A road trip to Palm Springs is a rite of passage for Southern Californians seeking to flee their cities and small towns for a sunny, spontaneous getaway. Where one can make a lifestyle out of lounging poolside in between indulgences in the destination’s great dining, culture, nature, and nightlife.
And currently this High Desert oasis is booming, especially come weekends when crowds flood Palm Canyon Drive in search of antiques, stiff drinks, celebrity homes, and people-watching.
So where to go once you’ve gunned your engine and made it out to Palm Springs?
We’re so glad you asked…
King’s Highway: A casual breakfast spot that’s become a big scene for generations X to Z, you’re eating in a former Denny’s at the Ace Hotel. Stumptown coffee, Belgian waffles, maitake mushrooms with prosciutto and pickled shimeji, Mediterranean mezze, and double burgers will be had beside pool party-bound diners all decked out for the ‘Gram.
Sandfish: You may have left the city, but that doesn’t mean you’re trying to leave behind pristine sushi in your dust. The specialty here is seafood and whiskey, which makes sense when you bite into a rich, tender tendril of Spanish octopus between sips of your Toki Highball or Hokkaido Old Fashioned. And you can always opt to leave all decision-making to the kitchen by choosing the omakase dinner, a seemingly endless procession of sashimi, nigiri, and rolls driven by the freshest fish chef Engin Onural can find.
Copley’s on Palm Canyon: A modern American classic and for a good reason. You’re dining outside of Carey Grant’s guesthouse, ringed by mind-blowing mountain views over chef Andrew Copley’s critically lauded French onion soup, char-grilled beef Wellington, orange and rosemary duck breast, Prime NY steaks, and truffle fries. All backed by a well-curated arsenal of international wines.
The Tropicale: You wanted an escape, you’ve got it. At the tiki-shaded Tropicale, you’ve been beamed up to South Beach. Or maybe it’s White Lotus. In any case, the food is fantastic, from bacon-wrapped, gorgonzola-stuffed dried plums and a golden-battered soft shell crab waiting for its close-up, to entrees like fresh egg spaghetti-and-meatballs marinara, brisket burgers, skirt steak carne asada mole negro, and Kurobuta pork tomahawk steaks. Just as nice? Simply meeting up with friends for a pitcher of melon mojitos under the Hawaiian-style mural.
Purple Palm: This tranquil restaurant at The Colony Palms Hotel appears to have it all: a poolside location, eccentric wallpaper and bistro chairs, and even tacos. If it’s lunch, consider starting with an artistic plate of spiced beef empanadas before leaning into a proper mojo pork Cubano sandwich to complete the feeling of being transported. If it’s dinner, housemade pastas and Jamaican Rum n’ Tings take their place, only successfully complete once you’ve finished with the decadent caramelized banana/chocolate custard cake.
Ruben & Ozzy’s Oyster Bar: Whether you’ve been hitting the links or taking in a few laps, you’re most likely going to be hot and hungry by lunchtime. Brothers Ruben and Ozzy have a cure for that at their perpetually packed spot: crab enchiladas, shrimp by the bucket, Mexican poke, campechanas brimming with shellfish, and oyster shooters to begin the slightly hazy good mood you’ll carry into the evening.
Le Vallauris: If seafood isn’t the first thing on your mind when thinking of Palm Springs, then you must not be familiar with Le Vallauris. The French-centric landmark opened in 1974 and treats fish as thoughtfully as it does your escargot and terrine of duck confit. Dover sole meuniere, Russian caviar, house-smoked salmon, Maine lobster ravioli, sauteed Great Lakes whitefish, and blue crab with avocado-and-mango compliment a special night of romantic fine-dining. The only challenging part is choosing what to order.
HOW ABOUT A DRINK?
PaulBar: A Rat Pack-style gem well-hidden off the main drag, this lounge lives up to your every 1940’s/Goodfellas tavern fantasies. A bar of polished carved oak, comfortable booths, vintage tunes, and moody lighting set the stage for mammoth martinis, steak frites, meatballs marinara, and a popular Friday special of fish-and-chips that will have you saying “ring-a-ding-ding” to whoever you’re playing footsie with from across the table.
Truss & Twine: A cocktail-lovers paradise on Palm Canyon’s northern extremity, the robust menu of classic drinks covers a range of eras, from Golden Age gimlets, Prohibition-style Hanky Pankys, and Tiki-tinged punches to improved iterations of “Dark Ages” drinks like Cosmos and White Russians, and house inventions such as the absinthe, orgeat, and pineapple-laced Green Philter. Bar snacks include miso caramel Cracker Jacks, beet-and-Green Goddess deviled eggs, and a to-die-for Wagyu oxtail grilled cheese that complete the blissful scene.
Seymour’s: This nearly five-year-old bar, tucked behind a discrete side entrance, feels simultaneously frozen in time and eternal. A sexy ode to vintage Palm Springs with portraits of besuited, old-timey power brokers over a staff of personable, expert bartenders. Where you’ll order a gin-and-avocado cocktail or walnut liqueur and IPA syrup-assisted Little Owl and never want to leave. Pairs perfectly before or after Mr. Lyons, the longstanding steakhouse next door.
Workshop Kitchen & Bar: This is the place that carried Palm Springs into the modern cocktail era; a sparse, high-ceilinged modern stunner renowned for its creative California cuisine. The drinks are just as crucial, split into sections for classics like the Brown Derby and Sazerac, and original creations like Ancho Libre and Grand Poppy liqueur-based California Dreamin’.
AT YOUR LEISURE…
Desert Willow Golf Courses: Even non-golfers will be jealous when they hear you’re playing what are widely considered the best and most beautiful championship courses in the High Desert. There’s great splendor and abundant trials alike among the Firecliff course, while more casual players will be better off at the Mountain View course as they take in vistas of the Santa Rosa range. All paths ultimately lead to the Clubhouse, renowned for its Bloody Marys, onion rings, and steak sandwiches.
Palm Springs Art Museum: While rhinestone-bedazzled styles and old junk shops masquerading as vintage treasure chests are abundant, true taste abounds at the city’s premier cultural institution. Celebrated for its collection of mid-century modern paintings, sculptures, prints, and photography, you’ll also encounter striking works from Chihuly, Abramovic, Siqueiros, Ruscha, and many more legends, alongside temporary exhibitions like Robert Longo’s “Storm of Hope: Law & Disorder” and a retrospective on “The Modern Chair.”
Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort Oasis: With four spas and an emphasis on luxury, this should sound like a no-brainer. Because it is. With you and a date lounging in your own private suite, interrupting the pampering with sporadic dips in Palm Springs’ legendary mineral waters and visits to a 106-degree Himalayan salt room. By day there’s yoga, massages, and beauty treatments. By night, wine and healthy dining options around fire pits. You wanted restoration, you got it.
Cruising Palm Canyon Drive: You’ve got your motor running and there’s no stretch to cruise that’s as iconic as Palm Canyon Drive, in which you can take in all the iconic Flintstones-style architecture, small shops, fetching day-trippers, natural light, and celebrity homes this region is famous for. Of course, if you really want to test out your engine, there’s an entire desert full of lightly trafficked roads out there for you to explore.
Stay safe and have fun!