Want Claire’s entire guide to Palm Springs? Check out her PDF!
WHY PALM SPRINGS?
Back when men smoking cigars would yell at back-lot kids, “You wanna be in a picture?” and directors wore three piece suits to set and startlets would start in the chorus just hoping for a chance, Hollywood needed a weekend hideaway. This hideaway needed to be an hour and a half from set, per studio contracts, and I’m pretty sure someone took a map and drew a line east. Palm Springs has been through several revolutions as Hollywood’s desert detachment, and has recently, with the help of some very popular music festivals and interior designers, is back on top as the “must stay” spot for a weekend away.
If you grew up in LA like I did, there’s a good chance that you grew up going to Palm Springs. Climbing out of the pool I would revel in how the water evaporated from my skin almost instantly. You could tell the sun was getting low and pool time was over when the water clung to your skin. This is before I realized it was a Mecca for mid century design, spitting distance to Joshua Tree, and home to some fabulous food, hotels, and shopping. The Palm Springs sun was enough of a selling point for me.
It’s a small town. Though chic and fun and fabulous, it isn’t a built up tourist destination the way Miami or Hawaii is. The locals love it here and, I understand, love it for what it is. Imagine almost a desert Austin. A town dedicated to it’s weirdness, to the fact that it appropriately has a forty foot statue of Marliyn Monroe with her skirt at her ears in the center of town. Palm Springs is a special place, and as more people discover and fall in love with it too, I hope it maintains that flamboyant “other-ness” that makes it the perfect departure from life in LA.
SO IF YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND 72 HOURS IN PALM SPRINGS, HERE IS YOUR CHEAT SHEET
1. Find a pool and a cocktail. Spend most of your time there.
2. Explore the architecture and culture.
3. Eat at Cheeky’s.
4. Wander in the desert.
…I’ll get into the details later.
THE WEEKEND PACKING LIST
It depends on whether you’re planning a fun girl’s weekend, a romantic getaway, or maybe just a “I to get out the city!” solo-cation, but overall, there’s a pretty standard list of what you’ll need fro 72 hours in Palm Springs. I always pack a maxi dress with amazing jewelry and a bright lip, because you never know when you’ll need to look just a little bit fabulous while on vacation.
2 bathing suits
1 cover up
1 pair light sweat pants
1 pair jean shorts
1 maxi dress
1 light jacket
1 pair cute sandals
1 pair closed toed shoes (motorcycle boots for me, chucks for most other people)
FOOD AND DRINK
Palm Springs was never thought of as much of a “foodie’s paradise,” however, the restaurant scene has shifted drastically in the last five years towards local, more personal food. There are buzzy local favorites that always have a line and trendy, sleek spots that are going full farm to table, plus some fun curveballs that are as kitsch as they are delicious.
622 N Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 327-7595
Get in line, it’s worth it, is probably the best advice I can give you about Cheeky’s. Second best advice would be to grab a Blue Bottle iced coffee from their bar to sip on while you wait. Other than having the best coffee in town, Cheeky’s has the best everything else. They have a flight of bacon on the menu. A bacon flight. If you haven’t had one, it’s an array of different types of glazed bacon, the jalapeño and the rosemary glazed being my favorites. Their Chilequiles, custard scrambled eggs, and the buttermilk waffles with salted butter are all awesome as well. This is the most popular spot in Palm Springs for a reason, and it is definitely worth the wait.
622 N Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 327-5678
Birba is immediately next door to Cheeky’s and, not coincidentally, owned by the same people. Definitely more of a sexy bar vibe with delicious gourmet pizza and salad, Birba is the perfect place to grab a light and refreshing cocktail and appetizers with friends.
515 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262 – (760) 321-1424
There’s a trend here: Jiao is also owned by the Cheeky’s people, and is their take on Asian Fusion. There is a dearth of good Asian food in Palm Springs, and Jiao happily steps in. It’s a great alternative when you’ve simple had too many bacon flights across the street.
196 S Indian Canyon Dr – (760) 778-0017
“The spatzel is the best-el!” said my brother Henry while the rest of us groaned. But truly, the spatzel is awesome. As is the schnitzel, and that earthy mushroom soup. Johannes is my favorite dinner in Palm Springs. It’s not trying to pretend it’s anywhere else, and just owns the fact that it serves wonderful Austrian cuisine. Okay, I know that the Alps + the mojave probably doesn’t seem like an appropriate mix, but the weiner schnitzel with lingonberry jam and cucumber salad is just simply the best. I could go on about how in one bite it’s the perfect combination of vibrant crispiness, barely tart sweetness, and creamy, cool refreshment, but honestly, it’s just a lovely, cozy way to spend an evening. The atmosphere is elegant and upscale, and the wine list is great as well.
800 N Palm Canyon Dr – 760-459-3451
Farm to table food and fancy cocktails have hit Palm Springs in a big way, with Workshop being the harbinger. The space is industrial and modern, the ceramics are heath, the cocktails are very good if you’re sick and tired of margaritas, and the food is exactly what you’re hoping for when you hear the phrase “farm to table.” The menu changes regularly, but the duck fat fries and seasonal pizza are delicious mainstays. If you’re lucky and are there when they have it, order the cauliflower brie gratin. Honestly, we just order a ton of appetizers and share those, but if you want a main, their hanger steak and the ribs are lovely as well. For cocktails, everyone loves the Palm Springer.
385 W Tahquitz Canyon Way – (760) 325-5059
Le Vellaruis captures a viewpoint on cooking and service that is not of this time or place. Paul, the dapper Belgian owner who looks wonderfully debonair in his creamy yellow suit with gold cufflinks, weaves between the tuxedoed waiters and doyennes with fairy floss hair, kissing cheeks and welcoming strangers with an ebullient “Bon soir!” Braised rabbit and Grand Marnier Soufflé are highlighted on the table-side menu. Glasses clink over intimate conversation in the cozy patio. I find it endlessly charming.
200 W Ramon Rd – (760) 325-2323
If a time machine exists in Palm Springs, it’s in the threshold of Melvyn’s, the piano bar and restaurant attached to the Ingleside Inn. The menu calls out Steak Diane, chicken pommeroy, veal ingleside, escargots in puff pastry, and other anachronistic wonders. The bar is peppered with photos of Mel and some of his regulars: Debi Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin to name a few. If you’re lucky, Mel will shake your hand as he makes his rounds. The piano player belts out an uptempo version of beyond the see as the dance floor fills. Cheek to cheek with a martini in hand, this is the perfect place to end an evening.
1550 N Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 323-4290
If you’re looking for an authentic little taqueria, JJ’s is not the spot for you. JJ’s, like the Chinese restaurant that has chow mein on the menu, specializes in that crowd pleasing rice and beans with fajitas style of Mexican food that sometimes is all you want. Get the carnitas or carne asada, they are my favorite.
2100 North Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 416-7584
This place is just so awesomely silly. The nights I’ve been there, the DJ plays Enrique Iglesias b-sides and the cupid shuffle, and you can dominate the dance floor well past 10 pm. For a lame early bird like me, this is heaven. If you’re a cool person who actually wants to dance with other people, you should go closer to 11 or 12. If you’re a very cool person, you’re having a dance party with friends in your hotel room or rental.
48980 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA – (951) 849-5255
This is a “leaving Palm Springs” tradition, much like hitting the Cabazon Outlets (more on that later). Dates are one of the many fruits to proliferate in the San Joaquin Valley, and the shakes here are a simple reminder of exactly where you are. My favorite is the banana date shake, which has that beautiful combination of that burnt caramel date flavor and ripe banana.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel vs Rental:
There are an array of charming/hip/cool/funky hotels in Palm Springs, but honestly, if you’re going with more than one other person, I would strongly recommend getting a rental. There are so many amazing mid century homes in Palm Springs, and how else are you going to get to plan that amazing poolside BBQ? If you want to be the coolest person of all time, may I recommend renting out the Frank Sinatra house? Yes, the house that JFK stayed in, and other very cool rat-packy peeps as well. If you’re going the rental route, Home Away has numerous homes at most price points that you can rent.
However, if it’s just you and your honey, a Hotel is the way to go. Palm Springs has a variety spanning the fun and funky to the most hipstery hippest to the very charming and intimate. Here are some of my favorite spots to stay:
4200 E Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 770-5000
This is the hotel that started it all, in my opinion. When Jonathan Adler renovated this tucked away mid century gem, it heralded the new wave of Palm Springs cool. My favorite aspect of this hotel, other than the impeccable design, is how privatized it is. Every corner feels a bid hidden. You can hear conversations, but see no people. For such a large hotel, it’s surprising how secluded you can feel walking the grounds. The cocktails are expensive but very good, Norma’s (the more casual bistro) is better than Mr. Parker’s (the fancy, expensive spot), and the spa is the best in the city for that robes/slippers/jacuzzis spa experience. Also, they allow pets!
701 E Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 325-9900
The Ace is exactly how you’d imagine it: Beards and photobooths and whiskey. Everyone has interesting, arcane tattoos that I’m too intimidated to ask them about. The layout is open, like an old school motel, there’s a vintage store next to the towel booth, and I’m pretty sure the pool is public, adding to it’s raucous energy. Order the spicy margarita and the hummus platter if you’re relaxing poolside. Come with a huge group of friends and bring pool toys.
1330 E. Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 327-2300
One of the newer boutique hotels is Sparrows. Located in a former 1950s motel, the owners transformed the simple 20 room establishment with redwood and stone-clad walls, outdoor fireplaces and earthy tones giving it the appearance of a stylized ranch. I love how this is such a decisive left turn away from mid century modernism and embracing the minimalist desert aesthetic of a time past.
257 S Patencio Rd – (760) 864-6411
Crafted after a Mediterranean-style pensione, Korakia blends the silhouette of Morracco with a just a hint of the Mediterranean in it’s super secluded 8 suite compound. After a lnaguid breakfast in bed (think French toast and fresh fruit), relax by the pool with a vintage book from the library lounge, then saunter over to the spa for their signature service, a Raindrop Massage. Spend the rest of the afternoon laying underneath olive trees and bougainvillea vines, before you ride you gratis bikes into town for dinner. When you return, ready for bed, strawberries and chocolate fondue wait for you. So yeah, it’s a little out of control in the romance department and sounds absolutely divine.
1035 North Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 327-1446
Dazzles is where you go to find Libbey Glassware, vintage pink flamingos, and sometimes an under-market C. Jere wall sculpture. It’s filled with tons of hidden treasures and is run by the sweetest people.
891 N Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 416-2856
If there was a Queen of Palm Springs, Trina Turk would have a strong claim to the throne. Her clothing and decor have the perfect blend of color, modernity, and fun that makes them encapsulate Palm Springs glamor. If you’re looking to bring from Palm Springs fabulousness into your own home, check out her bed linens and outdoor fabric.
745 North Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 320-5455
Another fabulous consignment shop on the main drag, Modern Way is not the place you’ll find deals, but it is where you’ll find perfectly curated mid century decor. They always have something unexpected in the window, and are such a fun place to window shop.
666 N Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 416-1766
If your taste skews more late 60s/ early 70s, Retrospect will speak to you. The furniture is always amazing, even if you’re just browsing, and you never know what they might have hidden upstairs. The service here is great and the shop owner is a wealth of knowledge and super helpful.
373 S Palm Canyon Dr – (760) 778-6224
For sputnik style lamps, Vintage Oasis is the place to visit. All made by hand, sometimes utilizing vintage supplies, each lamp is a bit unique.
48750 Seminole Dr #100, Cabazon, CA – (951) 922-3000
This is a must stop on your way out of town. Pick up some sweats from James Perse or Rag & Bone jeans from the Barney’s Co-op; there is a ton to choose from here.