Fun Things to Do in Palm Springs

Fun Things to Do in Palm Springs

Your granddad used to golf in the desert while your mother may have relished the high-end retail haunts of El Paseo, but there’s far more to fill your days with in Palm Springs than bogeys and boutiques.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Soaking in the most dramatic of views needn’t demand you break a sweat in Palm Springs. A popular and easily accessible tram carries visitors up more than two and a half miles into the pines and peaks above the city limits. There, picnic areas, a full-service restaurant and over 50 miles of hiking trails provide for recreation and relaxation.

Cabazon and Desert Hills Outlet Shopping

Cabazon and Desert Hills Outlet Shopping

Just miles shy of Palm Springs’ city limits lies the sprawling combination of Cabazon and Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Together, the imposing developments showcase nearly 200 retailers, ranging from the most high-end (Armani, Versace, Jimmy Choo) to everyday wears (J. Crew, Gap, Nike).

Cactus to Clouds Hike on the Skyline Trail

Cactus to Clouds Hike on the Skyline Trail

At more than three times the elevation gain of the Grouse Grind, the appropriately named Cactus to Clouds hike sees the most adventurous visitors climb an arduous trail that can boast temperatures north of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Water is scarce so an early start is a must and time of year is – of course – a critical consideration. 

Bootlegger Tiki Bar
Credit: Jaime Kowal

Bootlegger Tiki Bar

Bootlegger Tiki Bar is the newest and kitschiest add to the Palm Springs nightlife scene. The tropical speakeasy serves up a tasty variety of original, handcrafted cocktails, featuring exotic rums and housemade bitters and syrups.

California's Comeback Kid

California's Comeback Kid

It may have taken Tupac to turn the tide for Palm Springs. The rapper’s surprise posthumous appearance – via hologram – arguably helped Coachella hit the mainstream and, with it, the famed arts and music festival brought a slumping and at-times sleepy resort community back to life. Palm Springs long enjoyed a reputation as the holiday haunt of the Rat Pack in the swinging ’60s, but now boasts a resurgence in popularity among younger tourists – a generation more familiar with Beyoncé than Bobby Darin.

Click through for our insider’s guide to the revitalized retreat.

Where to Stay in Palm Springs

Where to Stay in Palm Springs

A four-star, 190-room Kimpton boutique hotel will soon anchor a long-vacant property in the heart of town but, this season, a variety of local businesses welcome overnight guests with the promise of lively parties or whisper-quiet refuge.

Hyatt Palm Springs

In marked contrast to the solitude of boutique hideaways stands the centrally located Hyatt. The hotel remains a landmark in the very heart of Palm Springs, just steps from the city’s art museum, lively restaurants and well-tended O’Donnell Golf Club. The property lacks affectation, choosing instead to welcome visitors with a warm, family-friendly vibe. Cabana suites allow guests to walk directly from their sitting rooms out to the ground-level pool, where they can enjoy a cold beverage and the stunning backdrop of the San Jacinto mountain range. 

The Parker Palm Springs

The Parker Palm Springs

Originally opened more than 50 years ago as the first of many Holiday Inns dotting the California map, the Parker Palm Springs has come a long way from its motel debut. Thanks to a drastic makeover by famed interior designer Jonathan Adler 10 years ago, the hotel is now a sophisticated blend of lush gardens, tastefully appointed rooms and discreet villas. Foodies flock to the property’s restaurants: Norma’s for brunch on the patio or to the plush seating at Mister Parker’s for the finest cuts of steak. Intimacy is key, which might explain why a Bravo reality series chronicling the hotel’s operations lasted just one month on the air.

The Viceroy

The Viceroy

palm-springs-slide-4-inset.jpgThe Viceroy is the “little black dress” of Palm Springs accommodations: timeless and stylish without the weight of forced elegance. The intimate lobby points the way to pool grounds so immaculately manicured that Harper’s Bazaar chose the locale to shoot select spring 2015 fashion spreads. The property’s award-winning restaurant, Citron, debuted a refreshed menu this past fall under the guidance of its oft-lauded new executive chef, Patrice Martineau. 

The Riviera

The Riviera

A thorough renovation at a hotel approaching its sixth decade is expected. A makeover at a price tag of more than $75 million is not. Completely refurbished five years ago, the colourful Riviera now reflects its suave, storied history with design elements that harken back to its heyday when celebrities like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra rested their heads here. The property’s Starlite Lounge features the stylish swing of local musicians while poolside cabanas can be rented for spirited afternoons in the sun, often populated by L.A. partiers who forego the added complication of Vegas travel.

Korakia Pensione

Korakia Pensione

Online reviews beg visitors to keep Korakia a secret, but the charming property’s continued success proves that word has gotten out. The Moroccan-themed boutique hotel is just steps from the buzz of Palm Canyon Drive but couldn’t be more serene. More than two dozen suites vary from villas and studios to private bungalows. The property also boasts secluded yoga platforms, bohemian firepits and two pools to ensure the most tranquil of stays. During warm summer evenings, guests can even step back in time by enjoying a classic black-and-white film projected outdoors.

Where to Eat and Drink in Palm Springs

Where to Eat and Drink in Palm Springs

A discernible incentive is required to pull visitors from the sanctity of a sun-soaked pool, but these top spots dish up grub that is just that enticing.

Tinto

The Saguaro Palm Springs provides stylish stays, but the hotel’s most celebrated amenity has nothing to do with its 245 rooms. Iron Chef Jose Garces oversees Tinto, a Basque-style tapas bar that features flatteringly low light and racks upon racks of the finest Spanish wines. (More than a few other varieties are thrown in for good measure.) The eatery unveiled a new look in December and the menu of share plates remains one of the most mouth-watering in the region. Opt for brochettes of savoury meats or traditional crostinis to keep the fare light. 

Tropicale Restaurant & Coral Seas Lounge

Tropicale Restaurant & Coral Seas Lounge

A charming, graceful tribute to the finest days of Havana’s breezy coastal culture, Tropicale features one of Palm Springs’ most popular patios, a garden lounge perfect for happy-hour cocktails and bottomless champagne during weekend brunch. The menu is updated frequently, but the pupu platter is a staple (chicken satay, beef skewers and ribs) – and a hefty shared starter for large tables – while Sunday sees the best sushi in town including a 16-piece sashimi platter.

Tyler's

Tyler's

Grab a seat at Tyler’s tiny bar or enjoy a table on its tightly packed patio. Located in the heart of La Plaza – a historic outdoor shopping space – this lunchtime hangout has a simple menu that offers burgers of all sorts topped with everything from kraut to bacon to traditional cheeses. It’s a perfect midday indulgence but it needn’t be gluttonous. Owner Diana Diamico jumped on the low-carb train years ago and offers an option that allows diners to skip the bun. Keep in mind two key pieces of information: this spot is cash only and it closes during the entire month of August annually, meaning employees can escape serving patrons outdoors during the hottest month of the year. 

Lulu California Bistro

Lulu California Bistro

For dinner, Lulu’s is one of Palm Canyon’s most frequented bistros. The venue offers sidewalk seating perfect for early evening people-watching. The fare is fresh and light, the service brisk and – as an added bonus – diners enjoy happy-hour pricing on plates and pints alike throughout the night when seated in the lounge. Kick off your dining experience with the lettuce wraps before moving onto ricotta-stuffed ravioli or the quinoa spaghetti. For a more refined experience, request a booth along the back wall and take in all of the eye candy without the hustle. 

Cheeky's

Cheeky's

If you’re up with the birds, head to Cheeky’s for one of the busiest and buzz-iest brunches in town. A small, bright patio and a laid-back California attitude greet diners at this all-day breakfast joint. Reservations are not accepted and lines can be lengthy, but the wait is certainly worth it for the maple sage sausage or buttermilk and corn pancakes. And be sure to bring bacon lovers. A unique “flight” of the salty breakfast staple is available, featuring creative varieties like applewood, bourbon glaze, jalapeño, apple cinnamon and five-spice.