While us Vancouverites battle the gloomy and wet weather during the colder months, the sun shines brightly in Palm Springs around 269 days per year, making it a very desirable vacation destination for snowbirds. Though we’ve already been to California several times (check out our recent trip to San Francisco), we had never visited Palm Springs before. As we await the arrival of our firstborn, we decided to seek some much needed sun and relaxation before we are greeted by parenthood. Yes, that’s right, you heard it here first — we’re going to have a baby!
People say travelling during the second trimester is the best, and so the timing of this trip was perfect for us. We were tempted to go somewhere exotic, but chose to remain somewhere close to home as Palm Springs is only roughly a 3 hour direct flight from Vancouver, and somewhere with a good medical system (just in case, because you never know). It was important for us to get the green light from our doctor first before making any vacation plans. Purchasing travel insurance and compression socks for the flight was a no-brainer and gave us some peace of mind.
Once we landed at the airport, we made a beeline for the car rental lineup. It’s a good idea to make reservations ahead of time, as even with a reservation we still ended up waiting in line for 2 hours. However most car rental companies offer “preferred/VIP” memberships that allow you to fast track the lines. We purchased a full tank of gas from Thrifty Car Rental for $29 because we knew we’d be driving around a lot, and it was convenient knowing we could just return our Ford Fiesta with an empty tank without incurring additional surcharges. Rental cars seem to be the most popular mode of transportation for travellers, as we didn’t really see many cabs around town. We also purchased a Roam Mobility voice and data plan beforehand so we could remain connected while on our little getaway, and be able to access Google Maps when needed. There was strong LTE coverage throughout most of the places that we visited.
Palm Springs is not a huge city, but we broke up our visit by staying at three different places because we wanted to be exposed to different parts of Greater Palm Springs, and plus we also don’t mind a change of scenery and surroundings when we travel.
Palm Springs Accommodations
Colony Palms Hotel (from $259 USD/night)
Our first night was spent at the Colony Palms Hotel, located just minutes away from downtown Palm Springs. They are a trendy and hip resort, with a pool just a few feet away from their restaurant The Purple Palm. Originally built in 1936 but renovated in 2007, the rooms are modern and chic, yet still maintain a bit of Moroccan flair. The bathrooms are large, and ours had an oversized standing shower big enough for 4 people (if you’re into that). If you’re looking to relax, you can easily spend an entire day here, and cozy up with a book by the pool while you sip on mai tais and bask in the sun on one of their many daybeds. They also have a spa that offers a range of standard resort spa treatments.
A lush courtyard that overlooks the pool area and open air lounge really gives it a tropical look that makes you almost forget that you’re in the desert.
The Amado (from $175 USD/night)
If you’re wanting a “home away from home” type of accommodation experience, The Amado is a great place to stay. We stayed here for two nights, and enjoyed making breakfast each morning and making dinner on the outdoor Weber BBQ. This mid-century modern dwelling has 5 separate units, each with their own entrance and full kitchen, a shared washer and dryer, and a decently sized shared pool for guests to enjoy. The large (and real) lemon tree at the side of the yard is a nice touch too. The owner is originally from Vancouver, and made the move to Palm Springs a few years ago. What a small world! You can book a single unit, or even the entire complex if it’s available. This would be a great place to stay if you’re traveling with a large group of friends or family. They’re on AirBnB, so feel free to look them up.
The Spring Resort & Day Spa (from $169 USD/night)
We spent our last night at The Spring Resort & Day Spa, a quiet and relaxing resort and day spa in Desert Hot Springs, which is approximately a 20 minute drive from Palm Springs. There is an abundance of natural hot mineral pools in this area, but this one appealed to us the most. There are 3 different pools on the property, each heated to a different temperature. We were cautioned about which pools were safe for a pregnant woman to enter, and really enjoyed our time here. No resort stay is complete without a couple of massages, so of course we pampered ourselves at The Spa after the sun had set. Afterwards, we spent some time at their courtyard fire pit sipping on some herbal tea in our bathrobes while we admired the starry sky. Our suite was equipped with a full kitchen, but we didn’t bother using it as we managed to find a place nearby for dinner that evening. Each morning, the resort serves a complimentary continental buffet breakfast. They also offer unique health programs like juice cleanses that you can partake in during your stay.
Shopping in Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs
The great thing about Palm Springs is that most of what there is to see and eat is located in and around the downtown core. The vibe is kind of like Waikiki without the designer boutiques and hoards of tourists. It’s great if you’re looking to bar hop, sit down to enjoy a nice meal, or enjoy some shopping, as there is a decent selection of mid-century modern retailers, fashion boutiques, consignment dealers, antique shops and art galleries.
El Paseo is commonly referred to as the Rodeo Drive of the Desert. Spanning approximately 1 mile in length, you can shop at over 300 boutiques including luxury brands like Gucci and Burberry, Apple Store, Saks 5th Avenue department store, and more. They even have stretch golf carts that look like Bentleys to shuttle you up and down the street if your feet get tired. If you’re looking for deals and sales though, you’d be better served going to Desert Hills Premium Outlets.
Desert Hills Premium Outlets
If you love outlet shopping, then you’ll love Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon. Roughly a half hour drive from downtown Palm Springs, it boasts 180 designer and name-brand outlet stores, with a fair share of premium brands including Prada, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Canali, Neiman Marcus Last Call, and Saks Fifth Avenue. If you’re a fashionista or shopaholic, it’s definitely a good place to go to rack up some serious credit card debt. The only other outlet mall that we’ve been to that rivals this one in terms of premium brand selection is Sawgrass Mills in Miami, which is also owned by Simon Property Group.
Attractions in Palm Springs
The Indian Canyons (consisting of Palm Canyon, Murray Canyon, and Andreas Canyon) is accessible for hiking, horseback riding, and tours. One can spend as little as an hour or an entire day there, exploring the endless trails and pristine desert canyon wilderness. As we only had an hour to spare, we decided to check out Andreas Canyon. We took a short hike through a scenic foot trail that led us through the canyon, passing groves of palm trees, jagged rock formations, bedrock mortars, and Andreas Creek. It was sunny with some cloud cover that afternoon, so it was actually perfect for us as it wasn’t too hot. Adult tickets are $9, and the attraction is open daily from 8am-5pm October through June, and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the summer.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a popular local attraction that takes you up to the top of Chino Canyon for a breathtaking view of Palm Springs, the nearby canyons, and the surrounding area. An engineering marvel that was completed in the 1960’s, their cable cars were upgraded in 2000 and now boast a unique revolving base, so you don’t have to worry about jockeying with other tourists for a good view. The ride to the top takes approximately 10 minutes. At the top, there is a restaurant, a cafe, a bar, and a gift shop in addition to the many lookout points. One tip is to pack a jacket or something warm, as there were even small patches of snow at the top, and it can get quite chilly as well. Adult tickets cost $23.95 and they’re open from 10am on weekdays and 8am on weekends, with the last tram up departing at 8pm and the last tram down at 9:45pm.
Dining in Palm Springs
Sherman’s Deli & Bakery
If you’re into New York style sandwiches, then you’ll definitely want to check out Sherman’s Deli & Bakery. This Jewish deli has a huge menu with dozens of mouthwatering sandwiches, soups, salads, platters, and more. Here is their triple decker hot pastrami sandwich on rye bread with lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese. The meat was flavourful, juicy, and tender, with the perfect amount of fat.
Appetito Cal-Italian Deli
Listed by Eater LA as one of the 12 best new places to eat at in Palm Springs, Appetito Cal-Italian Deli is a casual and licensed Italian eatery with a solid menu selection, good prices, and great quality. With a menu that includes house-made fresh pasta, salads, panini, and focaccia pizza, they pride themselves on serving up traditional homey Italian staples using local and seasonal California ingredients and produce whenever possible.
Left: Strawberry-beet salad with goat cheese, arugula, and basil vinaigrette; Right: Blistered Shishito Peppers with citrus salt flakes.
Left: Linguine and Clams with breadcrumbs, and white wine and garlic sauce; Right: Shrimp arancini risotto balls with leeks, and Meyer lemon aioli
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
After researching some fine dining restaurants on Yelp, we decided to go to Workshop Kitchen + Bar for dinner. It boasts a large open air enclosed patio and a large indoor dining room with booths along the sides and a long communal table running down the centre of the restaurant. The restaurant is an architectural masterpiece, with great decor and ambiance, and great food and service to match.
Left: Octopus carpaccio cooked sous vide, with pickled cauliflower fleurettes, peppers, cilantro, lemon and olive oil; Right: Mesquite-charred brussel sprouts with pancetta and Herbs de Provence
Left: Honey + white shoyu glazed black cod with roasted cauliflower, cauliflower puree, macerated golden raisins, pink beets and greens; Right: Korobuta pork loin + belly with bourbon barrel-aged maple, Anson Mills grits, petit mustard greens
While finding good Mexican food can be a challenge in Vancouver, there’s no shortage of Mexican restaurants in Southern California. We did end up at Las Casuelas for dinner one night, but the food was mediocre at best so we’ll just leave it at that. However we did try another place in Desert Hot Springs called Casa Blanca, which was great.
Left: Camaron Costa Blanca – Shrimp wrapped with bacon and chipotle with rice, beans, guacamole, and tortilla; Right: Enchilada, Chile Relleno, and Beef Tamale
Norma’s at Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs
For lunch one day, we visited Norma’s at Le Parker Meridien, part of the Starwood family of hotels. It was recommended to us by a friend who regularly visits Palm Springs. Rated as a five-star diner, we enjoyed our lunch on their covered patio which sits on the edge of their massive courtyard.
Left: Mexicana Ensalada with chicken; Right: Tuna Salad Sandwich
Since we were in no rush to leave, we took our time at the property, and admired the resort’s sprawling courtyard. There were an abundance of lemon and grapefruit trees, and almost at every turn, you would find another seating area to relax at. If we had more time on this trip, we’d definitely consider staying a night (or two) here! So it’s definitely on our radar for our next visit.
Now that we’ve had our February vitamin D fix, it’s time to head back home to begin making preparations for the new addition to our family. We really enjoyed our stay in Palm Springs, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a sunny and stress-free vacation getaway.