I went to high school in the Palm Springs area. None of these recs are based on that experience, though. I was pretty boring in high school and also, obviously, couldn’t enjoy the boozier elements of the valley. In the last several years, though, tons of tourism money has been bolstering the area and influencing the restaurants, bars, and overall scene of the Palm Springs area. It’s a retreat for Angelenos and San Diegans alike. Walk its streets and you’ll hear the echo of a bachelorette party’s high heels go clack-clack-clack. Take a deep breath and smell the cotton candy-flavored vape of some nearby pseudo-hipster. And then, read this and get to planning your Palm Springs weekend.
Food & Drink:
- Workshop Kitchen + Bar: One of the best places in PS for brunch or dinner. The interior is a bit industrial, with private booths and one big communal table. The drinks and the food are special and would be right at home in a bigger city.
- Truss & Twine: right next door to Workshop and perfect for pre- or post-dinner drinks. They serve snacks and are really great at listening to your preferences and prescribing cocktails. This is my favorite cocktail bar in the area.
- Purple Palm: V cute place. I have only had breakfast/brunch here so can’t vouch for other meals, but it was truly fun. The interior has gorgeous old-world tiling, and if it’s not too hot, the outdoor seating has fun people-watching by the pool.
- Azucar: So, so cute. Upstairs there’s rooftop seating. Great for doing apps plus an entree.
- Birba: Legit pizzas and wine. Sit outside and enjoy the ambiance. Easy.
- Chi Chi: super cute, tucked-away place in an old school PS hotel.
- Norma’s: At the uber-hot Parker hotel. Make ressies now because it’s one of the most popular places in town! But if you’re craving dinner at the Parker, dry Mister Parker. It’s pretty upscale, dim, well-decorated. Grab a drink at the very photogenic Mini Bar before.
- King’s Highway: Super cute, themed like an old diner @ the Ace Hotel. Great for breakfast. There’s an old-school photo booth there — look for it near the bathrooms (I think?). It prints out real B&W ink photos that can smudge — so retro.
- Tonga Hut: A classic tiki bar. Not a proper dive bar, but a bit divey, if that makes sense. Has classic games to play (Jenga, Connect-4) and can be quite fun for a drink. Get a painkiller. Trust.
- Cork and Fork: This is in La Quinta, about 30 minutes from PS. If you’re staying closer to that end of the valley, this is your spot! Sharable plates and lots of local ingredients.
Nature (if it’s not 4000* outside):
- Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve: This is a pretty neat place. On top of being gorgeous and ‘grammable, it’s a slice of ancient geology. The naturally-occurring water here is what’s left of when the Coachella Valley used to be a big lake nestled in between the surrounding mountains. There is an endemic species of fish — meaning it’s found only there, and nowhere else in the world — that lives in the water here.
- Bump n Grind: If you’re staying in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, or Rancho Mirage, head here for a little fitness and be rewarded with amazing views. It’s a steep uphill hike/run trail. And FYI, I really don’t know any other trails closer to Palm Springs b/c I’m not an outdoor fitness queen, but I’m sure google/yelp can tell you!
- Indian Canyons: Another little slice of history. Think a little bit of natural water (aka not just puddles left over from the very occasional rain), lizards and birds galore, and some cool remnants of the indigenous peoples that inhabited this area!
- Joshua Tree National Park: Not just a U2 album. This is a giant expanse of high desert that has gained extra popularity with the rise of Coachella and this new generation of Instagram ~artistes~. But it’s actually very cool (and very hot). Some areas have Native American petroglyphs, which is just awesome no matter how interested in history you may be. Allow half a day at least to explore, plus drive time. Stop by one of the bars with live music on your way back down to PS.
And a couple bonus things:
- Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon: especially if you’re driving on the 10 West back to LA (or driving in on the 10 East), please stop here and get four thousand amazing things for $200. My fave stops here are the Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Lululemon outlets.
- Ace Hotel occasionally does Splash House. It’s a see-and-be-seen type pool party but friends seem to love it. (I’ve not been to the events, but have been to the ever-trendy Ace in multiple cities including PS.)
- Social Cycle: a classic Bachelorette activity. You board a 14-person bicycle cart and make stops at 3 different bars over the course of 2 hours. Tim and I have done this twice: the first with my parents and their friends, and the second with my parents and his parents. I guess I’m trying to say it can be very age-inclusive as long as all members of your party are 21+.