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A Palm Springs Insider’s Guide

downtown palm springs

Experience Palm Springs like a Local.

Welcome to Palm Springs, a desert oasis that offers visitors an abundance of sunshine, stunning scenery, and a vibrant culture. This is an extraordinary place, and locals choose to live here over in so many other popular cities. Here is your Palm Springs local’s guide to truly experience the city like a local.

Stay Local

Midcentury modern architecture is one of the defining features of Palm Springs. The style emerged in the post-World War II era, characterized by clean lines, simple forms, and a focus on functionality. It was a departure from the ornate, decorative styles that had previously dominated architecture.

Locals who own midcentury modern homes have meticulously restored them and kept their original style of footprints, ensuring that they will continue to be appreciated for generations to come. A great way to experience Palm Springs like a local is to rent a midcentury home, and there are many to choose from. We recommend booking through a local vacation rental agency for the best overall service.

Palm Springs Vacation Rental Guide

Vacation Palm Springs rental 3

Shop Local Vintage Vibes

With so many locals owning midcentury modern homes, what better way to decorate them than a visit to a local vintage shop? With so many to choose from, Palm Springs’ vintage shopping advantage is truly endless.

The thrill of the hunt delivers vintage and contemporary goodies at Revivals, a local-favorite thrift shop benefiting the Desert AIDS Project. Be sure to peruse the really cool costume jewelry. Shoes, clothes, home furnishings, vintage ceramics, dinnerware, lighting, pictures. You name it, it’s here.

Continuing along South Palm Canyon Drive to East Sunny Dunes Road, this shopping enclave features fabulous finds in nearly a dozen diverse shops. The Sunny Dunes Antique Mall is “6,000 square feet of retail happiness.” More than 40 independently owned shops overflow with goodies from mid-century to contemporary.

The Antiques Galleries of Palm Springs features a curated collection, from old gas pumps and macrame to ship’s wheels, Magnavox stereo consoles, and ’60s clown paintings—remember them? Plus an ever-changing inventory of vintage furniture, clothing, sculpture, and glassware.

vintage vases

Eat Locally Owned

All our recommendations are locally owned restaurants. There are no chain restaurants here. Locals know the owners, and they love that connection to where they live.

Trio has been a staple in Palm Springs dining and cocktails since 2009. Their tagline literally is, “Where Palm Springs Eats.” And it’s true: Locals love the owner, Tony Marchese, and often run into friends in the bar or at a table. This American brasserie offers an extensive menu with something for everyone, including classic comfort food dishes and modern twists on traditional favorites.

exterior restaurant

What we love about Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge is its huge lounge, which serves a special and full bar menu. There are no reservations, and it has a thriving happy hour locals love. The wait staff becomes like family and knows your name (and your preferred beverage!). The usual?

Eight4Nine Restaurant

El Mirasol in south Palm Springs is a favorite of Barry Manilow, who lives there. This Mexican restaurant serves delicious margaritas and traditional dishes such as carne asada and chile rellenos. I hear rumors they also cater for Barry…

Other local favorite spots include The Tropicale, the hidden patio at John Henry’s Café, meeting on the second floor at Bongo Johnny’s, and a quick American diner style meal at John’s RestaurantThe Tropicale, the hidden patio at John Henry’s Café, meeting on the second floor at Bongo Johnny’s, and a quick American diner-style the Purple Room Supper Club. It originally opened in 1960 and was a popular hangout spot for celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  Now owned by entertainer Michael Holmes, the Purple Room offers a unique dining experience where you can enjoy live jazz, pop, and cabaret performances while you dine.

purple room

The Arenas District is Palm Spring’s answer to Castro Street. Locals meet friends at one of the many bars for drinks, dancing, and a variety of entertainment. Blackbook Bar is a great place to start, with a great menu and award-winning craft cocktails (but without the attitude). Across the street is the popular nightclub Hunters Palm Springs. This is an excellent place for clubbing. Not only do they have go-go dancers and drag shows, but they also enjoy a huge dance floor with disco lighting to dance the night away. Chill Bar, just next door in the Arenas District, serves up shows, parties, food, and drinks. Two spaces offer patrons a range of entertainment and nightlife options.

You will also find Quadz Video BarStreetbar, and Dicks’ on Arenas.

Friends dining at Blackbook

Take A Downtown Walking Tour

Exploring Palm Springs on foot is a great way to soak in the city’s desert views and architecture. This charming city is known for its midcentury architecture, desert landscapes, and Hollywood history. Let’s explore some of the highlights on a downtown walking tour.

Head towards the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Palm Springs Art MuseumExplore the public art that surrounds the blocks in front of the museum.

Get your picture taken in front of the 26-foot Marilyn Monroe statue on Museum Way. The “Forever Marilyn” sculpture, designed by artist Seward Johnson, depicts Monroe in her famous pose from the movie The Seven Year Itch: standing over a subway grate with her skirt blowing up.

Marilyn Monroe

Stroll through the Downtown Park. It is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Opened in 2019, the park covers 1.8 acres and features a variety of amenities, such as a large grassy area for picnics and events, a children’s play area, a splash pad, and shaded seating areas. The park also hosts events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and outdoor movie screenings. It is a great place to relax, unwind, and enjoy the beautiful Palm Springs weather.

Downtown Park

Head over to Palm Canyon Drive and cross the road.

Walk along the east side as you make your way south. Just to your left is Destination PSP, which is a great place to pick up Palm Springs-style merchandise.

Stroll down the palm-lined street and check out unique boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Take in the midcentury modern architecture of Palm Springs.

Continue South on Palm Canyon

You will pass the historic Plaza Theatre. It has hosted countless film premieres and live performances since 1936 and is currently being restored. It’s tucked just behind Brandini Toffee, which is locally owned and a must-stop for sweet tooth lovers.

Plaza Theatre front

You can continue towards the historic La Plaza shopping district.

La Plaza is the first open-air shopping center in the United States. The design allows visitors to enjoy the beautiful desert climate while browsing the shops and dining al fresco. The center also features a central courtyard with fountains and palm trees, creating a serene oasis in the city’s heart.

It was designed by renowned architect Paul R. Williams in 1936 and originally served as a community gathering place. Today, it has been renovated and reimagined as a unique shopping and dining destination featuring a mix of high-end retailers, restaurants, and art galleries.

La Plaza

Continue South toward Arenas Road.

Several popular restaurants line the street. Lulu California Bistro has a large outdoor seating area and fits in well with its midcentury yet modern vibe. Just past Lulu is Las Casuelas Terraza, the oldest continuously running restaurant in Palm Springs since 1958, offering a traditional Mexican menu.

las casuelas

Other restaurants include Thai House, Pomme Frite, and Sol Agave.

Cross the street at Baristo.

On the corner is the Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center. It is dedicated to the rich history of architecture in the Palm Springs area. The museum’s collection features a wide range of exhibits and displays exploring modernist design evolution in Palm Springs. In addition to its exhibits, the museum hosts various educational programs and special events throughout the year. From lectures and workshops to walking tours and film screenings, the museum offers something for everyone interested in the history and future of architecture in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs architecture museum

Cross South Palm Canyon to the east side, where you will see Fuzion Five on the corner.

Stroll north as if you are heading back to the Palm Springs Art Museum. Stop by the Palm Springs Historical Society (check hours, as they vary). Not only will you learn more about Palm Springs’s rich history, but they also offer seasonal walking tours.

Continue North to the Sonny Bono statue.

Sonny Bono was a renowned musician and actor and served as the city’s mayor in the 1980s. The statue depicts him in his signature pose, with his arms outstretched and a big smile. The statue holds sentimental value for many residents of Palm Springs, who remember him as a devoted public servant who worked tirelessly to improve the community. He founded the Palm Springs International Film Festival, one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals.


Notice the Palm Springs Walk of Stars along Palm Canyon.

The Walk of Stars is a series of bronze stars embedded in the sidewalk along Palm Canyon Drive, honoring celebrities who have contributed to the entertainment industry. You can spot the stars of Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, and Frank Sinatra, among others. The Walk of Stars is an integral part of Palm Springs’ heritage and serves as a testament to the city’s rich cultural history. Whether you’re a classic Hollywood or contemporary entertainment fan, the Walk of Stars is worth visiting.

star on walk of stars

We hope you enjoyed this downtown tour. Remember to hydrate and wear comfortable shoes.

You Might Also Like:

Uptown Vintage Shopping

Arenas District, where the fun is!

Mid-Century Architecture Self-Guided Tour

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