For travelers who appreciate dramatic desert landscapes, Palm Springs tops the list of must-visit destinations. The San Jacinto Mountains, Joshua Tree National Park, and the surrounding resort communities—where mid-century modern architecture rules—offer travelers a restorative escape from the daily grind. This 4-day itinerary highlights some classics and a handful of unexpected excursions. If you’re interested in a luxury resort experience, stay in the casitas at La Quinta Resort & Club, part of the Waldorf Astoria Resort group. If you’re interested in experiencing life in a mid-century modern home, check into The Lautner, a 1947 compound designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John Lautner.
From the moment you deplane in Palm Springs, you’ll see—and feel—why this destination has long attracted travelers looking to unwind and relax. Head to your accommodations at either the Lautner or La Quinta Resort & Club and start your trip with some pool time. La Quinta has 41 pools spread over the resort’s 45 acres (some are for families; others are for swimmers 21 and over). At the Lautner, a dip in the saline plunge pool will refresh you for your afternoon of exploration. Next head to the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium, where more than 100 different species of cacti are on display, making it a great introduction for some of the flora you’ll see around Palm Springs during your stay. That night, enjoy dinner at Workshop Kitchen + Bar. The drinks are variations on such classic cocktails as Pisco Punch and a French 75, and the dishes change regularly based on what ingredients are in season. The real star of the show is the architecture—the restaurant won a James Beard Award in 2015 for restaurant design.
Sleep in this morning—after all, you’re here to take it easy. Start the day with huevos rancheros at King’s Highway, the hip restaurant in the Ace Hotel & Swim Club. Your day of cultural immersion begins with a private tour of Sunnylands, the former home of the late philanthropist and publisher Walter Annenberg. He and his wife Leonore welcomed political, business, educational, and entertainment leaders here for years. Guests on a private guided tour can wander the grounds, focus on the interior of the house, or enjoy a special birding-focused tour. Continue your home design tour at the Albert Frey House II, where the iconic architect built his home around a giant boulder and left the rock protruding into the living room. At the Kaufman Desert House, designed in 1946, your guide will regale you with stories about architect Richard Neutra and the home’s international style of architecture that ultimately inspired Frank Lloyd Wright to design Fallingwater. That night, get dinner at Sandfish by Engin Onural, a restaurant specializing in sushi and whiskey. Try the Foraged cocktail, made with white whiskey, juniper berries, grapefruit juice, Szechuan peppercorns, rose petals, and yuzu.
Today is all about the outdoors. Meet up with your driver from Desert Adventures, an outfitter that provides escorted tours in red jeeps all over the Coachella Valley, and head out for a tour and guided hike through Indian Canyons and Palm Canyon. Along the way, you’ll experience miles of sandstone rock. Keep your eyes peeled for Joshua trees. Following a picnic lunch, head to the Thermal Club, an exclusive private race track, to participate in the BMW Performance Driving School. Your “class” for the day is rigorous—almost two hours behind the wheel, with most of that time spent moving. The day concludes at 4 Saints, a new bar and restaurant located on the roof of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel. Come well before sunset and order a cocktail, or a glass of fortified wine, to watch day turn to dusk. If you’re here with a group, order a selection of Chef Stephen Wambach’s small plates, designed for sharing.
Your final day in Palm Springs is all about pampering. Start the morning with breakfast at your hotel. Then head to Desert Hot Springs, where you’ll spend a few hours at Two Bunch Palms, a hotel and hot springs spa. The High Desert Spa Day package includes day access to the mineral springs, access to yoga and shaman classes, lunch, and a 60-minute treatment of your choice (a facial, massage, or mud bath are all options). Spa therapists can also provide a range of treatment options including Craniosacral Therapy, Chakra Balance Massage, Desert Detox Clay Wraps, and Water Shiatsu. When you’re suitably relaxed, drive back to Palm Springs to check out the area’s most popular shopping spots, including Trina Turk, Raymond Lawrence, and BKB Handcrafted Art + Design. Pick out unique gifts to remind you of the desert vibe before heading back to the airport for departure.
In Partnership with Afar.