I’m happy to present a fun and fabulous guest post on Palm Springs by travel blogger Mary Zakheim. Whether you live in Palm Springs year round, seasonally, or are planning your next visit, her ideas on how do to Palm Springs in one day are inspired and belong on everyone’s Palm Springs’ bucket list! XOKate
Is it possible to not feel glam gallivanting about through Palm Springs? This past week, my friend and I decided to put this question to the test. Though we ate the equivalent of an entire cake for breakfast, sweat through all our fancy clothes and got hopelessly lost on the easy-to-navigate streets, we came out on top – the old Hollywood glamour bestowed itself upon even us and we flew out of the palm tree strewn airport with a nostalgic ache in our hearts.
It all started mid-February. I had just moved to New York City and, alone and cold, I impulsively booked a flight to Palm Springs with my Seattle-based best friend. What did Audrey Hepburn say, again? Palm Springs is never a bad idea? Something like that. Three months later and there we were, beside a pool in the searing desert sun, a glass of wine to our right, a bowl of cherries to our left and a laughably green spread of land in front of us. There was only one problem in this scenario: we only had one day to explore! Though there are a couple more days’ worth of things to see and do (and a whole life’s worth of relaxing), we had to make some executive decisions to create the perfect one-day itinerary complete with a decadent brunch, poolside lounging and glitzy sightseeing.
8:00 am – Wake Up And Smell The Roses
Or, more appropriately, the heavily-watered foreign bougainvilleas. The place where we were staying was inside of a gated community (as many of the houses for visitors are in Palm Springs) and had the lush trappings that one might imagine in such a place: a saltwater pool, a lavishly decorated dining room, a fridge full of fresh foods, a Starbucks Verismo coffeemaker. To start off our day in the vein of relaxation, we awoke just after the sun and spent the wee hours of the morning (we’re night owls, 8:00 am counts as early) sipping at our black coffee beside the pool, speaking sparingly, reading occasionally, basking mostly.
10:00 am – Brunch At Norma’s
I had booked the reservation the previous night and a warning came in the form of an email: “You may want to fast for a full 24 hours before daring to try and eat at Norma’s – don’t order what you can’t finish”. Feeling utterly prepared (had I, perhaps, spent my whole life preparing for this moment?), we ventured to downtown Palm Springs to begin our whirlwind of a day. We veered into the somewhat hidden Parker Palm Springs hotel and, as the tall green hedges grew upwards, we felt we were being taken backwards in time. Eventually, the hedges disappeared and a white concrete wall welcomed us to the hotel, with tall tanned men in teensy orange shorts ready to open our doors and escort us to the dining area. The lobby and atrium were breathtakingly fabulous, odes to the Palm Springs of yore, with carpet straight out of The Shining and a living room setup that would make Cheech and Chong green with envy.
Once seated, we were given a menu littered with things like “The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata”, “Afternoon Delight” and “Lox & Lox of Bagel”. Needless to say, it felt like we had been transported to a little piece of heaven. I ordered a cappuccino and the Very Berry Brioche French Toast, my friend ordered a latte and the Chocolate Decadence French Toast. Our meals were nothing short of spectacular and the friendly waiter added to our day of fun. We finished our brunch then wandered the large grounds – complete with an oversized chess set, a lawn for croquet, a couple of bars and plenty of shaded seating areas. We took our time here, eating and exploring until half past noon. If you plan to visit the Parker Palm Springs, make sure to give yourself an ample amount of time to walk about the grounds after your meal.
1:00 pm – Self Guided Mid-Century Modern Tour
Eight miles north of Norma’s is the start of a self-guided mid-century modern tour that we found online. We had so much fun driving around the area, seeing how much of the old town has maintained its architecture from the fifties and sixties. Our favorite spot to drive through was the neighborhood where The Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway is housed. The confusing map of twists and turns on our app became rows of new and vintage houses with beautiful lawns and structures dating back sixty years. Though the tour locales were close together, we spent a decent amount of time looking and snapping pictures. Depending on how interested you and your troupe are in mid-century architecture, this leg of the trip can take much longer or much shorter. An ancient Palm Springs proverb: spend any extra time beside the pool.
2:30 pm – Moorten Botanical Gardens
A simple oasis in the desert, the Moorten Botanical Gardens is a small but lush corner of downtown Palm Springs. We entered with slight hesitation, as a hand-painted sign pointed us inside the gated gardens. Our trepidation disappeared, though, when Clark Moorten, the friendly owner of the 78-year-old cacti haven, welcomed us warmly into his fold. He warned us to take our time and to carefully take in each individual plant, a practice we agreed to, much to our benefit. The gardens were tranquil and quaint – a sort of contradiction to the glamorous city we had just toured for the first half of our day. Though the color scheme was mainly shades of greens and browns, the surprising pops of pinks, reds and oranges made the place a perfect backdrop for photos and inspiration. Snap a bunch of pictures and make sure to chat with Clark when you enter and before you leave!
3:00 pm – Coast Along Highway 111
The city of Palm Springs also includes the smaller towns of Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. To see them all from the comfort of our car, we headed southbound on Highway 111 and spotted the vintage architecture and ritzy new shopping centers in the three towns. In Palm Desert, we reached El Paseo, a street often heralded as the Rodeo Drive of Palm Springs. Here, we walked around for a bit, waltzing in and out of the art galleries that litter the 2-mile stretch of road. (Iced coffee may be necessary at this point).
4:30 pm – Soak Up The Sun
After our highway cruise, we headed back to our place and relaxed beside the pool. We read and tanned and ate. We also took a much-needed nap in the sun and went on a walk around the gated community. If you’re an itinerary fiend and feel anxious at the prospect of doing nothing – try not to be! Doing nothing is the whole point of coming to Palm Springs. Relax and enjoy the void.
9:00 pm – Grab A Fancy Drink
Feeling well rested after our lounge time, we headed back downtown and walked along the main drag, Palm Canyon Drive, looking for a fun place to grab a quick drink. We settled on Bootlegger Tiki, a hidden speakeasy that combines 1920s dark glamour with island decor. We each ordered a delightful drink and spoke quietly in the near darkness of the bar. Afterwards, we walked in the twilight along the deserted street, bobbing in and out of different bars to admire the mid-century modern decor.
11:00 pm – Relax In The Hot Tub
We returned to a quiet house in a quiet neighborhood. As the desert sun hides away for the night so, too, does the desert warmth and an unexpected chill fell over the tranquil grounds. We went out to the hot tub and stared at the surrounding mountains jutting into the night sky, slashes of black against an inky blue. With our wine glasses beside us and our robes on the ground, we raised a toast to a brilliant day spent chasing the sun, the glamour, the life of Palm Springs.
‘Till next time, my sunny friend.