Samantha Brown's Guide to Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a must-visit for cinephiles, history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, foodies and more.

By: Jenna Schnuer
pool ace hotel palm springs california

pool ace hotel palm springs california

Sheltered among four mountain ranges, Palm Springs is the perfect place to play outdoors when your hometown's chilly weather has you down. It's also a must-visit for cinephiles, history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, foodies and, quite simply, people who want to sit out by the pool and do nothing.

Where to Stay

It's all retro glam at the high-end, 16-room Movie Colony Hotel. Though it was designed in 1935 by architect Albert Frey — the guy responsible for Palm Spring's "desert modernism" architecture movement — the Movie Colony is up-to-date when it comes to modern luxury. The rooms feature 400-thread-count sheets on pillow-top beds and free Wi-Fi to keep you connected. If you're looking to really make it a luxury-home-away-from-home experience, book one of the 3 townhouses, step through your French doors out to the shared pool and wait for your Dean Martini to arrive from the hotel bar.

In this hotel with just eight rooms, guests never have to compete for attention from the staff. The Willows easily ranks as one of the most romantic properties in Palm Springs. No two rooms are alike; request the Loft Room for French limestone, a claw-foot tub and a view of a waterfall, or, for bookish types with a thing for the history of cinema, pick the mahogany-decorated Library Room, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned.

The Ace fits all kinds of travelers' bills. Hipsters love it, and folks with kids in tow are welcome. Rover wants to go, too? Book one of the dog-friendly rooms. Housed in a former Howard Johnson — which automatically amps up the hotel's hipster cred — the Ace is also home to King's Highway, a diner that serves up (mostly) local, organic fare and one of our favorites, Stumptown Coffee.

close up off fried eggs with chives and green beans white plate

close up off fried eggs with chives and green beans white plate

Where to Eat

Even if the food were so-so, this breakfast and brunch spot would get points for its name and, well, its cheeky little monkey logo. But the food is far from mediocre. With a focus on locally grown food — organic when possible — the Cheeky's menu changes weekly. Past offerings include gluten-free corn fritters with a sweet chili, bacon and arugula salad; a yam sandwich with cilantro, red onion, feta and tomato; and poached wild steelhead trout over cold soba noodles. Bonus points to Cheeky's for serving from-the-tap Thomas Kemper root beer. Want an adult beverage? Choose from wine, bubbly or beer.

There's no monkey business, arsenic or old lace here. Though Copley's is housed at Cary Grant's former home (and quite a romantic place it is), the kitchen doesn't rely on the former handsome homeowner to pull in guests. Chef Andrew Manion Copley has the magic touch when it comes to the culinary arts. A modern international steakhouse of sorts, Copley's pulls flavor inspiration from around the world, with a menu heavy on seafood and meat. Don't miss the Hawaiian ahi tacos — tasty. If you love what the chef serves, consider one of the restaurant's happy-hour cooking classes.

tram moving up mountain in san jacinto park palm springs

tram moving up mountain in san jacinto park palm springs

What to See + Do

Robolights in Palm Springs
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Head Out for a Hike

Thanks to the area's high temperatures, it's essential to pack extra water and let somebody know where you're going when you head out to hike the trails near Palm Springs. If you take the necessary precautions, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley serve up some of the finest desert hiking in the US. Work a local legend into your hike by taking the 6-mile loop that takes you past Bob Hope's house. Kick-start a hike through Mount San Jacinto State Park by taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tram for a ride.

Palm Springs-Art Museum

You could rent bicycles and pedal your way around Palm Springs, but that takes so much energy. Why not rent a scooter instead? Scoot Palm Springs rents so-cool Buddy scooters. After handing you your helmet, the owners will even help you figure out the best places to scoot off to around town.

After Dark

Take in a Flick

Though the Palm Springs International Film Festival is the town's premier movie must, it's not the only silver-screen event around. The Palm Springs International Film Society also hosts ShortFest, and throughout the summer, the Palm Springs Art Museum offers free weekly film screenings. In March, the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum hosts the annual Native FilmFest.

Palm Springs' only Equity theater entertains the town (and its visitors) from October through mid-July. If you're a fan of classic musicals, the Palm Canyon is your venue. Other Palm Canyon Drive stage happenings are offered at the Annenberg Theater.

Yes, Engelbert Humperdinck has been on the Morongo's show schedule. But Bill Maher and Melissa Etheridge have also headlined there (separately). Add in 150,000 square feet of gaming space, and you've got yourself a night out. Morongo is 20 minutes outside of town; if you would rather stay in downtown Palm Springs, head to the nearby slots at the Spa Resort Casino.

Travel Channel Insider's Tip: Before there were Hollywood stars or trams, Palm Springs was home to the Cahuilla Indians. Get grounded in the area's history and real culture with a visit to the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.

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