Palm Springs, California Travel Guide

Palm Springs, California Travel Guide Hi, friends! It's no secret that I am completely obsessed with Palm Springs. In fact, since my first visit about two years ago, I've been back four times! I can't stay away. My friends often ask me why we choose Palm Springs over other sunny spots (with beaches!), and I always answer the same thing, "It's SO incredibly relaxing." I love that as soon as we land in Palm Springs it's like time moves slower, and we always have the best quality time together. 

Palm Springs is a small town. Before I visited I expected it to be much larger because of all the cute photos my friends were always posting, but it's TINY. We usually have plenty of time to visit everywhere on our list (and sometimes our favorite pizza place twice, LOL) even if we only stay for a long weekend. 

If you're planning to travel to Palm Springs anytime in the future, be sure to bookmark or pin this guide for reference! Now, without further ado—let's get to it! 

Places we've visited and loved: 

Let's start with food! Our strategy is to eat smaller meals so that we can eat MORE often when we travel. We like to get real snacky. 

Koffi in Palm SpringsWe LOVE Koffi. There are a few locations in Palm Springs (one right next door to The Ace), and we always go at least a few times. I like to get this thing called a Mint Tea Freeze. If that even sounds good to you AT ALL, just try it. It's refreshing and fluffy and minty. 

Cheeky'sCheeky's. One of our favorite brunches! The photo is from the first time we went and we ordered the flight of bacon. But ever since, we just order the jalapeño bacon because it's on another planet! Their menu is always changing, so I won't go into much detail, but just trust me—you'll like it. And get there early (because everyone likes it)! 

Norma's at The ParkerPhoto via Palm Springs Life

Norma's. Norma is our grandmother's name, so I was already in based on that. But it's also located at The Parker (Jonathan Adler heaven). So I was double in. I've been there a couple times and it's just so beautiful. Last time I got brûléed oatmeal and it was pretty a-mazing. 

Norma'sIf you sit inside, it's really cute too (and that JA pottery on the walls!!). Good vibes. 

Kings HighwayKings HighwayKings Highway. This is the restaurant inside The Ace. It has a light, bright mid-century vibe. We usually go for brunch, but they serve all three meals. If you stay at The Ace, it's the same food as the room service and pool menu. My favorite cocktail there is The Desert Facial (it's a mint and cucumber dream-come-true). 

El JefeEl JefeEl Jefe is located at The Saguaro (the rainbow hotel). It's one of our favorite spots for lunch or snack time. We usually order either Queso Fundido or mini tacos (fish is my personal fave). It's a tequila bar. So if you like margaritas, this is your spot! We like the laid back vibes. 

Birba in Palm SpringsBirba. OK, get ready to get preached at because we are REALLY into Birba. Jeremy and I say it's our favorite pizza in the world (and, yes, we've been to Italy… don't hate us, Italy). It's our personal version of the perfect pizza.

Birba also has really sweet patio seating, great appetizers and delicious cocktails. We always try to go twice! That's how much we love it. 

Make reservations or get there right when they open. 

WorkshopWorkshopWorkshop Kitchen + Bar. We're big fans. One of the best meals we've had in Palm Springs. Amazing cocktails too! The menu changes a lot, so check online before you go. 

Tinto in Palm SpringsTinto. We loved this spot. We had some kind of million course dinner on our anniversary there, and it was absolutely delicious. This is at The Saguaro also! 

Viceroy Palm SpringsViceroyThis past trip we stopped in at Viceroy just to hang out for a little while and have a cocktail, and we thought it was the cutest bar with the friendliest people. We definitely want to stay there in the future! 

Next up, hotels! 

The AceThe AceAceThe Ace. We've stayed at The Ace a bunch. It's got a good vibe and a million photo opportunities. This last trip we got a room with a patio and fireplace, and I highly recommend that little upgrade. It's not a lot more money considering how much extra privacy you get. We made s'mores three nights in a row and it was awesome

The SaguaroThe Saguaro. We stayed at The Saguaro once. It's BEAUTIFUL. It's truly a work of art. They also have two good restaurants (listed above), so even if you don't stay there, you can get a look around. It's definitely more of a party hotel on the weekends, just FYI (and so is The Ace).  

The Parker The Parker The Parker. We've never stayed at The Parker, but I hear only good things about it. We've been there a bunch of times to eat at Norma's. It's super pretty, and I definitely want to stay there sometime in the future! 

Korakia-resort-palm-springs-10Korakia Pensione. On our last trip, some friends of ours were also in Palm Springs staying at the Korakia (it was Valentine's weekend… and that's what people from Missouri do I guess?). So we got to go over there and hang out. It is a really nice hotel with a super different vibe from the other hotels in Palm Springs. It's more of a bed and breakfast vibe, and the Moroccan decor is really pretty. I definitely want to stay there on a future trip. (photo via 100 Layer Cake) 

Other stuff: 

Moorten Botanical GardenMoorten Botanical Garden Moorten Botanical Garden. This is a must see. You can walk there from the Ace. It's super close. Jeremy and I went on Valentine's this year. It costs $4 to get in, but it's more than worth it. It's incredible. I've never seen such giant cacti. This little greenhouse is an awesome photo spot because the light is diffused. Because of the hours they are open, it's probably super bright in most of the garden, but this greenhouse has really nice lighting. I highly recommend this. It's random, but SO inspiring and fun to see all the different plants.

Oh, and I backed into and sat on a cactus twice. So be careful! :D 

Salvation MountainSalvation Mountain. Located 1.5 hours away from Palm Springs, this is quite a trek, but completely worth the trip in my opinion. I've been a couple times, and it's hard to believe that most of it was built and maintained by one man. I got to meet Leonard in person on our first trip, and he's definitely one of the most inspiring people I have met as well as an amazing storyteller. He has recently passed away, a true artist!

I LOVE seeing other people's Salvation Mountain photos pop up in my Instagram feed because I know how far they drove to see it (it's not really close to anything else), and it makes me happy that people see it for the treasure that it is. 

Christopher Kennedy compoundChristopher Kennedy Compound. We got to tour this home during Modernism Week and I seriously still think about it all the time. It was one of those homes where every angle, every detail was photogenic. If you get a chance to tour any homes in Palm Springs, definitely take it! So fun. 

Oh and I don't have a photo, but Great Shakes is really cute (honey and nut shake, you guys!). 

Other places I want to go in (or near) Palm Springs on future visits: The Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

We love Palm SpringsThanks so much for going on my little tour with me! I hope you get a chance to visit Palm Springs if you haven't yet. It's SO chill and so pretty. Definitely my soulmate city. I can see why Frank Sinatra liked it so much. xx. Elsie 

PS. If you live near or have been to Palm Springs and you have travel suggestions that I missed, I would love to hear them in the comments! 

Credits// Author: Elsie Larson Photography: Elsie Larson (unless otherwise noted). 

  • Elsie, I was just waiting for this post to show up! 😀 Great stuff! Definitley looking forward to read about your future (or past) trips 🙂

  • I love that you posted this! This is the area in which I grew up and around. I’m from Indio and having a childhood there was more than amazing. If you’re interested, you and Jeremy might like The Living Desert for next time. Nature-inspired hiking and lots of flora and fauna. Can’t wait to go back for a visit. I’m long overdue!

    Sincerely,

    Laurali Star

    http://www.lauralistar.com

  • We went to Palm Springs last year based on how much you talk about it and I can’t say enough about how much I love it! It’s an addicting place and I can’t wait to go back. My husband and I think that making that trek out to Salvation Mountain was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done! And Joshua Tree is pretty incredible so you definitely need to get there too!

  • These places look amazing! I’ve never been, but I’ll be sure to refer to this list if I ever do!! I’m also not really a beach person, so this would be a great alternative.

    Also, it seems like you all have the same vacation strategy as my husband and I: plan the trip around food, and try to fill the time between meals with other interesting things. 🙂 Many small plates or shared meals definitely means you can try more places!

    -Molly

    http://www.modcircus.com/

  • I love Palm Springs! We’re from LA so we would go pretty often. It is such a beautiful place. We like to go to palm canyon, and San Jacito mountains. We enjoy outdoor activities. The tram is really fun too!

  • This is incredibly gorgeous – the hotels (with the florals and lime pillows!) I love the tip of eating smaller meals – too funny! Glad you had so much fun with your love xo

    Warm Regards,
    Alexandra
    www. Little Wild Heart .com

  • I live in the area. You’ve got to try Lulu’s and Matchbox Pizza. Also, Balisage Bistro. If you’re going to be out here in the next 6 months let me know. I may have tickets to the Living Desert.

  • I love living in Palm Springs! It’s constantly evolving and new spots are popping up all over the place. I actually think I saw you at the Ace over modernism week. There were some great parties there.

    A few to add to this great list, Ernest Coffee for coffee, wine, beer and charcuterie. They serve Stumptown and the remodel of the original Don the Beachcomber building is lovely. It is connected to Bootlegger Tiki in the back an awesome tine tiki bar. Seriously the best drinks in town.

    Check out the Sparrows Lodge next time you’re in town, similar to the Korakia, same creators actually, but more rustic. Their bath tubs are horse troths. So fun. L’Horizon will be opening soon too. This is an only William Cody property, and the luxury renovation is exquisite. FInaly, on you’re way out to Joshua Tree, stop at Hoof and Horn in Yucca Valley, and then head up to Pappy & Harriet’s for the best BBQ of your life and a show. It’s in Pioneertown, which is worth a stop in itself. There is always a great show too. We saw Jenny Lewis there recently, and she rocked it!

    Visit again soon!

  • I grew up in the desert (Joshua Tree) and have spent a good amount of time in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Indio, etc.

    Palm Springs: Hike in Tahquitz Canyon. Thai Smile for delicious thai! Dazzles for all the bakelite jewelry you can handle.

    Joshua Tree: Joshua Tree National Park (obv!). Hicksville Trailer Palace, which is this combination themed trailer park meets B&B meets speakeasy. Very cool. Pie For The People has delicious slices and Crossroads Cafe for the beer garden and delicious eats. While you are at Crossroads Cafe check out the vintage stores that dot Highway 62.

    Yucca Valley/Pioneertown: Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is an old school honky tonk that used to be a Hell’s Angel hang out and now hosts the hottest music scene in the desert after Coachella. Also, check out the bowling alley while you are there. On the way in to Pioneertown, check out The Hoof and The Horn for all your vintage clothing needs. Grab a California Burrito at Santanas – LIFE CHANGING. Liquid Tattoo has Rich Pineda who is world famous for his photo realistic tattoos.

  • Oh hey – we honeymooned in Palm Springs and stayed at Korakia Pensionne! We also went back to Palm Springs for our first anniversary. You hit a lot of my favorites with this post! We stayed at Alcazar and at Korakia for our anniversary. I’d also add Tonga Hut to this list, because who doesn’t love a good Tiki Bar? Also, the restaurant at the Viceroy, Citron, is pretty good. And if you have a chance to treat yourself in a big way: couples massage at the spa at the Viceroy. We also like to get Dole Pineapple Whips at Lappert’s (or some ice cream) and always stop buy the record store on Palm Canyon Drive. We also always go to the vintage shop “Zazzles” on Palm Canyon. If you have time, we also love riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and a day spent at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert is a day well spent (do the animal encounters – so much fun).

    Can we just take a moment to acknowledge how good the duck fat fries at Workshop Kitchen + Bar are?

    Thank you.

  • Awesome! You’ve shared so many great places to try out. Around where I live Palm Springs is the place that retired people spend just under six months of the year to escape our really harsh winters – younger people rarely visit unless they’re visiting retired family. I’ll have to reconsider next time I’m invited!

  • Hi!

    Will there be another book selected for the book club? I have been keeping up for a while and I’m loving it so far! 🙂

    Thank you, M.

  • Love Love this!! How funny we lived in 29Palms for 5 years. We would drive to Palm Springs for dental/dr visits and shopping art festivals but never did we explore it remotely as much as you have. I absolutely love this different perspective. Hopefully we can visit again some day and explore it a little more!!! We currently live in Hawaii and making a point not to make the same mistake twice! Haha! Exploring every inch, including the food, as often as possible!

  • We lived near Palm Springs for a couple years. We enjoyed it, but I love being back in the mountains (I don’t miss the heat!). I also recommend The Living Desert- we would go all the time.

  • This is fantastic timing – I have just booked a trip to the States (from London), and we are planning to spend our last five days in Palm Springs. I am super excited after seeing this; thank you!

  • Wow looks amazing. I would love to go one day. I’ve only been the New York and Atlanta but California will be on my list for my next visit to the states. I loved the cacti.

  • Great list! My husband and I recently got married in Palm Springs and your list is similar to ours, but next time you need to check out Melvyn’s bar at Ingleside Inn and Bootlegger Tiki! Melvyn’s is an awesome bar/restaurant that was Frank Sinatra’s favorite hang out! If you go Saturday nights Melvyn, THE Melvyn, is usually there and he has the best stories and Friday and Saturday they have guy who plays piano and sings old Frank songs! So fun! Bootlegger Tiki is an awesome little bar with amazing Tiki drinks! Hope you get to go again soon!

  • I love Palm Springs! I did a post on my blog about some of my favorite restaurants and stuff to do, and surprisingly I haven’t been to any of the restaurants you suggested! I think that says how good the food is in the town! Tropicale is good for happy hour, although it might have a bit of an older person crowd. Another fun thing to do is pretend you’re buying a house and go tour all the model homes! Some of them are just stunning and it’s (probably) the only way I’ll ever get to see inside such an expensive place! The tram and Joshua Tree are in my opinion both worth seeing too! I’ll have to check out some of your favorites next time I visit!

    http://wildoriginal.com/2014/07/17/palm-springs-getaway/

  • Wow..so many cool places to check out…love the Korakio hotel, so pretty… and the cacti garden, love it!

    Hems
    agoldentulip.blogspot.com

  • Salvation Mountain is being maintained by a group of local folks since Leonard Knight’s death.
    If you ever get out that way again, You should drive up past the mountain into Slab City and go see the East Jesus sculpture garden.
    It might be a bit rough for some folks, but it is WELL worth the trip.

    eastjesus.org

  • I live about 30 minutes west of Palm Springs. Here are some places you might try next time you are in the area. Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown has good food, music, and the setting is incredible! http://www.pappyandharriets.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneertown,_California
    On the way to Pioneertown make sure to stop at Cactus Mart, an amazing cactus and succulent nursery. The variety is really neat, I buy something new every time I visit. They also have friendly cats and chickens that are allowed to roam the nurseries, which just adds to the charm.
    http://cactusmart.net/
    Joshua Tree is a must and all of these places are on the way to it.
    Also, there are a bunch of wind turbines along the freeway too. There are some roads you can pull off on and take pictures. Really, the scenery is just beyond belief! Clear blue skies, blue mountains, sage greens, golden sands with the enormous turbines, it’s just beautiful!
    There are also a lot of thrift/vintage stores in Yucca Valley, which is right near Pioneertown. I have seen some really neat mid-century modern stuff in them, so if see one, make sure to stop!

  • I gotta chime in with another Joshua Tree vote! You can drive through the park in about 2 hours, and the star gazing is incredible. Also the Pappy and Harriet’s is a fun place to eat and see a show if there is one, I saw Franz Ferdinand and Grizzly Bear play there once. I’ve also been dying to stay at this Air B-n-B called Dome in the Desert…it’s super cute and I plan on staying there next time I visit! I haven’t stayed in PS in a while but thanks for this list of things to check out!

  • I only spent one day in Palm Springs but got a chance to go to the aerial tramway and it was SO worth it! Hope you can do it next time 🙂 And whenever I get a chance to go back to Palm Springs, I´ll sure pay attention to this guide. So inspiring, as always! 🙂

  • The spa at the Ace is awesome! I loved the Palm Springs Peel. Have you heard of the West 18th St Fashion show in KC? I’m here now making pieces for Birdie’s!

    Best,
    Rachel Rector

  • Fun! I must book mark this as the spouse and I have a house in Indian Wells and I didn’t even know about half these places .. lol.

    Monica.

  • I’ve gotta tag this post and all the comments!!! We go to Palm Springs at least once every year (sometimes twice), and have never been disappointed. Our first trip was a stay at The Saguaro… before it was The Saguaro.

    Sadly, I don’t think I have visited any restaurants on your list — so we are definitely trying some new eats next time! I have a hard time peeling myself off my lounge chair to do much exploring. (And being Canadian means it takes me most of the trip to thaw out.) 😉

    We visited last in October over the Cdn Thanksgiving weekend and plan to make it an annual tradition. Our family from Malibu drove out to join us and it was a blast! There are more from the north planning to join in next year. It is definitely the BEST relaxation spot — I agree with you wholeheartedly!

  • I love Palm Springs!! I have so many memories from my childhood there. My grandparents owned a condo so when we went we would spend time relaxing by the pool and setting up lemonade stands for the golfers on the golf course the condo faced (didn’t get much business…). I agree, no matter how many relaxing places there are in this world, Palm Springs seems to be SUPER chill and rejuvenating.

  • Absolutely go to Yucca Valley to check out Pappy and Harriets, and then go hiking in Joshua Tree. It’s my favorite part of going to that area! The light is beautiful there at the golden hour and you can get some ridiculously amazing photos 🙂

  • What a colorful place. I never thought about visiting Palm Springs before, but this post makes me want to.

  • I highly recommend the Aerial Tramway. We live about an hour or so away, and we go every winter after the first good rainstorm so we can play in the fresh snow without having to drive on mountain roads (though snow might not be the big appeal for you! 🙂 ). For a fun, kitschy Mexican food meal, try Las Casuelas. And if you’re up for a bit of a road trip, Temecula wine country is not that far away (about an hour or so). Falkner, Alex’s Red Barn and Renzoni are my favorite wineries.

  • Do you usually rent a car when you go there or is everything in walking distance? I’ve been dying to stay at the Saguaro!

  • The tram is definitely worth it. I recommend planning to go so you can watch the sunset over PS. I’ve been down 4 times now and I absolutely love it. I wish I could live there all winter! You guys should try Sherman’s if you haven’t yet. Great Jewish deli with misters to keep you cool on the patio.
    Xo Allison

  • Hi Elsie! Your post makes me want to come back to the U.S. like… immediately! Two years ago we’ve been at the West Coast – and got engaged there, wohoo! On our way to Palm Springs we visited Joshua Tree Nationalpark and it was awesome. You should definitely go there even if you only have some hours to spend. We only spent one night in Palm Springs – which was much too short – but enjoyed it a lot! We had dinner at Lulu, I loved it there so maybe you want to give it a try next time? Constanze

  • This is great! My parents have a home in The Desert and I am soooo with you Elsie–the minute we get out there I feel like I am immediately in vacay mode and a million miles away from all the stress. I would for sure suggest doing the Tram, take a little hike at the top and also go the the bar for a Bloody Mary. It’s been a little while since I’ve been, but they used to be the BEST bloody’s around!! I am loving all the locals suggestions above–can’t wait till I can go back and check out some of these new-to-me gems!!

  • You have to eat at Native Foods the next time you’re in Palm Springs. It’s the best all vegan restaurant I’ve ever been to.

  • I love Palm Springs because of the MCM–hooray, Modernism Week. Great vibe all year, though.

  • Love this post and the photos!! Too bad I didn’t know about Moorten Botanical Garden during our visit last year.
    However, we did have breakfast at Cheeky’s (best. breakfast. waffles. ever.) and stayed at the ACE hotel & swim club (private patio and fireplace included, definitely recommended as you wrote here).
    We did visit Joshua Tree NP which I loved (quite possibly my favorite NP so far (if such thing even exists).
    Hope to be back one day!

  • The Living Desert is also pretty cool! They have tons of plants and some animals, and for $5 you can feed a giraffe and another $5 you can ride a camel. Just make sure you pack sunscreen, because there isn’t a lot of shady areas! 🙂

  • As a California girl, the very first time I saw snow fall was a year ago and it was by riding up the Aerial Tramway. Its so fun!

    I was really surprised by how small P.S. is too! I hope you get to go back to Palm Springs many more times. Great Post! 🙂

    Cheers!

  • What a great travel guide, I love the photos and the colours. I’d love to visit this one day, this post is very inspiring. I’ve just never been to the US :(. Maybe one day.

  • I’m from Palm Springs! So fun to read travel guides about your city. You HAVE to try Trio Restaurant on N Palm Canyon Dr. It’s so amazing. And since you’re a vintage lover, there’s a great vintage shop in Palm Desert, about 15-20 minutes away, called the Fine Art of Design on Hwy 111. Go there and be amazed! Also, Joshua Tree and Indian Canyons are a must! So breathtaking.

  • Thanks for this! I’ve only been once (last summer) and out of everything from your list, I only recognized a few lol. Do check out the tramway next time! It really is great.

  • This is a wonderful guide, even for someone who’s been to Palm Springs a lot!

    Palm Springs is my family’s go-to vacation spot (particularly because summer is their off-season. Cheap hotels in the heat? Hell yes!!) I’m extremely lucky that I live within an hour’s drive (and my school has a second campus there. Free shuttle, education, AND vacation in one? Yes please!) My family went EVERY summer when I was young, and we still go at least 4 times a year. It’s my cousin and mine’s favourite vacation spot (counting down the days until our next trip this summer), so this post really touched at a soft spot in my heart. definitely gonna have to go to all of these places in July!

  • Sam Cobb’s date farm samcobbfarm.com, he’s outside of Palm Springs at Sky Valley. A really delicious snack and it’s fun to try the different kind of dates if you’ve only ever had medjools. Lots of signs for date milkshakes too, but we never got around to trying them.

    The Living Desert is a fun way to spend an afternoon and the hikes in Joshua Tree are incomparable to anything else I’ve seen in the world!

  • Beautiful photos! I was just in Palm Springs for the first time this last weekend and had a blast! I love your recommendations but thought the service at Cheeky’s was terrible. Loved the Parker though! And we had a lovely dinner at Mikado in Palm Desert. You take a little boat ride to the restaurant and it is where the “Jessie’s Dad’s Wedding” episode of Saved the Bell was filmed…so fun! Also loved the Capazon Dinosaurs!

  • I was just recently in Palm Springs (from London was quite an amazing experience) and we stayed in that room #208! Ha what a coincidence! 🙂 Really nice guide, I would love to go back any time, I absolutely loved it. I can understand your passion!

  • I love Palm Springs! My husband and I went last October for our honeymoon and it was just perfect because it really is so relaxing. You should definitely do the aerial tramway on your next visit — that was the highlight if our trip for me!!