While New Jersey offers plenty to do during the winter months, it doesn’t give us many sunny days from January through March. A getaway to Palm Springs, California, might be just what is needed to make it through the winter – especially for those who might get SAD (seasonal affect disorder) after the holidays. This region offers something for everyone. We have your guide for everything to do in the area while you’re in the area. Read on to plan your Palm Springs getaway.
About the Region
Located in the Coachella Valley of California, Palm Springs offers a combination of culture, nature, and relaxation for an amazing vacation anytime. The chill attitude of the people, the prevailing Mid-century Modern Architecture, the beauty of the surrounding mountains against the blue sky, and the dry, sunny climate instill a sense of calm and wonder.
The Cahuilla Indians lived in the Coachella Desert region over 2,000 years ago. According to the Palm Springs Historical Society, they were the first residents of the area. Even so, in 1876, “the U.S. government established the first reservations for bands of Cahuilla Indians, one of which was the Agua Caliente (“Hot Water”) Indian Reservation, located in the areas now known as Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Cathedral City.”
The Southern Pacific Railroad received non-reservation land sections granted by the federal government to build tracks through the Sonoran Desert. John Guthrie McCallum is considered the first non-Indian settler in Palm Springs, where he moved his family in 1884.
In the 1930s, Palm Springs became a destination for Hollywood celebrities and remained so through the 1960s. Actors such as Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, and members of The Rat Pack, including Hoboken’s own Frank Sinatra, chose Palm Springs as an escape for privacy and because it fit into the “two-hour rule” implemented by studios. This rule required actors under contract to be available within two hours from the studio for any last-minute film shoots.
In addition to being known as a playground for Hollywood stars, Palm Springs is known for its distinctive architecture. The city is “home to the largest collection of midcentury modern architecture in the United States per the National Register of Historic Places,” according to Treehugger, a modern sustainability site. Starchitects such as Donald Wexler, William “Bill” Krisel, and George and Robert Alexander developed houses and buildings in this distinctive style.
These historical houses had become old-fashioned in the 1970s and 1980s, according to Roger Freeman of the Palm Springs Historical Society, and “suffered neglect.” It wasn’t until the early-to-mid 1990s that the resurgence in Palm Springs began when early modernist aficionados began purchasing these ‘forgotten treasures.’ The renovation of the Kaufmann House, designed by Richard Neutra, sparked media attention, which, in turn, helped to bring about renewed interest in midcentury design.
Palm Springs has long been a destination for the LGBTQ+ community, and renowned architect Hugh Kaptur “credited the LGBT community” as being instrumental to “preserving and restoring midcentury homes in Palm Springs,” said Freeman. Modernism Week is a celebration of midcentury architecture and design. It began in 2006, and normally occurs in February. During this week, some individual houses are open for touring.
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As for other annual events, the Palm Springs International Film Festival was instituted in 1989 by then-Mayor Sonny Bono, and the event usually occurs in January. The Coachella Music Festival, which began in 1999, typically happens in April and brings many younger people to the area.
A flight from Newark Liberty Airport to Palm Springs takes between six and eight hours, depending on the airline and whether a connecting flight is necessary. Read below for suggestions on what to do and where to go on a Palm Springs getaway.
Where To Stay
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs | 100 W Tahquitz Canyon Way
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel is where urban charm meets beautiful scenery. The 153 spacious guestrooms and suites offer a retreat-style experience. Guests can watch the sunset at the rooftop pool and bar while sipping on cocktails. Dine at one of the two restaurants featuring seasonal, shareable small plates made from fresh, local ingredients.
The Parker Palm Springs | 4200 E Palm Canyon Drive
(Photo credit: The Parker Palm Springs)
This bright, eclectic hotel is the epitome of IG-worthy. The luxury venue boasts a variety of pools, a tennis court, a croquet lawn, a pétanque court, a 24-hour fitness studio, and other activities on the premises like hiking, cycling, and golf. Guests can choose from villas, suites, poolside rooms, hammock rooms, and more.
Korakia Pensione | 257 S Patencio Road
(Photo credit: Korakia Pensione)
After being restored in 1989, this property was crafted into a Mediterranean-style resort. The historic villas, which rest on 1.5 lush acres, consisting of bungalows, guesthouses, gardens, and pools. There are citrus blossoms, olive trees, oleander bushes, date palms, bougainvillea vines, and Moroccan fountains all throughout the main courtyard area, offering a relaxing ambiance.
Sparrows Lodge | 1330 E Palm Canyon Drive
(Photo credit: Sparrows Lodge)
Originally built as Castle’s Red Barn in 1952 by MGM actor Don Castle and his wife Zetta, it was one of the original resort getaways for the Hollywood elite – a truly one-of-a-kind venue for film history buffs. The Lodge has a modern rustic vibe that carries through to guest rooms, communal barn, outdoor fire pit, and vegetable garden, accented by a collection of fine art including works by Ruscha, Kelly, Katz & Baldessari. Sparrows Lodge is located in South Palm Springs. It is within walking distance of great restaurants.
Things To Do
Architecture Tour | Self-guided
Besides great weather, Palm Springs is known for its magnificent mid-century modern architecture. “The dramatic geographic surroundings of the Coachella Valley inspired a design aesthetic in the middle of the 20th Century now called Desert Modernism. It’s recognizable by its minimalist, clean lines and the seamless blur of indoor and outdoor space.” Open floor plans, large windows, and sliding glass doors help create indoor-outdoor living spaces.
Moorten Botanical Garden | 1701 S Palm Canyon Drive
Do you love cacti, succulents, and other desert plants? Come visit the world’s first “cactarium,” a word coined by Chester and Patricia Moorten, who created this privately owned arboretum in 1938. Located roughly 1.5 miles from downtown Palm Springs, the Moorten collection boasts over 3,000 types of plants native to California, Mexico, and South Africa. In addition, the Moorten family home, known as “Cactus Castle,” is located on the grounds and is available for weddings.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway | 1 Tram Way
(Photo credit: @palmspringsaerialtramway)
Taking a trip on the tram is a must for all visitors to Palm Springs. This engineering feat, completed in 1963, was termed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” due to the ingenious use of helicopters in erecting four of the five supporting towers. The 2.5-mile ascent to the summit takes about 10 minutes and might be a bit unnerving for some.
But arriving at Mount San Jacinto State Park, seeing the views, taking a nature walk, or hiking the trails makes the trip worthwhile. Grab a bite and a drink inside the Mountain Station at the Lookout Lounge or have lunch or dinner at Peaks Restaurant, which offers contemporary California cuisine and incredible views.
Palm Springs Art Museum | 101 Museum Drive
(Photo credit: @psartmuseum)
The Palm Springs Desert Museum was first founded downtown in 1938 and focused on natural science exhibits, Cahuilla Indian artifacts, and hiking excursions. In 2005, the museum changed its name to the Palm Springs Art Museum, emphasizing the visual and performing arts. The museum holds a growing permanent collection of over 12,000 objects rooted in modern and contemporary art, architecture, and design. In addition to the museum’s current and upcoming exhibits, it hosts a series of online exhibitions from its permanent collection. All in-person visitors must make a reservation and purchase tickets online.
Palm Springs Historical Society Biking + Walking Tours | 221 South Palm Canyon Drive
(Photo credit: @palmspringshistoricalsociety)
The Palm Springs Historical Society provides guided group tours of the city’s neighborhoods. These tours provide an easy-breezy way to see the architectural gems where various celebrities lived and stayed, such as Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms home or the vintage inns visited by Queen Latifah and Miley Cyrus. Whether you’re strolling or rolling, it’s a beautiful way to spend 2 – 2.5 hours of your day. Private tours are also available.
Other Notable Activities
Going to the casinos. Hiking. Playing golf, pickleball, and tennis. Soaking up the sun by the pool. Visiting other desert cities and sites, such as Cathedral City, La Quinta, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage. Horseback riding, rock climbing, and stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park.
Places To Eat
Elmer’s | 1030 E Palm Canyon Drive
(Photo credit: @elmers_restaurants)
This reliable diner is the only franchise location outside of the Pacific Northwest. It began as Elmer’s Colonial Pancake House in Portland, OR, founded in 1960. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner during all business hours. Make sure to order a freshly baked buttermilk biscuit to accompany any meal.
Fuzion Five | 285 S Palm Canyon Drive
(Photo credit: @fuzionfive)
The herbs, spices, and dishes of Vietnamese and Lao Cuisine are blended and make up the menu at Fuzion Five. The spring rolls come in five varieties, are wrapped in clear rice paper, and taste spring-fresh. The pho broth simmers for 14 hours with five Vietnamese spices, roasted shallots, and ginger. Meat, seafood, and vegan options are available for most dishes. Fuzion Five is open for lunch, happy hour, and dinner.
Koffi (South Palm Springs) | 1700 Camino Real
Add Koffi to your daily morning ritual. It’s the place to come for its signature coffee roasts and a light bite for breakfast. The dark roast doesn’t disappoint, and the muffins are among the biggest and the best. With three locations in Palm Springs and one in Rancho Mirage, Koffi is never far away for a quick pick-me-up.
Las Casuelas Terraza | 222 S Palm Canyon Drive
(Photo credit: @lascasuelasterraza)
Situated in a historic 1920s Palm Springs casita, this second Las Casuelas restaurant serves authentic “award-winning food handed down through four generations.” The Spanish architecture keeps with the indoor-outdoor lifestyle of the city, with three outdoor dining patios and breezes of fresh air coming in while you eat. The guac is superb, the dishes are delicious, and the bar is stocked with more than 100 types of tequila for perfect margaritas.
Lulu California Bistro | 200 South Palm Canyon Drive
Owners and New York transplants Barbara and Jerry Keller opened Lulu’s, “Palm Springs’ hippest restaurant,” in 2011 after a successful decade running its sister restaurant Acqua in Rancho Mirage. The ambiance and art keep Lulu buzzing, while the food, including the vegetarian/vegan menus, keeps people coming back. The Wild Mushroom Soup and Signature Chocolate Cake make great bookends to any meal.
Places to Shop
Desert Hills Premium Outlets | 48400 Seminole Drive, Cabazon
(Photo credit: @deserthillspo)
Located about 30 minutes west of Palm Springs, this outdoor mall has many luxury shops, such as Balenciaga, Burberry, Fendi, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Louboutin, Montblanc, Prada, Theory, and Tom Ford. Other retailers include Alice + Olivia, Adriano Goldschmied, Banana Republic, Coach, Ecco, J. Crew, Kate Spade, Lucky, Lululemon, and Nautica. For high-end bargain hunters, this is the place to find special items.
Pelago | 901 N Palm Canyon Drive, #101
This home and furniture store is the place to come for beautiful, retro-modern design items to style your home. Owner Mark Wallaert opened this store roughly ten years ago and has filled it with items like Chilewich floor and table mats, Blu Dot and Fermob lighting, Goa cutlery, and Iron Thread Design furniture. Two decorative pieces that stand out are the Odessa Wall Panel art – a Pelago Exclusive – by Submaterial, and the Retro Bullet Planters in various colors by Hip Haven.
The Shag Store | 745 N Palm Canyon Drive
(Photo credit: @shagstoreps)
The artist SHAG is a painter, designer, and illustrator whose colorful, fun, and distinctive work is presented in “a gallery and retail shop dedicated to the art of Josh Agle aka SHAG.” He celebrates consumerism in his art and has drawn inspiration from decades of commercial illustration. But “he’s more concerned with the themes and narratives in the paintings, and the meanings a viewer might find.” So whether looking for prints, glassware, or clothing accessories, this is the place to find some SHAG.
The Shops on El Paseo | Palm Desert
(Photo credit: @theshopsonelpaseo)
Roughly a 15-mile drive from Palm Springs and situated near the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains is another outdoor shopping area. In addition to visiting stores like Athleta, Oliver Peoples, Ralph Lauren, and White House Black Market, art can be viewed in galleries and public art can be viewed along the street. Spend your day browsing, shopping, strolling, and people watching, then grab a slice at California Pizza Kitchen or any other restaurant along the way.
Wil Stiles | 875 N Palm Canyon Drive
This is a must-stop shop for fun and vibrant men’s and women’s clothing. The bold colors, playful patterns, and mid-century looks feel as fresh and modern as ever. While Stiles designs a men’s shirt line, the store also carries European designers for both the men’s and women’s lines. Find the perfect pairing for a Palm Springs playdate!
Side note: If you’re planning a trip to Palm Springs, consider looking on Airbnb, VRBO for unique places. In addition, check out Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palm house as a luxury vacation rental (pictured above).