Palm Trees in Palm Springs California

Weekend in Palm Springs: Itinerary & Things to Do

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Palm Springs is one of my favorite places to visit in the US. The weather is nearly always warm and summery, the airport is close downtown and you can’t help but feel upbeat and relaxed with all the palm trees and colorful buildings. If you’re looking for a sunny vacation spot where you can forget all your troubles, order a cocktail or two and relax on a pool float, this is it!

Palm Springs has a unique resort feel, combining old school Hollywood glamor and laid-back California hippie vibes. The scenery is stunning, with dreamy mountain backdrops and palm trees pretty much everywhere you look.

On your Palm Springs weekend getaway you’ll discover lots of mid-century modern architecture, colorful doorways, chic hotels, art galleries and awesome restaurants. And if you’re into golf, the city is often named the Golf Capital of the World, boasting some of the world’s best and most beautiful golf courses.

Read on to discover what to do on your weekend in Palm Springs. This itinerary covers all the best attractions, plus places to eat and drink!

Condo building in Palm Springs California

A Brief Intro to Palm Springs

Located in southern California within the Sonora Desert, Palm Springs is a desert oasis became a popular playground for Hollywood Stars in the 1920s and 1930s. With its secluded desert location just a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, the city was the ideal spot for celebrities to escape the spotlight and unwind.

Over the years more and more celebrities purchased homes there, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Liberace, Kirk Douglas and Cary Grant, to name just a few. The city also attracted Hollywood starlets such as Marilyn Monroe, Luciel Ball and Elizabeth Taylor.

Today the city is popular with retirees and winter snowbirds who want to escape the harsh climates of the northern states. It’s still visited by celebrities, especially during Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Palm Springs International Film Festival

Where to stay in Palm Springs

Saguarao Palm Springs hotel, California

Luxe

ARRIVE Palm Springs – Boutique hotel with 32 guest rooms and a poolside restaurant and bar. The light-filled rooms have king beds with Egyptian cotton bedding, plush robes, and marble-accented bathrooms with rain showers. The pool is super cute with black and white striped parasols.

Parker Palm Springs – The most luxurious hotel in Palm Springs, The Parker features bright and colorful mid-century modern decor. If you love design and you’re willing to splash out for your weekend in Palm Springs, this is the place to stay. Amenities include three pools, tennis courts, a fitness center and a variety of bars and restaurants. 

Booking.com

Mid Range

Ace Hotel – This is where I stay when I’m in Palm Springs. I love Ace Hotels in general because they’re usually pretty fun and hip. The Ace Hotel Palm Springs is dog-friendly and dogs are even allowed by the pool area. Amenities include a diner-style restaurant called King’s Highway, a dimly lit bar called The Amigo Room and a spa.

The Saguaro Palm Springs  – With its multi-colored exterior, The Saguaro is one of the most Instagrammable hotels in Palm Springs. Pool view rooms feature Amigo Modern furniture, mood lighting and custom art pieces.

Budget

Caliente Tropics Resort – Affordable island-themed hotel on Palm Canyon Drive with pool or mountain-facing rooms and free Wi-Fi. The hotel features an expansive pool area with yellow sun chairs, plus an on-site restaurant serving food and drinks in a tiki setting.

Sonder | The Cole – Budget-friendly hotel at the north end of Palm Canyon Drive with a laid back pool plus restaurant and bar. Guests can rent bikes from reception to explore the town on two wheels.

Palm Springs Itinerary: 2 Days

Day 1

On day 1 of your Palm Springs 2 day itinerary you’ll be discovering the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and some of the main attractions on Palm Canyon Drive.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Mt. San Jacinto State Park, near Palm Springs
Billy McDonald – stock.adobe.com

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car and a must-do on your weekend in Palm Springs. Start your day by riding the tram along the cliffs of Chino Canyon to Mt. San Jacinto State Park.  The journey takes roughly 10 minutes and the tram car rotates slowly so you can get a 360-degree view of the beautiful scenery.

You’ll disembark the tram at Mountain Station, which boasts two restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, two documentary theaters and a gift shop. If you’re feeling adventurous you can go hiking on one of several hiking trails.

Ticket prices: Adults $28.05; Children (ages 3-10) $16.95; Seniors (65+) $26.95.

Brunch at Lulu

Lulu California Bistro

LULU California Bistro on Palm Canyon Drive is popular for weekend brunch, offering 3 courses for $19.99 (plus tax). Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays 9am till 2pm and includes a wide array of dishes including bacon and eggs, scrambles, eggs benedict, Belgian waffles, buttermilk pancakes, sandwiches and salads. Order champagne or mimosas with refills and you’ll get 3 glasses for $7.99.

Palm Canyon Drive

Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

Palm Canyon Drive is the city’s main thoroughfare, lined with boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and bars. It’s worth spending a couple of hours just walking along the street and browsing all the shops and galleries. On Thursday nights the street is closed to traffic for VillageFest, which is a street fair filled with vendors. 

Moorten Botanical Garden

Moorten Botanical Garden Palm Springs

At the south end of Palm Canyon Drive you’ll find Moorten Botanical Garden, which is an arboretum dedicated to desert plants. Established in 1938, the garden is filled with trees, plants and cacti from around the world. 

The species are organized geographically, taking visitors to terrains such as the Baja California Peninsula, the South African-Succulent Karoo, the Mojave Desert and Mexico-Gran Desierto de Altar. 

The couple who created Moorten – Chester and Patricia Moorten – were actually hired by the likes of Walt Disney, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to create backyards at their desert homes. As you enter the garden you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the couple’s family home, nicknamed Cactus Castle. 

Admission costs $5 for adults and seniors, or $2 for children aged 15 and under. 

Chill by the pool

Ace Hotel Pool Palm Springs

Part of the appeal of visiting Palm Springs is its resort vibes. So take a couple of hours to lay by the pool, read a book and look out at the beautiful desert landscape. I stayed at the Ace Hotel, which has two pools. But if you’re not staying in a hotel with a pool, there are several hotels where you can buy day passes.

I usually check Resort Pass to book day passes, or contact the hotel directly. Expect to pay anywhere between $25 and $60 for a pass. Palm Springs hotels offering pool day passes include:

  • The Saguaro Palm Springs
  • Ace Hotel
  • Skylark Hotel
  • Desert Riviera Hotel
  • The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa
  • Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis
  • The Good House
  • and many more…

Dinner and Drinks on the Town

Amigo Room Palm Springs

After relaxing by the pool it’s time to grab dinner. There are lots of great restaurants in Palm Springs. I’d suggest one of the following:

Once you’re done with dinner, spend the evening exploring some of the best bars and clubs in Palm Springs:

Day 2

Sunny Cycle

Palm Springs Sunny Cycle

I had so much fun on Sunny Cycle! It’s basically a giant buggy/bike that seats multiple people and you all peddle it with your feet. We cycled around the neighborhood taking in the sights and stopping at various restaurant partners along the way. If you have a big group of friends you can book the whole bike, or you can purchase individual seats and you’ll be paired with other people. Individual seats cost $35 per seat.

Palm Springs Air Museum

Located on the north side of Palm Springs Airport, Palm Springs Air Museum documents the role of the United States Air Force in preserving American liberties, with a particular focus on how the U.S. pilots and combat aircraft helped to win WWII.

The museum houses four hangars, a gift shop, research library, simulator and education center. Inside the four hangars visitors can see over 70 exhibits of aircraft from WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam Wars. You can even climb up and look in the cockpits of some of them.

Robolights Palm Springs

This quirky sculpture garden is a colorful collection of robots and scrap items that are transformed into light displays. Launched in 1986 by artist Kenny Irwin, Robolights attracts thousands of tourists each year who come to take photos with the wacky sculptures. It’s kind of like science-fiction meets Christmas; unusual, but cool! (Update: Robolights has closed down but there are plans to open a new installation in Desert Hot Springs).

Hunt for Colorful Doors

Palm Springs is filled with mid-century modern architecture and houses with colorful doors. If you love doorway hunting, you’ll find plenty of cool doorways in this city. A lot of them are located in the Indian Canyon neighborhood, so have a wander round and see what you can find! Just be respectful and keep your distance; #thatpinkdoor now has a “no photography” sign on the lawn because the owners were tired of influencers standing in front of their home.

Parker Palm Springs Hotel

Sports car parked outside Parker Hotel Palm Springs

Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, it’s 100% worth checking out. The hotel’s enormous breeze block entrance is popular with influencers because it’s just so Instagram-worthy. Inside the hotel the interiors are really cool, with awesome mid-century modern interiors that reminded me a little bit of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion.

Inside Parker Hotel Palm Springs

If you’re feeling hungry, stop at the Norma’s inside the Parker for a late brunch. This brightly colored open-air restaurant serves breakfast all day and has beautiful views of the hotel gardens. On the menu you’ll find dishes such as Chocolate Decadence French Toast, Light and Lemony Griddle Cakes, Seared Maine Lobster and Asparagus Omelet and Normalita’s Huevos Rancheros.

Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

Half way down Palm Canyon Drive you’ll find Palm Springs Art Museum, which features a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, plus rotating exhibitions. The museum also houses a library catalog, an architecture and design collection, and a collection dedicated of Native American art. Spend your afternoon exploring the art and stop for refreshments in the museum’s bistro.

If you have more time…

Salvation Mountain Palm Springs

If you plan on spending a long weekend in Palm Springs and you have three days (or more) then you can venture out a bit and discover some attractions in the surrounding area.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

This free road side attraction features two gigantic dinosaurs named Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr. Rex, which appeared in the movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Dinny the Brontosaurus was completed in 1975 while the T-Rex was completed in 1986. Have your photo taken with the dinosaurs, which are repainted several times per year.

Adults $13 Ages 13-55; Children $11 Ages 3 – 12; Seniors & Military $10

Joshua Tree

About an hour east of Palm Springs lies Joshua Tree National Park, which is known for its arid desert landscape dotted with prickly Joshua trees and cacti. The surreal landscape makes for some great photos and there are a number of hikes you can do in the area. Straddling two deserts – the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert – the park covers 429,690 acres of designated wilderness.

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall Hike

 If you’re feeling adventurous, try hiking the Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail, which is a popular 1.9 mile loop trail with a 60-foot waterfall. It’s suitable for all skill levels and the views are worth it! Don’t forget to bring a water bottle and your sneakers or hiking shoes. Entrance fee is $15.

Wind farm

Wind farm near Palm Springs

For another cool photo opportunity, visit the The San Gorgonio Pass wind farm, which is located in the desert in North Palm Springs. If you’re driving in from California, you could easily stop by the wind farm on your way to Palm Springs since it’s right of the I-10.

Address: 64200 20th Ave, North Palm Springs, CA 92258

How to Get to Palm Springs

Colorful hotel in Palm Springs California

To get to Palm Springs you’ll want to fly into Palm Springs International Airport and then either catch an Uber to your hotel or rent a car from the airport. To check flight prices I always use Google Flights or Kayak. 

If you’re driving, these are the driving times from nearby places:

  • From Joshua Tree: 50 minutes, 35 miles
  • From Los Angeles: 2 hours, 105 miles
  • From Orange County: 1.5 hours, 95 miles
  • From San Diego: 2.5 hours, 140 miles
  • From Death Valley: 4.5 hours,  230 miles

How to Get Around Palm Springs

Yellow Vintage car on the road in Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs is small and compact, so no need to rent a car unless you’re going to Joshua Tree or hiking. You can easily get around on foot and by ordering Ubers – it’ll work out cheaper than a car rental. 

If you do need to rent a car in Palm Springs, search prices on Hotwire, Kayak or Rentalcars.com. If you don’t need a car for the full weekend, you could just hire one for the day from the airport, since it’s so close. 

Your FAQs About Palm Springs, Answered

House in Palm Springs
What is Palm Springs best known for?

Palm Springs is known as the Golf Capital of the World. It’s also known for its palm trees, mid century modern architecture, swimming pools and desert resort vibes. 

Is Palm Springs worth visiting?

sunshine and warm weather, it’s a great place to visit any time of the year, but it’s especially nice to visit when the rest of the country is freezing cold. 

What is the best time of year to visit Palm Springs?

Palm Springs experiences year round sunshine and warm weather so any time is a good time to visit. If you don’t like the heat so much, then you may want to avoid the summer months between June-September when temperatures reach triple digits. The winter months between January and April would be best, when temperatures are usually in the mid-70s/80s during the daytime. If you do visit during summer, plan to do most of your activities in the early morning or late afternoon and spend the rest of your time at the pool.

Is Palm Springs a walkable city?

Yes, Palm Springs is small and pretty walkable, especially if you mainly stick Palm Canyon Drive. However, if you want to explore attractions such as the Aerial Tramway, the Parker Hotel and the Palm Springs Air Museum, you’ll need to hop in an Uber. You’ll need to hire a car if you want to explore Joshua Tree and the surrounding areas.

Is Palm Springs a party town?

I wouldn’t describe Palm Springs as a party town per se. It has a fun vibe and is good for boozy brunches but it has a relaxed, slow paced vibe. It’s the kind of place you visit to relax, unwind and do some day drinking, then rinse and repeat the next day. There are definitely bars, cocktail lounges and nightclubs in the city but it’s not super rowdy like Nashville, Las Vegas, New Orleans or New York. 

Most nightlife shuts down at 2am. That being said, Palm Springs turns into a party town during Coachella and there are some good pool parties with DJs at the hotels in Palm Springs. You’ll want to check the hotel calendars to see what’s on. There are often pool parties at the Ace Hotel and there’s a famous summer festival called Splash House that happens once a year.

Does Palm Springs have good nightlife?

Palm Springs has some decent nightlife, although be aware the nightlife ends at 2am. You’ll find quite a few cocktail bars, a couple of clubs and a 24/7 casino called Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

Is there dancing in Palm Springs?

If you want to go dancing, I’d suggest heading to Copa Nightclub, Hunters Palm Springs or The Village Palm Springs.

Where do you fly into to get to Palm Springs?

You fly into Palm Springs International Airport. 

Is Palm Springs dog friendly?

Yes! Palm Springs is very dog friendly. Many of the hotels, including the Ace Hotel, allow dogs. Just check to see if there’s a pet fee before you book. Since Palm Springs experiences year-round warm weather, many of the restaurants have patios so you can bring your furry friend along with you.

How many days do you need in Palm Springs?

2 days in Palm Springs is a good amount of time but three is better. If you book a long weekend in Palm Springs then you can also visit Joshua Tree too.

A Final Word

A Palm Springs weekend trip makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the mid 1900s. It’s a great place to visit for a relaxing weekend getaway when you don’t want to do much traveling around. 

The city is small, so it’s easy to get around on foot or by Uber. And even though it’s not near a beach, it has chic pools where you can cool off from the desert heat. If you’re into food and drink, art or golf, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your weekend in Palm Springs. Definitely pack some retro sunglasses and colorful swimwear for the pool.

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