Palm Springs in the summer? It certainly isn’t the place to go for ocean breezes and kite-surfing, but if you’re looking for a smokin’ hot deal to match the sizzling temperatures, summer is the time to go. As a kid I loved spending my July 4th birthday in Palm Springs with no crowds, hours of pool time, dizzying tram rides, and snow capped mountains that were surely a mirage – but not! Guest Guru Nancy Geller tips us off to everything from spectacular spa treatments to mountainous hikes that will make your jaw drop, proving that Palm Springs is the perfect weekend getaway – even in the summertime.
By Guest Guru Nancy Geller
DAY 1: Go up!
Head out early and hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a 10-minute ride to the top of Chino Canyon at Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Focus on the insane view and try to ignore the fact that you are seemingly floating in a rotating tram heading 8,516 feet up the mountain. Typically 30 degrees cooler than the valley floor, there are 54 miles of forested hiking trails to explore. My favorite path (and just about all the hiking I feel like doing while on vacation) is the 1.5-mile Desert View Trail loop with spectacular views of the valley floor.
There’s no shortage of fabulous hotels in Palm Springs. I prefer a one-stop-shop where I can have great food, the perfect pool experience, and unrivaled spa treatments. First on my list is the Parker Palm Springs. The Parker is simply lovely. The landscaped grounds and beautiful walkways make a walk to your car an experience in itself. This hotel is somewhat off the beaten track, but if you’re staying here, there’s really no reason to go anywhere else.
Stay on the reservation and head to Mister Parker’s for dinner. You’ll be greeted by a white-lacquered Liberace-style grand piano maître d’ stand and pop art of the 60s covering the walls. This funky spot is dark and cool and super delicious. Don’t miss the Tartare de Thon (uber sexy tuna tartar) or the Moules Fumees (mussels marinated with saffron and chorizo).
DAY 2: Old Hollywood Celebrity Digs
Bacon flight anyone? Have breakfast at Cheeky’s and don’t forget to order a glass of freshly squeezed tangerine juice to sustain you for a busy day of cruising Palm Springs old-school style. Head to the visitor center to pick up a map of celebrity homes and before you can think about what to have for lunch, you can find the houses of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Liberace, Elvis, and Peter Lawford.
And then it’s back to the pool of your choice—preferably one with a waiter on standby with a tall, icy beverage and a fresh array of lunch offerings.
DAY 3: Get a Massage at Al Capone’s Hideout
If you’ve ever yearned for Aqua Soma Water Therapy or Cranio-Sacral Treatment, drive a few miles across the desert floor to the mystical Two Bunch Palms Resort in neighboring Desert Hot Springs. Rumor has it that Al Capone hid out in the surroundings of this naturally occurring spring that is located at the base of a geological fault at Miracle Hill. You don’t head to this oasis for luxurious accommodations or a white-glove dining room, but the first-rate spa experience doesn’t get much better than this.
DAY 4: Shop Til You Drop & Dinner
Art galleries? Check. Mid-century modern furniture stores? Check. “Cruisewear” for all ages? Check. There’s no shortage of shopping options in Palm Springs. Explore Palm Canyon Drive’s assortment of consignment shops and vintage furnishing haunts like my favorite, Retrospect, a great store with a wide range of midcentury furnishings. Or head over to El Paseo Shopping District for an overdose of retail therapy. Located in Palm Desert, El Paseo is known as the Rodeo Drive of the Desert and features over 300 shops, clothing boutiques, art galleries, jewelers, and restaurants.
For dinner, you can’t miss the old-school Italian of Riccio’s. Oversize menus, vinyl booths and lots of red wine. Melt in your mouth Linguine alle Vongole always hits the spot. Or if you yearn for the small plates of Spain, Tinto at The Saguaro Palm Springs, is a delicious option. Iron Chef Jose Garces opened this Basque outlet, serving pintxos (tapas) like Moules Basquaise (mussels, chorizo, frites, lemon aioli) and Rodaballoa la Plantxa (turbot, sauce pastis, baby fennel) and offering up a Spanish wine list that will definitely make you love the one you’re with.
DAY 5: Hiking & Date Shakes
You’re headed home today so wake up early and get ready for a breathtaking morning of desert nature at Tahquitz Canyon. Head south on Palm Canyon Drive through the downtown area and turn right on Mesquite Avenue. Named for a Cahuilla shaman, Tahquitz Canyon is a veritable delight of desert flora and fauna. A relatively moderate 2-mile walk through the canyon rewards you with the sight of a spectacular 60-foot waterfall, which classic movie fans may recognize from Frank Capra’s 1937 film Lost Horizon.
And, finally, the perfect way to finish off your perfect desert weekend is a quick stop at Hadley Fruit Orchards as you drive west on the Interstate-10. A California institution since 1931, this desert icon has tempted tourists as they head into and out of the Coachella Valley with creamy Date Shakes and awesome car snacks including okra chips and garlic pistachios.
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