8 Best Bets for Exploring Sunny Palm Springs

Parks, shops and sticky sweet treats will lure you away from the pool on this increasingly popular West Coast desert getaway

Credit: Angela Poon

Take a break from the pool to enjoy panoramic desert vistas, stunning mid-century modern design, and creamy date shakes in cheery Palm Springs

Once a top destination for Hollywood’s elite, Palm Springs is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the area’s annual Coachella Valley Festival, a new crop of boutique hotels, and cheap flights for West Coasters.

While the dry heat may draw some permanently poolside, Palm Springs offers a variety of daytime activities for those looking to explore the area. So grab your rental car and some sunscreen to shop, eat, and sightsee your way through California’s breathtaking desert landscape.

Credit: Angela Poon

See: Mid-century Modern Design

A magnet for some of California’s most stunning mid-century modern buildings developed in the 1950s and ’60s, Palm Springs has carefully protected and restored many of its architectural treasures, all still in use today. Grab a free self-guided tour map to visit the city’s most famous estates, including Elvis’ honeymoon hideaway, where the King carried his new bride Priscilla over the threshold in 1966.

While many sights are private residences seen from the outside, stops such as the Bank of America, Palm Springs Post Office, and Palm Springs City Hall welcome architecture enthusiasts indoors for an in-depth viewing.

Credit: Angela Poon

Shop: Desert Hills Premium Outlets

A short jaunt from downtown Palm Springs, the Desert Hills Premium Outlets is an outlet shopper’s mecca. What really sets this outlet mall apart from others is the high percentage of high-end shopping options among the 130 stores, including Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Prada, and Versace. If designer duds don’t interest you, the outdoor shopping centre offers plenty of old favourites as well, including J. Crew, Banana Republic, Nine West, and Coach.

Credit: Angela Poon

Hike: Joshua Tree National Park

From afar, Joshua Tree National Park can look like a barren landscape. Get up close, however, and you’ll witness a vibrant desert park featuring whimsically shaped trees and plants, beautiful vistas, and rugged terrain.

Set over 800,000 acres, the park is vast and features several different visitor centres, depending on your entry point. Make sure to use the west or north entrances to spot the park’s namesake, the Joshua Tree. An intriguing destination for an afternoon hike, the national park also offers nine campgrounds and several picnic areas for those looking to fully explore the area.

Credit: Angela Poon

Drink: Date Shakes

Palm Springs’ dry, desert heat is the perfect setting for growing sticky, sweet dates. The area has become so synonymous with the palm fruit that it now produces the majority of the United States’ date supply.

While perhaps best known for their leading role in baked goods, California dates also star in a different sweet treat – date shakes. Visit the area’s largest date farm, Shields Date Garden, for the rich and creamy snack.

Credit: Angela Poon

Ride: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

One of Palm Springs’ main mid-century modern attractions, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, was built over the course of a decade and inaugurated in 1963. One of the most visited sites in the area, the attraction features the world’s largest rotating tramcar, which slowly turns throughout the 10-minute ride to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto.

While visitors can experience stunning vistas of the surrounding Coachella Valley year-round, winter activities offer cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow camping opportunities, while summer boasts hiking and guided nature walks in the pristine mountaintop wilderness.

Credit: Angela Poon

Drive: California Road Trip

Located just a short drive away from many of California’s top destinations, Palm Springs is a convenient central location for exploring the state’s best known beaches, shopping strips, and attractions.

If your stay in the desert has you longing for an ocean breeze, hit up Santa Monica to visit the coastal town’s outdoor shopping promenade and oceanside pier. If it’s family-friendly attractions you’re seeking, head west for Anaheim’s Disneyland or south for LEGOLAND California and SeaWorld San Diego.

Credit: Angela Poon

Eat: Cheeky’s

Set on Palm Springs’ main drag, Palm Canyon Drive, Cheeky’s is a breakfast and lunch joint featuring a rotating weekly menu of fresh, local ingredients. But be prepared to wait up to a half hour for a seat – it’s a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Menu items such as the house-made, seasonal agua frescas and bacon bar (a permanent fixture) make the wait entirely worthwhile.

Credit: Angela Poon

Stay: The Saguaro Palm Springs

Set against a stunning backdrop of desert mountains, this cheerful boutique hotel features a burst of colourful accents in honour of the area’s desert flora. With competitive rates and a laid-back, friendly vibe, the hotel is a great home base for a variety of travellers.

For the times you’re looking to relax, enjoy the Saguaro’s central courtyard pool with chaise lounges, poolside bar, and well-curated music playlist. While relatively quiet throughout the week, be prepared for an influx of daytime poolside partyers on the weekends.