Headed to SoCal and planning a weekend in Palm Springs?! Keep on reading for everything you need to know and more about this stunning desert oasis. I’m sharing all my top tips (what to do, where to stay, where to eat, etc) so you can craft your perfect Palm Springs itinerary too!
Palm Springs is your quintessential California desert town, perfect for chill girls weekends, wild bachelorette parties, romantic couple escapes, and everything in between. A big draw: it’s consistently beautiful with near-perfect weather — I don’t think we saw a cloud in the sky our entire visit! It’s one of my new favorite places in California, and we can’t wait to head back.
I’d been wanting to get down to the desert for such a long time. But I honestly could never find the time (between Hawaii and Bali and San Blas… well, you get the gist)! So when international travel was just not gonna happen (I think we all know what I’m talking about), we finally found ourselves on a long weekend in Palm Springs.
And I knew we’d like it from the minute we arrived — it’s full of mid-century modern architecture, boozy weekend brunches, old Hollywood glitz and glam, epic pool hangs, and those chic desert vibes. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it.
If you’re looking for a design-focused city with palm tree lined streets, colorful accommodations, vintage shopping, and an all-around relaxing ambiance, you NEED to spend a long weekend in Palm Springs ASAP. A true mix of classic hipster vibes and that desert bohemian spirit. You’ll love it, I promise! Plus — there’s a whole lotta sunshine (and low humidity — thank the hair gods).
People even tend to retire here (I’ve got some family here I can’t wait to see next time); it’s that amazing (we’re even talking about it… someday). It kinda reminded me a tad of Scottsdale, Arizona (which I LOVE) in a sunny resort destination kinda way.
So let’s get started — everything you need to know to plan the ultimate Palm Springs weekend getaway!
Logistics for your Palm Springs Itinerary
Weather and When to Visit Palm Springs
The good news — you can count on consistently sunny blue skies no matter the month. I mean, the sun shines more than 350 days a year (more than both Las Vegas and Arizona), with rain extremely rare! Sounds like perfect weather to me! Did I mention it hardly ever rains?!
But ohhhhh the temperatures — now, that’s another story. They SOAR into the triple digits come summer, so you’ll 100% need AC and the pool.
Temps stay high all throughout the fall, so you’ll wanna spend your weekend in Palm Springs from early-winter to mid-spring. The best time to visit is from November through April. It’s the most popular time to go so prices will be higher, but worth it to get away from the nasty desert heat.
We visited in late March and it was already pretty steamy (high 80s)! One way to combat this — do all your exploring in the morning, and spend the afternoon at the pool. That’s what we typically did, and it was the perfect balance of hot desert fun and splashing around with cocktails in hand at The Ace’s pool parties.
Do note that Coachella is held in April, meaning hotel rates will skyrocket — you’ll wanna book exceptionally early!
Please, oh please, do not plan your Palm Springs weekend getaway during the summer. It’s way too hot to really do much of anything besides fry by the pool. It’s sweltering and days over 100°F are not uncommon. This is the desert we’re talking about! Plus, some shops and sites have limited off-season hours this time of year.
If you do happen to be visiting the area in the hot summer months, plan to be out and about in the evening once the sun goes down. The heat finally cools down a bit! And make sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Fall is kinda just a continuation of summer (haha), with crazy hot temperatures (well into the high 90’s) and virtually all sunshine. It’s definitely more comfortable than summer, but just know you’ll still want/need lots of pooltime and drink liquids!
Winters aren’t necessarily a bad time to visit, but temps sometimes dip down into the mid-60’s, meaning it may not be hot enough for the pool (which is, quite honestly, one of the best things to do in Palm Springs). It’s actually peak tourism season in the desert, but I’d prefer to go more so in early Spring.
Where is Palm Springs?
Palm Springs is located on the western edge of the Colorado Desert of Southern California, between Coachella Valley and the San Jacinto mountains. It’s in Riverside County, not terribly far from San Bernardino and Joshua Tree National Park. Unlike most CA hotspots, Palm Springs isn’t on the coast. The city is inland, a bit east of the popular SoCal cities you know and love — LA, San Diego, and Orange County.
And yup, it’s super close to Coachella, the home of that wacky music festival you’ve heard so much about!
How to Get to Palm Springs
Palm Springs is pretty close to other main hotspots in Southern California. It makes for the perfect getaway from both LA and San Diego, and all the spots in between. Coming anywhere from SoCal, it makes for the perfect weekend getaway to Palm Springs.
But from Northern California, a different story. Originally, we were thinking of making the long drive from San Francisco, but ultimately decided we didn’t wanna spend that many hours in the car so took a short flight (it’s far, see below!).
- From Joshua Tree: 50 minutes | 35 miles
- From Orange County: 1.5 hours | 95 miles
- From Los Angeles: 2 hours | 105 miles
- From San Diego: 2.5 hours | 140 miles
- From Death Valley: 4.5 hours | 230 miles
- From San Francisco: 8 hours | 490 miles
If you’re coming from further afield, you’ll need to fly yourself over to California first. And thankfully, there’s a bunch of airports which’ll do! You can fly into Los Angeles (LAX) or Orange County (SNA) and then drive two hours, or fly into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) itself. Look for flights into Ontario International Airport (ONT) as well, as I’ve heard flights can sometimes be cheaper.
The easiest option? Flying directly to PSP; it’s even been named as one of the least stressful airports in the world. Might as well leave all your stresses at home before you start your Palm Springs weekend getaway! But definitely look at all options if you’re trying to save on cost (I typically find less expensive airfare from SFO to LAX or SNA).
We chose to fly into Santa Ana (SNA) and made the 2 hour drive over to the desert, stopping at Roscoe’s in Anaheim for lunch and Cabazon to see the giant dinosaurs and try a delicious date shake.
How to Get Around
If you just wanna stay in the heart of the downtown area, you can get around with bike rentals and/or use Uber/Lyft. Most hotels have bikes for guests to use, with many being free of charge!
However, I recommend renting a car (or using your own if you’re driving to Palm Springs obviously). Some of the best hikes and activities are a bit out of town, so having a car will give you lots of flexibility. We personally loved having a car — especially since we took a day trip to Joshua Tree and spent a few mornings searching for Desert X art in the desert. Oh, and the Cabazon dinosaurs, Salvation Mountain, a colorful door tour, and the windmills! Okay, so I guess we really did use the car quite a lot!
Get the cheapest car rentals over here!
What to Pack for a Palm Springs Weekend Getaway
This is the desert, y’all! It gets HOT. But it cools off at night. And it’s super dry. So you’ll wanna be prepared for your weekend in Palm Springs.
- Slather on that sunscreen, the sun is strong over here. And on that note, I always like to take along some SPF lip balm to protect my lips as well.
- Keep your eyes protected from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses (like I said, the desert sun is powerful!)
- Some bright bathing suits for the pool, coverups, and of course, pool sandals. A fun pool floaty never hurt anyone, either!
- A portable phone charger’s always a good thing to take along, no matter the trip! Never worry about your phone running out of battery! This one is super tiny and lightweight!
- Your kindle or mini ipad to read by the pool
- A reusable water bottle to fill up on that H2O (gotta stay hydrated, especially in the desert!)
- These refreshing body wipes, for ya know, when you get all hot and sticky and need a little freshening up before brunch
- Hydrating lotion and/or some cocoa butter for all that dry skin — I found my skin got especially dry after being in the desert and pool chlorine for a few days
- If you’re doing any kind of hiking (whether that be close to Palm Springs or in nearby Joshua Tree), make sure to bring along comfy sneakers. I swear by these — I have them in 3 colors!
- Light, airy, and breezy clothes. But don’t be afraid to bring along bold and colorful clothing too — leave all your boring black and whites at home! Palm Springs is all about color and that popular retro, vintage style. I loved wearing colorful, floral dresses here!
- Some fun accessories, like colorful hair scarves, a trendy straw bag, statement earrings, and cute espadrilles!
- A camera to take lots of pretty photos (I typically use my iPhone and Olympus mirrorless)!
- Lightweight jacket or sweater, as the desert drastically cools off at night (I was fine with a jean jacket — my exact one — but kinda wished I brought along a light sweater as well)
- Palm Springs is SUPER dog friendly! We saw dogs at basically every single restaurant we went to, walking down Palm Canyon Drive (the Main Street in PS), and even hanging out at our hotel pool! I think we’ll take Kona down with us next time!
- Check the weather for high temps. If there’s gonna be crazy high temps in the afternoon (very likely), do your main activities in the morning. Keep your afternoons free on your Palm Springs itinerary, and plan to cool off at the pool.
- Make brunch/dinner reservations in advance. If there’s someplace you really wanna eat it, make a reservation in advance. Spots get booked up, sometimes even weeks in advance, so you gotta plan ahead. We made reservations for Birba, Pink Cabana, Norma’s, and Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey.
- Despite being in the desert, there’s everything you need in town. Don’t go crazy if you forgot to pack something — you’ll easily find it!
Things to Do During Your Weekend in Palm Springs
I typically give my readers exact itineraries instead of just listing the main things to do, but Palm Springs is different. Nothing is too far away (except for the day trips of course), and you’ll really wanna plan your Palm Springs weekend getaway around the temperature. If it’s too hot, you’ll just wanna hang by the pool, meaning you’ll abandon your pre-made plans anyways.
Plan to do some fun Palm Springs activities in the morning, and let yourself sip some cocktails with your feet in the water come afternoon. Once the sun goes down, hit up Palm Canyon Drive for dinner and drinks!
Go on a DIY Palm Springs Door Tour
Palm Springs is kinda a mecca for their mid-century architecture and design. And the doors are no exception. We had such a great time searching around for all the colors of the rainbow — Yellow doors, bright turquoise doors, orange doors, lime green doors, pink doors, you name it!
You’ll definitely wanna check out the ridiculously popular That Pink Door (a Palm Springs IG hot spot). A true explosion of color in the desert. I have a whole post with exact addresses of all my favorite doors in Palm Springs, but if you head on over to the Indian Canyons neighborhood, that’s where you’ll find them all!
Andreas Canyon Trail in Indian Canyons
If you’re gonna do one hike in Palm Springs, make it the Andreas Canyon loop in Indian Canyons. Not only is it pretty easy at just around a mile (I even wore sandals, haha), but the views are like no other. You’ll see groves of spectacular California skirted fan palms, the Andreas Creek, and even a mini waterfall.
Since the trail’s on land owned by the Agua Caliente band of the Cahuilla Indians, you have to pay for admission ($9 per adult), but I promise you, it’s more than worth it! A true oasis in the middle of the desert! I recommend heading here in the early AM before it gets too hot and too crowded (when we left there was a super long line of cars waiting to get in).
If you’re looking for longer hikes in the area, there’s others within Indian Canyons as well (Andreas Canyon just happens to be the easiest and shortest hike, so we thought it was appropriate for an already-hot March morning).
Visit the Cabazon Dinosaurs
If you’re driving from the LA/Orange County area, you’ll most likely pass by Cabazon (and if not, it’s only 20 minutes from downtown Palm Springs). This is the spot of those huge Cabazon dinosaurs! I’m sure you’ve seen a photo of them somewhere before. They get painted and decked out depending on the season and holiday — we saw a 65-foot-tall Mr. Rex ready for Easter and a pink 150-foot-long brontosaurus (named Dilly the Dinosaur) for Valentine’s Day!
A (free!) wacky roadside attraction, and only a few minutes from Hadley Fruit Orchards — the best place to get a famous date shake. Worth a quick stop even if you’ve only got a weekend in Palm Springs.
Moorten Botanical Garden
Have you ever visited a cactarium before? Well this one’s been around since 1938! We loved strolling through the botanical garden, and especially the greenhouse dedicated to smaller, unique cacti and succulent plants. Say hello to the desert turtles on your way out — we loved them!
We visited in the afternoon and it was pretty crowded (and terribly hot), so I recommend heading there when they first open if you’d like the place to yourselves. I love visiting family-owned businesses (like the winery in Fort Bragg), and for a mere $5 bucks, I’d definitely go again! There were a whole bunch of handmade terracotta and glazed pots that, looking back, I wish I bought for my succulents at home.
Find art in the desert during DesertX
An outdoor art scavenger hunt in the middle of the Coachella desert? What could be better? We were SO lucky to catch Desert X 2021 on our last visit! The art show only happens every other year for a few months (typically Feb – May), so you gotta plan it right for this! Or just get lucky like we did!
This year there were letter-shaped planters filled with indigenous plants, a massive 45-foot-high sign (mimicking the Hollywood Sign), large cloud and iceberg-like stones balancing on steel frames, and so much more. I’ll definitely be making it a point to visit for the next show in 2023. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my full guide to Desert X here.
Hang at the Pool
Every day is a pool day in Palm Springs — think palm trees, pool floats, and of course, good vibes! In all seriousness, if you aren’t spending your afternoons at the pool, you aren’t doing Palm Springs right. And if you visit anytime between February and October, you’ll wanna jump right into that pool every chance you get. Because let’s face it — it’ll likely be at least 85°F when you visit.
We stayed at The Ace Hotel & Pool Club, which boasts two pools — a super-fun party pool with easy access to alcoholic slushies (yum!), and a quieter, more chilled out pool. If you aren’t staying at a hotel with a fancy pool, there’s a bunch which offer day passes (for a fee of course), meaning you can access some of the most exclusive and stunning resorts in the area without spending the night.
Here are some of the best pools with day passes for that ultimate Palm Springs weekend getaway:
- Ace Hotel & Pool Club: $20-$30 per person
- Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa: $25 per person (upgrades available)
- Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa: $30 per adult (it’s a full on water park!)
- The Saguaro Palm Springs: $20 per person
- Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa: $30 per person
Palm Springs Windmills
If you’re driving on the 10, you really can’t miss them! It’s by far the largest wind farm I’ve ever seen, with over 4,000 windmills — providing enough electricity to power all of Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley. Whoa!
Interested in learning more about the windmills and wind energy? Take a guided tour of the farm! We didn’t have time for this (we simply just stopped by to snap a few photos), but I’d like to make it a priority for next time.
Looking for that iconic windmill IG photo? Head on over to W. Garnet Ave, or pop San Gorgonio Pass wind farm into your GPS.
Palm Springs Art Museum
Palm Springs is a Mecca for creatives, and that includes the Art Museum! There’s ever-changing art exhibitions, a vast permanent collection, and a huge theatre. Even the 150,000 square foot building is architecturally-significant — just look at it! And if that’s not enough, there’s 3 separate locations: the main art museum at 101 Museum Drive, the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center (a few minutes down the road), and Palm Springs Art Museum in nearby Palm Desert. So, lots to see!
I’m so bummed we missed this (definitely adding it to my Palm Springs itinerary for next time). I can’t wait to check out “History of Suspended Time” and The Aluminaire House (once it’s reassembled). Psst — if you wanna save some pennies for drinks at the pool, visit on a Thursday night (from 5-7pm) for absolutely free (thank you City of Palm Springs)!
Visit Sunnylands Center and Gardens
Had it not been for Desert X 2021, we would have never known this place existed! And what a shame that’d have been.
The grounds are immaculate, there’s cacti everywhere you look, and the history is just oh so interesting! Former president Obama and President Xi JinPing of the People’s Republic of China even met here in June 2013. You can even take a guided tour if you’d like and have the time.
If we didn’t have brunch reservations at the fancy Norma’s at The Parker, I think I could have wandered around for hours.
Palm Canyon Drive
If you’re spending a weekend in Palm Springs, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself on Palm Canyon Drive at least a few times! The whole street is gorgeous — it’s lined in palm trees! This is essentially the heart of downtown and the main street of the city, with tons of hip restaurants, unique shops, galleries, and a newly redesigned downtown plaza. We spent every night just walking around, discovering new shops to pop into and new places to hang.
Don’t miss the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, honoring over 400 accomplished and cherished celebrities (kinda like the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles).
And if you’re looking for an eclectic piece for your home, unique boho clothing, and/or love creative independent stores, make sure to pop into Thick as Thieves and/or The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five.
Take a day trip to Joshua Tree
Wild and wacky Joshua Trees. Rugged rock formations and giant boulders. That arid desert landscape. You can’t visit Palm Springs without adding a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
The park’s less than an hour away, and you can really see all the main highlights in just a day (including Skull Rock, Keys View, and the Cholla Cactus Garden). If you’ve got extra time, you can even visit the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Art Museum and Pioneertown! On my list for next time. Full guide to Joshua Tree in just a day here!
Drive down to Salvation Mountain
Beautiful. Bizarre. And completely unforgettable. Salvation Mountain is a true candy-colored fantasy world in the middle of the desert. And I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m sure you’ve seen it all over social media — it’s a super instagrammable spot a bit south of Palm Springs!
The whole piece is oh so colorful, vibrant, folky, and overwhelmingly astounding. Kinda hard to put into words. Just go see it for yourself. ? And even better, it’s super fun to photograph! Since Salvation Mountain is roughly 1.5 hours away, you can easily make it back for an afternoon of pool time. If you’ve never seen it before, definitely check out my full guide to Salvation Mountain here!
Where to Eat in Palm Springs
There’s tons of noteworthy places to eat over here, but with only a weekend in Palm Springs, you won’t be able to dine at them all. Just the more reason for a return trip, am I right?! Here’s where we ate and what’s on my list for next time. Really something for everyone.
- Cheeky’s: Bacon flights and cinnamon rolls — what could be better? And plus, the same owners of Birba (below), so you know it’s gonna be good.
- The Pink Cabana (at The Sands Hotel): Pink, chic, and popular with instagrammers (or anyone who appreciates good design). We came here for a late brunch one morning and I instantly fell in love with the interiors. My tacos weren’t bad either. 😉 Definitely plan to make a reservation in advance, it gets busy!
- Norma’s at The Parker Hotel: It’s at The Parker — what could be wrong. Make sure you take a million pictures and of course, plan to stuff your face with the warm ricotta donuts… mmmmm. Again, you’ll have more luck making a reservation here. Perfect for a girls weekend getaway to Palm Springs, or a hip brunch/lunch with your significant other.
- King’s Highway (at The Ace): I so wish we had brunch here one morning — those chilaquiles look bomb. But we did have our fair share of drinky drinks from the bar (the mango margaritas with chili powder on the rim were perfect on a hot day). And you won’t believe it, but this spot was formerly a Denny’s that was converted into a “redefined roadside diner”! How wacky!
- Birba: Alfresco Italian dining at it’s best (just make a reservation because this place is popular, for good reasons). I would have eaten here every meal if I could. Don’t miss Nona’s meatballs, potato pizza, and pane. It was all deliciously orgasmic.
- Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey: A trendy Japanese eatery and cocktail lounge — what could be better? We originally had a reservation here, but decided to cancel it. Why? I have no f-ing clue. Still on my list for next time.
- Mr. Lyons Steakhouse: If you’re looking for a swanky steakhouse complete with a vintage vibe, look no further than Mr. Lyons! It’s upscale, it’s retro, and there’s hand-cut meats and classic cocktails. My husband would love this spot.
- Bootlegger Tiki: Come for the drinks, stay for the tacos (and sriracha popcorn — yes, it’s a thing). It’s a Polynesian-themed bar with rum-filled fruity cocktails, so perfect on those super hot days (just remember to counteract the alcohol with some agua).
- Colony Club Restaurant (formerly Purple Palm Restaurant): Wanna eat right by the pool? Expect new American fare in a classic vintage setting, serving an eclectic, seasonally focused menu.
- El Jefe (at The Saguaro): Tacos at one of the most colorful hotels in Palm Springs? Don’t mind if I do. There’s tequila and there’s tacos, all served at the rustic, stylish cocktail bar at The Saguaro Palm Springs. Those baja fish tacos are calling my name.
Coffee and Snacks
- Great Shakes: You NEED to come here. Even if you’re stuffed from lunch/dinner. I repeat, do not leave Great Shakes off your Palm Springs itinerary. Not only are there literally dozens of shake flavors to pick from, but they give you a mini donut on your straw! I mean, c’mon! We raced back from Joshua Tree one night just for this! And it was well worth it.
- Ernest Coffee: By far the largest coffee shop in town. And it doesn’t disappoint. I’m talking, quality drinks that are handcrafted! Plus, there’s loads of pastries and other things for breakfast/lunch.
- Koffi: Every time we attempted to grab coffee here, it was beyond packed. So it must be good, right? I heard the mint tea freeze is the way to go, so that’s 100% on my list for our next visit.
- Kreem: The perfect spot for some artisan ice cream. The menu’s kinda small but you can tell the flavors are homemade. Plus, there’s ample vegan options for all you non-dairies out there! AND they even have a canine cup — ice cream for dogs!
- Shop(pe) | Ice Cream & Shop: A cute little retro-theme ice cream shop with lots of trendy pieces in their shop. Tons of fun flavors, like sweet corn (what I got!), pomegranate, black sesame, and Mexican hot chocolate. They were giving out loads of free samples when we went, but I don’t think that’s a normal occurrence.
- Cartel Coffee Lab: Looking for a hip coffeehouse serving up house-roasted brews? Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s chill and bohemian and sometimes exactly what you’re looking for.
Where to Stay
You’ve got an endless amount of options when it comes to where to stay in Palm Springs. There’s chic boutique hotels, spruced up roadside motels, rustic meets modern establishments, and even more posh resort-like spots than you can imagine. Here’s some of the best:
- Ace Hotel & Swim Club: This is where we stayed! Expect classic hipster vibes and a wild pool party scene, which was oh so much fun. We spent tons of time chilling at the pool with mango margarita slushies, and really enjoyed the outdoor fireplace next to our front door at night. Feel free to take your little pup here — the hotel is super dog friendly (we even hung out with some cute pooches at the pool!). Read reviews and check prices here.
- The Saguaro Palm Springs: By far the most colorful hotel in Palm Springs. While I haven’t stayed here before, I’ve heard others experiences weren’t the absolute best, so I recommend doing some extra research before booking a room here. But those photo ops — swoon! Perfect for your insta! Read reviews and check prices here.
- Parker Palm Springs: Looking for those quintessential Palm Springs vibes? You need to stay at The Parker. With their wall of breeze blocks, bright orange-y red door, and stylish indoor space (the DRUGS sign!), it’s considered the most iconic 5-star boutique hotel in Palm Springs. Plus, there’s THREE pools (including an adults-only pool), the cutest lemonade stand imaginable, and roasted marshmallows. We went for lunch one afternoon and I couldn’t stop photographing the space! Read reviews and check prices here.
- Korakia Pensione: If Greece and Morocco had a baby (two of my fave places in the world), Korakia Pensione would be it. It’s super upscale, and so much more serene than other hotels in the area. There’s bocce ball, classic movie nights, and even a record player in the room. A romantic spot for a quiet couples retreat — the perfect place to unwind! I think we’ll be staying here next. Read reviews and check prices here.
- Skylark Hotel: We stayed here one night since we wouldn’t have time to use the amenities of the Ace, and were blown away by the Skylark. The rooms were HUGE (way bigger than our room at The Ace), the pool was chill and still magnificent, and the complimentary breakfast wasn’t half bad! And it was less than half the price of others we looked at. Definitely check this spot out if you’re looking for a less expensive option. Read reviews and check prices here.
- The Sands Hotel: Yes, it’s a bit outta town (in nearby Indian Wells), but if you’re looking for a chic ADULTS-ONLY hotel, this is it! We went here for brunch one morning and I honestly couldn’t get enough of the space. The pool area looked divine (with lots of sun and shady spots), the grounds were immaculate, and I’ve heard the mojitos are top notch. Another place I’m dying to stay. Read reviews and check prices here.
Hope this helps you plan your ultimate Palm Springs weekend getaway! Are you a fan of the desert?!