The Insider’s Guide to Palm Springs

· Updated on March 23, 2023

Often described (by me) as the most glamorous desert in the world, Palm Springs and I have a sorted past, most because I grew up in Southern California and it’s always been super accessible. Going there as a kid with my family, it wasn’t always my favorite place because we would visit during the summer months and my parents would force us go sightseeing on tours that I wasn’t particularly keen on as a kid. As an adult though, after figuring out there’s more to it than what I had been exposed to as a child, I’ve come to really love the area (outside of the splotches of ultra-right conservatives in the era of mango president, that often flood the area).

Now also remember that Greater Palm Springs is made up of nine cities, including Palm Springs, so don’t get thrown off when mapping out what to do because everything is relatively close to one another. All nine of the cities are worth exploring, but some have a bit more than others. Obviously Palm Springs itself with it’s mid-century modern architecture and streets lined with restaurants and boutique shops will keep you captivated, but spread out a bit and have a look at some other parts that make up the area. If you are into golf or just hanging in fancy golf clubs, La Quinta is the city to be. There’s also an abundance of art and cultureand shopping! Rancho Mirage is another golfer’s paradise and was once home to famous folks like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra. And in the heart of the Coachella Valley is Cathedral City, which has more of an outdoor vibe with epic hiking trails as well as shopping – although here you will find everything from trendy to vintage collectibles.

What To See

August is National Mountain Climbing Month. Let’s go to the top. #ClimbToTheTop #PalmSpringsAerialTramway

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For a marvelous view of the desert, take a 10-minute trip up the mountain on the world’s largest rotatingtrams. Once up top, take some killer panoramic photos and then head for a guided nature walk or hike a trail. It can get cold up there (I’ve played in the snow many times up there and then laid by the pool the same day), so dress appropriately. Back down where it can be warmer, get in your rental and just drive through the old neighborhoods. For architecture buffs or for anyone who appreciates vintage design, it’s a great way to see some really fun houses from the outside. If you want to step inside one of the houses, drive to the “House of Tomorrow,” which is a prime example of mid-century modern architecture. The home used to belong to Elvis Presley, and his bizarre décor style can be seen within. Think leopard print walls and pink, lots of pink.

ThePalm Spring Art Museum– Architecture and Design Center is also worth spending some time inside for a more in-depth overview of the area’s architecture and design. Additionally, the museum itself has a renowned collection of some of the world’s best art. Smaller galleries worth stopping by for some unique finds includeElena Bulatova Fine ArtandMichael Weems Collection, which is one of my all-time favorites because of the tiny backroom where he keeps his extra naughty collection.Stewart Gallerieshas a bit of everything, including paintings, drawings, antiques, collectible as well as rare finds, whileSavage Art Galleryfeatures more local artists in a comfortable and unpretentious atmosphere.

Where To Eat

The food scene here is endless and ranges from the casual brunch to reservation required. For the ultimate in views and unbelievable cliff-side dining,The Edge Steakhouseat The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage presents unreal prime steak, seafood, and wine experiences, all highlighted by the spectacular views from its dramatic cliff-side setting.Workshop Kitchen + Barhas been praised as much for its approachable seasonal California cuisine menu as for its high design.

The charming and hard to findFarmrestaurant features a French countryside aesthetic that carries over to the menu. French press coffee, croque madames and monsieurs, mimosas, and more are what make this a favorite spot for early eats. Tiny but fun, located in the Uptown Design District,Bootlegger Tikiis an all-out tiki experience with everything from sweet, fruity, and heavily poured boozy cocktails, to light fixtures resembling blowfish and racy aloha art, which can be fun to pose next to for an Instagram. The high-end, chic rustic ItalianAppetito Deliis known for making most everything that can be, in-house, such as pasta, cheeses, sauces, and more. There’s a full bar, which means one thing: Negronis.Matchboxshould be on the pizza radar whileGyoro Gyorois on the sushi watch.Sherman’sis an old school deli, andWally’s Desert Turtleis an old school supper club, both of which provide a bit of nostalgia.

Where I’ve Stayed

“Winter” 😉 #gaypalmsprings

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Santiago Resort– So let’s start out with the obvious. This isn’t your typical clothing-optional gay men’s resort – not that there’s anything wrong with those, but it’s definitely a few levels above from what we’ve come to expect. I typically wouldn’t dare take my clothes off in public, let alone around a pool, but I came here at a time when I was in my more adventurous mode, and I was pleasantly surprised. The rooms are updated and comfortable and the staff is really considerate. It was actually a lot more relaxing and mellow than expected, and wellonce I was comfortable, it was quite liberating.

Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage– Those who know me, know I’m a bit of a hotel snob, and it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that this place is one of my favorites in the Greater Palm Springs. It’s near enough to downtown but also just far enough away, so it provides a bit of an escape. Also, it’s near where my beloved President Obama and his family were rumored to be purchasing a home. True or not, he does vacation nearby, so that automatically makes it special. The hotel itself is spread out on a lovely Cliffside and has in recent years, undergone a renovation. A lot of the rooms on the first level have access to private-ish fire pits, so it’s kind of great to pour a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset with the warmth of the fire.

Beat the Palm Springs desert heat by taking a dip! 🏊 ☀️ (PC: @autographhotels)

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Triada Palm Springs– On the boutique scale of hotels, this is one of the best. Located close to downtown, this 56-room modern Mediterranean retreat is made up of three separate wings. First opened in 1920’s, there’s a great history to the property, which now comes with a more updated presence. There are two very cute sparkling pools on property and some of the accommodations have full-size kitchens, making it convenient for longer stays or for those of us who simply enjoy having a fridge full of champagne at all times (me). It’s located in the Movie Colony District of the city, and right next door is their sister hotel,Movie Colony Hotel, which is currently undergoing a full-transformation and will be making its debut in the near future.

It’s always a beautiful day in Palm Springs. 💚 R/ps

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The Riviera– I most recently visited this property to check out their renovated public spaces and re-imagined restaurants. I was here over a holiday weekend, so the place was packed. If you are into the big pool party scene with a DJ, this place has two of them. The lobby also had a party scene one evening when we came back from a night out, so it was really nice to just continue the party inside the hotel. The rooms and overall customer service are in need of some upgrades, but overall, if you’re into boozing by the pool, it’s a fun time (just avoid talking politics with guests – another story for another time).

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