I recently visited Palm Springs, California, a fortnight before the Coachella festival began and during the infamous, all American spring break period (Easter to us Brits).
I have been to Los Angeles an untold number of times and have always dreamed of swooning out east to the desert that was a hangout of the glamorous Hollywood elite and rat pack crooners.
Palm Springs is a normally, sleepy town of 47,000 mostly retired inhabitants (mainly snowbirds), located just past the stunningly breathtaking Joshua Tree national park, California. It is also located 25 miles away from the main site for the annual Coachella music festival in Indio, Coachella Valley.
I personally think the best way to get to Palm Springs is undoubtedly by car. After hopping into a rental car, we arrived from Las Vegas. Our journey, a 4.5 hour drive of approximately 300 miles, mostly consisted of the absolute, destitute nothingness that is the Mojave Desert, where you also pass through the Nevada/Cali state line.
The journey, on its own, was absolutely a highlight of the entire expedition. Joshua Tree is an Instagrammable oasis of Cacti and secluded beauty. Palm Springs itself has a very cool, extremely laid back “Aztec” vibe, with a hint of Hispanic flavour, including great Mexican restaurants. Its chilled concoction of all things cool is perfected with a touch of Hotel California. The notorious Ace Hotel and Swim Club located in the heart of the Springs can only be described as backpacker chic, a four-star hipsters lair with lounges, hammocks and margaritas.
The temperatures of the Californian desert can easily reach 40c during the day time, even during spring months. In true desert style, a pashmina or light jacket was required during the evening. In contrast, Los Angeles, despite seeming ‘just down the road’, may only reach 24c during the same season.
Our hotel had considered this, and was good enough to have an open campfire arrangement and snugly blankets of an evening.
If you’re looking for a hotel, ours was an incredible find. Ace Hotel and Swim Club has 179 rooms and is located in what the hotel calls “a neglected treasure”. With a great deal of love, imagination and style, the building was transformed from forgotten desert shell to a bohemian fever dream of fireplaces, record players, and a vintage photo booth. Bringing along your finest bottle of Californian red outside and experiencing a real night in the California desert is one to add to the bucket list, trust me.
Palm Springs as a town itself is not overly different to what you would find in most cutesy all American small towns. It could be any one of the quaint small towns in Middle America, reminding me very much of towns I had visited in sunny Southern Florida (think Golden Girls). However, the town does sport one of the most impressive Starbucks facades that I have ever seen, anywhere in the world.
One real must do is breakfast or brunch at Pinocchio in the Desert Cafe Bar, you’ve been warned though- it’s tough to find a table. At Pinocchio, you will find unbelievable Rancheros (Mexican style breakfast), plus eggs “sunny side up” along with, wait for it… $4.99 bottomless champagne, (well sparkling wine that resembles champagne). Same thing, right?
Presented in a chic champagne cooler direct to your table, you’ll also be provided with a list of rules for your bottle of bubbles. For example; no sharing (as if), no acting like a jerk (subjective) and most importantly, a 90 minute limit per order (cruel).
This certainly brightened up every morning, and meant that most days began with an easy breezy lounge by the pool, sipping frozen margaritas. It goes without saying that sightseeing from then on in went out of the window.
All in all, I would wholly recommend Palm Springs, mainly as a stop-off destination. I’d suggest a maximum of 3 days, whilst passing through one of the other “bordering” cities of Los Angeles or Las Vegas. The weather is out of this world, the hotels are hip, but when you’ve seen one adorable and cute boutique or quintessential cafe you’ve seen them all.