Palm Springs

For our ten year anniversary, I wanted a special trip that involved lots of warmth, lots of sunshine, little humidity, and few allergens. In April, options are limited, so I decided on Palm Springs, California. I knew enough not to go during the Coachella music festivale, but what I didn’t know is that just past Coachella is yet another music festival (a country music festival), which I discovered *after* purchasing non-refundable plane tickets. Ha! So what we saved in airfare was spent on the hotel, but it ended up being very worth it. So here are some highlights from our trip.

Palm Springs airport
Outdoor concourse at the Palm Springs airport
Palm Springs airport

We had an early flight (on a Saturday) to take full advantage of our short time. We flew directly into Palm Springs, which has an amazing airport designed by famed architect Donald Wexler. The architecture was definitely a draw for us, so it was a treat to be greeted with this lovely, airy structure.

After getting a car, we headed straight for lunch at Native Foods Cafe. California vegan cuisine was a great start to our trip. I had the sesame kale macro bowl; Mr. Eats had the Bangkok curry bowl. Both were delicious.

Native Foods Cafe

Afterward, we checked into The Wesley Hotel, which is actually a building of short-term rental units. It’s in a fantastic location on Riverside drive in the lovely Deepwell Estates neighborhood. We frequently took advantage of the complimentary bikes to explore the area’s beautiful mid-century homes. One reason I chose this hotel is that the set-up is classic mid-century hotel court: the units are in a low-slung building that surround a pool and hot tub that has views of the mountains. It also had a mini-kitchen that allowed us to have breakfast at the hotel each morning and save lunch leftovers for dinner around the pool each night.

Wesley Hotel pool

Though on our first night, we headed out to Joshua Tree National Park to catch the sunset over the Coachella Valley. It was about a 45 minute drive up to the Joshua Tree northwest entrance. We drove Park Boulevard to Keys View, which offers a spectacular view of the valley across Palm Springs and even to the Salton Sea. It was a bit smoggy as the westerly winds came in from Los Angeles, though. On the way back, we stopped at Del Taco (which we love); the 8 layer burrito for me and two Beyond Meat tacos for Mr. Eats (who hasn’t eaten beef for several years now, so it was quite a treat for him). Note: if you want to see the sunset from Keys View, get there a bit early because it gets crowded.

Joshua Tree
Vista from Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park. Looks over the Coachella Valley toward the Salton Sea.
The crowd at Keys View

On Sunday, we met friends from the LA area who drove in to have brunch with us at Lulu California Bistro, which is a bit of a Palm Springs institution (their recommendation, a good one!). The restaurant is lively and fun and the menu is classic California cuisine. After brunch, we drove around the northern area of old Palm Springs to enjoy some of the famous architecture. For fun, we also stopped in to see an open house in the area. We were very clear to the agent that we were *not* in the market for a $3M home, but he was happy to let us poke around. Everyone we encountered in the area was so nice.

LuLu California Bistro
gorgeous mid-century home (not the $3M house for sale, though)
Kaufman Desert House (across the street from the $3M house)

Later, we stopped at Tonga Hut for tiki drinks and pineapple fried rice. We also got a special tour through a secret passage to back rooms decorated in vintage tiki bar decor salvaged from tiki bars that have closed down over the years.

Pineapple fried rice at Tonga Hut

Monday, we bicycled around the neighborhood and then headed to Palm Canyon Drive to check out the vintage shops and art galleries. We had an early lunch of vegetarian nachos and a sangria flight at TacQuila followed by more exploring. Later, we had an early dinner at another Palm Springs institution, El Mirasol, though we chose the newer location in the Los Arboles hotel, which has a lovely outdoor dining area lined with tropical fruit trees such as mangos and loquats. The guacamole salad was fantastic. As was the mango margarita! In the evening, we drove down to the south end of Palm Springs to see Bob Hope’s house, but it’s gated off, so we stopped briefly (while the guard yelled at us) to enjoy the vista.

Vegetarian nachos at TacQuila
Entrance to El Mirasol at Los Arboles Hotel
El Mirasol patio
View from Southridge Drive looking north
Ship of the Desert

On Tuesday, we drove to Indian Canyons to enjoy some more of the natural architecture. We did the easy Andreas Canyon hike (Andreas Loop) that follows a beautiful creek that is lined with gorgeous fan palms and other flora. It’s a really cool contrast to the surrounding desert. Further along the road, there’s a short trail from the Trading Post to the West Fork Falls.

View from Andreas Loop trail in Indian Canyon
Indian Canyon along Andreas Loop
West Fork Falls
Indian Canyon looking north toward Palm Springs

Afterward, we had late lunch at Sherman’s Deli, which has an amazing selection of pastries and cakes. We ended our meal with a slice of San Jacinto cake that was so huge, that we could not finish it. But you know we took it with us. Later, more driving around and admiring of the mid-century “atomic ranches” and homes of the stars. And like every evening, we ended the night relaxing in the pool and hot tub.

Sherman's Deli
Cakes at Sherman's Deli
lovely home in Deepwell Estates neighborhood with San Jacinto mountains to the west
Another home in Deepwell Estates

I scheduled a late flight out so we could enjoy our last day, so we had brunch at Elmer’s after just a bit more bicycling around the neighborhood. Elmer’s was a request of Mr. Eats, so I didn’t look it up; turns out, it’s like a western Shoney’s--ha! But he enjoyed it and it had a great patio with a spectacular view. It was a nice way to end our trip.

View southward from Elmer's patio (includes the end of Ocotillo Lodge)
Elmer's restaurant with Ocotillo Lodge in the background

A few additional notes:

We got a few recommendations to visit some places we didn’t get time to squeeze in. Tropicale got several recommendations as did the High Bar at the top of the Kimpton Hotel. It’s also a “thing” to have a date shake since the Coachella Valley is the date capital. We didn’t know this and opted for a Dole Whip instead. Oops.

We opted for the Dole Whip instead of the date shake. Oops.

We didn’t take a guided tour of celebrity/interesting homes, but we did stop by the visitors center and purchased a map for $5 to guide us. Many of the homes are difficult to see from the street (and guided tours don’t provide special access except during Modernism Week), so I don’t think we missed out.

We rented a car, which was nice to have to get to Joshua Tree as well as Indian Canyons and just for driving around town through various neighborhoods. There’s lots of free parking on Palm Canyon Drive and Belardo Rd so you can park and walk around. Gas is expensive (of course), but otherwise, food and drinks were surprisingly reasonable (cheaper than Nashville, really) and it was easy to get in everywhere we went (April is the end of the season for the winter residents since it heats up during the month).

If you’re interested in partaking in California’s, um, newly-legal pastime (let’s say), the place to visit is California Safe Access, which has been in business since the time that only medicinal use was legal. It’s a great place for people who have lots of questions and are new to all the different products offered. It's like a high-end cosmetics store.

It was a short but relaxing trip with lots of scheduled downtime and I’m already ready to go back. And I wish I had $3M to buy that fab house on Vista Chino Drive! If you want to see (and read about) more homes, check out this piece on Palm Springs architecture. I took a lot of the same, exact photos as the author--even of houses that weren't noted on maps (just really cool).