So you’re going to Coachella? Awesome! The festival draws the biggest names in music year after year, and it’s held in the middle of the Californian desert, where palm trees, mountains, and non-stop sunshine lift every guest’s gram game. While the festival is fun, driving back to LA the day after Coachella is – quite frankly – a shitshow. It’s bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours, and being in a confined space with a raging hangover can really put a girl in a mood. Now that you’re in the nitty gritty of planning your trip (and festival outfits!), do what the insiders do, and make Palm Springs your playground for a few extra days.
Chill in a hot spring
Start undoing the damage of three straight days of partying and dancing in the desert by soaking in a hot spring. Drive 30 minutes from the city centre until you reach Desert Springs, where hot, bubbly, mineral-rich pools have been turned into day spas. Get a day pass to Two Bunch Palms, don a robe, and soothe your tired muscles in any of the springs dotted around the leafy property. While you’re there, treat yourself to a massage – because that’s how show ponies do a detox!
Hike, bike or scoot
When you’re done chilling, take to the streets and explore the endless photo opps Palm Springs has to offer. Rent a bike (most hotels hire them out for free) or scooter, and cruise around the calm streets of Indian Canyon until you find that pink door, the prettiest pastel door in all of Palm Springs – and there are many!
The desert oasis became the ultimate lounge town in the 30s and 40s, when Hollywood stars needed somewhere to escape and let off some steam between shoots. As you can imagine, they brought their A-list aesthetic with them, so while you’re whizzing around, stop and snap the homes of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.
If you’re into hiking, strap on your sneakers (and slather on a ton of sunscreen) and discover the desert by foot. The Tahquitz Canyon loop is 3.3km long, and will lead you to a cascading waterfall – a sweet, sweet reward for your efforts.
Hotel hop your way to Palm Springs’ best pools
Sure, Coachella’s cool, but Palm Springs is all about pool parties. You’re in the middle of the desert, so after the festival, you’ll need a place to cool down with a cocktail in hand. And if you’re not staying at a hotel, that’s okay: many hotels’ swim clubs offer day passes.
The V Palm Springs and Ace Hotel are millennial magnets, with huge pools, strong cocktails and music pumping all day long. Then there’s The Saguaro, a stylish spot you’ve probably already scoped out on Instagram. It’s known for its yellow sun loungers, pink towels, stripy beach balls, and walls painted in a rainbow of colours. The Parker is chic, while Palm Springs’ newest hotel, Arrive, is ultra-modern and hosts Dive-In movie nights by the pool.
Go dream home hunting
Palm Springs’ is a designer’s dream. In the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, when the area was cementing its rep as the ultimate resort town, the wealthy called on the best architects of the time to build their holiday homes. Flush with cash and inspired by the desert landscape, they created the most stunning, sophisticated homes. Many of the mid-century modern homes are still standing – to see them, sign up for a tour with the Palm Springs Mod Squad. They’ll drive you around to gems like Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway and Leonardo DiCaprio’s house, while you plot how to make one of those dreamy houses yours one day.
Get up close – but not too close! – to cacti
Addicted to succulents? Set aside an hour or two for the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium. A must-visit for plant lovers, it’s brimming with thousands of cacti, succulents and desert plants in full bloom.
If animals are more your thing, trade the garden for The Living Desert Zoo. A short drive from Palm Springs, it’s home to over 450 wild animals from North America and Africa – think giraffes, camels, tortoises, leopards and gazelles. As a bonus, between 9.30am-2.30pm most days, you can feed the giraffes.
See the Springs from the sky
Can’t be bothered walking? Tour Palm Springs from the sky. For a bird’s eye view of the desert and its dramatic natural scenery, catch a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a rotating cable car (the largest of its kind in the world) that hugs the canyon all the way up to Mt Jacinto State Park. On the 4km ride – which takes about 10 minutes – you’ll see the Coachella Valley in all its glory. At the top of the mountain, there are more panoramic views, plus a string of shops and restaurants. It’ll be significantly colder up there, so be sure to layer up! Oh, and if you and the crew can swing an early start, the sunrise from the tramway is next level.
Saddle up at Joshua Tree National Park
Have you ever seen photos of bloggers, pre-Coachella, riding horses in the desert? They’re at the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park. With a day to spare, it’s worth road-tripping out there to check out the sculptures, cactus gardens, and the twisted trees the park is named after. Besides riding horses, you could head to Hidden Valley to climb the rugged rocks, or have a seriously scenic picnic at Keys View Lookout. Stay until sunset to see the sky turn an insane shade of pink.
Stroll down the Palm Springs shopping strip, even if it’s just to window-shop. The town is a treasure trove of thrift and vintage stores, so pop in to The Frippery for boho threads, or Déjà Vu for a piece from Palm Springs’ heyday (think kaftans and slip dresses). When you’re looking for a pressie for mum, try Trina Turk or Mitchells for labels from the 70s, 80s and 90s. For discounted designer clothes, go straight to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, which is stocked with beautiful brands like Rag & Bone, Maje and Celine. The best bit? Since our seasons are different, they’ll still be new by the time summer/winter rolls around back home. #winning
Words by Katia Iervasi.