day trip palm springs

Palm Springs is a desert oasis…a warm sunny place to relax & recharge. Vacationers flock to Southern California for warmth, sun, and endless fun!  Celebrities, Presidents and sun seekers head further southeast to a California desert oasis that stretches from Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage to La Quinta, and beyond.  Known as “P.S.” and the “ultimate desert playground”, Palm Springs and the surrounding areas offer plenty to do from outdoor adventures, arts, culture, shopping and entertainment.  Here, you’ll discover a fascinating history with Native American influence, festive Mexican culture, and intriguing Hollywood legacy.

After a 72 hours stay, here are our recommendations of Top 10 favorite activities and places to spa, as well as suggestions on where to dine & stay in the Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage to La Quinta area.

Check out the photo album from this trip at this Pinterest linkclick here!

More photos at our Instagram accountclick here!

What to Do?

1.  Hike:  there are several hiking trails in Palm Springs and the surrounding area where you can hike to ancient palm groves, and other scenic trails.  We ventured out to Borrego Springs, couple hours from Palm Springs, and spent a few hours trekking the Palm Canyon Trail.  Wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water!

2.  Golf:  there are several golf courses to choose from in Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, and La Quinta.  If you want to play 18 holes, be sure and get out early before it’s too hot.

3.  Palm Springs Aerial Tramway:  take the tram up to the top of Mount San Jacinto at 8,500 ft and you’ll have spectacular views, and access to hiking trails.  Visit this site for details.

4.  Palm Springs Walk of the Stars:  Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Liberace and many Hollywood Stars have visited Palm Springs, and some have made this desert oasis their home.  We heard Leonardo di Caprio just purchased a home here!  Click here to see who made it to the walk of stars.

5.  Drive down Palm Canyon Drive:  Take a drive down the main road and admire the Spanish style & mid-century modern architecture.

6.  Spa!  Spa at The Parker PSYC:  PSYC stands for Palm Springs Yacht Club that has taken the American Country Club experience to another realm.

From the Palm Springs Airport, we went directly to PSYC, and checked in for spa treatments – the perfect way to start your vacation.  Visit this site to make a spa reservation.  This used to be the first Holiday Inn in California, and has since been owned by Gene Autry, and now The Parker Palm Springs.

7.  Spa some more in La Quinta!  Spa La Quinta has been selected as one of  the Top 50 Spas in the Americas, and one of the World’s Top 10 Exotic Wellness Retreats.  Known for their “Natural Facelift” treatment, so you may want to consider this service.  Take time to enjoy the grounds, and relaxation area outdoors before you check in for your treatment.

8.  Shop at El Paseo Shops in Palm Desert:  for a list of shops and galleries, visit this site.

9.  Horseback Riding:  visit Smoketree Stables and sign up for a guided ride through the desert.  Heard this is a great way to get out and see the natural beauty of the surrounding desert.

10.  Relax!  Recline in your pool lounge chair ….

Where to Dine?

Palm Springs:

Norma’s:  The Parker’s 5-Star diner serves comfort food and breakfast all day!  Reservations can be made at #760 321-4630 or book online – click here.  Our favorite dishes included the Rock Lobster and Mango Salad drizzled with Citrus Vinaigrette, Nice Salad – Chopped Iceberg, with Tuna, Green Beans, Hard Boiled Eggs, Olives in a Dijon Basil Vinaigrette, and Charlie’s Chopped Cobb Salad with Fresh Ahi Tuna and Wasabi Chive Dressing.  Yum!

Las Casuelas Terrazas:  we ordered a big bowl of guacamole, chips, salsa, and devoured our taquitos, chile relenos, enchiladas, and tamales!  The Delgado family still uses family recipes from over 100 years ago, and the extended family manages other Las Casuelas restaurants in the area.  Be sure to ask for a table on the terrace where you can watch people passing by on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.  Visit this site to see more details – click here.

The Workshop Kitchen + Bar is considered “THE” place to be seen and dine in Palm Springs.  The chic interior space designed by NYC based Somo, creates an ultra-mod mood.  Chef Owner Michael Beckman, an English Lit grad gone culinary, finds the freshest produce and delivers farm-to-table dishes to a packed restaurant. Chef Beckman presents seasonal “Americana” creations. Some of our favorites included the Octopus Carpaccio, cooked sous vide, with pickledcauliflower fleurettes, peppers, cilantro, lemon + olive oil, and the Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad, with toasted hazelnuts,pomegranate, aged balsamico, olive oil, pecorino romano, and the Mesquite-Grilled Pork Chop with white yam puree, collard greens, marasca cherry jus, blue cheese.  Some of the most popular cocktails are the Matador #2, tequila blanco mixed with pineapple, lime, serrano chile, and the Palm Springer, vodka missed with pineapple grenadine, bitters. Reservations can be made online at their site, or email:, Phone:  760.459.3451.

La Quinta:

TWENTY6, at La Quinta Resort & Spa:  Whether you want breakfast, lunch or dinner, Chef Michael Vaughn has American comfort foods at this modern bistro.  We visited Twenty6 for lunch and enjoyed the salads, and there are also soups and sandwiches on the menu.  We were impressed that Chef Vaughn even makes homemade ketchup!  Some of our favorites were the Maryland Crab Cake with crispy shallot rings, avocado relish and red pimiento sauce, and the Flatbreads – BBQ Chicken with port wine BBQ sauce, jalapeno, or the Spinach & Artichoke with herb goat cheese and basil.  We shared the Mandarin Orange & Cashew Salad with grilled salmon, pea tendrils dressed with sweet sesame soy dressing.  Click here to book a reservation.

Lavender Bistro:  Dine at Lavender Bistro, located near Old Town La Quinta, and enjoy fine cuisine. Lavender Bistro has a beautiful tree-lined patio, and was selected last year as Open Table’s Choice Award for the Top 100 Restaurants for Outdoor Dining in the U.S.A.  We loved the lights on the surrounding trees and lavender color décor – magical!  Some of our favorite dishes included the Lavender Seasonal Salad withpencil asparagus, heirloom red & yellow pear tomatoes, mushrooms, shaved fennel, green beans, with lemon-truffle vinaigrette, and the San Daniele Prosciutto and Black Mission Fig Saladwithport wine infused dried figs, arugula, radicchio, laura chanel goat cheese, roasted hazelnuts, and an apple cider vinaigrette, and the Sautéed Filet of Petrale Sole with sautéed spinach, basmati rice, and lemon chive caper beurre blanc.  Click here to make your reservation or call (760) 564-5353, located at 78-073 Calle Barcelona

Need a Place to Stay?

Palm Springs:  there are a few places to choose from but we recommend The Parker (Gene Autry’s former home converted into a boutique hotel). 

The Parker Palm Springs is one of the true gems of the desert. Situated on 13 acres of lush private gardens, an oasis of classic 1950s and 60s glamour and Hollywood personalities. There are 144 rooms, three pools, a selection of restaurants and bars to satisfy any culinary craving and a staff whose number one goal is to delight and surprise you.


The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage:  As we arrived to the dramatic entrance of The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, we were swept away by the massive water fountain and the bougainvillea lined street with panoramic views of the Coachella Valley from its clifftop setting. 


This Palm Springs hotel is a luxury retreat, set amidst the Santa Rosa Mountains and lush green golf courses.  Its the perfect desert escape.  Our room was spacious with a private balcony, comfortable beds and soaking tub.  We had use of the Club Lounge where select hotel guests enjoy access to complimentary culinary treats including breakfast, light lunch, snacks, and cocktails with hors d’oeuvres. 

Don’t Miss!  Ask the concierge for a hiking map.  The hotel is at 638 ft. elevation and there are a few trails that are within .5 miles including the Chuckwalla Trail (1.6 miles), the Roadrunner Trail (1.5 miles), and Jack Rabbit Trail (.9 miles).  Check on weather, wildlife and trail conditions before going on a hike.  Good to note that any outdoor recreation can be potentially hazardous, so assume responsibility for your own safety, exercise sound judgment.  Bring water, sunscreen and a hat!

La Quinta Resort:  if you want to stay closer to La Quinta, check into the La Quinta Resort, a desert hideaway at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains.  Since 1926, the resort has been a refuge for Hollywood stars and travelers from around the world, the hacienda style resort has 535 Fireplaces, 41 Pools, 53 Hot Tubs, 23 Tennis Courts, 7 Restaurants, 5 Golf Courses.

Further Out…

Consider Joshua Tree and staying at the Invisible House, a unique and inspiring, tranquil place.


The Invisible House, a short ten minute drive from the town of Joshua Tree, is a mind bending architectural wonder situated on over 90 acres of boulder strewn wilderness bordering Joshua Tree National Park. Designed by Chris Hanley and Tomas Osinski, a Frank Gehry collaborator, the Invisible House combines two starkly differing experiences of our existence together in one unique creation. The modern elements and minimalist design can shock your senses when first viewed, simply because you have never seen anything like this in your entire life, but after your senses adjust, the Invisible House seems perfectly at ease in its spectacular desert surroundings.

Need help to plan your trip to Palm Springs?  Visit the official tourism site at click here!

By Patricia Stone, travel writer and consultant

Acknowledgments:  we would like to thank The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, Lavender Bistro, TWENTY6, The Workshop Kitchen + Bar, The Parker and Norma’s for hosting us during our stay.  

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