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Thursday 11 March 2021

Things To Do In & Around Palm Springs

Following on from my last post about my desert road trip from Las Vegas to Palm Springs, today I'm sharing some of my favorite things to see and do in and around Palm Springs, as well as my favorite places to stay and where to dine. 

Palm Springs is such an interesting place to visit. Located around two hours east of Los Angeles it's an oasis in the desert full of palm trees, stunning resorts, mid-century modern architecture, and so much more. The first time we visited back in December 2014 I didn't really know an awful lot about Palm Springs. In fact, all I really knew, or what I thought I knew, was that it was a desert oasis for golfing retirees! While there are definitely golf courses and retirees, that's only a tiny part of Palm Springs. The city and the area surrounding it have so much to offer visitors of all ages.   

Have you visited Palm Springs before? We've visited Palm Springs once on a family vacation, and I've been there three times for Alt Summit conference. It's a great place for a desert getaway, especially in the cooler months. While it can get chilly there (it snowed the first time we visited!) Winter in Palm Springs is usually still quite warm, making it a great place to escape from the cold in other states. 

Here's a look at some of my favorite places to visit in and around Palm Springs...

Moorten Botanical Garden
One of my favorite things about visiting desert locations like Palm Springs is seeing the plant life that manages to thrive in the harsh environment. When you're out and about in nature those plants may be pretty wide spread, but at Moorten Botanical Garden you can see thousands of cacti, succulents, grasses and trees all in the one place. This botanical garden is a popular spot with plant lovers and families alike. Many of the desert plants on display grow in such interesting and quirky ways that kids are sure to find them fascinating. The glasshouse, which you can see above, is a popular spot with photographers. You can see more from my visit to Moorten Botanical Garden here

Mid-Century Modern Home Tour
Fans of mid-century modern architecture are in for a big treat in Palm Springs. The city is known for its abundance of mid-century homes, with stunning features, immaculate gardens and colorful doors. You've probably seen the famous Pink Door house on Instagram at some point. Take a drive or stroll through the neighborhoods in this map by Salty Canary and you'll find all the mid-century modern goodness. You can see more of my self tour of Palm Spring's mid-century modern homes here.

The Living Desert Zoo  
Moorten Botanical Garden is a great place for plant lovers, but for animal lovers The Living Desert Zoo is the place to go. Here visitors will find a wealth of desert dwelling animals from the Americas, Africa and Australia. There are plenty of interactive opportunities for visitors including feeding the giraffes, as well as play areas for kids and some great hiking trails. So far, I've only visited in the evening for an event in which I was able to feed the giraffes. Heading back for a day time visit with the kids is on my list for next time we're in Palm Springs for sure. 

Mecca Hills Slot Canyon 
Located just over an hour south east of Palm Springs, Mecca Hills is a great place to take a hike with a difference. The canyon here features a hiking trail that takes visitors through wide open areas to narrow slot canyons accessible only by ladder. While much of the trail is pretty easy, there is climbing and scrambling up rocks involved. You won't need any specialized equipment, but you will need comfortable, sturdy shoes and long pants to avoid scrapes and scratches from the rocks. Expect to get covered in dirt! Keep in mind that it gets VERY hot out here in the warmer months. Even when I visited in late Winter it was pretty warm. Make sure to bring plenty of water with you. You can read more about the Mecca Hills Slot canyon here.

Salvation Mountain
By now I'm sure you know that I'm a huge fan of colorful street art and murals. Imagine a man-made mountain covered in colorful art in the middle of a desert? Doesn't it sound amazing? Well, it exists and it IS amazing! It's Salvation Mountain and it's located near the Salton Sea an hour and a half south of Palm Springs. This 50 foot high and 150 foot wide "mountain" was built by outsider artist Leonard Knight in the 1980s. It's covered in bright colors, patterns and biblical quotes. Now, if like me, biblical quotes are not your thing, don't let the religious aspect put you off. Salvation Mountain is an amazing sight even if the messages are a little preachy. You really have to see it to believe it. We visited at sunset and the mountain was positively glowing. You can see our visit here

Cabazon Dinosaurs
If you're driving to Palm Springs from Los Angeles, keep an eye out for this prehistoric roadside attraction about fifteen minutes before you reach Palm Springs. The Cabazon Dinosaurs, named Dinny and Mr Rex, have been a popular spot for dinosaur loving kiddos for decades. They're now a popular spot for Instagram selfies too! Visitors are able to go inside both of the dinosaurs. We haven't been inside the dinosaurs yet, but that's definitely on my list for our next trip to Palm Springs. Last time I visited the dinosaurs were painted in natural looking colors. Since last year, however, both Dinny and Mr Rex have been painted quite colorfully in seasonal themes. As of now Mr Rex wears a tuxedo and holds a "Be Mine" heart, while Dinny is painted bright pink. For more about visiting the Cabazon Dinosaurs click here

Joshua Tree National Park
One of the biggest attractions in the Palm Springs area is Joshua Tree National Park. This desert park is popular with visitors from all across the US and around the world. The desert environment, the rock formations, and of course, the Joshua trees are a sight to be seen. Many visitors camp out at Joshua Tree NP but it's also a great place for a day visit if you don't have a lot of time or if camping isn't your thing. There are plenty of stunning hiking trails but you can also see a lot just by driving through. This is actually what we did when we visited as it was much colder than expected and we weren't dressed for the weather. It actually even snowed while we were there! You can see our visit to Joshua Tree National Park here.

Next time we visit Palm Springs I'm hoping to check out the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and Indian Canyons, as well as revisiting The Living Desert Zoo and the Cabazon Dinosaurs.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Palm Springs? Lots of visitors choose to go with an AirBnB. There are plenty of classic mid-century modern properties available on AirBnB and they're a great choice for families, groups of for longer stays. If AirBnB isn't your thing, Palm Springs has some pretty great hotel options too. Here are a few of my favorites.

Ace Hotel & Swim Club
Ace Hotel is one of my favorite chains and we often stay in their properties when we travel. I love their simple, slightly rustic aesthetic, and while their hotels definitely appeal to the younger crowd they are quite family friendly too. The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs has a great pool area with delicious cocktails and bar food menu from their Amigo Room bar. King Highway diner offers delicious meals. With orange trees growing around the hotel, the entire place smells of orange blossoms. Ace Hotel & Swim Club is located at 701 E Palm Canyon Drive. 

The Saguaro 
The Saguaro Hotel is a color lover's dream! I mean, just look at those pictures below. The rooms themselves are not really anything special, but most people stay here for the pool and all that color. The Saguaro is popular with young people and while I've only ever stayed there during the week, I've heard that it can be party central on weekends. If you're planning on staying at The Saguaro with kids I'd definitely opt for week days if you can. I can't decide if my favorite thing about The Saguaro is all the color or the nachos at El Jefe restaurant located inside the lobby! The Saguaro is located at 1800 E Palm Canyon Drive.

Parker Palm Springs
If you're a fan of mid-century modern style and you're looking for a bit of a splurge, you can't go past the Parker. The Parker hotel is located just a little further away from the busier areas of Palm Springs than Ace Hotel and The Saguaro, but it feels like a world away. This is definitely the place for a luxurious escape. The lush gardens here are absolutely stunning as is the collection of mid-century art in the lobby. The exterior of the Parker is popular with Instagrammers due to it wall of white breeze blocks and bright orange door. Parker Palm Springs is located at 4200 E Palm Canyon Drive.

Ok, so you've got somewhere to stay and things to do and see in Palm Springs, what about places to eat and drink. Many of the meals I've had in Palm Springs have been catered as part of Alt Summit, however I do have some favorites that are a must for when I'm in Palm Springs. 

El Jefe at The Saguaro
I mentioned the nachos above, and believe me, they're the best nachos you'll find anywhere. I don't know what they do to their nachos, but they are divine! The tacos and margaritas here are pretty great too, but you'll keep coming back for those nachos. El Jefe is located in the lobby of The Saguaro at 1800 E Palm Canyon Drive.

Cheeky's is a popular breakfast spot located in a busy shopping and dining district. Cheeky's is popular with locals and visitors alike and is known for their World Famous Bacon Flight. This bacon hater is going to tell you to skip the bacon (although friends told me it's delicious) and opt for the chilequiles instead. They were so good! Cheeky's is located at 622 N Palm Canyon Drive. 

Cartel Coffee Lab
Cartel Coffee Lab was my go to spot for great coffee and delicious pastries for breakfast when I was at Alt Summit last year. Well, when I wasn't eating chilequiles at Cheeky's that is! The coffee here is on par with some of the best I've ever had and the pastries were delicious, especially the guava cream empanadas.  Cartel Coffee Lab is located at 1551 N Palm Canyon Drive.

Shop(pe) Ice Cream & Shop
This little store offers delicious ice cream in huge variety of flavors including some quirky local tastes such as Coachella Valley Date. Half of the store is dedicated to ice cream, while the other half is a gift store featuring fun Palm Springs themed gifts. Shop(pe) is located in the same block of shops at Cartel at 1551 N Palm Canyon Drive. 

Have you visited Palm Springs before? I'd love to hear what some of your favorite places are!

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