Palm Springs, California

Uniquely Palm Springs

Big events, great food, and vintage shops encourage visitors to keep it local in Palm Springs this summer

By Carole Dixson

Year after year, Palm Springs shines as one of the most diverse and fascinating destinations in Southern California. With new and innovative dining and entertainment, unique shops, amazing mid-century design and architecture, and an array of stimulating activities and attractions, it’s high-time to head to this city, dubbed the new “Capital of Cool.”

Coming up on the summer calendar some of the top events not to miss include a friendly short film festival, the world’s coolest (and possibility largest) pool party, and a delicious restaurant week. With so many fantastic options, where do you begin? Our guide below will help you sort out the endless local possibilities for where to stay, shop, dine, drink, and have fun in the desert from sunrise to sunset over the San Jacinto Mountains.

Saguaro Hotel
The lobby of the Riviera Hotel in Palm Springs, California
Riviera Hotel
The interior of clothing boutique Wil Stiles in Palm Springs, California
Wil Stiles
An interior view of Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs, CA
Lulu California Bistro

Friends on Trend

The Events

Whether you’re buying a day pass or an after-hours ticket, the world-famous Splash House pool party can get pretty rowdy with the summer heat. Scantily clad bodies, top DJs and powerful cocktails make for a sizzling combination.

Celebrating its 25th year, the Palm Springs International Film Society’s Shortfest is the largest short format film festival in North America. Every June, view up to ten, 90-minute curated movies, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. You just might catch the next Oscar-winning work of art in the act.

The Room

An original home to Splash House, the colorful Saguaro hotel pool has gotten a face-lift with three new cabanas. The retro Riviera, with two pools, and modern Renaissance also host splashy events.

The Shop

For cool retro styles that pop with color, Wil Stiles is the spot. Curated clothing from across the eras offers plenty to love here. Next door neighbors, Just Fabulous, and Jill, will take care of your home, so you can bring a little Palm Springs-style art back to your abode.

The Food

Start your day with a California Norwegian Benedict with smoked salmon and caviar, or come in the afternoon for an amazing deal on a prix-fixe menu at the lively Lulu California Bistro. Where else can you find a 12-hour happy hour? For locals, the question of meeting  at El Mirasol is “north or south?” Both have some of the most charming outdoor patios and most authentic Mexican cuisine in town. Nightcaps are tucked away at the classic Seymour’s speakeasy inside the old-school Mr. Lyons Steakhouse.

The Fun

Since you are in the land of Midcentury Modern architecture, take the Mid-Mod Design Tour to view masterpieces by architects Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and other visionaries. For a more intimate (limited to five people) check out the 90-minute Mod Squad tours, which include a look at Rat Pack-era homes and a stop for martinis.

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Escape Resort

LGBTQ + Realness

The Event

The Cinema Diverse LGBTQ Film Festival will bring you into a community through film that may not only enrich your life, but transform it. Held this year on September 19-22, these filmmakers bring their work to the city, but also participate in discussions and talks to explain their inspirations.

The Room

Escape Resort is a beloved male-only hideaway, a laid-back haven for the carefree guest. The lush 1950s-era property is one of the longest running clothing-optional resorts and boasts a 15-man spa to enjoy the night soaking under the stars. The Santiago Resort channels a modern ranchero vibe and touts the largest pool of any gay resort in Palm Springs. With Townie bicycles, the communal fire pit and the always-open Cantina, with complimentary snacks and beverages, gay men find an upscale experience on a very personal level.

The Shop

To spice up your summer wardrobe, head to Gay Mart for provocative swim trunks, shorts, T-shirts—all the gay wear that’s fit to wear for a sizzling time in the desert. If you’re feeling fancy and flush, add a little more zing with a brightly colored floral print suit from Mr. Turk.

The Food

Between films, grab a sweet muffin and cup of freshly roasted Joe at one of three local Koffi patios. For heartier fare, head to the ultimate diverse hang, Bongo Johnny's Patio Bar & Grill (in a new location on Palm Canyon Drive), for a burger and truffle fries with $5 mimosas. Brunch choices abound at Pinocchio, where you can sip bottomless champagne with your eggs benedict or omelet while people watching along Tahquitz Canyon Way. Way, way later, the late-night disco fries—or even better, the carne asada fries—at BlackBook on Arenas will take care of any late night food cravings amidst a sea of good music and service.

The Fun

For a kitschy tropical paradise, head to Toucan's Tiki Lounge for a Mai Tai with the Playgirls in drag, or Jell-O shots with the boys. For drag stars and show people, Bella da Ball hosts late night evenings at the Copa nightclub. If staying fit is more your speed, grab some gear at Bike Palm Springs Rentals, and hit the streets, or a steep mountain trail.

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A juicy burger with a stack of onion rings at Bongo Johnny’s in Palm Springs, California
Bongo Johnny’s
View of the pool and lounge chairs with the mountains in the background at Santiago Resort, in Palm Springs, California
Santiago Resort
The exterior of Bike Palm Springs with bicycles to rent
Bike Palm Springs
Las Casuelas
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Epicurean Adventures

The Event

For one glorious week in June, foodies flock to Palm Springs for dining deals and special Restaurant Week menus at some of the most entertaining and impressive eateries in town.

The Room

During check-in at Villa Royale, you will be greeted with a shot of your choice. Colorful tiles from Portugal, Spain, and Mexico plus in-room cocktail parlors add to the escape. This boutique property also welcomes pets, with in-room pet beds and toys, plus VIP (Very Important Pet) door hangers. Take a spin on one of the property’s Electra-bikes, then settle in on the patio of their own Del Rey Restaurant with Spanish tapas in the warm evening.

The interior of a room at Villa Royale with a fire in the fireplace in Palm Springs, California
Villa Royale
Two ice cream cones in waffle cones from Kreem, in Palm Springs, California
Kreem
The interior dining room at Mr. Lyons Steakhouse in Palm Springs, California
Mr. Lyons Steakhouse
The Shop

For an Instagram-able moment with a waffle cone, Kreem is a must stop for artisanal ice cream that will cool you down. Take Fido for his own treat at the doggie bakery for natural treats at Bones ‘n Scones on Palm Canyon.

The Food

Sitting on a portion of the Cary Grant Estate, Copley’s on Palm Canyon shimmers in the evening with outdoor patio, mountain views and warming fire pit. The multi-cultural food scene is also on fire. Las Casulas Terraza just celebrated its 40th birthday serving Mexican cuisine on a Saltillo-tiled patio. 533 Viet Fusion has crowds flocking there for the Spring Roll Bar, and cult favorite Rooster & the Pig features Vietnamese flavors. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey is creating a buzz for their innovative pairings. Tyler’s is a long-time favorite for burgers, fries, and homemade potato salad, while Revel Public House has become another classic must-stop for happy hour.

The Fun

Continue the culinary bliss with a three-hour Desert Tasty Tour, and cap it off with gelato pops at Gelato Granucci…happiness on a stick.