Palm Springs is a desert city nestled beneath Mount San Jacinto in the heart of the Mojave desert in Southern California and is a popular getaway destination for Los Angelinos, much like the Hamptons for Manhattanites. It is a well known desert retreat with resorts with a renowned design district boasting of a wide array of mid-century modern /art deco furniture stores and has close proximity to Coachella valley where the famous annual music festival is held. We spent our spring break weekend with a Palm Springs getaway and loved the desert boho vibe of the city, with activities catering to all kinds of tastes. Palm springs is an easy weekend destination for people looking to unwind and relax, so without further ado here are my top 5 recommendations for spending spring break at Palm Springs! This guide covers a little bit of everything for adults looking for some R&R for that romantic getaway in Palm Springs with this guide on the best Palm Springs boutique hotels to help you finalize your stay. For more Southern California weekend getaway inspiration, read my guide to Solvang, America’s Danish capital.
#1 Palm Springs getaway: Explore the design district
Skip the congested, crowded, touristy downtown and head uptown to the Palm Springs design district where rows of beautiful boutiques and one of a kind stores selling mid-century modern furniture as well as home accessories will greet you with their crisp lines and bold colors. Since we were charmed by the art deco scene at Miami we decided to wander through uptown as well and check out their stores. It was a fun afternoon as we meandered through the different design merchandise and got a few things for the home.
Palm Springs romantic getaway #2 Moorten Botanical garden
For the succulent lover, no Palm Springs getaway is complete without a visit to the Moorten Botanical Garden, a paradise for all kinds of succulents and desert vegetation. This is a private arboretum curated and created by the Moorten family in 1938, who were specialists on desert flora and have amassed quite an impressive collection. For a nominal fee ($5/adult) you can spend some quality time in the shade of various cacti, exotic succulents and agave and marvel at the mind boggling variety of vegetation that grows in such a barren, dry environment.
Moorten botanical garden hosts over 3000 varieties of desert plants from all over the world, from gigantic to miniature plants all flanking a natural trail. There is also a “Cactarium” or special enclosed exhibit housing exotic cacti and other desert vegetation, which are not for sale. Your tour (and you are advised to stay on the trail and not run around helter- skelter) starts with the Baja California Mexican region and meanders through several desert ecosystems such as the Sonoran desert region to Mojave to Texas to Central American and ends at the South American region. Vegetation encompasses a breathtaking array of desert greens in all shapes and sizes and are an absolute delight for the eyes. This might seem odd, but rows and rows of beautiful cacti of all shapes, sizes and colors definitely makes for a quiet romantic stroll in the afternoon! There are native trees, mesquite and ironwood trees along with dozens of cacti such as the jumping Cholla (see my previous post on Joshua Tree National park for the Cholla Cactus garden trail), organ pipe cactus, beavertail cactus to name a few and Agaves. The tour ends at the Garden Sculpture court where you can buy small succulents and cacti as souvenirs to take home. For all plant varieties, there are small tiles adjacent to them labeled with their names and information.
Moorten Botanical Garden is a terrific place to spend a few quality hours amidst a different kind of green oasis and enjoy the best offerings of a desert ecosystem, one which makes it so unique and beautiful. The gardens hosts a section known as the Palm Grove Oasis which hosts social and cultural events such as weddings, art exhibits and concerts. Don’t give this place a miss if you are spending a romantic weekend at Palm Springs (closed on Wednesdays).
#3 Spending Spring break at Palm Springs: Take the aerial tramway!
From the heat and dust of the desert to the cooler climes of the Alpine region, from the cacti and succulents to the pine trees, from the sand to the snow, such is the dramatic change in scenery as you zip up the highest elevation of over 8500 ft above the desert floor via an engineering marvel known as the Aerial tramway. This rotating tram car takes you on a 10 min ride across the Chino Canyon, to the north of Palm Springs, all the way to Mount San Jacinto State Park, nestled in the shadow of the mountains towering over the desert city. This tramway, the highest in the world, was the brainchild of the pioneering electrical engineer Francis Crocker and the first ride was offered in 1963. Bring a jacket with you as the temperature alters dramatically from the desert floor to the very top in the park, differing by as much as 30 degrees! Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the station itself. Once you reach the park, you can hike along the many trails and explore the beauty of the alpine region, and this is a terrific activity to include in your Palm Springs getaway. The park is a favorite spot for southern Californians for winter activities since it is covered in snow and if you go in spring (Feb-March), you will still find a blanket of snow lingering!
You can get sweeping views of the desert floor, dotted with windmills on the periphery from the viewing deck once you reach the station on the state park side. Go one flight of stair downstairs to get onto the winding path leading to the park and the trails. Tramcars operate every 10 minutes for the ride back to the base station; lookout for the last departure time if you are planning to hike in the state park. We strolled in the park for a short time and returned to Palm Springs since we had to catch our flight back to San Francisco, but will revisit soon!
#4 Palm springs romantic weekend: Day trip to Joshua Tree national park
Finally, the topmost attraction at Palm Springs is visiting the Joshua Tree National Park which is about 45-50 minutes away. You can read all about it in my previous blog post here. A 20-30 min car ride will get you to the adjacent cities of Palm desert and Coachella which are worth visiting but we skipped those as well as Palm Springs Art Museum due to lack of time. Joshua Tree, made famous by the band U2 (they had a hit album by the same name), is a unique national park with tufts of vegetation (named Joshua tree) which are part of the Mojave desert ecosystem. Both sunrise and sunset are ethereal from the park and I strongly recommend witnessing at least a desert sunrise, since it has such unique colors and can be such a romantic experience while for your Palm Springs getaway! Read my tips, tricks and suggestions as well as lodging and trail recommendations in my Joshua tree post!
#5 Palm Springs Getaway for Spring Break: Eat your heart out!
Just because you are in the middle of a desert, does not mean you will be hunting for good food! Palm Springs has several good restaurants and my vegetarian friends are in for a treat, since we decided to go meat free on this trip and so I have listed several Palm Springs vegetarian restaurants in this dining guide, which includes both Palm Springs and Joshua tree! From melt in your mouth chocolate chip pancakes at Anthony Bourdain’s recommended cafe to vegetarian delights at the famous Ace hotel, there is something for all vegan and vegetarian friends out there! Definitely check it out for vegetarian dining during your Palm Springs getaway!
I hope you liked this post and are already planning for a Palm Springs getaway or for a weekend during Spring break! This desert resort makes for an excellent day trip from Los Angeles or a perfect romantic getaway in California and is not to be missed!