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Travel | Get Out of Town: Palm Springs Travel Guide

Posted on: July 5th, 2017 by Taryn Jeffries 2 Comments

I have always wanted to visit Palm Springs, having passed through numerous times. The vibe, the history and stories that its city borders hold have always intrigued me. I am in love with all things mid-century modern and Palm Springs embodies everything glamorous and fanciful about the 50’s. The architectural details are my favorite, with all the straight lines and funky details. I connect with the art of the period with is bright colors and a flash, maybe a little like me. The clothing is classy and refined and sometimes with a little touch of quirkiness. With all of this in mind, I really can’t believe I haven’t been here before now once, let alone for a myriad of trips.

Phoenix Bites Palm Springs Travel Guide

PhoenixBItes Palm Springs Travel GuideIf you’re planning a trip soon, I encourage you to consider Palm Springs and it just so happens that I have the inside scoop on where to eat, sleep and play there!

I’m going to be completely honest with you, because we’re friends. When I visited it was hot. I don’t mean Arizona on any given Tuesday hot. During the time that I visited, the newspaper delivered to the door of my hotel room alerted me that the last time it hit 122 in Palm Springs was 60 years ago. 60 years! I don’t do well with the heat and essentially hide out in my house from May until October, but I’m a trooper and there were lots of fun things waiting to be explored so I put on my big girl pants (dress, since we’re being honest) and hit the streets!

Getting to Palm Springs

I drove, with my best friend, to Palm Springs. It was a 4ish hour road trip, ideal for catching up on each other’s lives and stories. You can also take a direct flight from Phoenix to Palm Springs which will take just over an hour. I like road trips, not only for the beauty of the drive but also so that I have a car with me for the duration of my trip.

Palm Springs Travel Guide | Where to Stay

I was invited to stay at the iconic Ingleside Inn, an official historical landmark, during our stay and was delighted by a quaint and charming grouping of villas. The lush greenery and glistening pool welcome visitors and the on-site restaurant, Melvyn’s, are just a glimmer of what is in store during your stay. Palm Springs has been Hollywood’s desert playground dating back to the 1920’s. Hotels like the Ingleside Inn have seen the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe among others cross their thresholds. If the walls could talk, we might all need a cold shower or a book deal for a tell-all of old Hollywood!

The Inn was originally a Spanish-style estate that Ruth Hardy transformed into a 20 room property that you had to be invited to stay at. If you didn’t measure up to Mrs. Hardy’s standards, you would not be invited to stay. The small on property restaurant was for hotel guests only and if you happened to come by an invitation from one of the guests for dinner, Mrs. Hardy had to approve. Talk about high standards! Those rigorous rules no longer apply, which I am grateful for as I am not sure I would have passed the test!

Our weekend villa was beautifully appointed with all the modern amenities you need while still retaining the charm of another era. There was a perfect patio out front with a table and chairs, perfect for taking in the lush grounds, a cup of coffee and the local paper. The bed was plush and comfortable with more pillows than any one human could ever need, but just enough to fully envelop yourself allowing for dreams of floating on marshmallows.

Ingleside Inn Villa

Photo Credit | Ingleside Inn

Our AC wall unit was working overtime to compensate for that record heat, but did an adequate job fending off heat exhaustion. The cool tile floors and stucco walls helped to keep the cool in where and when we needed it most.

While we were too busy for a dip in the pool, the lounge chairs looked inviting and the pool was crystal clear. The weather was definitely perfect for a swim and I did partake of the fruit infused water available in the pool area.

The room service options were enticing, but like I said we had a very full schedule so we did not partake.

There are a number of other accommodations in the area to choose from. There is everything from retro retreats, full service resorts, historic inns, bed and breakfasts as well as vacation home and condo rentals at varying price points, all with that mid-century vibe.

Palm Springs Travel Guide | Where to Eat

Now, for as many accommodations as there are in town, multiply that by 5 and you’ve got the beginnings of how many eateries are in the area. Any cuisine you can think of, no matter your budget, awaits you. Here are just a few spots that you won’t want to miss.


If you are looking for elevated cuisine with top-notch service, you’ll definitely want to check out Johanne’s. Their daily specials are inventive and inspired, like my branzino with truffle sauce or a subtly sweet and savory scallop dish. There are also a variety of spaetzle dishes expertly crafted by Austrian born chef and owner Johannes Bacher. If you have a chance, and the weather is a little out of control be sure to check out the cold pureed English pea soup topped with a minted yogurt. That alone will cool you down but when paired with a watermelon martini you’ll feel the heat quickly dissipate.


My family has a thing with orange. Some have family crests that represent their “house”, we have a color. Upon walking into Trio I immediately felt at home that there was something here that was comforting and familiar. Perhaps it was all the orange. Maybe it was Tito, our server for brunch (who you should definitely check out if he’s working when you visit.) Whatever it was, That gut instinct, familiarity or intuition was spot on. The eatery was bustling and the energy that we felt extended to the attention paid to us, the intoxicating fizz of our cocktails and the consistent character of our brunch selections. I feel like we sampled the entire menu, I mean the tightness of my dress as we walked out would have indicated as much, but we merely scratched the surface. Never one to shy away from calorie counts, I sampled the fried artichoke hearts, ahi tuna sandwich (to make me feel better about my fried starter) and some seriously decadent mac n’ cheese as well as a carrot cake cupcake. There wasn’t much I could think about doing after brunch, but it was all well worth it. The menu is varied, creative and at times unexpected. Trio is touted as a place where locals eat, and once you’ve been there’s no question why. Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill

Greek Islands Café

We happened upon this colorful café once we realized that Great Shakes was not yet open. We had gone on a mini hike (yeah, on the day that it hit 122) and didn’t make time for breakfast beforehand. I was famished and while we were walking, I told my friend that the next café we passed we would head in and get something to eat. Since we had lunch plans a little while later we just wanted to get a little something to snack on. Greek Islands Café had a lot of appetizers that caught my attention and I could have made a meal of them, but we settled on hummus and dolmadakia. I enjoyed the texture of the hummus and that perfect char on the pita. The dolmadakia had a surprisingly delightful of garlic and lemon that really added a lot of depth to the pint size rolls. Once I walked around the space, I wished two things; that we had more time, and that it was only half as hot as it was. I could see myself lingering on that patio, a chilled glass of ouzo in one hand and a forkful of falafel in the other. Next time, for sure.

Great Shakes

A tinge of sadness overcame me when we happened upon a closed sign at Great Shakes. This came on the heels of a mini hike in Palm Canyon on the hottest day I have experienced outside. I had heard that this spot was a “can’t miss”. A colleague had even stated that they stopped by whenever travelling to other spots in California. My thought was that if you would make a pit stop in a town that is slightly inconvenient to arriving at your final destination, this has to be remarkable. As it turns out, handmade gourmet malts, milkshakes and floats are well worth the detour. Great Shakes has a customized ice cream machine that I firmly believe operates on glitter and unicorn tears. How else could one come up with a white chocolate lavender shake that appeals to a non-chocolate lover and tastes nothing like soapy perfume? (I may be scarred by a previous lavender experience.) If a delightfully creative gourmet shake isn’t enough to win you over, each custom shake comes with a teeny tiny donut encircling your super straw. Don’t over-think it, just go.


Lulu's Palm Springs

Photo Credit | Lulu’s

Lulu California Bistro is where extreme talent, ability and an enthusiasm for fantastic food join to create a dazzling California Bistro dining adventure. You’ll find varied menu elements, suited for all budgets, all made with the freshest elements possible. In addition to freshly baked bread and decadent desserts (prepared everyday in-house of course) this hot spot claims to host the desert’s best Happy Hour lasting 12 hours!


Cheeky's scrambled eggs

Photo Credit | Cheeky’s

Here’s the thing, this is where you want to be for brunch, but you’re going to stand in a bit of a line. Don’t try to fight it. Don’t get into the mindset of, “I don’t do lines,” because if you do, you just might miss out on the best brunch in Palm Springs. No joke. Bacon flights, farmer’s market fresh fruits and custardy cheesy scrambled eggs (AKA the best scrambled eggs of your life!) are not things to be toyed with or ignored. There are things that are worth waiting in line for and we all are going to have different things that qualify. For me it’s a picture with Vince Vaughn or Rufus Wainwright, chili cheese fries from Steak & Shake (don’t you dare judge me) and the magical scrambled eggs at Cheeky’s. Once you’ve had them, you’ll get it. Promise.

Bootlegger Tiki

Bootleggers Tiki Charcuterie

Photo Credit | Bootlegger Tiki

Bootlegger Tiki stands for good old-fashioned fun! What could be more desirable than quality time spent with friends over delicious tiki cocktails executed with equal measure of  rum, fruit and love? This local hot spot is located in the same space as the preceding Don the Beachcomber restaurant that opened in 1953. Bootlegger Tiki has inherited a piece of Palm Springs history and has made a pledge to uphold those tiki traditions.

With so many ways to entertain yourself in Palm Springs, you may need to just take a minute. Once 4pm hits, hightail it to Bootlegger Tiki to rest your feet and get a handle on what to do with the rest of your evening. Grab a tiki drink (I suggest the Heisenberg’s Hawaiian) and then get yourself a charcuterie board to nosh on, making sure to get the duck prosciutto and enjoy!

Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grille

As a mostly native Arizonan (I’ve been here for over 30 years now) Mexican food is a huge part of my life. I have had my fair share of chilaquiles in that time, and there are only a few that I’ve been sad about. The Rio Azul version I had before we left town were phenomenal. I don’t know if it was Chef Ernesto Gastelum’s doing alone or the combination of the Drag Brunch entertainment, but they are going on my top 10, for sure. In addition to a great brunch menu, there is that little detail; a sparkly, sassy and bawdy detail.

The Drag Brunch held on Sundays always sells out. Did you catch that? Always, and for good reason. The host, the incredibly talented Vanity Halston, is not just an engaging host who will delight you with her transformations, high kicks, comedic timing and the occasional live song but she will impress you with her character. She was recently named Queen of the Desert, helping to raise an obscene amount of money for Desert AIDS Project client services. She plans to use her title to continue to give back the community on a larger scale. If you’re in Palm Springs on a Sunday, make your reservations through open table sooner than later to make sure you get a seat. You won’t be disappointed by the food or the show!

The Reef at Caliente Tropics

The Reef at Caliente Tropics

Photo Credit | The Reef at Caliente Tropics

In the ocean, a reef is an area of refuge and sustenance for many kinds of sea life.  In Palm Springs, The Reef is a tropic-themed libation sanctuary for all. In its initial manifestation, The Reef was once the site of Palm Springs infamous Conga Room restaurant. Many modifications have come about to it over fifty years, but now The Reef Palm Springs has come to this city to give an accepting and entertaining spot for residents and visitors to experience excellent craft cocktails, great food and create memories in a beautiful environment.  With fine views of the colorful Caliente Tropics pool, and the hotel’s many hand-carved Tikis, a visit to The Reef will allow you the sense that you’re visiting some exotic land.  Sherman’s

Melvyn’s Restaurant

Melvyn's Ingleside Inn Restaurant

Photo Credit | Melvyn’s Ingleside Inn Restaurant

Melvyn’s Restaurant, situated right on the property of the iconic Ingleside Inn, is exquisitely upbeat with a perfectly restored 1895 carved oak and mahogany bar. With its diverse antiques, attendants in linen jackets and images from long ago, dining at Melvyn’s is genuinely unique experience. Restaurant writers have raved about the food describing it as “beyond comparison” and you owe it to yourself to savor specialties such as Veal Ingleside and more, including the finest wines from Melvyn’s two world-class wine cellars. Another of the most entertaining features of Melvyn’s is simply people watching, to be on the look out for which celebrities may show up. Lounge guests can enjoy dancing and entertainment nightly.

Palm Springs Travel Guide | Where to Play

For a small town Palm Springs is home to a slew of exciting entertainment options, regardless of your personal tastes. Seriously, no matter what you’re into there’s the perfect version in Palm Springs just waiting for you.

For the sporty types

Head to Indian Canyons for a majestic display of mother nature’s vast power and beauty. I can safely say that I am not the healthiest gal you’ve ever met, so hiking is not really my thing. My gal pal and I drove into the park and first headed to Palm Canyon. We went as far as we could drive, parked our car, grabbed a bottle of water and my camera and headed out to see what could be seen. I’m going to be honest with you, as this was the hottest day of my whole entire existence so there was no actual hiking that took place. We meandered out of the parking lot and were struck by the beauty of our environment. I was taken aback by the fact that there was a whole line of majestic palm trees…in the middle of a canyon. How does that even happen? Do you remember on Sesame Street when they would do the “one of these things is not like the other” situations? That’s precisely how I felt when I looked around. On one side of me there were these beautiful rock formations and massive mountains. On the other side? Tall palm trees bordering a cool, rushing creek. It was peculiar, but amazing and something that needs to be seen. Within Indian Canyons there are over 100 miles of hiking trails, streams, waterfalls and stunning landscapes.

For those in love with nature…from afar.

palm springs aerial tramway

Photo Credit | Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the way to experience the stunning landscape without all the hassle of actual physical exertion. When you climb aboard the world’s largest tramcar, air-conditioned if you’re concerned, you’ll experience an overwhelming journey up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon. The tramcar will take about 10 minutes to get you from an elevation of 2,643 feet all the way to Mountain Station at 8,516 feet. The peak will delight you to over 50 miles of hiking trails, if that’s your thing, and a temperature that is typically 30-40 degrees cooler than in town. There’s also a restaurant located at the Mountain Station that I hear has some pretty amazing burgers; a just reward for conquering those cliffs…even if you did it all sitting down.

For those looking to create Instagram envy

That Pink Door

After the suggestion from a friend and recommendation from Tito (see my Trio mention) I found myself listening to Mr. T (thank you, Waze) direct me through a quiet neighborhood in search of, literally, a pink door. We made our way to the infamous house and found cars already lined up. Crazy, right? The door is a delightful shade of bubble gum pink, which is cool. I get that its look is accentuated by the stark white contrast of the home’s exterior walls. I really do. The thing that is curious to me is that random folks pull up to this house, get out of their cars, walk up to the entryway of a strangers home and have someone start snapping photos. I suppose its not that kooky as the door has its own Instagram account, and if the homeowners weren’t too keen on the visitors, they could always paint the door an alternate color. I don’t know, does anyone else see this as kooky? (If you don’t there are some party lions three doors down that apparently have alternating seasonal adornments.) What a time to be alive, I suppose. (And, obviously I got a picture…from my car.)

For those that love those lovely bones

Palm Springs Modern Tours

Robert Imber’s love of architecture gave birth to the Palm Springs Modern Tours. For nearly 20 years he has been sharing that love and appreciation with visitors as well as locals. If you want to learn all there is to know about the architectural history in Palm Springs, there is no other tour that you need to take. Robert Imber is a Palm Springs resident and advocate for the architectural preservation of the town. His tours are limited to 6 guests and will take you throughout the city’s diverse neighborhoods, telling in-depth stories along the way You’ll learn about the history of Palm Springs, its residents, esteemed Hollywood visitors from the 1930’s all the way to today. You’ll be introduced to homes of noted architects, celebrity hideaways, film locations and a variety of other notable locations.

For those prepared to part with all their money

SHAG The Store

Josh Agle is to tiki culture as Elvis Presley is to evocative hip gestures. The SHAG Store is exclusive dedicated to the art of Shag (also known as Josh Agle.) You’ll find everything from coaster to glasses to place on the coasters, prints to original art and so much more. Whether you have $5 or $5000 in your pocket when you arrive, if you are as enamored by the culture as I am you’re bound to leave with little more than lint and a stray gum wrapper in those pockets.

There are a ton of ways to entertain yourself during your time in Palm Springs. Make sure to check out Visit Palm Springs for more ideas and recommendations, after referring to our Palm Springs Travel Guide obviously. I had a great time exploring this desert gem and can’t wait to get back.

Do you have favorite spots in Palm Springs that I missed? Let me know about it so I can check them out next time I visit.

**I would never try to trick you! So you should know that some of the accommodations were hosted, but not all of them.. All the tastes, comments, and recommendations are made by me. My words and opinions are my own and cannot be influenced, not even by the tastiest of foods or plushest of beds! Check out our Disclosure Policy for more information. **

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© Taryn Jeffries 2017


About the Author - Taryn Jeffries

Editor and Chief Eating Officer of PhoenixBites, 2017 Food Writer of the Year (Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame) Taryn grew up in a small town in Illinois with a doting Grandmother who taught her the way around a kitchen and that food is representative of love. Her current quest is to find the love in local dishes and the chefs behind them. In addition to running all things PhoenixBites, Taryn is also a freelance writer, sharing her insight on the best dishes and where to get them each and every month.

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2 Responses

  1. How fun!! I definitely need to plan a trip to Palm Springs (can’t believe I’ve never spent any significant time there)! I’m dying to check out that tram. I’m with ya on the door thing. So strange! Great overview 🙂

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