Hidden in the Californian desert lays a little hideout named Palm Springs. This desert oasis filled with hot springs, luxury resorts and spas acts as a perfect weekend getaway. But apart from the luxury resorts and spas, Palm Springs is a lively town with a mid-century modern influence. It feels like something from a movie. This Palm Springs itinerary helps you plan what to see and do on your 2-day trip (or longer) to this city in California.
The Perfect Palm Springs Itinerary
Visit Moorten Botanical Garden
If you like the sight of cacti and other beautiful desert plants, Moorten Botanical Garden is the place for you. For only a fiver, you get to explore this family-owned garden that’s over an acre big. Founders Patricia and Chester Moorten opened this garden back in 1939 and collected plants from Baja California, Mexico and from as far as Guatemala. The botanical garden now houses more than 3000 cacti and acts as a lovely hide-out for desert tortoises.
Address: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA
Opening Hours: Moorten Botanical Garden is open all year round, but hours could be reduced in summer due to the heat. In Spring, Fall and Winter, you can visit the gardens between 10 AM and 4 PM (except Wednesdays).
Entrance Fee: $5 for adults and seniors, $2.50 for children. Children under 5 years old can visit for free.
Breakfast and your caffeine fix at Koffi
As an ex-barista and coffee lover, I can appreciate a good cup of coffee. In the desert heat, an iced-coffee accompanied by some breakfast is the perfect way to start the day. When in Palm Springs, Koffi is the place to go. Locally owned and established in 2002, Koffi now has four locations across Palm Springs. They roast their own coffee beans which are used in many other local restaurants and eateries. Alongside their quality coffee, Koffi has a wide variety of breakfast options and sweet snacks (including muffins, cinnamon rolls and grilled egg sandwiches).
Opening Hours: Opening times vary per location. You can find the opening times at Koffi’s website.
Take the Aerial Tramway
The Aerial Tramway can be found just outside of Palm Springs. The world’s largest rotating tramcar takes people along the cliffs of Chino Canyon. The tramcar travels over 2.5 miles taking you up to the Mountain Station. With an elevation of 8,516 feet, it is 30 degrees cooler than the desert floor. A perfect way to cool down in the summer heat, right? At the Mountain Station, you can find two restaurants and a few viewpoints.
Opening Hours: The first tram of the day goes up at 10 AM (Mon-Fri) / 8 AM (Sat-Sun). The last tram upwards leaves at 8 PM every day and the last tram down leaves at 9:45 PM.
Ticket prices: It costs $26.95 for an adult to ride the tram. More information about the ticket prices can be found on the Aerial Tramway website.
Lunch at Cheeky’s
For lunch, I’d recommend going to Cheeky’s. This modern and hip eatery is a favourite for many locals. Its unique take on breakfast, brunch and lunch with a weekly changing menu, eating at Cheeky’s never gets boring. The combination of a cool and instagramable interior, amazing food and a location in the middle of downtown Palm Springs, you cannot miss this place. To find out more about their weekly changing menu, check out Cheeky’s website.
Address: 622 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, USA
Opening Hours: Wed-Mon from 8 AM till 2 PM.
Vintage shopping on Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Canyon Drive is THE place to (window) shop. This is the main street in downtown Palm Springs and rather than being filled with the common big chains, this street has one independent boutique after the other. I always find it a bit sad to find the same shops wherever you go. H&M, Zara, Mango… It’s all the same boring stuff. This is why Palm Canyon Drive felt so refreshing. Vintage shops, bookshops, places to eat and drink and even a “Husband Daycare” (for the men who are sick of window shopping haha), this place is a must-visit.
TIP #1: Look down while walking on the sidewalks of Palm Canyon Drive to find the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars.
TIP #2: If you plan to visit Palm Springs Art Museum in Downtown Palm Springs, you can visit for free on Thursday evenings from 4 PM – 8 PM.
Hire a bike and go on a self-guided Door Tour
The midcentury modern architecture in Palm Springs is something that immediately catches your attention. It has a somewhat vintage movie vibe to it and many of the buildings act as a perfect background for some photos. One thing that’s very popular in Palm Springs is a self-guided Door Tour. The doors of these buildings are indeed pretty amazing and after renting a bike for the day, they act as a fun route to explore the city. You can rent a bike at Palm Springs Bike Rental.
You can find a perfect self-guided Door Tour over at Salty Canary, and if you’re looking for a more “architectural” tour, I’d recommend using the GPS my City tour.
Day Trips from Palm Springs
One and a half hours outside of Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain can be found. The artist, Leonard Knight, hand-made Salvation Mountain with over half a million gallons of latex paint. What started as a small monument turned out into a beautiful mountain tribute to God. Declared as “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” in the year 2000, Salvation Mountain is definitely worthy of your time.
Opening Hours: Dusk till dawn, 365 days a year.
Entrance Fee: Salvation Mountain is free to visit.
Joshua Tree National Park
The Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert meet in Joshua Tree National Park, creating a strange but unique desert flora. The park gets its name from the famous Yucca trees (also known as Joshua trees), a plant that is scattered across the park. Together with some strange rock formations, Joshua Tree looks almost magical.
You can enter Joshua Tree via a little town called Twentynine Palms. From Palm Springs, it will take you roughly an hour to get there by car.
Where to stay in Palm Springs?
Budget hotel: Vagabond Inn Palm Springs
Located right next to Moorten Botanical Garden, Vagabond Inn is the perfect budget hotel for your trip to Palm Springs. Free on-site parking, WiFi and breakfast are included with your room. The hotel also has a large pool to cool down in.
Mid-range hotel: The Colony Palms Hotel
Spending a little extra on your accommodation gets you a room in the Colony Palms Hotel. Located in the middle of downtown Palm Springs, the hotel has a beautiful mountain view, on-site spa facilities and an all-round filmstar vibe.
Luxury hotel: The Parker
If you have some more bucks to burn, The Parker Hotel is your best choice. This hotel is definitely on the more expensive side – it’s a celebrity favourite – but it is absolutely gorgeous. If you don’t want to splurge on hotel costs, you can always visit Parker’s restaurant Norma’s. This gives you the opportunity to have a peek inside.
Airbnbs in Palm Springs
Palm Springs also has a wide variety of Airbnbs you can rent. Especially if you’re planning to visit with a larger group, I’d recommend looking at Airbnbs. It’s way cheaper that way. Click here for $42 off your first Airbnb booking.
Where NOT to stay
Even though The Saguaro looks like every Instagrammer’s dream (cute rainbow colours all the way), this party hotel does not have a good rep with visitors. With dirty rooms, missing items in the room and very poor service, this is one to avoid. I’ve only heard horror stories from fellow travel bloggers about this hotel! Please do visit it for some photos or a day at the pool, but look for another place to stay at.
How to get to Palm Springs?
By car: From Los Angeles, it takes about two hours to drive to Palm Springs. Having your own car with you while visiting Palm Springs has some advantages. It’s easy to drive to any of the sights, especially if you’re planning to take any day trips from Palm Springs.
By plane: Palm Springs has its own airport: Palm Springs International Airport. You can fly in from many other cities inside the US or even from outside the country. If you’re planning on renting a car during your trip, I’d recommend hiring one at the airport.
Palm Springs Travel Tips
- Palm Springs is located in the middle of the desert. This means that the temperatures are very high during the day, but drop down during the night. Make sure the pack appropriately.
- There are some pretty strict noise regulations in Palm Springs, to maintain everybody’s peace and quiet. To find out more about these regulations, check out Palm Springs’ website.
I hope this Palm Springs itinerary has helped you plan your own trip to this wonderful little place. If I missed any of your favourite spots, please let me know in the comments!