What To Do In Palm Springs: Art, Music, Shopping and More!

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Explore our guide of what to do in Palm Springs, California – a desert oasis known for its glamorous Hollywood history and celebrity hideaways. If the thought of a little relaxation, great food and dash of culture appeals to you, read on! Nestled in the Coachella Valley against the backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains, the city teams with ambience.

Whether you’re after a wellness vacation, want to see the sites, or soak up a little night-time entertainment, it’s all here.

And then there’s the shopping: everything from the touristy stalls to designer emporiums to tempt you!

The Palm Springs International Airport (PSP)

You know you’re in for a treat upon arriving at this airport, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. This is not only because it’s half outside. But it is also beautifully landscaped with palm trees and curvilinear design. Then there is also the refreshing air and soothing, warm sunshine to greet you as enter the city.

The beautiful white canopied exit area of the Palm Springs International Airport with white cafe tables and chairs.
Photo by Captain_Merka; Feb 2020

Day 1: Embrace the Desert Aesthetic

Morning: Sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park

Start your Palm Springs adventure with an early morning visit to Joshua Tree National Park. The drive takes less than an hour and offers an opportunity to witness the surreal beauty of the desert at sunrise. Be sure to pack a breakfast picnic and some hiking essentials for a morning trek among the iconic Joshua Trees and unique rock formations.

Joshua Trees – A Bit of Background

These remarkable trees, with their spiky green branches and tufted clusters of dagger-like leaves, create an otherworldly vista against the arid desert backdrop.

Joshua Trees can live for centuries and are often considered sentinels of the desert, adapting to extreme temperatures and arid conditions. Beyond their striking appearance, Joshua Trees provide shelter and sustenance to desert wildlife. This plant has become a symbol of resilience, enduring in one of the harshest environments on Earth, and remains a captivating emblem of the American Southwest.

Afternoon: Palm Springs Art Museum-Architecture and Design Center

This is the Architecture and Design Center of the Palm Springs Art Museum (for art museum, pls see Day 3)

Return to Palm Springs in the afternoon and head straight to the Palm Springs Art Museum. This cultural gem houses a remarkable collection of contemporary and Native American art. Explore the ever-changing exhibitions and, if you’re lucky, catch a lecture or workshop. The museum’s architecture is a work of art in itself, providing a harmonious blend of modern design amidst the desert landscape.

Note: The museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s located at 300 S. Palm Canyon Drive, not far from the city center.

Evening: Fine Dining in the Desert

For dinner, indulge in the fine dining options that Palm Springs has to offer.

Sammy G’s Tuscan Grill – Centrally located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs.

Sammy G’s Tuscan Grill at S. Palm 265 S PALM CANYON DR

Love this restaurant for its impeccable service, terrific ambience (especially at night!) and delicioius food. The live entertainment is also a treat. Featured artists are guitarist, Sergio, and the Evaro Brothers.

Other popular venues include Workshop Kitchen + Bar or Lulu California Bistro offer a delightful culinary experience that combines regional flavors with sophisticated presentation.

Day 2: Retail Therapy and Mid-century Marvels

Morning: El Paseo Shopping District

Photo taken at dusk of the Shops on El Paseo showing Gucci and Burberry storefrongs lit up inside
Photo Courtesy of Shops on El Paseo

After a leisurely breakfast, spend your morning shopping along El Paseo, often referred to as “The Rodeo Drive of the Desert.” This upscale shopping district is home to high-end boutiques, art galleries, and luxury brands. Whether you’re seeking designer fashion, exquisite jewelry, or unique art pieces, El Paseo has it all.

Afternoon: Mid-century Modern Architecture Tour

Palm Springs is renowned for its mid-century modern architecture, and an afternoon tour is a must for design enthusiasts. Take a guided tour or explore on your own, marveling at iconic buildings designed by architects like Richard Neutra and Albert Frey. The Palm Springs Modern Committee offers resources to help you navigate the city’s architectural treasures.

Evening: Cocktails at a Retro Lounge

In the evening, enjoy cocktails at one of Palm Springs’ retro lounges, where you can soak in the ambiance of the mid-century era. The Tiki-inspired Bootlegger Tiki or the Rat Pack-era ambiance of Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn are perfect choices to transport you back in time while sipping on a classic martini.

Day 3: Arts, Gardens, & Architecture

Morning: Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Start your day with a visit to Sunnylands Center & Gardens, often called the “Camp David of the West.” It has been the site of many private retreats with world leaders, meeting to endeavour to solve world problems.

But when these are not in session, the public is welcomed in. The lush gardens and iconic mid-century modern estate provide a serene setting for art exhibitions and cultural events. Take a guided tour to learn about its history and influence on American diplomacy. Watch the video.

Photo of barrel cacti and taller cacti casting interesting shadows on the surrounding path
Photo by InkKinfe – Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Afternoon: Palm Springs Art Museum

Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum, in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, and I think you’ll agree. It is a cultural gem! Its impressive permanent collection spans various genres, including contemporary art, Native American artifacts, modernist paintings, and photography. Some of its standout acquisitions are works by significant artists like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Marc Chagall.

Beyond its permanent collection, the Palm Springs Art Museum hosts rotating exhibitions that showcase a wide range of artistic expressions, from classical to contemporary. Its architecturally striking building, designed by E. Stewart Williams, is an artwork in itself.

Visitors to the museum can also enjoy educational programs, workshops, and lectures that foster a deeper appreciation of art and culture.

Evening: Desert Stargazing

Our What To Do In Palm Springs list would be remiss without this one! As night falls over Palm Springs, take a guided stargazing tour to admire the desert’s dark skies. The clear desert air offers an unparalleled view of the stars and celestial bodies. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through constellations and share fascinating insights about the cosmos. All-in-all an awesome experience!

Day 4: History, Culture, and Gourmet Fare

Morning: Palm Springs Historical Society

Delve into the rich history of Palm Springs with a guided tour offered by the Palm Springs Historical Society. Explore the city’s storied past, from its indigenous roots to the Hollywood heyday. The tours are engaging and provide a unique perspective on the area’s cultural evolution.

Afternoon: Al fresco Dining at Spencer’s

Enjoy a leisurely al fresco lunch at Spencer’s Restaurant, a Palm Springs institution. Located at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, the restaurant offers stunning mountain views and delectable California cuisine. Savor your meal while basking in the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Evening: Live Entertainment at The Purple Room

Complete your Palm Springs experience with a night of live entertainment at The Purple Room. This intimate supper club captures the spirit of the Rat Pack era with its vintage decor, classic cocktails, and live music performances. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a nightcap and some jazz or cabaret. You can enjoy complimentary entertainment on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursday nights.

Note: Since this venue is popular with celebrities, The Purple Room’s website asks that you respect their privacy.

Day 5: Outdoor Adventure

Morning: Aerial Tramway and Hiking

Photo by inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +), CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On your fifth day, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which offers breathtaking views as you ascend to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. Once at the mountain station, explore hiking trails that cater to various levels of experience. Whether you prefer a leisurely nature walk or a more challenging trek, the pristine wilderness awaits.

Note: While you wait, there is cliffside dining, with both fine and casual options, as well as a giftshop.

Afternoon: Lunch at Lulu California Bistro

This bustling bistro offers an extensive menu with all-day dining. Its sleek modernistic vibe, curved bar and terraced seating, make it a standout food emporium. It’s also one of the most popular. Here you can people-watch to your heart’s content since Lulu’s is located right along the main strip of downtown Palm Springs. And don’t worry about missing Happy Hour. It lasts all day!

Evening: Dining Al Fresco at Farm

What to do in Palm Springs? Make sure to dine at Farm! I discovered this charming restaurant tucked away off a laneway from Palm Canyon Road South. It has a wonderful garden courtyard with pergolas and string lighting that drew me in. I was also intrigued by their varied menu offerings. Inspired by international cuisine, the chef team focuses on farm-to-table and locally-sourced ingredients. Hence their name. So nice to have a restaurant with a commitment to showcasing the fresh flavors of the region!

Ambience: Farm is renowned for its charming and inviting atmosphere. The restaurant prides itself on offering a rustic yet elegant setting that combines both indoor and outdoor dining options to take advantage of the beautiful Palm Springs climate.

Interior: The interior of Farm is designed with a warm and welcoming feel in mind. Exposed wooden beams on the ceiling, reclaimed wood furnishings, and earthy color tones combine to create a cozy and rustic atmosphere. Large windows and open spaces allow natural light to flood the dining area during the day, creating a bright and airy environment.

Exterior: The outdoor seating area at Farm is a highlight, particularly enchanting in the evenings. Imagine a charming patio adorned with twinkling string lights, comfortable seating, and a cozy fire pit. One can enjoy a peaceful and relaxing meal here under the stars.

Day 6: A Day of Relaxation and Rejuvenation

Morning: Spa and Wellness Retreat

Indulge in some self-care at one of Palm Springs’ world-class spas. The tranquil environment, therapeutic treatments, and soothing mineral waters will leave you feeling rejuvenated. The Well Spa at Miramonte Resort or Two Bunch Palms are excellent choices to unwind and pamper yourself.

The Palm Mountain Resort & Spa

Not only can you choose your favorite pampering treatment, but day spa guests are welcome to use their large courtyard pool and hot tub facilities. And that’s at no additional charge!

The pool in the inner courtyard of Palm Mountain Resort & Spa

Their treatments “range from traditional skincare and body therapies to specialty services like our Hot Stone Massage and Serenity Facial.”

Afternoon: Regal Palm Springs – Movie Theatre

If you’ve covered enough of our What To Do In Palm Springs suggesstions, consider a movie escape! It’s a great way to have enjoy a cool refuge from the heat, while being entertained. This you can do at the Regal Palm Springs Movie Theatre.

You’ll find it just a few blocks east of the city center at 789 E Tahquitz Canyon Way. It’s a delight to just chill in this downsized multiplextheatre, while you watch the latest release films, grab a snack from the concession stand and enjoy the plush seating.

Evening: Shermans Deli & Bakery

On your walk back into the city center, you may find it hard to resist dropping into Shermans. This Palm Springs mainstay at 401 E Tahquitz Canyon Way is always buzzing. The deli food is reasonably priced and in spite of the crowd, the wait isn’t usually too long. A great place to get a grilled Reuben and New York cheesecake!

SUMMARY

Palm Springs, California, offers a rich tapestry of experiences for the sophisticated woman who seeks culture, art, shopping, and a touch of adventure. What to do in Palm Springs is never an issue. With its unique blend of art, culture, music, shopping and dining options there is something sure to appeal. it’s a destination that promises unforgettable memories and an escape from the ordinary. Whether you’re exploring the art scene, shopping for high-end fashion, or simply basking in the desert’s serenity, Palm Springs is sure to captivate your heart and leave you yearning for more. So, pack your bags and prepare for an oasis of culture and luxury that awaits you in this desert jewel.

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Susan Cooper

I'm a "woman of a certain age" who loves to travel, preferably in style! There's something exciting about exploring new places, meeting fellow travelers, and experiencing local cuisine. But I also really enjoy relaxing at a cafe. And it's always fun to absorb a little culture and history along the way!


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