If you are driving along the long highways of the desert region in California, you might be surprised at some point to catch a glimpse of a real oasis, full of palm trees, swimming pools, and golf courses. You have arrived in Palm Springs.
In the years following World War II and the Rat Pack, many Hollywood celebrities retreated to this oasis for the affluent and built their large homes and villas in the desert. Here you can see where Elvis spent his honeymoon, stay overnight in Frank Sinatra‘s vacation home and visit the homes of other great American celebrities.
Palm Springs is a city located at the foot of Mount San Jacinto, which blesses the city with shade, making the desert climate milder in the afternoon. The main characteristic of the city is its peculiar architecture, a unique blend of Spanish Colonial and modernist architecture (based on the basic principles of Frank Lloyd Wright).
The houses are mostly built using adobe, a mixture of clay, sand, and straw dried in the sun, and are surrounded by palm trees.
Places to Visit in Palm Springs
Palm Springs is a pleasant town to walk around (although it is still hot, especially in the summer). Walking along the avenues lined with palm trees and houses is an enjoyable experience, but there are some interesting things in town you might not notice.
Head to the visitor center, a building that was converted from an old gas station in the 1960s into a modern building that has a strange, hyperbolic paraboloid-shaped roof. Get a map and start the tour.
The Homes of the Stars in Palm Springs
As I have already mentioned, the town has many villas and houses of important people. Here are a few examples:
- Alexander Estate: It was named after a very important architect (Robert Alexander), but it was Elvis Presley who spent his honeymoon with his wife Priscilla Beaulieu after their wedding in Las Vegas.
- Frank Sinatra House: This house was built especially for “The Voice”, with a unique pool in the shape of a grand piano. It’s not easy to see it well (unless the gate is open), but you can rent the house and spend a minimum of 3 nights there.
- Frey House II: This is one of the most incredible villas in the area, which was designed by the great architect Albert Frey. Its glass walls, set under an undulating roof, emerge from the canyon rock creating an unusual sight to behold. You can book guided tours and check the prices and the schedule here.
- Kaufmann Desert House: A charming house built by Richard Neutra, an Austrian architect who worked with Wright. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public.
Museums in Palm Springs
In Palm Springs, you can also find some interesting museums, for example, the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, an institution that preserves the ancient spirit of Native Americans. Here you can find baskets, pottery, and utensils of various kinds produced by the Cahuilla Tribe made of bones, reeds, or stones.
Another interesting museum is the Palm Springs Art Museum, which houses beautiful collections of Native American art, 19th-century American paintings, modern art, and sculptures.
If you love plants and vegetation, you can visit the Moorten Botanical Gardens, a botanical garden where you can admire plants from the desert and other parts of the world.
National Parks near Palm Springs
Palm Springs is also an excellent base for trips and excursions in the surrounding area. Joshua Tree National Park, located about 40 minutes away, is one of the most beautiful and evocative parks in all of California, while Indian Canyons, the original settlement of the Cahuilla Tribe, is 3 miles from downtown, heading southeast. There you can take beautiful walks to admire canyons and waterfalls. Indian Canyons is not a national park, so you cannot use America the Beautiful Pass.
Shopping and Events in Palm Springs
Most of the city life in Palm Springs is along Palm Canyon Drive, a beautiful street full of shops, restaurants, and boutiques in Spanish Colonial buildings, and a giant statue of Marylin Monroe. Among them is Trina Turk, a famous boutique that sells brightly colored Californian chic apparel.
VillageFest takes place every Thursday evening from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm (June-September) on Palm Canyon Drive. It is an event with all kinds of booths and really remarkable street artists. Among the various booths, there is also a booth with a Jewish rabbi, who can offer advice and maybe some insight on the Bible (I’m not joking… look at the picture below).
Best Places to Eat in Palm Springs
Among the historic restaurants from the Rat Pack era, Melvyn’s may be an interesting option. Frank Sinatra was one of the first customers of this restaurant that also has a dance floor. If you spend Sunday afternoons there, you might enjoy some interesting jazz concerts.
On Palm Canyon Drive, you can find Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, a more casual venue and a great place for a sandwich. Actually, the sandwiches here are huge and perhaps this is the main reason why this place is so popular.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs
Hotels in Palm Springs are quite expensive, but if you go there in the summer, you’ll see that prices will drop significantly (due to the very hot weather). If you want to relive the atmosphere of the 50s of the Rat Pack, you can choose either the Del Marcos Hotel (they do not accept families with small children) and the L’Horizon Resort.
Here’s a resource to see all hotels in Palm Springs, consult prices and book a hotel.
How Many Days Should you Spend in Palm Springs?
Palm Springs is certainly not huge. In fact, you can visit it in a day. However, since there are natural attractions in the surrounding area, such as Joshua Tree National Park and Indian Canyons, you may decide to extend your stay by a day (and that would be a good idea!).
Getting to Palm Springs is easy. If you are coming from Los Angeles, simply take I-10 East and take Highway 111 south. From Las Vegas, take I-15 and then I-215 South. When you arrive, you will notice an endless expanse of wind turbines. At sunset, the expanse of wind turbines looks impressive.
Take a look at the wind turbines in the picture below!
What about you? Have you ever been to Palm Springs?