The Instagram Guide to Palm Springs

This California oasis is home to more than just music festivals: find adventure, art, and relaxing resorts.

d49ep6 palm trees and san jacinto mountains at dusk rancho mirage, california
(Image credit: Alamy)

Editor's note: We encourage our readers to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (opens in new tab) for up-to-date information on how to safely travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs has long been known as Hollywood’s playground. From the annual Coachella music festival (returning April 2022) to the picturesque resort pools, Palm Springs is a place to see and be seen. But there's so much more to the town and surrounding Coachella Valley than just sunshine and glamour. Palm Springs boasts natural hot springs and an abundance of wellness rituals from alternative therapies to luxurious spa treatments. Art and architecture are also essential in the area, attracting and inspiring artists and designers with the desert light. Modernism Week (opens in new tab) and Desert X (opens in new tab) are just two of the large-scale art events that Palm Springs hosts, bringing fresh ideas every year.

Greater Palm Springs encompasses nine towns. In addition to Palm Springs and Coachella, there are Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Indio. If you’re still looking for more beauty and excitement, the spectacular Joshua Tree National Park (opens in new tab) (you may have heard of it!) is just a 45-minute drive away. However far you explore, we've rounded up what you can’t miss, below.

Take in the Sweeping Desert Views

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Your first stop in Palm Springs should be the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (opens in new tab), which gives visitors incredible views of the entire area. The tram travels along the cliffs of Chino Canyon up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Once you arrive at Mountain Station, 8,516 feet up, you can hike or just sit on the deck and take in the views. The temperature will drop significantly, so bring a sweater (even in the summer!) and look for snow in the winter.

Experience the Region's Art and Design Influences

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Inside the gorgeous Palm Springs Art Museum (opens in new tab) you'll find modern and contemporary paintings, photography, and sculptures, as well as a theater that hosts performances, lectures, and films. The museum offers insight into the signature architecture of the region, showcasing the modernist home architect Albert Frey’s designed for himself in 1963.

Eat Delicious Farm-to-Table Food

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The design of Workshop Kitchen + Bar (opens in new tab) is James Beard Award-winning (the restauranteurs retrofitted a 90-year-old movie theater!), but it's the food that will really impress you. Workshop sources most of its ingredients from local farms located within an hour of Palm Springs and turns them into flavorful dishes. Try the Beets + Citrus with date labne, mint, and ras el hanout walnut in a buddha’s hand vinaigrette.

Stay at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage

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The first residents of Palm Springs were the ancestors of today’s Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The Native American tribe is still an important part of the Palm Springs community. The tribe runs Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage (opens in new tab), a bustling hotel and casino with so much to do that you might forget to leave the resort; spend your days lounging by the pool and your nights playing blackjack.

Shop at Vintage Boutiques

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Palm Springs is known for great shopping, bursting with vintage stores and one-of-a-kind design retailers. Palm Canyon Drive is a good place to start, browsing Soukie Modern's (opens in new tab) Moroccan rugs, textiles, and home accessories. El Paseo is another avenue to check out. Be sure to stop by The Body Deli (opens in new tab) for its fresh, small-batch skincare and beauty products.

Sip and Savor at Counter Reformation

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They can't actually turn water into wine at Counter Reformation (opens in new tab), but the Catholic-themed wine bar still feels miraculous. It offers eclectic wines by the glass from all over the world, like a Montevideo from Uruguay and an Areni from Armenia, along with delicious small plates. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize any of the wines—let the bartender guide your pairings!

Get Pampered at a Top-Rated Spa

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Sunstone Spa (opens in new tab) has been rated the number one spa in California, so you can feel confident your time here will be blissful! Try a massage with gemstone-infused oils or a facial with marine collagen to experience some tranquility.

Enjoy Happy Hour With Cute Dogs (Yes, Really!)

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Boozehounds (opens in new tab) is a restaurant and bar dedicated to dogs and their owners. Even if you don’t have a pup with you, enjoy a cocktail on the large patio and watch the dogs play.

Explore the Parker—And Get That #Content

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The swoon-worthy Parker Palm Springs (opens in new tab) is a whimsical retreat with expansive grounds filled with shady hammocks, an adult lemonade stand, croquet court, and charming courtyards around every turn. To create an "Alice in Wonderland" vibe, the Parker even feeds wild bunnies to encourage them to frolic in the estate’s foliage.

Pack Light and Bright

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Before you head to the area, make sure to fill your suitcase with vibrant clothing in styles that will keep you cool. You’ll need a lot of swimsuits (opens in new tab) since resort life in the desert revolves around the pool. In the evenings, switch to silk dresses and bright accessories (opens in new tab).

If you've fallen in love with Palm Springs, book a trip here (opens in new tab).

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Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, cannabis, and relationships. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.