This past weekend, my husband and I took my dream trip to Palm Springs and it was everything I hoped for and more! It had stunning 360 degree views of the mountains, blue skies, and lots of palm trees. Palm Springs is a small, easy-going city with seriously cool design, embracing its history of mid-century architecture.
Everything on our list was within ten minutes of each other, and though it was easy to walk parts (or bike if you’d like to rent one), we still rented a car. They have a trolley going through downtown, but it’s limited in where it goes, so renting a car is best. Parking is easy and free wherever we went, and the roads are wide. I personally felt stress free driving there, which is a big thing since I don’t like driving!
Though we went during New Year’s, we didn’t have big plans for the occasion, we just wanted to get away somewhere warm and explore. If you are looking to visit yourself, my tips are for a general weekend away in Palm Springs, nothing centered around NYE.
We arrived at PSP, emerging into the warm sunshine immediately via the plane stairs on the Tarmac, a nice reprieve from the cold winter back home. We grabbed our rental car and headed to our accommodations. For our first two nights, we saved on money and rented a private casita through Airbnb. It was technically a shared space with the owner since it was part of their property (which makes it a cheaper option), but it had a separate entrance and amenities, so we had our own space the entire time. Like previously mentioned, Palm Springs is a small city, so finding accomadation close to the action is an easy feat. All the neighborhoods surrounding downtown have street parking, so parking our rental was a synch.
After changing into warm weather clothes (do pack a light jacket for the cooler nights though), we went in search of lunch downtown. We decided on Ruby’s Diner, a 50’s style diner with shiny red vinyl seats, waiters in candy striped uniforms, and classic diner food. Though it’s a chain, it was enjoyable, very tasty, and got me in the mood to explore more retro!
We took a stroll through downtown and first stopped into The General Store Museum, a collection of authentic medicine, groceries, and clothing from the 1930s and 40s. It was fascinating to see the prices and packages of goods from yesteryear, and the advertising we would now find comical.
With the time change and VERY early start flying to Palm Springs, we skipped dinner and went to bed early the first night. We are the type of travelers that don’t stuff a day with activities. We take some time to relax, just as a vacation should be.
The next day, after some well needed rest, we started with a delicious brunch at Elmer’s. A staple of Palm Springs, Elmer’s offers American breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few southwestern twists. I had the Bacon & Tillamook PotatoCakes & Eggs, griddle-browned potato pancakes filled with bacon, cheddar cheese, and onion, topped with sour cream. Yummmmmm! We sat on the patio and enjoyed the beautiful weather and mountain views, a great way to start our day.
We then did some browsing in the vintage stores and upscale decor stores along Palm Canyon Drive. The three stores that I enjoyed the most were Dazzles, Shag, and Antique Galleries of Palm Springs (the last of which a short drive away from downtown). Dazzles is a tucked away vintage treasure trove, full of tropical barware, mid-century furniture, and a vast collection of 50s/60s jewelry. I was in awe of the collection of enamel flower brooches, and I came away with a black and white daisy brooch while Ryan found a hand made vintage mug. Shag, a gallery dedicated to Josh Agle’s mid-century inspired mod art, a kaleiscope of color, posh scenes and a hint of humor. Though I can’t afford a large print, I was able to get a post card of his to hang on the travel wall back home. The Antique Galleries of Palm Springs was fun to explore, since we wouldn’t be able to shop for anything (life of carry-on baggage travel). It was full of posh mid-century furniture and mod decor, which is more rare to find back east.
We did a little exploring around the city and then relaxed at the casita until our night out for NYE. Almost every city we visit, I annoy my husband with what-ifs of moving there, but I had serious moving lust when it came to Palm Springs. Maybe years down the road that dream could come true!
Once we changed into our NYE finery, we headed over to The Tonga Hut. There are several tiki bars in Palm Springs, but we chose Tonga since it also had a restaurant. Even though it was New Year’s, the establishment wasn’t crowded, which is a plus for me. Most people in Palm Spring’s celebrating that night were at the casino event. We started our evening with drinks, my husband had a classic Blue Hawaiian, and I had a Tonga Hut Treasure. My drink, consisting of orange liquor and cream, was served in a large ceramic tiki bowl with a “volcano” in the middle. The server poured rum into the volcano, lit it on fire, and garnished it with cinnamon and nutmeg, which caused some theatrical sparks! I love a little presentation with my drinks! While waiting for our dinner, we partook in some Chinese checkers, courtesy of the games provided in the bar lounge, and sipped on our tiki drinks. Dinner arrived with a beautiful orchid garnish, and we dug in to our pineapple fried rice and teriyaki beef skewers.
As we were leaving after dinner, one of the friendly staff asked us if we had seen the “speakeasy” rooms. He led us through a secret doorway via an old telephone booth, into two lounges decorated with authentic tiki decor collected by the owners. As we explored, we chatted about tiki bars visited, the history of the Tonga Hut and a possible future visit to the tiki convention hosted in Palm Springs. If you are a tiki-phile like me, make sure to ask for a tour and grab a delicious drink here! We aren’t big partiers so we ended our night with a stroll through downtown and some ice cream, a perfect and relaxing end to our 2017.
We took full advantage of our last day in Palm Springs and fit several more activities in before our Red Eye that night. We started our day with brunch at Broken Yolk Cafe, a breakfast restaurant on the main drive. Though there were many delicious options, the calories listed to the side deterred me from making a choice too horrific for my diet, so I chose a surprisingly lighter calorie option of chicken & waffles eggs Benedict.
After brunch, we headed over to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and experienced some stunning views of the city and a little adventure on the tram ride up. It’s a bit pricey but worth the money for the valley views from 8,500 feet up, wooded hiking trails and activities atop the mountain. We explored the viewing points and one of the easier trails before taking the tram back down. Though I’m claustrophobic, the tram is quite spacious, spins 360 degrees for optimal views and goes fairly fast, so I didn’t feel closed in like other trams I’ve taken.
After the aerial tramway, we headed over to The Saguaro Hotel to check-in for our brief stay. The Saguaro was a definite bucket list item for me and I wished we could have stayed longer (there is always next time though!) Our short stay there was more of a photo opportunity this time around, and boy did I get alot of photos! Everywhere you turn there are pops of prismatic color and funky decor. It’s hard not to be happy when looking at the rainbow that is the Saguaro, and I enjoyed looking around the property.
We then took a drive through one of the more posh neighborhoods to view some classic mid-century homes, and I got my iconic Instagram “Pink Door” shot every blogger seems to have. The houses are so different from what you normally see back east, material and structure wise, so they were interesting to take in for a historic preservationist like me (at least that’s what my degree is…obviously not my profession, haha). Their highly manicured desert lawns, stucco facades, and mod decor were a sight to see!
We made a quick pit stop at Caliente Tropics to view the Polynesian decor, and then enjoyed an early dinner and some impromptu putt-putt golf (My husband always wins…). We retired to the hotel for some relaxation and a nap, since we unfortunately had to leave that night for a Red Eye. Though not our original plan, flying stand-by is a precarious game and we had to take the best option for flights. Our time in Palm Springs was short but sweet, and it has me itching to come back and explore more!