Less than two hours’ drive from Los Angeles lies Palm Springs; an oasis of mid-century homes and turquoise swimming pools in the middle of the sun scorched desert. Escape from the L.A. smog and spend 48 hours exploring its vintage stores, retro restaurants and hip hotels and bars.
Set off from L.A. bright and early to skip the traffic and arrive in Palm Springs in time for brunch. Opt for a decadent lobster omelette on the patio at Norma’s in the iconic Parker hotel, or drive fifteen minutes further until you reach the Shields Date Garden Store in nearby Indio. This emporium of dried desert fruits has a cute café out the back, where you can eat Shields Date pancakes with a side of date butter and a sprinkling of Deglet Noors. Don’t forget to pick up a box of toffee-like Medjools to take home.
Time to do what you came to Palm Springs to do: lounge. There’s nowhere better to laze around than at the newly-opened Sparrows hotel, where the rustic-chic rooms are arranged around a serene, saltwater pool. There’s no check-in desk or crowded restaurant: just you, a few smiley staff members, and a bar. Perfection.
Get a taste of old-school Palm Springs in the form of a vodka Martini at Melvyn’s, a kitsch timewarp of a bar where the waiters wear bowties and a crowd of fun-loving local retirees gather for live music and copious drinks every night (and look like they have done for the past twenty years).
Soak up the martinis with a giant burrito at Mexican restaurant, El Mirasol. The vibe is lowkey but the shrimp in pipian mole (a rich sunflower seed sauce) and on-point margaritas elevate the experience considerably.
Round off the night with cocktails at the bar at The Ace, where a hip crowd gathers to drink cocktails and dance to old 45s. Afterwards, head back Sparrows for a dip in the hot tub before you crash between high thread count sheets.
Kick off the day with coffee a Koffi, a buzzy local café filled with friendly locals reading the Los Angeles Times, before fuelling up on organic eggs and parmesan hash browns at the Ace’s hip Kings Highwaydiner.
Head north out of Palm Springs to check out Joshua Tree, stopping off to explore the myriad vintage stores that line 29Palms Highway. All are affordable and filled with gems, but Pioneer Crossing Antiques offers a particularly covetable selection of location-appropriate souvenirs: Pendleton blankets, enamel crockery, faded vintage photos, etc.
Stop for lunch at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a local favourite renowned for its raucous live music sets. Local bands and visiting acts tend to play on Saturday nights, but this barn-like restaurant is worth visiting for lunch, too – there are baby back ribs and grass-fed steak on the menu. After your meal, have a quick swoop around Pioneertown itself; a faithful reconstruction of an old frontier town, built by Hollywood execs in the 1940s.
Head to Joshua Tree National Park for a hike around this breathtaking slice of public land. Not sure where to start? Stop in at the Oasis Visitors Center for advice on hiking trails, camping, facilities and more.
Watch the sun go down at the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum where the late L.A. artist constructed a wonderland of found object sculptures and bizarre structures in the middle of the desert. Spend a few moments taking in the tranquil landscape and crystal clear light, and you’ll totally understand why.