Palm Springs Travel Guide

Palm Springs Travel Guide

Once a sandy hotbed for the Hollywood elite, the glittery deserts of Palm Springs have since been commandeered by modernists and gays, with over 40% of permanent residents identifying as LGBT+ and the first all-LGBT city council in the U.S. Dripping with creativity, Palm Springs is a desert oasis built by visionary architects, complete with clean lines and sleek glass styles breaking barriers between inside and out. Science says you can thank high cirrus clouds hovering 25,000 feet above the city for the breath-taking sunrises and sunsets you’ll be sure to witness, whether you’re enjoying one of the world’s top golf courses, a luxury getaway spa or one of the city’s myriad of festivals – from Pride to Coachella. Those just here for the food and drink, will not go disappointed, as this is cocktail capital flowing over with tiki-speakeasies, Vietnamese fusion and craft beer rapture. Wondering about what to do in Palm Springs besides soaking up the rum and the sun? Here’s Mr Hudson’s Palm Springs gay guide to the city’s world-class resorts, high-fashion hubs and a nightlife to be reckoned with.

The best hotels in Palm Springs

Let’s start this gay Palm Springs travel guide with a roundup of the best places to stay in Palm Springs. There’s a lot going on in the desert, and with so many hotel and resort options to choose from, it’s hard to select where you’ll lay your head at night. The good news is, most everywhere that offers accommodations has something great to offer, from golf to fine dining. There are always the classics, like The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, or the La Quinta Resort and Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, both of which are beyond magnificent and offer a guaranteed luxury experience solely with name recognition alone. There’s also the Parker Palm Springs, which has more of a hip and stylish vibe going for it, while still having the service level similar to a Waldorf or a Ritz, minus the white gloves. The interiors of The Parker were designed by the one and only Jonathan Adler, and the 144-room property has some pretty cool features including three pools, a full-service spa, and clay tennis courts. And for the overly fancy guests, there is even a croquet lawn and pétanque courts, because why not?

If croquet sounds a little too booji, a fun and vibrant alternative is the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, the hottest destination in the reaches of Downtown Palm Springs, offering day-drinking and pool vibes. As well as having a spa, fully kitted out with hot tub, steam room and gym, the hotel’s Amigo Room bar also boasts an extensive craft beer and cocktail selection. Stay the night or visit for a day to enjoy the spa’s bohemian aesthetic, quirky taxidermy and, on the weekend, wild poolside parties with DJs and live music.

If you want something a bit more on the boutique side of things, there are two other hotels that can’t be overlooked. Triada Palm Springs, Autograph Collection, recently underwent a complete transformation. The 56 guest rooms in this Spanish style hacienda hotel are conveniently located in the Movie Colony of Downtown Palm Springs, offering majestic views of the San Jacinto Mountains. If something even smaller is appealing, Sparrows Lodge, a restored 1950’s retreat, has 20 rooms, all featuring exposed beam ceilings, butterfly chairs, concrete floors and red walls. The lodge is both modern yet rustic, so rustic that it even has a communal barn and vegetable garden. On paper, it may seem on the simple side, but trust that it’s full of elegance inside.

Photo: Tom Grimbert

Photo: Tom Grimbert

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Recommended hotels in Palm Springs
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Palm Springs points of interest including mid-century modern architecture and palm-lined streets of restaurants and boutique shops to keep you captivated

Things to do in Palm Springs

Choosing exactly when to be in Palm Springs can be tricky as there is always something fantastic happening, so scheduling around these events is something that should be considered. Between Coachella and Stagecoach, music fans are covered. For those who prefer to dance the night away surrounded by gorgeous people, the famous White Party of the desert usually takes place in April. The Palm Springs Film Festival, one of the most prominent in the country, takes places in early January each year and other events such as the ANA Inspiration, and the BNP Paribas Tennis Tournament are also great weeks to be in the desert.

Now also remember that Greater Palm Springs is made up of nine cities, including Palm Springs, so don’t get thrown off when mapping out what to do in Palm Springs and outside because everything is relatively close to one another. All nine of the cities are worth exploring, but some have a bit more than others. Obviously, as a Palm Springs guide, we are biased, and this city is one not to be missed owing to the incomparable Palm Springs points of interest including mid-century modern architecture and palm-lined streets of restaurants and boutique shops to keep you captivated. Spread out just a little however and you’ll also discover a number of other cities worth exploring. If you are into golf or just hanging in fancy golf clubs, La Quinta is the city to be. There’s also an abundance of art and culture and Hollywood history! Rancho Mirage is another golfer’s paradise and was once home to famous folks like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra. And in the heart of the Coachella Valley is Cathedral City, which has more of an outdoor vibe with epic hiking trails as well as alternative shopping, where you’ll find everything from trendy to vintage collectables.

Coachella | Photo: Marvin Meyer

Coachella | Photo: Marvin Meyer

Things to see in Palm Springs

There are countless places to visit in Palm Springs that will only cost you the gas to get there. For a marvellous view of the desert, take a 10-minute trip up the mountain on the world’s largest rotating trams. Once up top, take some killer panoramic photos and then head for a guided nature walk or hike a trail. It can get cold up there, so dress appropriately. Back down where it can be warmer, get in your rental and just drive through the old neighbourhoods. For architecture buffs or for anyone who appreciates vintage design, it’s a great way to see some really fun houses from the outside. If you want to step inside one of the houses, drive to the “House of Tomorrow,” which is a prime example of mid-century modern architecture. The home used to belong to Elvis Presley and his bizarre décor style can be seen within. Think leopard print walls and pink, lots of pink.

The Palm Spring Art Museum – Architecture and Design Centre is also worth spending some time inside for a more in-depth overview of the area’s architecture and design. Additionally, the museum itself has a renowned collection of some of the world’s best art. Smaller galleries worth stopping by for some unique finds include Elena Bulatova Fine Art and Michael Weems Collection, both located on the same strip in Palm Springs. Stewart Galleries has a bit of everything, including paintings, drawings and antiques, as well as rare finds, while Savage Art Gallery features more local artists in a comfortable and unpretentious atmosphere.

Photo: Erin Hervey

Photo: Erin Hervey

Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann Desert House | Photo: David Everett Strickler

Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann Desert House | Photo: David Everett Strickler

Bootlegger Tiki is an all-out tiki experience with everything from sweet, fruity and heavily poured boozy cocktails, to light fixtures resembling blowfish and racy aloha art

Where to eat in Palm Springs

The food scene here is endless and ranges from the casual brunch to reservation required. For unbelievable views, The Edge Steakhouse at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage presents unreal prime steak, seafood and wine experiences, all highlighted by the spectacular views from its dramatic cliff-side setting. Workshop Kitchen + Bar has been praised as much for its approachable seasonal California cuisine menu as for its high design.

The charming and hard to find Farm restaurant features a French countryside aesthetic that carries over to the menu. French press coffee, croque madams and monsieurs, mimosas and more are what make this a favourite spot for early eats. Tiny but fun, located in the Uptown Design District, Bootlegger Tiki is an all-out tiki experience with everything from sweet, fruity and heavily poured boozy cocktails, to light fixtures resembling blowfish and racy aloha art. Matchbox should be on the pizza radar while Gyoro Gyoro is on sushi watch. Sherman’s is an old-school deli, and Wally’s Desert Turtle is an old school supper club, both of which provide a bit of nostalgia.

The Edge | Photo: Don Riddle

The Edge | Photo: Don Riddle

Shopping in Palm Springs

What is it about a palm-tree laden boulevard that makes a person want to shop like an Olsen twin? Nonetheless, Palm Springs understands your urges and serves up a variety of inspired stores. At menswear store Mr. Turk, each drop is a celebration of the 60s and 70s fashion influenced by Cali cocktail culture and an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Bold prints patterned blazer sets and vintage-style fabrics, Mr. Turk meshes Californian sun-soaked styles with international sophistication, from board shorts to briefs.

It ain’t summer all year round for some people, however, and at the sumptuously sophisticated Don Vincent, you can opt for all the eye-catching colours of Palm Springs to cover any dressy occasion, from black-tie dinners to denim days off. Further downtown in La Quinta you’ll find Elizabeth & Prince, a boutique for the eternal wanderer that promotes high-fashion simplicity and nature as the new luxury, in its finely-tuned clothing and accessory collection.

For a lifestyle, experience get yourself over to over Thick as Thieves, a boutique home décor store that blends industrial, primitive and modern global styles. Peepa’s is another beautifully curated store offering edgy home décor, gifts and apparel, showcasing Scandi and local brands, as well as an exclusive art collection. Those in need of a booster injection of art can either shoot over to the design district downtown or West Hollywood. At both destinations, you’ll find The Shag Store which hosts tiki-inspired art and merchandise by local artist Shag.

Mr. Turk

Mr Turk

Mr. Turk

Mr. Turk

Palm Springs nightlife

And now for Mr Hudson’s Palm Springs gay scene guide. Whatever you are and whoever you do, the Toucan’s Tiki Lounge is a high-energy gay nightclub that won’t discriminate. Come here to experience nightly themed dance parties, cabaret shows and entrancing go-go boys take to the stage. With strong drinks, a friendly atmosphere and fun music, the Tiki Lounge is one of the places to visit in Palm Springs if your life is desperately in need of drag.

Another worthy institution in the area known for its inclusivity and smiley staff is LGBT-owned and operated Chill Bar, boasting floor to ceiling glass windows which lead onto a prime real-estate patio overlooking Arenas Road. Journey to the centre of the same road (AKA gay Palm Springs) and you’ll find Street Bar,  unfussily named yet extravagantly decorated and known as one of the friendliest bars in town. Sitting amidst a number of drool-worthy top restaurants, Street Bar is the answer to the question of what to do in Palm Springs after dinner, because who can say no to camp entertainment, cute bartenders and affordable drinks?

Palm Springs is not short on classy cocktail joints but Truss and Twine is unique for its historic El Paseo setting and industrial-chic vibes. With cocktails categorised by era and a desert-inspired menu championing Coachella Valley produce, this is a bar that offers culture and booze in one. If secretive spaces are more your thing, Seymour’s may be your go-to. Located in the back-room of Mr. Lyons, Seymour’s is a classic speakeasy, selling amazing (reasonably priced!) cocktails with the added Palm Springs bonus of a chill patio area.

Sold as the only rooftop bar in Downtown, High Bar at The Rowan Palm Springs is an elegant establishment of muted, ambient colours which compliment the transcendent seventh-floor views. High Bar has all the retro sophistication of Don Draper on vacation and a locally-sourced menu of Cali wines and Coachella Valley craft beers to keep you busy.

Photo: Pedro Araujo

Photo: Pedro Araujo

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