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Palm Springs – The One And Only

By Barbara Beckley

There truly is no destination like Palm Springs – where everything is hip, chic and one-of-a-kind — and you feel wonderful just being there.

It’s a desert escape that beats to its own irresistible vibe – framed by the picturesque San Jacinto Mountains under bright blue skies and clear starry nights, a quick trip by car from SoCal and by air from everywhere via the space-age style Palm Springs International Airport.

Palm Springs International Airport

Only In Palm Springs

From restaurants and nightlife to hotels and shops, architecture and attractions even souvenirs, unique pleasures are everywhere: in sizzling Downtown, the Uptown Design District, North America’s only natural oases and the world’s largest collection of mid-century modern architecture.

Begin by twirling 8,516 feet into the San Jacinto Mountains in the world’s largest rotating tram cars on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. At the top, enjoy sweeping views of the Coachella Valley, fine dining and easy or challenging hikes in Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness.

Palm Springs Aerial Tram

And you don’t have to be an aviation buff to thrill to flying in a vintage P-51 Mustang warbird or climbing inside the legendary WWII B-17 Flying Fortress – rare experiences available at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Its extraordinary offerings include more than 59 military aircraft from WWII through Vietnam plus related exhibits, events and activities for adults and kids.

Palm Springs Air Museum

Even Palm Springs’ name is unique – chosen for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ ancestral hot springs which bubble underground in the center of town. The springs are a centerpiece of the new Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, which includes a cultural museum and The Spa at SEC-he, to honor the healing waters.

Mad About Mid-Century

Lured by the constant sunshine and stylish cocktail culture, the rich and famous have escaped to Palm Springs for decades. The party really took off in the swinging 1950s and ‘60s when Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack put Palm Springs on the world stage. They built lavish pads in the glamorous architecture of the day, by the most famous architects.

Frank Sinatra in Palm Springs

Today, we call the style Mid-Century Modern. These classic structures – homes and business buildings – are everywhere. Drive by them yourself. Or take a guided tour such as the Martini & Mid Century Architecture Tour – The Rat Pack Edition, offered by Palm Springs Mod Squad (Architectural Tours). Home tours, presentations, parties in Mid-Century masterpieces such as the Elrod House, a Mid-Century merchandise show and sale and more wow visitors during Modernism Week in February and the Modernism Fall Preview in October. Even live the dream and rent a mid-mod home including Sinatra’s 1947 gem. The Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture & Design Center offers more about these master architects and their work.

Palm Springs Mod Squad Architectural Tours

Memorable Accommodations

Palm Springs magnetic attraction has spawned a unique collection of charming, small, one-of-a-kind inns – arguably the largest number of any destination. Ranging from two to 20 guestrooms and bungalows, most are privately owned, historic and give you the warmest welcome in a variety of styles from the Spanish Mediterranean Amin Casa Hotel (once Hollywood star Gloria Swanson’s home) to the mid-mod Orbit Inn and Modernism-meets-Country-Western Sparrows Lodge. If you’re a resort fan, chill at hipster choices like the new Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs and contemporary-style seven-story Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs with a killer rooftop pool.

Amin Casa Hotel palm springs

Cocktails & Fashion

Happy hour is a way of life in Palm Springs. Followed by dinner out, and of course, a nightcap. Treat your palate to delicious drinks and meals at myriad independent, often chef-owned, eateries from morning lattes at Koffi to friendly fare at Lulu California Bistro and fine dining at Copley’s on Palm Canyon. Late night musts include Melvyn’s Casablanca Lounge and the Purple Room.

Melvyn’s Casablanca Lounge palm springs

To look and feel your cocktail best, Palm Springs’ shopping is beyond compare. From hip contemporary wear like Johnny Was and exclusive designers like Trina Turk (she lives in Palm Springs) to matchless vintage clothing at specialist including The Frippery and Mitchells. Score on furnishings, too, both contemporary such as Pelago in the Uptown Design District. And retro from collector-caliber at boutiques like A La Mod to hunt-and-peck at Sunny Dunes Antique Mall and local thrifts Revivals and Angelview. Even the souvenirs are unique. Destination PSP designs exclusive keepsakes – think mid-mod house-shaped tissue boxes. Just Fabulous’ curates over-the-top locally-themed art, books, cards and whimsy.

trina turk store palm springs

Art Centric

The Palm Springs Art Museum is one of California’s finest, with renowned modern and contemporary and Native American and Western art. Peruse works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore, photos by Ansel Adams, glass art by Dale Chihuly. Pose for a selfie by Your Dog, a giant white fiberglass puppy by Yoshitomo Nara. Then go downstairs and enjoy a play, concert, dance performance or lecture at the Annenberg Theater.

Palm Springs Art Museum

Private galleries abound from Impressionist, Modernist and Plein Air works by noted painters at Stewart Galleries to one-off galleries like The Michael Weems Collection, featuring Weems’ unique works in all mediums, and Shag, the master of Mid-Century whimsy.

Stewart Galleries palm springs

Outdoor Action For All

Hiking, biking, horseback riding, desert tours, golf – it’s all here for families to seasoned adventurers. Often it’s as near as your doorstep with trailheads beginning right Downtown and complimentary bicycles at many hotels. Marvel at North America’s only natural oases with a hike into the scenic Indian Canyons. Horseback ride, from beginner to master, with family-owned Smoke Tree Stables. Explore the valley with Red Jeep Tours or guided bicycle rides with Big Wheel Tours. Tee off on top public courses including the championship Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, breathtaking views at Escena Golf Club and the Indian Canyons Golf Club, where the Rat Pack played.

horseback riding in palm springs

A Warm Welcome

The welcome mat is out for everyone in Palm Springs, inviting friends, families, couples, LBGTQ and singles to enjoy being themselves. Gay-specific accommodations and nightspots and the nation’s two largest gay events — The White Party for guys and The Dinah for gals – prove the point.

And celebrities. The stars always show up in person to accept their awards at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, held each January.

Palm Springs is that good.

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