The Perfect Three-Day Weekend in Palm Springs

Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here’s what to do on a short trip to Palm Springs.

Perfect 3-Day Weekend in Palm Springs
Photo: Dave Pinter/Flickr/CC by 2.0

Among the Hollywood set, Palm Springs has been a favorite weekend getaway since since the days of the Rat Pack. Luckily, the allure of Palm Springs hasn't changed much since its days as Frank Sinatra's playground; visitors can enjoy hip hotels, excellent restaurants and bars, and unmatched views of the beautiful Mojave Desert.

Not sure how to spend your vacation in Palm Springs? Here's an itinerary for three days of fun at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Day One

There are plenty of boutique hotels to pick from, but The Parker is one of my favorites, with stylish rooms as well as outdoor patios and stand-alone villas. The hotel sits on beautiful grounds laced with footpaths, and features two saline pools, a fire pit, two restaurants, and a bar.

Head on over to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and catch a ride in one of the rotating cars up to the Mountain Station. At about 8,500 feet, the views from here are spectacular. If you're in the mood for a hike, there are over 50 miles of trails easily accessible from the visitor center.

If the lack of oxygen is making you dizzy, head back downtown and recharge with a hot dog at Frankinbun, which serves all-natural dogs served on Parisian baguettes. Try a classic Snap Dog, or go for something different like the Chicken and Waffle on a Stick.

Evenings are always lively in Palm Springs. For a taste of the modern scene, check out Chi Chi, a restaurant focused on what it calls "the tradition of California wellness and clean living" at the boutique Avalon Hotel. Afterward, stop by for a drink at the decidedly old-school, retro-chic Melvyn's at the Ingleside Inn, a favorite of Sinatra.

Day Two

As the desert morning begins to heat up, an iced coffee is probably in order. Stop in at Joey for a latte and a croissant (there's more substantial breakfast fare, too). After fueling up, it's time to embark upon a Palm Springs Modern Tour to check out the city's midcentury architecture—one of Palm Springs's main attractions.

Later on, have some lunch at King's Highway at the Ace Hotel, a former Denny's that is now run by the team behind Brooklyn's Five Leaves in partnership with the Ace. Then take in the desert flora at the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium, where you can walk among the beautiful native plants and cacti that call the low desert home.

As night approaches, sip on a fruity cocktail garnished with mini umbrellas and flowers at Bootlegger Tiki's happy hour, located in the old Don the Beachcomber restaurant space. Then skip the hotels and dine with the locals—make your way to an unassuming section of S. Indian Canyon Dr. for some Vietnamese food at the new Rooster and the Pig.

Day Three

Palm Springs is well known for its thrift and vintage stores. If you're in the mood to shop, visit The Frippery for resort, mod, and bohemian fashion, or check out Boulevard for midcentury furniture and home furnishings.

The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge is open to the public for lunch service. The menu at this restored 1950s hotel is simple and fresh, focusing on small bites, salads, and sandwiches. After, if you have time and transportation, make the 30-minute drive to Shields Date Garden in neighboring Indio to try one of their famous date shakes—and don't skip the "Romance and Sex Life of the Date" film that screens in the small theater.

Finally, check out the Palm Springs Art Museum for its modern and contemporary exhibits. Then end your stay with dinner and drinks at Mr. Lyons, an updated version of a traditional steakhouse where you can sip classic cocktails and share a porterhouse for two with foie gras and dry-aged fat butter.

For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.

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