Located two hours—and a world away—from Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a gracious, generous host, offering welcoming places to stay, enviable surroundings, and an enticing climate. Spring break vacations in March and April happen to be the perfect time to visit this California desert destination—far from the 100-degree temps of the summer months and filled with captivating events like the Desert Living “Spring” Home Show, March 8–10 (stellarexpos.com), Dance for Life Palm Springs, March 9 (danceforlifechicago.com/palmsprings.html), and the Kraft Nabisco Ladies Professional Golf Association Championship, April 1–7 (kncgolf.com).
WHERE TO STAY
From five-star pleasure palaces to unconventional hipster havens, Palm Springs accommodations cater to all tastes and inclinations. Depending on your mood and your travel companions, choose from some of our favorite hideaways.
Embracing the color palette of the surrounding Colorado Desert, The Saguaro offers a vibrant, energized atmosphere perfect for girlfriends’ getaways, yet laid-back enough for family excursions. Renowned chef Jose Garces mans the resort’s two restaurants: Tinto, a stylish spot for Basque-inspired tapas, wine, and creative cocktails; and El Jefe, a salute to Mexico City culture and cuisine with a hot shot tequila bar.
1800 East Palm Canyon Drive, 760-323-1711,jdvhotels.com/hotels/riverside/saguaro_palmsprings
Ace Hotel & Swim Club
You might expect to discover the regular DJ nights at this groovy spot (built on the foundation of a former Howard Johnson’s), but the weekly BINGO games (hosted by the ever-colorful Palm Springs personality Linda Gerard) and water aerobics classes might throw you for a loop. Suited more for a group with a loose, party vibe, the Ace entices with a quirky charm, spacious rooms, and happening scenes at King’s Highway, a reimagined American diner, and the aptly named Amigo Room bar.
701 East Palm Canyon Drive, 760-325-9900, acehotel.com/palmsprings
The Parker Palm Springs
The lavish Palm Springs Yacht Club spa, four red clay tennis courts, four pools, and two restaurants (one serving the infamous $1,000 Sevruga caviar and lobster omelet) make this property—the former site of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch—a destination devoted to luxury. Golfing enthusiasts will want to book a tee time at the next-door Seven Lakes Country Club’s 18-hole golf course, where, as legend has it, President Dwight D. Eisenhower scored his only hole in one.
4200 East Palm Canyon Drive, 760-770-5000, theparkerpalmsprings.com
La Quinta Resort & Club
A secluded, Spanish-style resort nestled at the base of the picturesque Santa Rosa Mountains, La Quinta Resort & Club was once the playground of Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, and other luminaries of old Hollywood. A larger-than-life air of exclusivity still reigns supreme at this sprawling property, with five championship golf courses, 23 tennis courts, 41 diminutive swimming pools, and a prominent spa with more than 35 treatment rooms for ultra-posh pampering.
49-499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta, 800-598-3828, laquintaresort.com
WHAT TO SEE
Boasting the world’s largest concentration of Mid-Century Modern architecture set against the stark natural beauty of the California desert landscape, Palm Springs is a feast for the eyes. Drawn by the dictates of desert living, notable architects and developers such as Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler, and William F. Cody created now-iconic structures that characterize Palm Springs. Hugging the ground, these sleek glass-enclosed buildings became one with their surroundings and came to define Desert Modernism. Experience these treasures firsthand by signing up for a guided tour through the Palm Springs Historical Society (pshistoricalsociety.org) or pick up a map of landmarks at the Palm Springs Official Visitor Center (visitpalmsprings.com), which was once the Tramway Gas Station designed by Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers.
If the great outdoors beckons you, you will find no shortage of alfresco activities. Don’t miss a thrilling 10-minute journey aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (pstramway.com), the world’s largest rotating tramcar. You’ll travel up the cliffs of Chico Canyon to an elevation of 8,500 feet, witnessing the breathtaking vistas of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument along the way. You can also opt to take a sunrise or sunset ride with Havnfun Hot Air Ballooning (flyhotairballoons.com), which will take you high above Palm Springs’ legendary golf courses, date and citrus groves, and rugged mountainous terrain.
Or, stay closer to the ground and experience all that this distinctive desert landscape has to offer. Traverse the breathtaking Tahquitz Canyon (tahquitzcanyon.com) hiking trails to discover the Tahquitz Falls, named for a legendary shaman of this area’s Native American Cahuilla tribe. Or, visit the nearby Indian Canyons Golf Resort (indiancanyonsgolf.com), once the playground of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, and Ronald Reagan.
If you have little ones in tow, let their imaginations run wild at The Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Garden (livingdesert.org), which features innovative exhibits of the unique flora and fauna that call the Coachella Valley home. Or, make a splash at Knott’s Soak City Water Park (soakcityps.com), where snaking slides, cool wave pools, raucous raft rides, and a lazy river make cooling off and chilling out an exhilarating affair for all ages.
WHERE TO SHOP & EAT
Fans of the inimitable Palm Springs aesthetic will want to plan an afternoon exploring the Uptown Design District’s (palmspringsuptowndesigndistrict.com) collection of art galleries, antiques stores, and consignment shops to bring a bit of California cool home. Don’t miss the treasure troves to be found at such design-centric retailers as Stephen Archdeacon Gallery (stephenarchdeacongallery.com), specializing in paintings, sculpture, and furniture by local artists; a La MOD (alamod768.com), a reliable resource for Mid-Century Modern furnishings; and Just Fabulous (bjustfabulous.com), a beloved boutique boasting fun gifts, books, and the largest collection of Jonathan Adler furniture and accessories in Palm Springs.
For a taste of Rodeo Drive in the desert, head to The Gardens on El Paseo and El Paseo Village (thegardensonelpaseo.com), luxury outdoor shopping plazas anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and designer boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Brooks Brothers, Cole Haan, and Coach.
Socialize with savvy Palm Springs denizens every Thursday evening at VillageFest (villagefest.org), a weekly street fair featuring vendors and entertainment along upscale Palm Canyon Drive; and Saturday mornings at the Palm Springs Open Air Market (palmspringsopenairemarket.com), a similar celebration of local art, food, and entertainment that sets up shop at the Spa Resort Casino (sparesortcasino.com).
Palm Springs dining and drinking options are just as diverse and appealing, ranging from Cheeky’s (cheekysps.com), a scenester spot for breakfast, lunch, and pastries highlighting local and seasonal ingredients (don’t miss the bacon flight); and TRIO (triopalmsprings.com), a local favorite, serving modern American food and wines in a convivial setting; to Europa (villaroyale.com/dining), a timeless, AAA Four Diamond restaurant custom-made for romantic rendezvous. And a Palm Springs jaunt wouldn’t be complete without an evening at the Palm Springs Follies (psfollies.com), an over-the-top Broadway-style production featuring the legendary Long-Legged Lovelies and Follies Gentlemen, who all range in age from 54 to 83.
WHAT TO PACK
A. Turquoise stud earrings in gold vermeil, $90, available at bluenile.com
B. “Flats” necklace by Kate Spade, $148, available at katespade.com
C. Silk-faille full skirt by Tibi, $525, available at tibi.com
D. “Miller” sandals by Tory Burch, $225, available at toryburch.com
E. Studs leather belt, $75 each, at J. McLaughlin in Hinsdale
Style Picks by Kendall McKinven.
Photography courtesy of ACE HOTEL & Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism