, up to 12 people can dine under a communal redwood pergola; arrangements can be made for private chef dinners there, too. A hidden speakeasy-inspired bar for guests of the Ranch House (this additional accommodation, not a Lautner, sleeps four) only fuels the retro fantasy. Plan ahead: Weekends fill up months in advance.

Holiday House Palm Springs

It’s all about the playful details at Holiday House, from the love beads that guests receive on arrival to the custom fortune cookies they take home with them. But make no mistake—this 21-and-up property is an upscale, high-style destination. Built in 1951, the 28 rooms and communal spaces were originally designed by pioneering architect Herbert W. Burns, one of the major forces behind Palm Springs modernism. A 2017 update by lauded interior designer Mark D. Sikes reinvented the hotel, giving fresh life to its clean lines with curated artwork and a cobalt, white, and warm wood palette (even the bicycles match). Accommodations are organized as Good, Better, and Best—and the latter is well worth it for the soaking tub and outdoor shower. The pool scene is laid-back and refined—waiters serve rosé flights between guests’ dips in the water—while an honor-system pantry is stocked with such desert “essentials” as sparkling water, straw hats, and potted succulents. Pro tip: Make a reservation in advance for the al fresco Friday night fried chicken dinner, which draws a crowd for its locally sourced chicken, delivered fresh that day and served with comfort-food sides.

Arrive

The pool is the center of all action at this Design District hotel. Show up early for yoga alongside the 66-foot-long pool, and then settle into a private cabana for a day of lounging and swimming—with, perhaps, a round at the marble ping-pong table or bocce court thrown in. Opened in 2016, Arrive was the first ground-up hotel to be built in Palm Springs in a decade, rebooting the desert’s signature style with its butterfly roofs, clerestory windows, and 32 guest rooms decorated in urbane modern pieces (half the rooms also feature private patios and fireplaces). The vibe is casual and playful at all turns—guests check in at the bar, rather than a registration desk, where they’re promptly handed a cocktail. The hotel has two restaurants—Reservoir, which opens to the pool, and Draughtsman, a Southern California take on the gastropub—as well as in-room spa services. Don’t miss: The pool parties, which are as popular with locals as with guests. Sundays bring live bands and DJs spinning vinyl, and once a month movies play on a big screen starting at sundown.

Rimrock Ranch

The charm is simple—and highly photogenic—at this 1947 property, where old western actors like Roy Rogers used to get away between takes. When new owners bought the ranch in 2016, they began renovating bit by bit, outfitting the rooms with vintage-inspired Smeg refrigerators, turntables, Coleman lanterns, and Pendleton wool blankets. The accommodations vary wildly, ranging from four original knotty pine–paneled cabins to midcentury-modern rooms in the lodge to a glass-and–corrugated metal duplex called the Hatch House, which Lloyd Russell designed in 2008. There’s even an option to stay in a remodeled 1960s Airstream, which features a live-edge wood bar with copper inlays. True to its original intent, the 11-acre ranch is laid-back and without pretense, the kind of retreat where hikes in neighboring Joshua Tree National Park stand in for a spa day, and guests make their own meals in the antique kitchens and at the outdoor grills. The real magic happens at sunset on the observation deck, and is best enjoyed with a BYO cocktail.

Sparrows Lodge

Tensions dissolve immediately when guests arrive at Sparrows Lodge. Take your welcome cocktail—sangria with wild blueberries—straight to the arbor, where the scent of citrus and the soothing fountain flow embody “out of office.” Like much of Palm Springs, this 20-room bolt-hole dates to the 1950s, when it was owned by MGM actor Don Castle and known as Castle’s Red Barn. Fully restored in 2013, the lodge is more rustic modern than midcentury, with russet red walls, exposed beams, and Swiss army blankets. It’s a decidedly unplugged place (rooms don’t have TVs or phones) with a casual atmosphere that’s akin to summer camp. Plan to spend quality time at the pool, tooling around town on one of the free Sole bikes, or in the Out of Africa–style massage tent. The Barn Kitchen’s family-style dinners on Chicken Wednesdays and Steak Saturdays are a can’t-miss. Strangers become fast friends over three-course feasts by chef Gabriel R. Woo (reserve at least a week in advance). Pro tip: Ask for a poolside room with a deep steel horse trough bathtub—and bring a good book.

In partnership with Afar.

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Courtesy of L’Horizon Resort & Spa

L’Horizon Palm Springs

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L’Horizon Palm Springs
Sleep inside a mid-century masterpiece filled with Hollywood history

Staying at L’Horizon Palm Springs is a bit like stepping into a mid-century-modern time machine, with all the luxury trappings of a Hollywood hideaway in the desert.

After all, that’s exactly what it is. The hotel compound was built in 1952 by architect William F. Cody, who designed many of the famous mid-century buildings around the desert; he was commissioned by Hollywood producer Jack Wrather (behind such TV shows as The Lone Ranger and Lassie) to create a desert home that could also accommodate plenty of his A-list friends. The result was this collection of 25 sleek bungalows, spread over three acres against a mountain backdrop. Some of the guests over the years included Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and presidents Nixon and Reagan. 

In 2015, the compound got a refresh from contemporary designer Steve Hermann, embracing that classic Palm Springs aesthetic. The original, slump-stone walls are juxtaposed against warm exposed-wood beams in the ceilings, bespoke and vintage decor, and floor-to-ceiling windows. To stay in Marilyn’s old room, book the Fireplace Junior Suite Bungalow, which also has a wood-burning copper-clad fireplace, and a big view of the zero-edge pool.

Even though you’re a short distance from Palm Springs area shopping and golf courses, this is the kind of place that invites you to keep a low profile, like a star hiding out from the paparazzi. Chill out at the spa (with body treatments such as the Espresso Mud Wrap or the Lemongrass Mimosa Scrub) and enjoy all three meals at the elegantly al fresco So-Pa restaurant—ranging from the Dungeness-crab-accented L’Horizon Benedict at breakfast to the dinner menu of seafood, organic duck breast, or Niman Ranch short ribs. Adding to the serene ambience: This is an adults-only property.

The poolside bar is a fabulous throwback in itself. Choose from classic cocktails like a Tom Cat Collins, a Manhattan, or the rye-centered Vieux Carré. Or sip on more contemporary cousins, like La Martinque (with port, cognac, and pineapple juice) or the Summer in Russia (vodka, grapefruit juice, and elderflower liqueur).

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Greater Palm Springs Resorts
From the hip and modern to the traditional and classic, resorts in Greater Palm Springs let you escape to the desert any way you like.
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L'Horizon Hotel and Spa: California Luxury Minute Resorts
Find out why L'Horizon in Palm Springs is a Condé Nast Readers' Choice #1 resort in California. The Luxury Minute video series showcases California’s most opulent resorts and hotels in 60 seconds.

Journeys: Palm Springs and the Desert

Experience classic design, natural wonders, and a variety of unexpected delights
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Pascal Shirley

5 Private Tours of Palm Springs and the Desert

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5 Private Tours of Palm Springs and the Desert
Memorable only-in-California experiences for travelers interested in nature, history, food, shopping, and more

The upscale resort city of Palm Springs sits 100 miles east of Los Angeles. The surrounding desert communities—stretching across the Coachella Valley from the towering San Jacinto Mountains to Joshua Tree National Park—offer travelers an antidote to urban life. For decades, visitors have come to this stylish destination to relax and get away from it all, hike, play golf, indulge in spa treatments, and appreciate the desert landscape. Recently, the area has drawn a new generation of creative residents, many of whom are opening new businesses and helping to set the stage for the region’s future. To get a better sense of place and indulge in a unique desert experience, book one of these customizable private tours designed with the discerning traveler in mind.

For the Luxury Off-Roader

Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours brings travelers to Indian Canyons, the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and Mecca Hills, where knowledgeable guides offer an introduction to the area’s unique geological formations. On a sunset tour to the San Andreas Fault you may spot some of the desert’s wildlife, including coyotes and owls, emerging after the heat of the day has passed. You’ll also see a colorful display as the setting sun paints the sky in vivid purples and oranges.

For the Bird’s-Eye View

Relive the golden age of ballooning by taking flight near Palm Springs, where the climate is perfectly suited for hot-air balloon tours. Book a private sunrise tour with Balloons Above. While the cooler temperatures have their advantages when it comes to piloting the balloons, they also have a plus for passengers: You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of a new day dawning on the desert. Book a morning flight that includes breakfast and a champagne toast, to celebrate your adventure in the air.

For the Traveler Who’s Always Learning

Whatever your particular passion —bird-watching, photography, geology, cultural history—the Desert Institute of the Joshua Tree National Park Association offers a field class, tour, or lecture on the subject. Spend the day with a naturalist, learn tips from a photographer, or head out on a desert hike with a guide who knows how to access the most stunning vistas, and then assure you get back safely, too. Contact the Institute in advance to reserve a custom tour based on your interests.

For the Architecture Aficionado

Mid-century modern architects left their mark in Palm Springs and the desert. The Modern Tour offers exclusive access to a number of private homes by pioneering architects Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, and others. The architects aren’t the only bold-faced names on this tour; guests will also visit the former residences of celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and William Holden. All tours are semi-private, with a maximum of six guests, or you can book a private tour for an additional $300.

For the Shopper

El Paseo in Palm Desert is best known as the “Rodeo Drive of the Desert.” Don’t miss the distinctive shops, restaurants, and art galleries that line the mile-long strip. At Elizabeth & Prince, a women’s clothing boutique, owners Analisa and Shawn Holoubek showcase pieces by emerging designers. If you’re looking for a delicious brunch option in town, go to Wilma & Frieda’s Café, where comfort food is served with a twist. Two standouts on the menu include a churro waffle and blackberry custard French toast. For dinner, try the classic steak and seafood menu at Mitch’s on El Paseo. And if you want to stay on the strip, book a suite at Hotel Paseo, an Autograph Collection property that pays homage to mid-century modern design with a 1950 Airstream onsite.

In Partnership with Afar.

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4 Fantastic Resorts in Greater Palm Springs

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4 Fantastic Resorts in Greater Palm Springs
Find the perfect place to stay in Greater Palm Springs, from boutique mid-century inns to lavish golf resorts

From the hip and modern to the traditional and classic, resorts in and around Greater Palm Springs let you escape to the desert any way you like. You’ll find just the right place, whether you’re planning to play a few rounds on one of the Coachella Valley’s world-famous golf courses, lounge by the pool, or experience the desert’s incomparable mid-century architecture.

Parker Palm Springs

Design buffs love the Parker Palm Springs for its Jonathan Adler décor, while celebs also adore this intimate inn’s seclusion—especially the one-bedroom villa suites with enclosed patios. After a private yoga session and a seaweed wrap at the spa—playfully named the Palm Springs Yacht Club—hole up in a cabana alongside one of the inn’s two saline pools. For dinner, settle into a corner banquette and indulge in the braised Wagyu beef short ribs at the seductive bistro, Mister Parker’s. Pro tip: Don’t miss the hotel's Counter Reformation, a cozy wine bar that features a wooden confessional flown in from Italy.

Ace Hotel Palm Springs

The Ace Hotel Palm Springs brought a mid-century hotel back from the dead and infused it with an artsy spirit that combines the best of Palm Springs cool, both old school and new. Groove to DJs in the lobby and poolside, or create your own soundtrack in a room with a record player and a selection of classic vinyl. Dine on the refined roadhouse fare at the hotel’s King’s Highway restaurant (once a Denny’s) and take your pick of 21 craft beers on tap in The Amigo Room.

L’Horizon Resort and Spa

Blending the style of iconic architect William F. Cody and the vision of renowned designer Steve Hermann, L’Horizon Resort and Spa is Palm Springs incarnate. With post-and-beam bungalows, some featuring outdoor showers, the low-slung, three-acre resort earned raves from Architectural Digest as “the most jaw-dropping of the pack” of Palm Springs’ mid-century hotels. Take in dramatic mountain views through your bungalow’s floor-to-ceiling windows and dine al fresco on executive chef Jason Niederkorn’s inventive cuisine at the hotel's So.Pa restaurant.

La Quinta Resort & Spa

Long before this region became synonymous with a 1950s aesthetic, the Spanish-inspired La Quinta Resort & Spa defined California desert style. Come to this lavish oasis, with its 41 swimming pools and seven restaurants, to golf on five leading courses, including the Stadium Course at PGA West (named one of the country’s top 50 by Golf Digest). Afterward, rejuvenate your spirit with one of the 14 different yoga classes or with one of the immersive, personalized yoga retreats inspired by Indian spiritual centers.

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Courtesy of Visit California

Style and Design Icons of Palm Springs

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Style and Design Icons of Palm Springs
If you appreciate sleek lines and extreme attention to detail, put these five locations on your itinerary

L'Horizon Resort & Spa

When you’re staying at this historic property, it’s worth waking up early to watch the sun rise and turn the sky pink against the San Jacinto Mountains. Romance suffuses this upscale three-acre resort of low-slung bungalows, designed in 1952 and later refreshed by acclaimed designer Steve Hermann. The light-drenched Fireplace Junior Suite Bungalow—once Marilyn Monroe’s room of choice—is a favorite for couples, with its private outdoor shower and wood-burning copper fireplace, plus Frette robes and L’Horizon-branded eye masks. The property’s restaurant, SO•PA, is equally alluring, thanks to a linear fire pit and fountain outdoors and sparkling modern metallic chandeliers inside. While the menu of New American fare is inspired—try the honey mussels paired with an Infinity Paloma cocktail—the chef will also create, with advance notice and upon request, a personalized tasting menu riffing off the day’s best produce and in keeping with any dietary restrictions. Pro tip: The deep-tissue rubdown at the indoor-outdoor spa is unparalleled, but pampering doesn’t need an occasion here—hit the poolside sun beds early for complimentary back and foot massages.

Trina Turk

Since opening her first store in Palm Springs in 2002, fashion designer Trina Turk has forged a style that’s become synonymous with desert chic—an inimitable riot of color, pattern, and texture. Her original shop has now expanded twice to fill an entire 3,800-square-foot Albert Frey building, helping spark the revitalization of the city’s upscale Uptown Design District. Designed by Kelly Wearstler, the interior’s penny tile flooring, vintage foil wallpaper, and Lucite and acid-yellow accents create a glamorous, playful backdrop for Turk’s trendsetting women’s and men’s collections. This being Palm Springs, an entire department is devoted to swimwear (don’t miss the dressing room’s wallpaper). You’ll also find curated pieces that fit with the Trina Turk aesthetic, such as pool floats from Sunny Life, Missoni Home towels, Dinosaur Design resin accessories, and Jonathan Adler home goods. Insider’s tip: This is the brand’s only location where you’ll find vintage treasures, including Missoni and Pucci caftans, that Turk hand selected.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar

Regulars at Workshop Kitchen + Bar know not to get too attached to any one dish. Innovative chef/owner Michael Beckman—who trained in Lyon and worked in Berlin—might be serving honey-lavender glazed black cod one night; a sausage, rapini, and fennel pizza another; and his signature burger (with pastrami and wagyu oxtail) the next. Diners in the know ask for the off-the-menu whole striped sea bass, grilled in the wood-fired oven with seasonally shifting ingredients. The adventurous menu is a big draw, to be sure, but so is the magical setting: The 90-year-old Spanish-inspired building—once an art gallery and movie theater—features 27-foot-high ceilings, which the trendsetting architecture firm SOMA updated with poured concrete for an industrial cathedral aesthetic. (The work won it a James Beard Design Award.) If you’re there for Sunday brunch or an early dinner, ask for booth #7, which is flooded with natural light, or a table in the whitewashed courtyard. Cocktails such as the Mountaineer—made with little-known Génépy des Alpes liqueur, pineapple and lime juice, and bitters—are just as revelatory early in the evening as they are on late weekend nights, when the place is bustling.

BKB Handcrafted Art + Design

The high desert seems to generate its own creative force field, attracting and inspiring artists for decades. Today’s generation showcases its work at BKB Handcrafted Art + Design. The Palm Springs outlet of this shop (the original is in Joshua Tree) features locally crafted, modern pieces, each one chosen for its soul and authenticity. You’ll find pendant lights and vessels by the shop’s founder, ceramicist Brian Bosworth, along with desert-influenced weavings by All Roads Studio, block prints by Aili Schmeltz, and sculpture by Jonathan Cross, displayed in a gallery-like space that’s both minimalist and warm. The shop’s selective, exclusive element extends to locally made olive oil, jewelry, and furniture, too, making it a must-visit for thoughtful gifts and souvenirs. BKB has also become a stylish and unparalleled hub for the desert’s creative community, regularly hosting art openings, artist talks, and events. Pro tip: Swing by on a Saturday—that’s when artists usually drop by to deliver new work or just hang out.

Albert Frey House II

Architecture geek or not, you only need a set of eyes to appreciate the Albert Frey House II. The innovative architect built his personal home on a mountain lot that to most people seemed uninhabitable, shaping a compact modernist glass-and-steel structure around a massive rock so it almost blends into the landscape. Even the interior takes its cues from the desert, with its original sky-blue ceiling and curtains to match the yellow Encelia flowers that bloom each spring. The glass invites in streams of light by day and reflects the stars at night, bringing the rooms to life in ways Frey surely planned. A longtime Palm Springs resident, Frey bequeathed his home to the Palm Springs Art Museum on his death in 1998, allowing it and its contents (including architectural drawings, correspondence, and personal effects) to be seen by people in the field of architecture. But even those not in the industry can get the full experience by booking through the Modern Tour at least 48 hours in advance. Tours are led by author and historian Michael Stern, who knew Frey—and many of the midcentury masters—so a deep dive full of insightful anecdotes is guaranteed.

In Partnership with Afar.

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Courtesy of Visit California

Eat Like a Local in Palm Springs

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Eat Like a Local in Palm Springs
These six spots cover a vast culinary landscape—everything from sushi to Southwestern to cherries jubilee

4 Saints

Timing is everything at 4 Saints: Arrive well before the sun goes down to snag a table for magic hour. The rooftop restaurant, which sits poolside on the seventh floor of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel, is the desert’s highest, with panoramic views of the San Jacinto Mountains. A convivial bartender behind the four-sided marble-and-wood bar may recommend a boutique aromatized or fortified wine to start, the low alcohol content allowing you to enjoy a string of standout cocktails over the course of a night. (Try the Highway 111, a local take on the Old Fashioned that uses bourbon infused with Coachella Valley dates.) The seasonal selection of globally influenced small plates by chef Stephen Wambach makes it easy to linger in the lantern-lit dining room or under the stars on the patio. Sharing is encouraged, if only so you can try as many dishes as possible, such as foie gras and berries with brioche, and sea urchin served with almond, grapefruit, and parsnip.

King's Highway

If there’s one night to slide into a booth at this casual diner inside the hip Ace Hotel & Swim Club, make it a Monday. That’s when the place is transformed by the unmissable presence of 90-year-old ex-showgirl Shirley Claire, who sings and brings a healthy dose of razzle-dazzle as she hosts Fabulous Bingo. In fact, most nights of the week have a theme—see Tuesday karaoke at the adjacent Amigo Room bar, half-off wine bottles on Wednesday, and Taco Jueves—so making reservations is a good idea, but not a must. If you wind up waiting for a table, grab an Orange You Glad To See Me—made with gin, orange, Chareau, and lime—and pop into the photo booth. With its stone wall, leather booths, and globe pendant lights, the diner (a former Denny’s) embraces the spirit of the sixties, while the menu offers a distinctly Californian twist on Southwestern and Mexican fare. Must-orders: For breakfast (served until 2 p.m.), opt for the desert classic Date Shake and Huevos Rancheros, made with California- and Coachella Valley–sourced ingredients. For dinner, try the Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos or Desert Highway Burgers, and request the pickled jalapeños for added kick.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar

Regulars at Workshop Kitchen + Bar know not to get too attached to any one dish. Innovative chef/owner Michael Beckman—who trained in Lyon and worked in Berlin—might be serving honey-lavender glazed black cod one night; a sausage, rapini, and fennel pizza another; and his signature burger (with pastrami and wagyu oxtail) the next. Diners in the know ask for the off-the-menu whole striped sea bass, grilled in the wood-fired oven with seasonally shifting ingredients. The adventurous menu is a big draw, to be sure, but so is the magical setting: The 90-year-old Spanish-inspired building—once an art gallery and movie theater—features 27-foot-high ceilings, which the trendsetting architecture firm SOMA updated with poured concrete for an industrial cathedral aesthetic. (The work won it a James Beard Design Award.) If you’re there for Sunday brunch or an early dinner, ask for booth #7, which is flooded with natural light, or a table in the whitewashed courtyard. Cocktails such as the Mountaineer—made with little-known Génépy des Alpes liqueur, pineapple and lime juice, and bitters—are just as revelatory early in the evening as they are on late weekend nights, when the place is bustling.

Melvyn's

Since the 1970s, Melvyn’s has hosted a string of famous guests—most notably Frank Sinatra, who held court from corner booth #53 whenever he was in town. The Rat Pack spirit endures here. Old standards play nightly (except Mondays) at the piano bar, while tuxedo-clad waiters serve up Manhattans and martinis. A 2017 face lift spruced up the chandelier-strewn dining room and returned the bar to its former pale pink–tufted glory. Melvyn’s was and still is one of few places in Palm Springs with a dress code—it once famously turned away Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw for showing up in motorcycle ensembles—although diners are now allowed to dress more casually if they’re eating under the striped awning of the patio. Call ahead to reserve a table (yes, Sinatra’s booth is still available) and then give in to nostalgia. For lunch, try the Monte Cristo sandwich; after dark, follow jumbo prawn cocktails and oysters Rockefeller with tableside-prepared steak Diane and cherries jubilee. Insider’s tip: Ask maître d’ Brian Ellis, hired when Melvyn’s first opened, about the night the FBI stopped by.

Counter Reformation

There’s something about a place being “secret” that makes it exponentially more exciting. Counter Reformation, the European-style wine bar hidden from sight inside the Parker hotel, lives up to that notion. Open from Thursday to Monday, 3 to 10 p.m., the pocket-sized shrine to great wine has no tables and takes no reservations (though leaning at the low-lit 14-seat bar is encouraged). But there is food, and fantastic food at that. Instead of trying to be everything to everybody, Counter Reformation’s tapas menu is short and original, including caviar served with crème fraîche and a quail egg, plus a layered summer tomato salad with melon. The wines are carefully curated from California, France, and Italy, with a few wild cards from places like Portugal and Oregon, and are all priced the same. While the spot has the feel of an insider’s club, it’s without pretense, with the experts behind the bar providing enthusiastic guidance. For dessert, order the foie gras macarons with sea salt, with a sip of champagne. If you overdo it, don’t worry: You can ask for forgiveness in the restaurant’s authentic confessional booth, shipped in from Italy.

Sandfish by Engin Onural

While sake may be standard at other sushi restaurants, this game-changing spot pays homage to Japan’s other great boozy tradition: whiskey. In the lively modern space—all blond wood, concrete, and industrial lighting—chef/owner Engin Onural serves a creative lineup of sushi, including the Sandfish (a spicy tuna and crab-meat roll topped with fried potato slivers) and zucchini flowers filled with tuna and cream cheese. Things get really interesting at the bar. Using all craft ingredients—house-made syrups, fresh juices, artisanal spirits, and local brews—the bartenders create inspired whiskey-centric cocktails. Try the elegantly layered Old Fashioned (made with Nikka Pure Malt, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula cognac, bitters, and Demerara sugar), and a play on a Spanish gin and tonic called Foraged, which features Death’s Door white whiskey infused with wild juniper berries Austin forages himself, plus fresh grapefruit, Szechuan peppercorns, rose petals, and yuzu.

In Partnership with Afar.

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Laura Hunt-Little

Hot Air Balloon Tours of Palm Springs

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Hot Air Balloon Tours of Palm Springs
Get a bird’s-eye view of the Coachella Valley and then celebrate with bubbly

One of the best ways to appreciate the panoramic desert of the Greater Palm Springs area is to literally get above it—taking in the expanses of citrus trees and date palms, the sagebrush, the spring wildflowers, and even the 100-plus manicured golf courses from a hot air balloon, with the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains as a backdrop.

A number of operators do hot-air balloon rides in the Coachella Valley, primarily in the high season of November through May, with sunrise and sunset being the most popular times of the day for tours. Operators will typically come pick you up at your hotel for the trip and tours are fairly small—anywhere from two to 10 of you along for the ride.

Fantasy Balloon Flights, Balloons Above, and HavNFun Hot Air Balloons all use FAA-certified pilots and embrace the centuries-old tradition of offering up some sparkling wine after your voyage. (Ballooning as a sport began in France, no doubt including Champagne, in the 18th century.) Expect to be in the air anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes. Some of the operators let you get pretty hands-on, too: HavNFun lets passengers help set up and take down the balloon before and after their flights, while Balloons Above is happy to arrange lessons on how to fly a hot air balloon yourself.

On the Fantasy Balloon Flights tour of Palm Springs, the pilot will point out spots like the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea, and even celebrity homes. The company also offers Temecula wine country flights that glide over the vineyards and then touch down for a winery tour. 

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Courtesy of The Saguaro Palm Springs

Saguaro Palm Springs

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Saguaro Palm Springs
Escape to this colorful oasis, where pool parties and taco nights are the norm

You can’t miss the Saguaro when you’re driving through Palm Springs. The trendy boutique hotel is easily recognizable (and often photographed) due to its bright façade of yellows, oranges, and pinks. Known for its lively pool scene and active events calendar, the Saguaro Palm Springs appeals to anyone looking for fun in the desert sun. 

With 245 guest rooms, two restaurants, a freshly renovated event space, a spa, and popular party pool, the Saguaro has plenty to keep you busy during a desert getaway. Explore the desert on a cruiser bike, relax during a spa treatment, take a yoga session, or sway your afternoon away in a rainbow-colored hammock while your friends play bocce nearby. Check the calendar for upcoming events—normal weeks may include karaoke nights or movies on the lawn, while festival weekends (such as Coachella) feature poolside DJs and live performances.

As far as eating and drinking—you’re set. Try a boozy brunch pairing at Rocco’s Electric, where Chilaquiles Verde comes with a Michelada, and Chorizo Con Papas Burrito is served with a margarita. During the weekend, the poolside bar serves breakfast, appetizers—like almond-crusted local Coachella dates—and tacos. It’s worth extending your trip just to take advantage of Taco Tuesday and Thursday (“because one day is not enough”) at the hotel’s main restaurant, El Jefe.

Before you book, check for specials—especially if you’re organizing a bachelor or bachelorette party. Recent packages have included a late checkout, luxury pool floats, a bottle of champagne, and more with a two-night stay.

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Courtesy of ATP

California Questionnaire: The Bryan Brothers

California Questionnaire: The Bryan Brothers
The record-smashing tennis partners (and twins) share their favorite foods, views, and tunes

As the most dominant doubles team of all time, pro tennis players Bob and Mike Bryan have wowed fans worldwide. But the crowd-pleasing identical twins, known for their signature high-flying chest bump after each victory, echo that there’s no place like home—especially when that home is California’s Central Coast. Though they now live elsewhere, the pair often returns to Camarillo, in Ventura County, roughly halfway between L.A. and Santa Barbara. We sat down with the high-flying pair at the home of the BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells Tennis Garden near Palm Springs, and asked them to serve up their views on everything from how they’d spend a perfect day in their home state to their favorite local place for soft tacos.

Where do you live?

Mike: We grew up in Camarillo, and I have a second home there, in Santa Rosa Valley. We live on a little five-acre horse farm; my wife’s a big horseback rider so we’ve got some land out there in the same development as Gary Sinise. He’s my neighbor.

Bob: I’m out of state, but I’m hoping to come to get back to California when my kids are older. Maybe when my daughter goes to Stanford, my alma mater, I’ll move out there.

Why there?

Mike: [My Santa Rosa Valley home is] close to my parents, close to where our roots are. We love the area—we’ve traveled the world and there’s no place like home. It's just beautiful: the mountains, the ocean five miles away. That’s gonna be the place we’ll stay once we’re done playing. We’ll probably die in that house.

Bob: I like the variety and diversity of California—mountains, oceans, deserts—there’s not really any place like it that has it all.

Who or what is your greatest California love?

Mike: It’s tough to beat the Ventura County and Santa Monica beaches. We grew up bodysurfing there. And we love the mountains too—up behind Ojai in the Santa Monica Mountains—my mom and wife go horseback riding there all the time. We love the Channel Islands too—on a clear day and you see them on the horizon. It's a great view.

Bob: The fact that you can escape into nature on a trail and see what the Native Americans saw hundreds of years ago—it’s cool.

What is the biggest misperception about California?

Mike: That it’s all about showbiz and Hollywood. You get a whole range of people here—even cowboy types. It’s so diverse.

Bob: Yeah, everyone sees the Hollywood sign and that’s what they attach to California—but that’s just a very small part of this place.

What is the stereotype that most holds true?

Mike: The language. “Dude”—it’s what we grew up saying. When people hear us talk they know we’re from California.

Bob: Yeah: “Chill out, dude.”

What is your favorite Golden State moment?

Mike: The sunsets on the beach. We always go to the huge sand hill on the way to Malibu. I go up that and watch the sunset and the waves crashing. Mornings are great too—the crystal-clear air, the blue sky, the crispness. You can wake up on Christmas and go outside to a 75º day.

Bob: The cool shade. The air’s a little thicker on the east coast. I like the freshness in California—just throw on a light sweater at night and a t-shirt during the day.

Time for a road trip—where are you going?

Bob: I’d go up Highway 1 and stop at Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, then spend the night at Ventana Inn. Then go to Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and I’ve gotta stop at Stanford. Then go across the Golden Gate Bridge into Muir Woods and then keep going up to Napa to do some wine tasting. Then come back and do it all over again.

Mike: I'd hit the national parks. We’d go to Sequoia National Park—my wife has never been and I want her to see those big trees. Then we’d hit Yosemite, then Lake Tahoe and go out on a boat on the water. We’d drive around the lake—on the California side, of course—roll all the way up the state, then zoom down the I-5 to Joshua Tree National Park.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be?

Bob: A carne asada soft taco or a chile verde burrito—they seem to get it right in Southern California. I’m always looking for authentic Mexican food.

Mike: We’d always go to Somis Market near Camarillo. It was in the middle of nowhere, and we hit it almost every day. It was pretty greasy and fattening, but it had the best flavor, and you couldn’t match those beans and rice and the sauces and salsas. To this day our favorite is Mexican food. A huevos rancheros breakfast—you can’t beat it.

Bob: Yeah, if we had one last meal on this earth, it would be Mexican food from Somis Market.

Best California song?

Bob: “California Love” by Dr. Dre and Tupac.

Mike: And any songs by the Beach Boys—my dad went to high school with them. He taught us to play music at an early age, and he taught us all the Beach Boys songs—“Surfin’ USA,” “California Girls.”

How would your California dream day unfold?

Bob: We’d wake up early, drop the kids off at school. We’d go on a bike ride in Ojai, maybe take a boat out on Lake Casitas, then swing over to Carpinteria Beach—the so-called safest beach in the world—and do a little body-whomping. Come back down, pick up the kids, go to the Santa Barbara Zoo, maybe do some shopping at the outlets. Then bedtime with some good Mexican food.

Mike: I’d wake up early, go get some great breakfast down in Venice, then go roller-blading along the beach. Take off the blades and go into the ocean for a little dip. Then get some lunch in Bel Air, maybe catch a concert with friends at the Hollywood Bowl…

Bob: Which concert?

Mike: Maroon 5. Then I’d go watch the sunset…

Bob: Where?

Mike: In Yosemite.

Bob: You’d need a space ship. Sounds like a good day.

Mike: Then I’d come back and do some horseback riding with my wife, then shut it down. Yeah, that sounds like a good day. 

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Courtesy of BMW Performance Driving School

BMW Performance Driving School

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BMW Performance Driving School
Drive fast in an M Series BMW at a racetrack south of Palm Springs

Zooming really fast in an ultra-speedy M Series BMW may seem like one of those Walter Mitty moments that’s out of your reach. But now those need-for-speed fantasies are available to anyone willing to plunk down a credit card and show up, ready to roll, at the BMW Performance Driving School in the Southern California desert south of Palm Springs.

Splurges with a side of adrenaline don’t get much better than taking part in a high-speed driving classes, conducted year-round at The Thermal Club—a posh, 30-plus-acre racetrack, training facility, and motorsports club just south of Indio. The goal of all BMW classes, stress the course instructors, is to improve your driving skills and let you feel what it’s like to push these high-performance machines to the limit in a safe driving environment.

And push them you will. Instructors (many of them professional racers) first outfit you with ultra-padded race helmets, then show you how to customize your driving position in one of a fleet of gleaming M Series BMWs. Quick tips like “A squealing tire is a happy tire,” and “Don’t be afraid to skid,” are reminders that going fast—or at least faster than normal—is the order of the day.

Feel like James Bond zooming across the desert in an M Series BMW.

Then, seatbelt snugged, you head out on the tarmac. Depending on the course you sign up for, you could be pitted against your classmates in a time trial. Or you could do power laps of the impressive 1.6-mile South Palm Circuit, the largest track at The Thermal Club with banked turns and a pedal-to-the-metal main stretch. Finish off riding shotgun with your instructor, or another top driver, to see (and feel) what it’s like to go really, really fast around the track.

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Chill Chaser for Greater Palm Springs visits BMW Performance Driving Center
Watch as Amy Yerrington, the Chill Chaser for Greater Palm Springs, experiences the revved up BMW Performance Driving School West that pushes both amateur and professional drivers to their limits.
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Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Palm Springs VillageFest

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Palm Springs VillageFest
Thursday night has become a relaxed party in the desert city

The saying “Thursday is the new Friday” is not just a cheeky adage in Palm Springs: Every Thursday evening, this desert city takes on new life for VillageFest, a weekly street fair that brings casual party atmosphere to its downtown neighborhood.

VillageFest first started in 1991 as a way to draw more people downtown, and the event (which runs every week except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s) has grown to over 200 vendors, taking up three blocks of Palm Canyon Drive. Today, you’ll find a large amount of locally made jewelry, pottery, paintings, and other artwork. “Eighty percent of our vendors on the street are the actual artists selling their wares to the buyers,” says Jasmine Waits of the Palm Springs Parks and Recreation Department. 

You can also create an easy, local-favorites dinner out of the fair, like the homemade pizza at Livreri’s, tri-tip sandwiches from CV BBQ, or the breads and brownies from Aspen Mills Bakery. The convivial atmosphere, which lasts from 6 to 10 p.m., attracts a happy mix of out-of-towners and locals (the latter often bring their pooches for an evening stroll), while guitarists, drummers, and other musicians keep things humming.

The weekly fair has had an effect on the rest of downtown, too. Many stores on Palm Canyon Drive stay open late, such as Canyon Rose Boutique and Lappert’s Ice Cream (look for the “BOLT,” or Businesses Open Late Thursday, sign in the window). And many bars and restaurants offer Thursday night specials, like $4 sliders at Village Pub, or the half-price appetizers and drinks at LG’s Prime Steakhouse. If you want to see more art, the outstanding Palm Springs Art Museum does free admission on Thursday nights, too. “VillageFest is one of the longest running weekly art and craft festivals around,” says Waits, “because it has our small-town feel: local art, yummy local foods, and lots of good times.”

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Pascal Shirley
El Paseo, California, at dusk

El Paseo

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El Paseo
Visit chic shops and galleries along the desert’s Rodeo Drive

Give yourself plenty of time to stroll along the swanky El Paseo district in Palm Desert. First, you’ll want to see all the art. A roughly 1-mile strip and adjacent streets are home to one of the largest concentrations of art galleries anywhere in Southern California. As inviting and engaging as a European salon, these galleries let you get close to art, chat with knowledgeable gallery owners and staff, and even meet the artists during special openings and events.

There’s also the photo-worthy public art installations along El Paseo Drive that make the stroll that much more memorable. The renowned El Paseo Art Walk, happening on the first Friday of every month, November through May, is a great opportunity to attend exhibit openings and artist receptions.

Then you’ll want to get something to eat—dining al fresco is the way it’s often done here. Try oysters on the half-shell at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant, or wood-fired pizza at Sammy’s with nothing but a blue (or starry) sky above. Or perhaps order a juicy steak accompanied by jazz in the more sequestered environs of Sullivan's Steakhouse.

And of course—there’s the shopping. There’s a reason El Paseo reminds people of Rodeo Drive, what with the impeccably appointed boutiques of top designers, including Bottega Veneta and St. John, tempting you to come in brandishing your credit card. Find more shops at the largely open-air (and exquisitely manicured) Gardens on El Paseo complex: Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor, Trina Turk, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Bahamas, and more.

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SPECIAL FEATURE
From edgy rock n’ roll to haute couture fashion, there’s a festival for you in the desert

For all of the desert’s natural splendour and outdoor destinations, creativity comes with the territory, too. Throughout the year, the region finds ways to celebrate art, design, music, and film...

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Lucas Himovitz
Palm Springs golf course
Kodiak Greenwood

Palm Springs Golf

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Palm Springs Golf
Welcome to the (Coachella) Valley of Golf

Robert Trent Jones Jr., Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus—the list of top pros who have designed championship courses in the Palm Springs region couldn’t get more name-droppy, at least when it comes to golf. Add mountain and desert vistas that make waiting for your tee time a pleasure, and you can see why the Coachella Valley tops so many golfers’ lists of favorite places to hit the links.

A staggering 124 courses dot the valley; it’s said to be the greatest concentration of golf courses in the world. Some of the best known are at La Quinta’s PGA West Golf Club & Resort. Three public courses offer tight fairways, multi-tiered greens, deep sand bunkers, and plenty of water features. At Indian Wells Golf Resort, test your skills on the rolling Celebrity Course, or try the peaceful Players Course—its road- and house-free surroundings make for especially beautiful backdrops while you play. If you’re aiming to hone your skills, consider taking a lesson with one of the course’s outstanding pros. You can also have your swing evaluated at Indian Wells’ Callaway Performance Center.

Also among the area’s must-play links are the Mountain View and Firecliff courses at Desert Willow Golf Resort. With more than 100 bunkers and green surrounds that protect the par throughout, the Firecliff was designed with the higher-skill player in mind, while the the Mountain View course offers a still challenging but more forgiving set of links.

Ten miles away, SilverRock Resort boasts one of the longest tracks in all of Southern California at 7,600 yards; the course, a onetime Bob Hope Classic host, is wrapped around the base of the Santa Monica mountains, making for a memorable setting. Other nearby not-to-be-missed links include Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club and Escena Golf Club. Some resorts, like Indian Wells and La Quinta, offer stay-and-play specials; be sure to ask when booking.

Sunnylands estate, Palm Springs, California
Courtesy of Sunnylands

Sunnylands

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Sunnylands
Tour a mid-century modern masterpiece

This 200-acre former estate of publishing magnate and UK ambassador Walter Annenberg and his wife Lenore, dubbed Sunnylands, lets you peek into a lifestyle of the uber-rich and connected. The couples’ glass-walled 25,000-square-foot home is a mid-century modern masterpiece that showcases a notable art collection. Though many of the Annenberg’s original pieces are now on display in museums, outstanding replicas let you get a sense of how dizzyingly fabulous is—you’ll find works by Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, and other masters. The artistic style unfolds in Sunnylands’ extensive gardens too—many are landscaped in sweeping bands of color to evoke Impressionist art. The garden is also home to many local and migratory bird species; once a week (Fridays at 8:45 a.m., October – May) a free bird walk is led by knowledgeable birders.

While you can stroll through the 1.25 miles of garden paths for no charge, you must sign up well in advance to purchase a ticket for a guided tour of the house. (It’s worth the wait.) In addition to the artworks, you can peruse the dozens of photographs displayed on the walls—look for familiar faces of presidents, celebrities, and royalty in many of them, a glimpse into the lofty social circles that the Annenbergs inhabited. In fact, the Rancho Mirage property, nicknamed the “West Coast Camp David,” still serves as a meeting place for global leaders. A museum, a theater, and an indoor/outdoor cafe (with stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains) are also housed in striking glass buildings. Note: Both the house and gardens are closed in August.

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Courtesy of The Living Desert

The Living Desert

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The Living Desert
See cool desert critters from around the world

Talk about survival skills. The animals and plants on show at the extraordinary Living Desert Zoo & Gardens shed light on the amazing adaptions that make it possible to survive in the desert’s harsh environment. Observe an incredible array—more than 1,400 species in all—of cacti, yucca, and other desert plants that grow in California’s Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, as well as other deserts around the world. You’ll see—and learn about—desert animals too, some of them undeniable charmers. African meerkats rise up on their hind legs, swaying as they pivot their heads and sniff the air. Desert foxes, with enormous bat-like ears, curl up tight for afternoon naps. And giraffes crane their necks and stretch out extraordinarily purple tongues to nibble on grasses outside their enclosures.

This isn’t your typical zoo, where little ones have to strain to see the animals tucked deep inside their enclosures. Here, the wildlife can walk right up to the fence! For an extra charge, your courageous kiddos can ride camels or let the giraffes lick food right from their palms.

Cool morning tends to be the best time to see animals in action, so come early if you can. That’s not to say afternoons don’t have their merits: As the day heats up, tortoises and lizards come out to absorb the sun and, in the late afternoon, the zoo’s nocturnal animals, like owls and bats, start to stir. Evenings are also a pleasant time to stretch your legs on The Living Desert’s trail network, which leads into the nearby Santa Rosa Mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for native roadrunners dashing among the desert shrubs, looking for lizards and other prey.

For education on desert terrain, head to the model train exhibit. Its 3,300 feet of track winds past miniature versions of desert landmarks such as Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. Or let kids loose in the one-acre Gecko Gulch playground, where they’ll slide through a replica of a saguaro cactus, scale a lizard sculpture, pan for gold, or dig in a sand dune.

This is a sprawling 100-acre complex, so unless you plan on lugging your little ones through the Palm Desert heat, purchase tickets for the park’s shuttle service. It’s free for kids ages 3 and younger. If you will be walking with stroller-aged kids, bring a jogging or all-terrain ride because many of the paths are dirt.

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Courtesy Hyatt Regency Inidan Wells Resort & Spa

Palm Springs' Luxury Resorts

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Palm Springs' Luxury Resorts
Resplendent relaxation is what Palm Springs does

Ironically, luxury never rests. Palm Springs is constantly elevating indulgence to new highs, with swanky, imaginative do-overs of existing luxe lodgings—such as the splashy Hard Rock Hotel and the Saguaro Palm Springs —and subtler, though no less opulent remakes, like the boutique Colony Palms Hotel and Sparrows Lodge, a rustic-chic gem in the heart of town. Palm Springs’ pampering is about the details: crafted after a Mediterranean-style pensione, Korakia Pensione eschews phones and TVs in favor of outdoor film screenings and afternoon Moroccan tea. At the ultra-refined Parker Palm Springs, relax in private villas with intimate hot tubs. With luxury resorts come luxury spas, with treatments that sound as beautiful as the dramatic surroundings. Relax in private outdoor treatment cabanas at Estrella Spa at Viceroy Palm Springs Resort. At SpaTerre at the Riviera Palm Springs, dip into a Watsu pool, heated to your body temperature. Or turn the world off with a soak in natural, hot springs mineral spas in Desert Hot Springs. Decadence, defined and refined.

Palm Springs at dusk
David A Lee

Palm Springs Nightlife

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Palm Springs Nightlife
Hip pool scenes heat up the desert

Palm Springs is the best kind of party town, always evolving and never resting on its laurels. The cool crowd heads to the desert region for hip hotels with poolside DJs, al fresco cocktails, live entertainment, and energetic dance floors.  

Take a dip—or just hang out poolside with a Cranky Coyote cocktail—at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, or venture into the hotel’s Amigo Room, a quirky hipster-magnet that on any given night may host stand-up comedy, bingo, and even arts-and-crafts sessions. Serious beer aficionados need look no further than Yard House, a laid-back spot that caters to hop-heads and kolsch lovers alike with a host of unusual microbrews from all over the world.

Head to the recently resurrected Hotel Zoso for more pool party fun, or check out relative newcomer High Bar at Rowan Palm Springs, to see the only rooftop pool bar in the area. Night-time also brings a host of bars serving desert-cool cocktails in outdoor settings: on weeknights, the Soleil at the Riviera lets you relax by poolside fire pits to watch the stars while you sip.

If working it out on the dance floor is what you have in mind, party music keeps thumping late at Shanghai Reds, Village Pub, and Zelda’s Nightclub, while Toucan’s and Hunter’s Nightclub see to it that the LGBTQ crowd has its share of raucous boogie-down too. For live entertainment, see who’s performing at area casinos, which draw headliners ranging from classic crooners (Johnny Mathis) to of-the-moment stars (Robin Thicke, Snow Patrol). On Thursday evenings, a more casual party unravels along Palm Canyon Drive, as locals and visitors enjoy live bands, booths set up by local shops and artisans, and various food purveyors at VillageFest.   

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Cocktail Culture - Wander List
Pour one-part classic cocktails, add a splash of handcrafted recipes and garnish with a twist of tropical tiki vibes, and you have the recipe for cocktail culture in Greater Palm Springs. From its historic haunts to its modern mixologists, this oasis is no stranger to lush libations. Old Hollywood once frequented the bars where a new guard is now rediscovering the old classics.
LGBTQ Party in Palm Springs
David A Lee

LGBTQ Travel in the Deserts

LGBTQ Travel in the Deserts
LGBTQ Travel

Fabulous pool parties. Stylish bars and impeccably designed hotels. Pampering spas and energetic nightclubs. Lavish events. There’s no question that the Palm Springs region ranks as one of the world’s top destinations for LGBTQ travelers. Whether you’re a couple or looking for a singles scene, Palm Springs and its neighboring cities offer memorable experiences—from tranquil retreats to clothing-optional resorts.

"The scene really heats up when the weather cools down"

The scene really heats up when the weather cools down in late autumn and winter. Some estimates put the local LGBTQ population at over 30 percent, and in November, the Greater Palm Springs Pride event kicks off the season with an eye-popping parade and block party, and games and arts-and-crafts activities for kids of all ages. It’s among the many signature LGBTQ gatherings that take place during the year. The party-filled Dinah Shore Weekend/Palm Springs Women’s Weekend (or just “The Dinah”) coincides with the ANA Inspiration LPGA Golf Championship, and is considered the world’s largest lesbian happening. A few weeks later, it’s the guys’ turn, and time for the dancing and pool parties of the Palm Springs White Party, the area’s biggest annual gay event.

In September, cinephiles flock to Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival, which attracts submissions and attendees from around the world. Nearby Cathedral City has its own LGBTQ Days event, a free festival held over Easter weekend featuring an opening-night kickoff party, a Bed Race through the streets of the city, and live musical performances. And when it comes to one particular scene, Palm Springs will not be outdone: The Palm Springs Leather Pride weekend in late October has become one of the nation’s largest events of its kind, culminating in the crowning of Mr. Leather.

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Dave Lauridsen

Route 66

Route 66
Get your kicks on America’s legendary highway

Back in its glory days, Route 66 began in Chicago and ended along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific, a 2,451-mile journey through farmlands, plains, and desert. The highway crossed the Colorado River and entered California, then after a long stretch through the Mojave (where an extensive section can still be driven) reached the Inland Empire.

In Victorville, the California Route 66 Museum tells the story of the iconic Mother Road through rare artifacts—from a vintage neon motel sign to remnants from Hulaville, a former folk art site on the road. You’ll also find historic restaurants along surviving sections of Route 66. Not far from the museum, there’s Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe, home to a famous patty melt. While in San Bernardino, the Mitla Cafe opened in 1937 and still serves such classics its home-style menudo, a traditional Mexican soup. And be sure to keep your eyes open for iconic Route 66 landmarks, especially the tepee-shaped rooms at San Bernardino’s Wigwam Motel.

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

La Quinta

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La Quinta
A golf mecca with spas and some surprising finds

This manicured complex snugged up against the pink-hued Santa Rosa Mountains is best known for world-class golf. Outstanding courses, designed by legendary players such as Tom Fazio, Greg Norman, and Jack Nicklaus, include the legendary PGA West Golf Club & Resort, SilverRock Resort, and The Quarry at La Quinta, as well as the five championship courses within La Quinta Resort. Tennis anyone? La Quinta is also ranked among the country’s top tennis resorts. It’s great for families and pets too: collections of hacienda-style rooms all center around a series of intimate swimming pools, and the peaceful spa offers (we’re not kidding) canine massages.

The La Quinta area also has great hiking; try the pleasant Cove to Lake Trail (5 miles/8 kilometers round-trip), or, for a strenuous tromp into spectacular desert, follow the 7.5-mile Boo Hoff Trail (be sure to carry plenty of water, and avoid the hottest times of the day). Refuel with farm-to-table dishes prepared by James Beard award–winning chef Jimmy Schmidt at Morgan’s in the Desert, or maybe just snack on a Nutella or fresh strawberry cupcake at Tiffany’s Sweet Spot. For gifts, check out La Quinta Olive Oil Company, or find a vintage bauble at As Time Goes By in La Quinta’s Old Town district.

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La Quinta Resort & Club: California Luxury Minute Resorts
Whether you're interested in fairways, drop shots, or facials, La Quinta in Greater Palm Springs has a place to play. The Luxury Minute video series showcases California’s most opulent resorts and hotels in 60 seconds.
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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Palm Canyons

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Palm Canyons
Hundreds of towering palms offer serenity and shade

For an intimate look at the region’s amazing desert environment, plan a visit to one of the palm canyons that lie within Agua Caliente Reservation land. All of the palm canyons—Murray, Andreas, Tahquitz (pronounced “Tah-quits”), Chino, and Palm Canyons—are beautiful, but Palm Canyon is the showstopper. Easily accessed from the end of South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, this 15-mile/24-km-long canyon is home to the world's largest stand of California Fan Palm trees—more than 3,000 palms in all.

Native Cahuilla (“Kaw-we-ah”) Indians lived in these cool, natural retreats, and Palm Canyon was a favorite resting spot. Hike along Palm Canyon Trail, moving through a serene world punctuated by birdsong the castanet-click sounds made by the palm fronds moving in the wind. Fees are charged to enter the canyons, and some offer guided tours that shed light on Native American life.

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Palm Canyons
Majestic mountains surround Greater Palm Springs, luring visitors with a siren’s song of wildflower blooms and incredible rock formations—but these are far from the only treasures hidden within these ancient canyons. A closer look reveals a true treasure and the mountains’ best-kept secret: Palm Canyon, the world’s largest undisturbed palm oasis.
February

Home to one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture in the country, the Palm Springs region is a natural setting for this citywide event. Join thousands of design buffs...

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David A. Lee
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