Music steals the spotlight during the two weekends of Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. So if you happen to be in Coachella this year, do not forget to extend your trip and explore these few unforgettable charms of Palm Springs
4 FANTASTIC RESORTS IN GREATER PALM SPRINGS
Find the perfect place to stay in Greater Palm Springs, from boutique mid-century inns to lavish golf resorts.
From the hip and modern to the traditional and classic, resorts in and around Greater Palm Springs let you escape to the desert any way you like. You'll find just the right place, whether you're planning to play a few rounds on one of the Coachella Valley's world-famous golf courses, lounge by the pool, or experience the desert's incomparable mid-century architecture.
Parker Palm Springs
Design buffs love the Parker Palm Springs for its Jonathan Adler décor, while celebs also adore this intimate inn's seclusion—especially the one-bedroom villa suites with enclosed patios. After a private yoga session and a seaweed wrap at the spa—playfully named the Palm Springs Yacht Club—hole up in a cabana alongside one of the inn's two saline pools. For dinner, settle into a corner banquette and indulge in the braised Wagyu beef short ribs at the seductive bistro, Mister Parker's. Pro tip: Don't miss the hotel's Counter Reformation, a cozy wine bar that features a wooden confessional flown in from Italy.
Ace Hotel Palm Springs
The Ace Hotel Palm Springs brought a mid-century hotel back from the dead and infused it with an artsy spirit that combines the best of Palm Springs cool, both old school and new. Groove to DJs in the lobby and poolside or create your own soundtrack in a room with a record player and a selection of classic vinyl. Dine on the refined roadhouse fare at the hotel's King's Highway restaurant (once a Denny's) and take your pick of 21 craft beers on tap in The Amigo Room.
L'Horizon Resort and Spa
Blending the style of iconic architect William F. Cody and the vision of renowned designer Steve Hermann, L'Horizon Resort and Spa is Palm Springs incarnate. With post-and-beam bungalows, some featuring outdoor showers, the low-slung, three-acre resort earned raves from Architectural Digest as "the most jaw-dropping of the pack" of Palm Springs' mid-century hotels. Take in dramatic mountain views through your bungalow's floor-to-ceiling windows and dine al fresco on executive chef Jason Niederkorn's inventive cuisine at the hotel's So.Pa restaurant.
La Quinta Resort & Spa
Long before this region became synonymous with a 1950s aesthetic, the Spanish-inspired La Quinta Resort & Spa defined California desert style. Come to this lavish oasis, with its 41 swimming pools and seven restaurants, to golf on five leading courses, including the Stadium Course at PGA West (named one of the country's top 50 by Golf Digest). Afterward, rejuvenate your spirit with one of the 14 different yoga classes or with one of the immersive, personalized yoga retreats inspired by Indian spiritual centers.
HOT AIR BALLOON TOURS OF PALM SPRINGS
One of the best ways to appreciate the panoramic desert of the Greater Palm Springs area is to literally get above it—taking in the expanses of citrus trees and date palms, the sagebrush, the spring wildflowers, and even the 100-plus manicured golf courses from a hot air balloon, with the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains as a backdrop.
A number of operators do hot-air balloon rides in the Coachella Valley, primarily in the high season of November through May, with sunrise and sunset being the most popular times of the day for tours. Operators will typically come pick you up at your hotel for the trip and tours are fairly small—anywhere from two to 10 of you along for the ride.
Fantasy Balloon Flights, Balloons Above, and HavNFun Hot Air Balloons all use FAA-certified pilots and embrace the centuries-old tradition of offering up some sparkling wine after your voyage. (Ballooning as a sport began in France, no doubt including Champagne, in the 18th century.) Expect to be in the air anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes. Some of the operators let you try flying the balloons: HavNFun lets passengers help set up and take down the balloon before and after their flights, while Balloons Above is happy to arrange lessons on how to fly a hot air balloon yourself.
On the Fantasy Balloon Flights tour of Palm Springs, the pilot will point out spots like the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea, and even celebrity homes. The company also offers Temecula wine country flights that glide over the vineyards and then touch down for a winery tour.
BMW PERFORMANCE DRIVING SCHOOL
Drive fast in an M Series BMW at a racetrack south of Palm Springs
Zooming really fast in an ultra-speedy M Series BMW may seem like one of those Walter Mitty moments that's out of your reach. But now those need-for-speed fantasies are available to anyone willing to plunk down a credit card and show up, ready to roll, at the BMW Performance Driving School in the Southern California desert south of Palm Springs.
Splurges with a side of adrenaline don't get much better than taking part in a high-speed driving classes, conducted year-round at The Thermal Club—a posh, 30-plus-acre racetrack, training facility, and motorsports club just south of Indio. The goal of all BMW classes, stress the course instructors, is to improve your driving skills and let you feel what it's like to push these high-performance machines to the limit in a safe driving environment.
And push them you will. Instructors (many of them professional racers) first outfit you with ultra-padded race helmets, then show you how to customize your driving position in one of a fleet of gleaming M Series BMWs. Quick tips like "A squealing tire is a happy tire," and "Don't be afraid to skid," are reminders that going fast—or at least faster than normal—is the order of the day.
Visit chic shops and galleries along the desert's Rodeo Drive
Give yourself plenty of time to stroll along this swanky strip in Palm Desert. First, you'll want to see all the art. This roughly 1-mile/2-km strip and adjacent streets house one of the largest concentrations of art galleries anywhere in Southern California. As inviting as mini-museums, these galleries let you get close to art, chat with knowledgeable gallery owners and staff, and even meet the artists on during special openings and events. Then you'll want to get something to eat—perhaps a juicy steak accompanied by jazz (Sullivan's Steakhouse), or oysters on the half-shell (Pacifica Seafood Restaurant), or wood-fired pizza at Sammy's.
And of course—there's the shopping. There's a reason El Paseo reminds people of Rodeo Drive, what with the impeccably appointed boutiques of top designers, including Bottega Veneta and St. John, tempting you to brandish your credit card and come in. Find more shops at the Gardens on El Paseo complex: Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor, Pottery Barn, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Bahamas, and more.
PALM SPRINGS NIGHTLIFE
Hip pool scenes heat up the desert
Palm Springs is the best kind of party town, always evolving and never resting on its laurels. Hip hotels with poolside DJs attract the cool crowd; top spots include the Ace Hotel & Swim Club and the Hard Rock Hotel. Night-time also brings a host of bars serving desert-cool cocktails in outdoor settings: the Sidebar at the Riviera lets you relax on bed-size lounges to watch the stars while you sip.
Party music keeps thumping late at Shanghai Reds, Village Pub and Zelda's Nightclub. For entertainment, see who's performing at area casinos, which draw headliners ranging from classic crooners (Johnny Mathis) to of-the-moment stars (Robin Thicke). Thursday evenings, a more casual party unravels along Palm Canyon Drive, as locals and visitors enjoy live bands, booths set up by local shops and foods at Village fest.