Planning Your Palm Springs Visit

A Quick Guide

the marley

Palm Springs is world renowned for our stylish hotels, great weather, and stunning views. We are also famous for our many fine examples of midcentury-modern architecture and design that are visible throughout the city. The core shopping district is on Palm Canyon Drive. It features vintage boutiques, interior design shops, and unique apparel. It also has locally owned restaurants, many with beautiful outdoor dining patios.  Palm Springs offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. For these reasons, Palm Springs has long been the preferred desert retreat of Hollywood royalty, presidents, wellness seekers, and sun-worshippers. The permanent year-round population is about 45,000; however, it doubles during the winter season.

Let’s get started planning your Palm Springs visit.

palm springs sign

Great Weather

Palm Springs enjoys over 350 days of sunshine a year. You are at low risk of rain ruining your Palm Springs. This is because the beautiful San Jacinto mountain range, visible from anywhere in the Coachella Valley, protects Palm Springs from the coastal weather.

Best Time To Visit:

The desert truly dazzles in winter. When much of the nation faces months of rain and snow, Palm Springs residents are almost entirely unaware. This is also the busiest season, so be sure to book early. Fall is the shoulder season and a great time to visit. The weather is excellent, the crowds have not arrived, and you can still find deals. For the budget traveler, summer is the best time to plan your Palm Springs visit. If you don’t mind the heat and love to lounge by the pool, this is when you’ll find your best deals.

Getting Here

Palm Springs, California, lies on the western edge of the Coachella Valley within the Colorado Desert and sits at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. Palm Springs is about a 2.5-hour drive from Los Angeles (depending on the time of day due to LA traffic) and just over 2 hours from San Diego. Arizona and Las Vegas are each about a 4-hour drive—the Palm Springs International Airport in centrally located and service most major cities directly or with connections. Read more.

Getting Around

Palm Springs is relatively compact and walkable. The Palm Springs International Airport is about a 10-minute ride into downtown. Almost all resorts and hotels are also a short distance from the airport. Taxi and ride-share services are all available. You will need a vehicle to visit the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway located at the base of the San Jacinto mountains.

palm springs airport

Easy Come, Easy Go at PSP Airport

Palm Springs Visit – Stylish Stays

Palm Springs has a wide range of places to stay. When planning your Palm Springs visit, consider what experience will best fit you. The choice includes cool modern desert dwellings formerly owned by celebrities for that Hollywood-style stay. There is also an extensive collection of vacation rentals. Palm Springs has a large collection of boutique resorts that range from historic to hip for a romantic getaway. Many of these are centrally located downtown and in the tennis neighborhood. Consider staying at a mid-century modern boutique resort and experience Palm Springs’s vibe.

We also offer large, full-service hotels that can accommodate your every need. The Kimpton has its pool on the 7th floor with sweeping views of the desert, while the Renaissance has the largest pool in Palm Springs. These can also be great options for weddings.

Another option is to stay at a more basic property that is budget friendly, like a Motel 6, Courtyard Inn, or Extended Stay.

orbit in pool

For the LGBTQ Friendly

Palm Springs also has the largest concentration of gay resorts in the United States and possibly the world. Most are clothing optional and found in the heart of the community. With a diverse resident population, Palm Springs is very welcoming as “come as you are.”

Gay Travel Guide to Palm Springs

santiago pool
Santiago Resort

Things To Do

The desert easily lends itself to a wide range of itineraries. Some folks turn up solely to tune out, spending hours at the pool, spa, or on a porch with a cocktail, mesmerized by the purple glow of dusk. Others book their days end to end with activities that start with early morning hikes and finish with lost inhibitions and music at a nightclub within the deeply rooted and energetic LGBTQ scene. In between, they hop around off-roading, getting an up-close look at the iconic windmills, feeding animals at The Living Desert Zoo, taking a Red Jeep Tour, hitting a museum, or discovering a cactarium at Moorten Botanical Garden.

#1 Palm Springs Attraction – Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting visitors to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. During this ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering spectacular vistas of the valley below.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Discover Everything Mid-Century Modern

It’s the capital of cool and mid-century modern architecture, and design is at its core. Palm Springs has the largest collection of preserved architecture in the world. Movie stars or Rat Packers like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Peter Lawford, and Lucille Ball once owned or visited these architectural treasures. Because the walls can’t talk, book a tour with an outfit like Palm Springs Mod Squad to learn more. Some programs even take you inside private homes.

Maps for self-guided Hollywood star homes are available at the Palm Springs Visitor Center.

Consider attending the very popular Modernism Week in February, which celebrates everything mid-century and modern.

midcentury architecture

Getting In Your Exercise

The great weather and the even greater outdoors make a Palm Springs visit a mush. There are miles of hiking trails beautify neighborhoods to explore on a bike and the downtown is so walkable. Many of the hotels and resorts offer complimentary bikes. Or we have a number of bike rental and repair shops, including electrical bikes.

There are fantastic and diverse hikes for all fitness levels, including trails that wander past waterfalls in Indian and Tahquitz Canyons: rock formations, and wildflower-dotted hillsides. You can even trek through the snow by taking the Aerial Tramway (another must, even if you only ride up and back for the views) up to the wooded wonderland of Mt. San Jacinto State Park, which sits 8,516 feet above sea level. In the summer, you can explore 52 miles of alpine trails.

Palm Springs Shopping

Enjoy top-notch vintage shopping on your next Palm Springs visit and plan to take a little Palm Springs style home with you. The very walkable downtown is excellent for window shopping. You’ll find many locally owned boutiques and a few larger popular fashion stores here. You’ll find more vintage shopping and boutiques in the Uptown Design District. Stop by one of the fashionable dining hot spots for lunch and get your energy back for – more shopping!

Vintage Palm Springs Shopping.

Where To Eat and Drink

Palm Springs is fortunate to have mostly locally owned and often chef-owned eateries.

For families, consider the more family-style Mexican fair. Being close to the Mexican border, you can expect authentic dishes. One of the most popular and longest-running Mexican restaurants in Palm Springs is Las Casuelas.

las casuals palm springs

For the more health conscious, several farm-to-table style restaurants in the heart of downtown in FARM offer French-style dishes. There are also plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. Making good use of all that produce is the founder of the first national vegan chain, Native Foods. She also opened the very popular Chef Tanya’s Kitchen. For a more upscale experience, consider the James Beard Award winner Workshop Kitchen + Bar, which sources most of its ingredients within an hour of its tables.

indoor seating workshop bar

Several resort pools have lively daytime eating and drinking scenes. The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has plenty of poolside entertainment. Their on-site restaurant was one of the early Denny’s. Keeping with the original vibe, Highways is an excellent choice for any visit. You will love the colors of the Saguaro, which are so popular on Instagram. Stop by on Tuesday for Taco specials. They also have one of the largest tequila collections in Palm Springs.

Once the sun goes down, the action moves to tiki bars. Bootlegger Tiki, The Reef, and Tonga Hut offer tropical cocktail lounges. While you can still feast on filets and get buzzed on bourbon and martinis at plenty of meat-forward joints, consider some like entertainment at a supper club. The Purple Room, where Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack once sang, now offers dinner and a show. Another option for the more daring is the Palm Springs Underground, preparing extravagant themed dinners and entertainment.

bootleger tiki

Money-Saving Tips

Due to the summer heat, July, August, and September are the slow season. Therefore, if you can stomach the heat or thrive in it, you can cash in on big hotel deals or easily score prime rentals and timeshare slots.

If you aren’t attending one of the music festivals in April, avoid those weekends if you can. They mark the most crowded and expensive time of the year to visit. Even budget motels ask for several hundred dollars a night. Traffic ratchets up, and lines are long. Secure accommodations early if you are a ticket holder.

Explore Palm Springs Care/Free

Check attraction websites to see if there are weekly or monthly free days or discounts for active-duty military, seniors, or AAA members. For instance, the Palm Springs Art Museum is free every Thursday night from 5 to  7 p.m. (times may vary).

Attend the free VillageFest every Thursday night in downtown Palm Springs.  Here, you will find an array of artists, food, and fun.

View Digital Guides

Order Visitor Guides