Travel | September 16, 2022 9:02 am

How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Palm Springs

What to see, do and eat, plus where to stay in the iconic California desert city.

Palm trees and suburban road
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With its perpetually sunny weather and sense of escapism, Palm Springs has long been a favorite escape for discerning and design-minded travelers. Hollywood stars flocked here in the Twenties, followed decades later by Rat Pack-era legends like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. From architecture fans coming to geek out over Richard Neutra and John Lautner-designed homes and wellness seekers looking to get zen at the spa, these days, hip pool parties, a bevy of restaurants helmed by notable chefs, plus celebrated annual events like Modernism Week, Palm Springs Pride and the Palm Springs International Film Festival, are all among the best things to do in Palm Springs.

Mid-century modern house in Palm Springs
Mid-century modern house in Palm Springs
Visit Greater Palm Springs

How to Get to Palm Springs

Being about a two hour drive from Los Angeles and San Diego makes Palm Springs an easy and popular getaway for Southern California residents. Should they feel inclined, Angelenos can hang up the car keys with this Amtrak bus-to-train service. But with thirteen airlines, including Alaska, Delta and JetBlue, flying directly into Palm Springs International Airport from major hubs like New York, Chicago and Houston, the city is a viable weekend destination for travelers across the U.S. Several larger resorts and hotels provide airport transfers on the ground, but ride shares and rental cars are in easy supply.

Casa Cody exterior
Casa Cody exterior
Kim & Nash Finley

Where to Stay in Palm Springs

From quiet boutique properties to lively resorts famous for their pool parties, Palm Springs has an abundance of hotels, although staying somewhere with a cool backstory always feels apropos and set within the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood, Casa Cody fits the bill nicely.

Built in the 1920s by Hollywood pioneer Harriet Cody, Palm Springs’ longest-operating hotel is bordered by bougainvillea and shaded by fruit trees. Its Spanish Colonial Revival heritage and adobe hacienda buildings are home to an eclectic mix of rooms and suites, many of which are set around two petite pools. Breakfast is available every morning from the Marketplace, along with an all-day menu of light bites, refreshments and cocktail kits, with guests encouraged to pick citrus fruit for garnishing. Located less than a five minute walk from the downtown stretch of Palm Canyon Drive, dining and drinking options off-property are plentiful. 

Another stellar choice and one of the city’s newest openings is Azure Sky. Located in South Palm Springs and within walking distance of Ace Hotel, Villa Royale and buzzy new restaurant Bar Cecil, it’s an adults-only boutique gem that welcomes each arrival with a cocktail from the lobby bar. It feels intimate with just 14 rooms and suites, most featuring kitchenettes and private patios with hammocks. However, it’s easy to meet and mingle with guests around the swimming pool, a focal point of the property, alongside its duo of courtyards and fire pits.  

What to Do in Palm Springs

As tempting as it might be to spend the weekend poolside cocktail in hand, Palm Springs has plenty to experience, from architecture tours and desert hikes to its thriving culinary scene.

Palm Springs Aerial Tram
Palm Springs Aerial Tram
Visit Greater Palm Springs

Outdoors & Culture

Before the mercury climbs, apply sunscreen and drive to Indian Canyons. Sacred to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, there’s a popular 1.8-mile trail in Tahquitz Canyon, although riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up to Mount San Jacinto State Park is another outdoorsy option. A free day-use permit is required for wilderness hikes, but there are two easy loops near the station, including Desert View Trail. Of course, there’s no shame in just admiring the views at Pines Café, either. Another way to see the desert is on horseback with Smoke Tree Stables, whose Murray Canyon Ride meanders along streams and through palm groves in Indian Canyon.

Famous for its modernism movement, Palm Springs has an impressive art and design scene, so the Palm Springs Art Museum is worth a look. Its collection features pieces by significant artists like Anish Kapoor, Andy Warhol, Diane Arbus and Ed Ruscha. While designer Tracy Turco’s immersive Modernism Museum opens in October, it’s also possible to visit historic neighborhoods and former celebrity estates with PS Architecture Tours and The Modern Tour

Mojave Flea Trading Post
Mojave Flea Trading Post
Visit Greater Palm Springs

Shopping & Spa

The Sonoran Desert has long attracted creative types, and Mojave Flea Trading Post is a one-stop shop for art and eclectic goods by makers from across Coachella Valley. More treasures can be found at Thick as Thieves, while boutique collective The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five is home to custom hat maker Recapitate and Towne Palm Springs, which carries GQ-style resort wear. Finding time to press pause before heading home should appeal to most, and mid-century icon the Parker Palm Springs is a sublime place to take a moment. Explore the grounds, get an obligatory photo of the “Drugs” pharmacy sign in the hotel lobby and treat yourself to a nearly three-hour-long trio of spa treatments with the Yachtsman’s Voyage at the totally Wes Anderson vibes but also nautical-inspired Palms Springs Yacht Club.

Buzzy Bar Cecil is an homage to renaissance man Cecil Beaton
Buzzy Bar Cecil is an homage to renaissance man Cecil Beaton
Visit Greater Palm Springs

Where to Eat and Drink in Palm Springs

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery is great for breakfast, while King’s Highway is brilliant for brunch. Try High Bar at The Rowan or jewel box-sized Bootlegger Tiki for happy hour and pre-dinner drinks. Two new places that have everyone buzzing are the quaint and cozy Bar Cecil, an homage to Cecil Beaton, and French Miso Café. Established spots with stellar reputations include Engin Onural’s Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey and Michael Beckman’s Workshop Kitchen + Bar. For Southern comfort food and SoCal classics head to rooftop restaurant 4 Saints. But for a quintessential Palm Springs experience and real Rat Pack homage, it’s got to be Melvyn’s. A favorite of Sinatra (Table 13 was his spot), order a dirty martini and the steak Diane. Late-night drinks and vinyl sets? The Amigo Room is an obligatory “one for the road” stop before bed.