When we booked to go to South California, I knew I had to visit Palm Springs. From all the photos I’d seen, it was somewhere I just knew we’d love and I wasn’t disappointed. It was one of the coolest, most chill places we’ve ever been and I can understand why anyone who goes there loves it.
It was quite a long drive from Santa Barbara (where we’d just spent two nights) , but you can get there in under two hours from LA which makes me so jealous of the Angelenos that they get such an amazing weekend destination on their doorstep. We got there late at night and our AirBnB was in the Movie Colony actually on the same street as Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms estate! It’s full of Spanish looking houses, all painted white or terracotta and really felt quite Mexican with bougainvillea and lemon trees in all the gardens.
Once we got there, we dumped our bags and headed out to the main street for food and to stretch our legs. We really fancied Mexican so we walked down to the famous Las Casuelas. It looked like a really fun place to have a proper night out, with live music and dancing, but we were pooped after the drive so just enjoyed our food and then walked back home.
When we woke up in the morning, the sun was shining and the view from our AirBnB was just amazing. Palm trees and blue skies – what more could you want?
We decided to take in another Palm Springs institution and headed over to Cheeky’s which was just a few minutes walk from where we were staying. There was a bit of a queue but we didn’t have to wait too long to get seated and we had the most delicious breakfast to start off our day.
After we’d eaten we had a little walk up the main street to get ice cream from the Ice Cream Shoppe at the Arrive Hotel, before we caught the Buzz (a free bus that comes every 20 mins and does a loop of the main areas) to the other end of Palm Springs to have a look at the mid-century architecture and of course, have a look at some of those famous spots.
We walked from where the Buzz stopped and I was surprised at how hot it was in comparison to LA. We didn’t walk around as much as I would have liked to because we were absolutely roasting so after we’d seen *that* door, we got a Lyft over to the Sagaro Hotel for a look around and a drink.
One of the reasons we planned to be in Palm Springs for the days we were was specifically so we’d be there for the Thursday evening so we could go to Village Fest, which is a street market which is held every single Thursday night come rain or shine. Luckily the weather was nice and we were able to walk the length of it, and my goodness it is a big market! They close down the street of cars and it’s lined with stalls selling food, flowers, clothes, nick-nacks, jewelry and art. It was full of locals, both visiting and hosting the stalls, so it felt like a really un-touristy thing to do which was so nice after the madness of LA. All the food looked so good too but we had already made a reservation at Birba and we were so excited to try the pizza which we’d heard so much about. So we hopped back on the Buzz and headed back up the street in time for dinner.
Birba was so busy and we had to wait a little while for our table to become free, but it was a really nice atmosphere to have a drink whilst we waited. It’s an unusual set up as the bar is undercover with most of the tables outside so I was thankful the weather had perked up by the time we got to Palm Springs as they’d had some rainy days a week or so before.
The food was really good and we had a lovely meal before we walked back to our AirBnB. I had read there were no street lights in the town but our walk was quite well lit so we didn’t feel unsafe at all walking around at night.
The next day we decided to get up early and head over to Thousand Palm Springs. There were a few things we’d wanted to do whilst we were there like the Aerial Tramway but lots of roads had been closed due to the heavy rains there had been but we really wanted to experience one of the oasis that were in the area so as the roads were open, this is the one we went to! And it did not disappoint. As you can see, the mountains were still snow-capped!
I’m so glad we went in the morning as not only was it less busy but by the time we were leaving it was getting pretty warm. There aren’t really any facilities there apart from a couple of docents to answer questions and sell maps, and some long drop toilets, so if you do go, make sure you’ve got enough water/food to keep you going. The loop we took out to the oasis and round to see the wild flowers (which were amazing thanks to the rain causing a super bloom) took about an hour and 20 minutes but you probably could have done it in less than an hour if you didn’t wear your sandals like we did, and stop and take a million photos like we did! It’s only about a 45 minute drive from Palm Springs and I’d really recommend it if you are looking to see something totally different and apart from the Arab nations, I’m not sure where else in the world you can see an Oasis.
When we got back we decided to spend the afternoon at the pool at the Arrive Hotel. We did have a pool at our AirBnB but we needed some lunch and fancied a dip in the hot tub so we headed up there. If you order food from the restaurant or ice cream from their really cute ice cream shop, you can use the pool too. We got grilled cheese sandwiches and fries which were really good. One of my favourite afternoons of the whole trip, especially when a guitarist arrived playing live music and we were just relaxing in the hot tub – a perfect start to our last evening.
That night we headed out to Ruby’s Diner which was an ok place for a quick meal, the seeing as we loved the ice cream so much, we headed up to the Ice Cream Shoppe at the Arrive Hotel to finish the night off as they are open til 11pm on a Friday and Saturday night!
We decided to make the most of our morning before we headed out of town and went down to the Moorten Botanical Garden which I was desperate to see before we left Palm Springs. We waited for the docent tour and had a lovely walk around the amazing collection of cactii, succulents and trees. It’s such an iconic Palm Springs spot and well worth the $5 entry fee. I couldn’t resist getting Tom to take a photo of me in the hot house with all the succulents and mini cactii – such an Instagram cliche!
Our final Palm Springs stop was a quick pic at the Hotel California – I wasn’t leaving town without seeing it!
On our way to Joshua Tree, we decided to go via Pioneertown. If you’ve never heard it, it’s so worth the detour. The drive there alone is amazing! In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s movie set that was built in 1946 by some Hollywood investors who had a dream of creating a Wild West town that would actually be worth visiting. It had the facades of typical Wild West places like a jail and a hotel, but behind them were places that visitors could use like ice cream shops and bowling alleys. Many of them also houses living accommodation for the people that lived there. Most of these old businesses are gone and no one lives there any more but there are some niche businesses like a leather tannery, a rug shop, and a goat product shop, complete with super cute goat Sam outside that I petted!! We also saw them setting up for a wedding outside the barn with hay bales for all the guests to sit on.
They also have a legendary music venue and restaurant there called Pappy & Harriet’s. Music icons like Robert Plant and Sir Paul McCartney have even graced their stage. We weren’t there for the music, we were starving so were there for the food! We weren’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be the best meal of our stay. The food was pretty simple, I had a steak sandwich and Tom had a burger, but they were amazing. I am still dreaming of it, especially the hot blueberry pudding we had for dessert.
Fuelled up, it was back on the road again, this time up to Joshua Tree National Park. We had another AirBnB booked for the night in these cute converted stables and after we’d dropped our bags we headed out to the Park.
We got a map and some souvenirs from the visitors centre and drove straight to the Cholla Cactus Garden so we could see them at sunset. Thanks to some excellent driving from the husband, we made it there just in time and it was magical. Truly one of the most magical sights we’ve ever seen!
The next morning, we were up and out early to get back to the park to see all the sights we’d driven past the evening before. The Park is really amazing and a must-visit place if you are anywhere near it. With all the unusual trees and rock formations, it’s like another planet! We stopped at lots of the lookout points along the way and did the hike out to the heart rock too (again, if you’re planning on hiking you definitely need to bring lots of water as there’s nothing out there except long drop toilets with no running water and it’s hot so a morning hike is recommended!).
The heart rock isn’t the easiest thing to find but I’m so glad we did it! If you’re interested in doing the hike out there too, drop me a note in the comments below and I can update this guide to tell you how we did it!
After taking another thousand pictures on our drive out of the park, we hit the road back to the coast – via the excellent outlet mall in Desert Springs and my first ever In-N-Out burger which was as good as everyone said (but my fav is still Five Guys!).
We loved Palm Springs and Joshua Tree so much we’d definitely go back one day so if you know of any spots we missed, please let me know in the comments!