A Locals Guide to Palm Springs (You Won’t Want to Miss These 8 Hot Tips!)
What are the first things that come to your mind when you think of Los Angeles?
Hollywood, Disneyland and Santa Monica are some common buzzwords creating stars in the eyes of tourists.
So, what’s this Palm Springs fuzz all about? Let find out why you should you go there and best things you can do once your there!
So, Why Do Locals Recommend Palm Springs?
Travel decisions are largely commercialised by the impressions we receive in the media. We tend to follow the masses when we travel.
But the fact is, if you truly want to discover gems in your travels, then listen to what the locals recommend discovering.
I am one of those locals of the Los Angeles area, now for more than 40 years. Your Los Angeles visit simply is not complete until you have experienced Palm Springs!
Where Is Palm Springs, You Ask?
The city is in the low desert, only about a hundred miles east of Los Angeles.
This Southern California desert is easily accessible by car, bus, or by air. Palm Springs Airport is also located at the outskirts of Palm Springs downtown.
Have You Heard About It's Part in Hollywood History?
Once a playground for Hollywood’s movie stars, entertainers, and Los Angeles’ rich and famous, the city experienced a period of lull and decline from the late 1979’s.
During Hollywood’s original heyday you would find stars visiting and living here. Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, Liberace, and Frank Sinatra were frequently spotted celebrities.
Palm Springs was simply their favourite get-away-from-it-all place, yet THE place to be seen, and THE place to see too!
No self-respecting movie star or entertainer would dare not being associated with Palm Springs.
I have many personal visual memories from Palm Springs of the 1970’s, which was the end of the city’s old era…
The city was packed with Rolls Royce cars and women in their 50’s to 80’s. They all had bleach-blonde hair, smoking their cigarettes in 14 karat gold cigarette holders impregnated with diamonds.
And of course, they were tightly holding onto their young “boy-toys”, walking arm in arm!
Rich old men also used Palm Springs as a symbol of their wealth. It’s not usual to see a man in his 80's walking hand in hand with their 20-year old girlfriends (mistresses).
Let Talk About Palm Springs Today!
Today this beautiful city has risen to a new fame. A new, quaint down to earth vibe has transcended upon the place. It's now THE place to go for any ordinary person. Affordable total relaxation and rejuvenation from the daily stress await.
Bob Hope's circular-shaped hilltop house, so prominently visible just south of town, is still standing as a reminder of the city's past.
But the “who is who of Hollywood” is no longer spotted in town. The gold and glitter atmosphere of the past has been replaced by a vibe of cheerful locals and tourists, equally happy to experience everything Palm Springs has to offer.
Being a very attractive, affordable place to buy a house (for Los Angeles area pricing), many ordinary people now call Palm Springs home, as well.
But they do live in hot summer temperatures frequently exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 degrees Celsius.
8 Things to do in Palm Springs (From A Long Time Local)
1. Head to Palm Canyon Drive (or as the Locals Say "Downtown")
Palm Canyon Drive is the main street of downtown. This is where you find the pulse of the city.
People just love to leisurely walk along this main drag. Here you'll find lots of places to eat, from cheap to super expensive, a few busy bars with musical entertainment, souvenir shops, Starbucks, and clothing stores. The sleepy, yet the comfortable social setting is just perfect for rest and relaxation.
Just like Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, the Palm Canyon Drive has its own Walk of Stars. Embedded in the sidewalk pavement are the "Golden Palm Stars". Names you find here are celebrities who have lived in the greater Palm Springs area.
The fancy Hyatt Hotel is perfectly located on Canyon Drive. Each room has its own balcony. Lots of other hotels are located within a couple of blocks. The airport is five minutes away from downtown. The city even boasts its own large-sized hospital.
The Spa Resort Casino is located a short two blocks from Canyon Drive, as well, for those interested in gambling.
2. Experience The Outstanding Culinary Scene
Palm Springs has a unique reputation for having a few of the best places to eat in Southern California.
Here is the best of the best and most recommended places to experience the culinary side of Palm Springs:
You typically don't find the standard American coffee shop receiving many great reviews, as they're all pretty much the same.
But Palm Springs has one that frequently gets rave reviews among food critics.
John Henry's Cafe is a big local favorite, with many guests making the drive from Los Angeles just to have lunch there.
Serving classic and modern American fare with a European twist it is one of the highest rated eating places in the desert.
Moderately priced the atmosphere can best be described as upscale, cozy, romantic, yet very casual. And the food is delicious!
Las Casuelas Terraza is the best place for Mexican food in the area.
With so many great authentic Mexican food places in California Las Casuelas Terraza perhaps blends in with the rest of the best of L.A.
But for the Palm Springs area, this is the very best place to eat Mexican!
La Valleuris is the most expensive, most exclusive, highest rated restaurant for fine dining in Palm Springs. It is also the most romantic place to eat. So, if you go as a couple, the experience might just be worth the cost.
The restaurant was established in their heart of Palm Springs location in 1973.
The restaurant's building is a historic Landmark built in 1927. Many celebrity parties were held here, for notables, such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and Duke Ellington.
General Patton even staged the World War II Battle of the Bulge from this building, since he was based in Palm Springs at the time.
Later, when the building became an established restaurant it became the must-visit place to eat for several Presidents and the Hollywood elite.
The French food served here, infused with other international-style foods is delicious. They also serve Russian caviar. A great variety of menu choices adds to the experience.
The establishment has a very courteous and formal wait-staff, worthy of a true high-class restaurant.
The famous outdoor patio is the most requested table location. It is lined with giant fichus trees, and it provides great ambience to your dining experience.
3. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
One highlight attraction of your Palm Springs visit is located only a 5 to10 minute drive from downtown.
This spectacular tram car experience will take you from the desert floor to 8,516 feet in a two-and-one-half mile long ascending ride.
At the top of the Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area, you can engage in lots of activities. There are even two restaurants at the mountaintop.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to Las Vegas from the phenomenal vantage view provided.
You can read more about the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway here.
4. Get Out & Explore the Desert
If you are into adventure activities the canyons around the desert is an exciting place for long hikes and exercise.
Just be aware of rattlesnakes and mountain lions in the area.
With so much to explore, be sure to bring a backpack with the essentials for desert exploring.
During the summer months, it's best to limit your hiking to the early morning hours, or closer to sundown.
Temperatures here get to be extreme, so drink lots of fluids during your hike!
One popular destination is to drive to the nearby Joshua Tree National Park, with its Joshua Trees, unique in the world to the greater Mojave Desert area only.
When you see tumbleweeds and Joshua trees in old American Western movies you know it was filmed in the desert areas spanning from Joshua Tree to Mojave (around the Palmdale area), California.
5. Educate Yourself About The Salton Sea
With its elevation 226.4 feet below sea level the Salton Sea is the lowest point in the U.S. Rich in history, but very polluted, you can learn more about the attraction here.
6. Golf Enthusiast Heaven
The greater Palm Springs area is a golf enthusiast's heaven.
There are more golf courses here, packed into the desert floor than you would find in the Beverly Hills area!
As a matter of fact, former President Obama's favourite place to golf is still Palm Springs.
7. Enjoy This Shopping Mecca!
Shopper's heaven the Cabazon Outlets and the Premium Outlets are located only a 20-minute drive from Palm Springs downtown.
With its hundreds of outlet stores, these bargain shops are located next to the popular Morongo Casino Resort & Spa.
8. Recommended Tours and Further Information on Palm Springs
There are many tour operators specialising in digesting the best of Palm Springs. Depending on how much time you wish to spend in desert wonderland, you can use the following guides as a planning tool for what interests you:
For a complete guide to the greater Palm Springs area, click here.
Thanks to Les for sharing some local knowledge about his home town Palm Springs! Les is a travel and aviation blogger, and an airline captain for a major U.S. airline for more than 30 years. He is also the operator of CaptainJetson.com, a travel site he started as a hobby.