Palm Springs is located in the southern part of California. Springing forth out of level desert nothingness, perched at the base of fantastically grandiose rocky beasts. I think the dominant part of why I adored this town so was the way these mountains delicately enveloped it; almost like a protective fortress of sorts. No matter where you turned there they were, splayed subtly in the background, reassuring, sheltering and above all else, inspiring.
Of course palm trees are also beautifully bountiful.
The weekends are when you find this town truly buzzing and thriving, laden with a fusion of people, mostly Angelenos, attempting to escape the bustle and chaos of their town.
But during the week you’ll find it slightly more tranquil, less amassed with revellers.
The main hub is along Palm Canyon Drive. You’ve got it all down this road. From hotels/motels to restaurants and bars, a plethora of quaint stores to peruse and so much more. I found parking wasn’t too difficult here. We managed to secure a spot in the heart of the street and walking along this stretch of road I noticed a fair amount of signage pointing to other parking areas. While this is the main road in town, there are also adjacent roads equally as burgeoning. You could seriously spend hours immersing yourself with locals and their stores considering the amazing array. Since Palm Springs is more known for gathering a more art inclined crowd you can expect to find a great deal of eclectic and vintage wears, both in homewares and the sartorial. Weirdly enough there were a few stores that were uncannily similar to Vera’s shop from the movie The Sweetest Thing. Oddly similar.
Art is obviously a big deal in this town and evident everywhere you go. Not only in the famed architecture but in the heterogeneous collections of stores. There’s such an impressive and plentiful selection of antique and vintage stores here. I only wish I had my own desert pad so I could have extensively filled it with the many mid century beauties I found. My biggest regret was being unable to purchase a considerably sized pop art framed print of Kate Moss. Oh it was so dreamy and I had the perfect spot for it on my wall. And while it was generously priced (in my opinion, $700) there was no way in hell I could safely escort that back to Australia, let alone mail it.
Back to shopping, I didn’t really have a favorite store. They so many unique and interesting stores, each housing particular wares that perfectly matched their vendors. There’s the occasional tourist type shop front and there’s also “modern” finds too, like sunglasses and homewares. One store that stood out was Palm Springs Vinyl Records. I really enjoy perusing through vintage movie posters and forgotten vinyls. If you ever find yourself in town make sure you make a stop off here. Such a nostalgic place for young and old and honestly (though I hardly ever find myself in stores such as these) I don’t think I’ve ever come across such a notable selection.
Food wise there are a lot of great eats. Cheeky’s comes highly rated, not just from online reviews but from yours truly. I’ll post more about this lunch spot at a later date. However be warned that there is a rather hefty wait for a table. But I promise you it’s well worth it. Another food favorite of mine was Las Casuelas, serving up the very best Mexican food I’ve consumed thus far in America. Their establishment is colossal, with several novel dining areas, both indoors and outdoors. There’s live music and best of all large helpings of potent margaritas. There’s such a wonderful ambiance here, matched by the Mission style interiors.
One thing I absolutely cherished about California as a whole was the way they warmly embraced and accepted mans best friend. You’d see them accompanying their humans everywhere, proudly strutting their adorable selves at shopping malls, down the high street and even at restaurants. There were several stores catering specifically to our four legged friends too. Especially in Palm Springs. The selection of bedazzled collars and harness was incredible. Dogs are so lovingly welcomed here. I wish Melbourne (or the world as a whole) would adopt a similar stance. I truly detest having to leave my fur-baby at home while I go out for brunch or run some quick errands.
If there’s one thing that is a must in Palm Springs, it’s viewing those infamous mid century charmers that this town is famous for. Sadly for me, I felt very let down and underwhelmed during my own escapade because the majority of these architectural landmarks have been fenced off and ensconced behind perfectly manicured hedges or walls. To be fair, these are private residences and I suppose they can do whatever they please as it’s their property. It’s just a tad shame that the public can no longer traipse through these streets and admire as they once could.
Considering our time in Palm Springs was short, I didn’t get to properly investigate every major landmark. I went for the obvious choices like a drive through Las Palmas which was overly intimidating. Admittedly I wanted to park my car somewhere and explore on foot, but upon entering the neighbourhood you’re met with tall barricades and an uncanny uncertainty of whether you’re trespassing or not. There may have been one or two homes you could squeeze a peek at above the wooden fencing but that’s about it. I also drove to Frank Sinatra’s first Palm Springs home, “Twin Palms”, designed by E. Stewart Williams. Unfortunately for me, this too was closed off for renovations, so all I managed to see were those famed palm trees soaring into the sky.
Just my luck right?
And while I may have painted a rather bleak, Debbie-Downer picture about exploring Palm Springs’ architectural gems, there are many a building that can still be freely admired. These are in public spaces, mainly operating businesses but to be admired nonetheless. These can be found around Palm Canyon Drive, like the Architecture and Design Museum. There’s also many tours operating around this theme too, which may or may not entitle you to a more exclusive experience. I personally wouldn’t rule one out in the near future.
Also, if you’re a bit of an architecture nerd then I’d suggest stopping off at the Visitor Centre. Originally the former Tramway gas station, later converted into an information centre. It still retains much of it’s initial charm and is quite a site to see, especially the floating like roof. And aside from picking up some tourist info there’s also incredible vistas around the building. Up the road you can take the tram to the top of the mountain, which no doubt holds some impressive views. I didn’t have time for this and am itching to return to do so.
Now aside from being creatively exhilarating and peaceful, this town also really knows how to have a good time. There’s a number of bars with jolly patrons indulging in afternoon Mai Thais, if you’re lucky they’ll personally invite you along to join them. And while you won’t find those notorious Las Vegas souvenir drinks here, you will find “Social Cycle” where you can book your own cart with a group of friends and pedal around town whilst enjoying an alcoholic beverage or five. I don’t know the entire semantics behind this tour, if it’s exclusive to large groups or operates on certain days etc. I do hope it’s a free-for-all because this truly looked amusing.
I’ll no doubt return back to Palm Springs. It’s wonderfully serene and ever so inspiring. It’s no wonder so many artists call this town home, hell, I wouldn’t mind my own weekend abode. I think my next sojourn here would have to involve an Airbnb, a crochet hammock overlooking a sparkling body of water and those grandiose mountains off in the distance, chaperoning and on guard as I fervently work away on my novel.