Palm Springs Getaway: California Desert with a Modern Vibe

A Palm Springs getaway offers the sunny skies and desert vistas you expect, plus excellent hiking, tasty dining, gorgeous lodging, and a cool mid-century modern vibe found nowhere else. Whether you are escaping winter’s cold, or just escaping hectic LA, you can craft a Palm Springs getaway that is relaxing or active, budget or luxurious, comfortable or adventurous, or maybe a little of each.

Palm Springs California
Palm Springs California

Things to Do on a Palm Springs Getaway

1. Agua Caliente Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons Palm Springs California
Indian Canyons, Palm Springs California

Hike through a desert oasis on over 100 miles of trails, and learn about the Cahuilla people who made their homes in the canyons. If time allows, join a Tribal Ranger on a guided hike through beautiful Palm Canyon (note that the descent into the canyon is steep). Our ranger showed us how the Cahuilla adapted the land to their needs, turning barrel cactus into a crock-pot style cooker, and building their diet around the plentiful mesquite.

Andreas Canyon, Palm Springs California
Andreas Canyon, Palm Springs California

Nearby, the Andreas Canyon loop trail is a popular, easy hike that passes through groves of palms, along Andreas Creek, and past interesting rock formations.

2. Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours

Desert Adventure jeep tour Palm Springs
Desert Adventure jeep tour Palm Springs

Take a short trip out of the city to explore one of the most unique terrains in California. The San Andreas Fault is constantly reshaping the landscape of the Metate Ranch, and Red Jeep takes you on a fun and educational tour through this shifting landscape. It is pretty cool to see layers of rock turned on their side and slot canyons carved through the stone where the Pacific and North American Plates collide.

Slot Canyon Palm Springs California
Slot Canyon, Palm Springs California

3. Palm Springs Aerial Tram

Aerial Tram Palm Springs California
Aerial Tram, Palm Springs California

Scenic trams generally offer great views, but the Palm Springs Aerial Tram goes one better with a cool revolving car. No need to vie for the best window spot—you will enjoy 360 degree views as the tram makes two full rotations on its way up and down the mountain. The 10-minute ride climbs from 2,643 feet at the Valley Station to the Mountain Station at 8,516 feet.

Mount San Jacinto State Park, Palm Springs California
Mount San Jacinto State Park, Palm Springs California

There are over 50 miles of hiking trails and it is usually 30-40 degrees cooler at the top. At the top, soak in incredible views from the station or from viewpoints along a hiking trail in Mt. San Jacinto State Park. We recommend the easy Desert View Trail loop.

4. Palm Springs Art Museum

Mid-century modern, Palm Springs Art Museum, California
Mid-century modern, Palm Springs Art Museum, California

Hip towns deserve a hip museum, and the Palm Springs Art Museum fits the description. 28 galleries display modernist and contemporary painting and sculpture, Western American art, Native American and Mesoamerican art and artifacts, contemporary studio glass art, and more. Sleek mid-century modern pieces caught our attention on the first floor, while Chihuily glass pieces drew us upstairs. The Art Museum is also the starting point for the annual Walk of the Inns (info below).

5. The Living Desert

The Living Desert giraffe encounter Palm Springs California
The Living Desert giraffe encounter Palm Springs California

If your Palm Springs getaway includes children, The Living Desert is a must visit. The accredited zoo and gardens highlight desert plants and animals in fun, walkable settings. Watch wolves, big horn sheep, and other wildlife at play, then stop by the Giraffe Encounter for feeding time. Be sure to check out the huge model train display before you leave.

Where to Eat and Drink in Palm Springs

6. El Mirasol at Los Arboles

Mirasol at Los Arboles Palm Springs California
Mirasol at Los Arboles Palm Springs, California

Dinner at El Mirasol is an opportunity to enjoy a delicious margarita and tasty Mexican regional cuisine on a lovely open air patio. The original El Mirasol opened in 1985 on South Canyon Drive, and the second location retains the same popular menu.

7. Farm

The Farm Palm Springs California
Farm, Palm Springs, California

Breakfast calls for a bright and delicious start to the day, which is just what Farm delivers. Open air seating surrounded by flowers evokes Southern France. It is a perfect setting for farm fresh eggs and omelettes, crepes, and the decadent bacon and cheese french toast.

8. Kaiser Grille

Desert at Kaiser Grille, Palm Springs California
Dessert at Kaiser Grille, Palm Springs California

Kaiser Grille is a downtown favorite, featuring a broad menu from steaks and seafood, to salad and pizza. We could not pass up the three-course dinner of starter, entree, and dessert. They make an excellent dry martini and host a popular Happy Hour.

9. Trio Restaurant

Trio Restaurant Palm Springs, California
Trio Restaurant Palm Springs, California

Enjoy comfort food to contemporary in an historic mid-century modern building decorated with vibrant punches of orange. Trio welcomes a lively crowd feasting on house made meatloaf, pot roast, steaks, and fresh seafood.

People-watching is the perfect accompaniment to a Palm Springs dinner, so score an outside table if you can.

Where to Stay in Palm Springs

Lodging may be the toughest decision you will make in planning a Palm Springs getaway. With a bevy of hotels, motels, and inns available, there should be something that fits your mood and budget.

10. Amin Casa

Amin Casa: Relaxed Luxury in Palm Springs, California.
Amin Casa in Palm Springs, California

If you love Hollywood glamour, it is hard to beat the relaxed comfort of Amin Casa, once the home of Gloria Swanson. New owners, Nelson and Ramon, have retained the kitschy past while introducing all the modern comforts. Bungalow 1, once the pool house, combines the original 1920s pink tiled bathroom, a 1950s knotty pine kitchen and a luxurious modern bedroom and living room.

Relax on your patio and watch the giant inflatable pool swan (named Gloria) float by, and keep an eye on the sky. We caught this incredible sunset during our stay.

Palm Springs California sunset
Palm Springs California sunset

11. Los Arboles Hotel

Los Arboles Hotel Palm Springs California
Los Arboles Hotel, Palm Springs California

Honor the desert spirit with an historic adobe hotel featuring comfy rooms, a beautiful pool area, and an on-site restaurant serving delicious Mexican food. Request the Fireplace Room for a spacious bedroom with a jacuzzi tub in front of the gas fireplace. Tip: El Mirasol at Los Arboles offers complete food and beverage service poolside or in your room.

Room at Los Arboles Hotel Palm Springs California
Room at Los Arboles Hotel, Palm Springs California

If your goal is to stay in a mid-century gem, there are many choices. Orbit Inn and Del Marcos Hotel looked especially hip when we saw them during the Walk of the Inns.

Palm Springs Getaway Tips

Stop in the Palm Springs Visitor Center for maps, event info, and the chance to check out a 1960s icon. Nicknamed the Trawmay Gas Station, the historic building was designed with a cantilevered canopy called a hyperbolic paraboloid. A dramatic look for a humble gas station, now the perfect welcome to a Palm Springs getaway.

Palm Springs Visitor Center
Palm Springs Visitor Center

The Buzz Trolley offers a convenient free trolley service with stops on Indian Canyon and Palm Canyon Roads. The trolley runs year-round, Thursday to Sunday, from 11:00 am to 1:00 am with special hours during some events.

Modernism fans should consider building a Palm Springs getaway around annual style celebrations. In December, join the Walk of the Inns, a self-guided walking tour of Palm Springs’ unique desert modern hotels and historic inns. Tour hosts open their doors to the public, offering a unique chance to peak in the bedrooms and snap a pic by the pool, with many serving drinks or treats.

In February, Modernism Week draws crowds to a week-long celebration of midcentury architecture and design. Over 250 events from house tours, to lectures, to parties entertain guests while raising money for college scholarships. If shopping is your thing, December’s VillageFest features crafts, art, food, and entertainment filling Palm Canyon Drive downtown.

A Palm Springs getaway is perfect for lounging by the pool, shopping downtown, and sipping cocktails while you people watch. But it is also surrounded by desert, mountains, and canyons to explore. Even if you are not up for a hike, make time for a desert drive.

Indian Canyons Road Palm Springs California
Indian Canyons Road Palm Springs California

After a very long absence, we were not sure what to expect from our Palm Springs getaway, so we were blown away by our visit. The cool architecture, beautiful nature, tasty food, and fun vibe left us craving more time. Another winter California getaway is definitely in our future, especially when winter rolls around.

Portions of our Palm Springs visit were hosted by the Palm Springs Board of Tourism.

Article by Julie McCool, whose Virginia travel site helps locals and visitors find fun places to explore, dine, drink, and play in the Virginia, Washington DC, and mid-Atlantic region.

Like this article? Add it to your favorite Pinterest board to reference before your next Palm Springs getaway.

A Palm Springs getaway offers sunny skies, desert vistas, great hiking, tasty dining, unique lodging, and a cool mid-century modern vibe found nowhere else.

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10 thoughts on “Palm Springs Getaway: California Desert with a Modern Vibe”

  1. We love Palm Springs for the nature and opportunities for outdoor adventure – hiking is our biggest passion, and it’s a great area for it! We used to live in Arizona so would make roadtrips to Palm Springs when we had the time 🙂

  2. Drinks, hotels, dessert and the nice vanilla sky. What a great combo for a nive weekend getaway! Thanks for the introduction and beought us to Palm Springs! @ knycx.journeying

  3. Would love to go to Palm Springs one day. The hiking looks amazing, quite the views! Seems like the place has a fun, relaxed vibe.

  4. Re-reading this has made me want to plan another Palm Springs visit. I’d love to spend a whole day exploring the desert canyons.

  5. The Palm Springs Aerial Tram sounds really neat! I’m not sure if it would make one motion sick, but even so, those views are amazing!

    I didn’t know Palm Springs would be a good place for kids. The Living Desert looks fun!

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