Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Palm Springs! What would make someone choose to spend 24 hours in Palm Springs? As a happily single lady who lives in New York City, I sometimes like to daydream about where I would like to spend my winters once I retire. It needs to be someplace warm year-round. It needs to have a thriving cultural scene so I don’t get bored. (I have no interest in learning to play canasta.) Also it needs to be somewhere glamorous. That way I feel like a chic grande dame, not a sad cat lady.
Well, I’m happy to report that Palm Springs, California is the perfect destination for a sophisticated winter home. But you don’t need to be an Old Person to enjoy 24 hours in Palm Springs! Come with me, and let’s live it up Frank Sinatra-style! Or at the very least, Sonny Bono-style.
24 Hours in Palm Springs
Where to Stay?
For some destinations, I recommend staying in the cheapest possible hotel that’s still decent. But that’s not the case for the 24 hours in Palm Springs. You’re going to want to stay in the chicest and most glamorous place you can possibly afford. For me, that was the Alcazar. It has a tasty breakfast every morning, comfortable rooms, and most importantly, a great pool where you can relax all day if you so choose.
24 Hours in Palm Springs
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Palm Springs is usually sunny, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in Palm Springs
Morning: Palm Canyon Food Tour
Before I spent my 24 hours in Palm Springs, it did not occur to me that there would be a food tour there. I thought the only foods you could find in Palm Springs would be dates fresh from the trees and martinis like the Rat Pack used to drink.
So I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Desert Tasty Tours’ Palm Canyon food tour. I could enjoy some chic local eats, maybe even do a little food shopping, and learn why Sonny Bono didn’t like spring break. I don’t want to spoil all the food tour’s secrets, just whet your appetite with…
approximately top 5: 24 Hours in Palm Springs food tour
1) Kaiser Grille
Our first stop on the food tour was the upscale local favorite, the Kaiser Grille. Our first tasting was one of the largest on the tour: a scrumptiously bovine sandwich with blue cheese on focaccia with a rich dipping sauce. Palm Springs is hot and dry year-round. In fact it’s so hot, many tourist attractions like this food tour don’t even operate during the summer because temperatures greatly exceed 100 degrees.
So I was surprised to find a hearty snack like this available. But I suppose if you live in Palm Springs all the time, you get used to the weather. And really a life without blue cheese and beef is not worth living, IMO.
We also got a glass of wine with the sandwich. Normally you could choose between red and white, but one woman on the tour only likes dessert wine. The restaurant was happy to accommodate her, which I appreciated. Sometimes at a fancy restaurant, you expect the servers to respond to a request like this by throwing the dessert wine in the woman’s face and saying, “I SAID GOOD DAY, MA’AM!”
2) Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt
Now this is more like my idea of California eating! Tutti Frutti is a local chain of all-natural frozen yogurts and smoothies! The fro yo is all made with Greek yogurt and real fruit. We got to sample a million different kinds of flavors, from apple-banana to pumpkin-chocolate. (I was visiting during the autumn, so there seemed to be a seasonal vibe going on here.)
Plus we even had the chance to slurp down a luscious date shake. I like to think that the dates were plucked fresh from the surrounding Sonoran Desert. (Nobody actually said this was the case. I just like to think it.)
3) Olive A’Sudden
Many food tours take you to at least one specialty food store. There’s usually a discount included, and most people on a food tour like to cook themselves, so they appreciate the savings. On this tour, our food shop stop was at the adorably named Olive A Sudden. The owner was extremely friendly and talked us through their most popular flavors of oils and vinegar. Like almost everyone else in Palm Springs, the owner was a Super Cool Older Person. I only hope to be as cool as the senior residents of Palm Springs once I hit 65.
Everyone on the tour got a small bottle of oil or vinegar included with the price of the tour. (We were able to choose our own flavor.) But the culinary highlight was the truffle salt, which our guide Arnie, also a Super Cool Older Person, made us try. He said it makes scrambled eggs amazing. I can easily believe this because it made the palm of my hand taste amazing. Literally every single person on the food tour bought this truffle salt. Can’t think of a better endorsement than that!
4) Brandini Toffee
If there’s one thing I like as much as truffle salt, it’s candy! And what kind of candy is more delicious than chocolate covered toffee? We found the answer at Brandini Toffee, which was founded by a couple of local kids. They started selling their toffee when they were in high school to pay for a class trip to Italy, like you do.
I guess it was a hit because within a short amount of time, they had their own thriving toffee business. They were even invited to share their toffee on Martha Stewart’s show! Arnie said this appearance was almost a disaster because they were used to making their toffee in the desert climate of Palm Springs. So the first batch of toffee didn’t work because of the humidity. Fortunately, the toffistas figured out how to correct for the difference, and the second batch was a rousing success!
Just like at Olive A Sudden, we didn’t just come here for samples. Each participant on the tour got a little gift bag of toffee to take with. For me, this came in handy on the long bus/train ride I had to San Diego the next day. Gourmet chocolate-covered toffee is a way better lunch than Bus Station Sandwiches.
5) Bill’s Pizza
As a New Yorker, I don’t always love eating pizza when I travel to other parts of the United States. I’m much more likely to enjoy weird regional varieties like Chicago deep dish or St. Louis’s oddball squares. But most attempts to recreate NYC slices fall flat to me. Bill’s Pizza was an excellent example of what I think of as California style pizza. (Thin crust to avoid too many cards. Wacky flavors.)
We sampled the wonderful Elton John pizza. It was made with an authentic Italian crust, artichoke hearts, and feta cheese imported from France. Sadly the pizza refused to sing even one chorus from “Benny and the Jets”. I couldn’t help but wonder where the names of the other types of pizza came from. For example, why was there a pizza called Hammer & Sickle? Was the pizza advocating for common ownership of the means of production? Or was it doused with that popular Soviet soft drink kvas? I still haven’t received an answer.
6) Village Pub
So our last stop featured a California take on a New York specialty. But our next stop showcases a California classic, the fish taco. All of my friends from Cali who live in NYC like to fun on the fact that New York City Mexican food is…not great. So even though Palm Springs is in the desert, it still serves up a better fish taco than anything I can find in my hometown.
We got ours at The Village Pub. Arnie (no relation to Arnold Schwarzenegger) said that this place gets crazy busy at night, but for lunch on a weekday, we had it pretty much all to ourselves. The Village Pub prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive to all communities. They say that if you don’t find your country’s flag on their wall, they will add it! I wonder if that would include the flag of one’s Hogwarts house…
7) Lulu California Bistro
What’s a seven-course food tour without a little dessert at the end? How about a decadent chocolate brownie at Lulu California Bistro? According to its website, Lulu’s is the best restaurant in Palm Springs. Tragically, I have not eaten at every restaurant in Palm Springs, but Lulu’s was packed even at lunchtime on an autumn weekday, so that’s generally a good sign. It is owned by Super Cool Older People Barbara and Jerry Keller.
As yummerific as the brownie was, I enjoyed the decor just as much as the food. Looking at all the murals of classic movie stars and the early 1960s Jetsons-style furniture, I felt like a young Shirley MacLaine, which is one of my top 5 ways to feel.
24 Hours in Palm Springs
Afternoon: Explore Palm Springs
Now that we’ve had the food tour, I think Arnie (no relation to Arnold Palmer) has given us enough information to explore the town on our own. Palm Springs has enough cool stores, quirky museums, and fascinating architecture to entertain a small army. Definitely give yourself enough time to fully explore Palm Springs without a guidebook because you never know what random treasures you’ll find. But I’ll get you started with…
approximately top 5: 24 hours in Palm Springs
After dining at Lulu, I was desperate to get my hands on some mid-century modern swag for my apartment. One of the best places in Palm Springs to get some home furnishings that’ll make your apartment look like Sammy Davis Jr’s bachelor pad is Destination Palm Springs. I got this adorable lamp. pictured above, there, and they were very accommodating and shipped it to my house for me. It looks like something you could find in the opening credits for Mad Men, which is one of the top 5 ways I like for my apartment to look.
At one point, the shopping had to get put on pause because there was a giant parade coming down the middle of Palm Springs. I don’t know what it was for, but it was exciting to see so many people who live in Palm Springs and are still under the age of 65.
2) Palm Springs Walk of Stars
Because of its close proximity to Los Angeles, Palm Springs has long been a place for the glitterati to get away when the weather in LA dips to a frigid 68 degrees. In fact, I first learned about Palm Springs from an episode of the cult classic TV show The Comeback. Sitcom actress/reality TV star Valerie Cherish comes here to get away from it all…and ends up confronted by fans, younger actresses in bikinis, and guys who won’t stop screaming into their phones. (Just FYI, if you don’t like The Comeback, I’m not sure we can be friends, Internet Stranger!)
Anyway, there are many examples of the relationship between LA and Palm Springs all over the town. The most prominent example is the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. You can find anyone from Natalie Wood to Grace and Frankie star Lily Tomlin. I’m always careful when walking down the street with stars on it because I think if I walk on the star of a dead person, their ghost will haunt me.
One of the celebrities most associated with Palm Springs is Mr. Cher himself. That’s right, it’s former Mayor of Palm Springs, Sonny Bono. Bono is famous for kicking the obnoxious spring breakers out of Palm Springs because they were scaring the Super Cool Old People. Instead he brought in things like cultural events and film festivals. Now Palm Springs is a popular and chic destination for everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to President Obama to yours truly.
I hope Mayor Sonny doesn’t mind that I took his picture. I feel like if his ghost got mad and tried to haunt me, it would just involve playing “I Got You Babe” to wake me up every morning and that sounds really annoying.
3) Palm Springs Historical Society
The big museum in Palm Springs is the outstanding art museum, but we’re going there tomorrow. However, there are plenty of fascinating smaller museums to check out. I liked the Palm Springs Historical Society, which teaches you about how PS became such a popular celebrity destination in the first place. The town started as a stagecoach stop, but didn’t take off until the railroad began to stop here. It became popular as a destination for people who needed to live in a dry climate for their health.
In the 1930s, movie stars began to buy vacation homes here. But even bigger celebrities have been attracted to Palm Springs. My favorite section of the historical society was a wall of photos showing that every President since Harry S. Truman has visited the city. This got me wondering which of those presidents I would most like to have partied with in Palm Springs. Obama’s the coolest, but Ford is, I believe, the only former male model/president, so it’s a toss-up.
4) Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
The Palm Springs area was inhabited for thousands of years by the Cahuilla people before the city of Palm Springs was founded. The Agua Caliente bank of Cahuilla Indians still live in the area today. If you are interested in learning more about their history and art, visit the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. When I was there, I saw an exhibit on Cahuilla basket weaving. One of their traditions was to weave stories and myths into the baskets. I loved the vivid thunderbolts, birds, and snakes created with nothing but dyed fibers.
The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is currently in the process of moving into a spiffy new home by 2020, so when you visit Palm Springs, I’m sure you’ll have an even better experience. It’s also going to be the only museum I’ve ever heard of with its own Hot Springs bathhouse. That’s one way to get more people to start coming to museums.
5) Frank Sinatra’s House
If I ran up to you on the street and asked you which celebrity you most associate with Palm Springs, you’d probably scream, “AHHHH! GET AWAY FROM ME!” But after I dissuaded you from calling the authorities, you’d most likely say Frank Sinatra. Many people credit Sinatra with making Palm Springs hip and trendy, Daddy-O. He had his own estate built in Palm Springs in the 1940s, and you can go check it out to this day.
Unfortunately, the Frank Sinatra Estate isn’t generally open for tours. The only way you can get inside that I could find is on a private tour, and you need at least a group of 20 to book one. I can’t even think of 20 people I’d like to spend an afternoon with, so that doesn’t work for me. No matter how much I’d like to see…the sink Sinatra cracked with a champagne bottle when he threw it at Ava Gardner. (Yikes! #metoo)
But a great thing to do as the sun sets on your 24 hours in Palm Springs is to pop some Sinatra on the old phone and go for a stroll to see the exterior of the Frank Sinatra Estate for yourself.
This only works if the weather is nice on your 24 hours in Palm Springs in the early evening. (PS. The weather is always nice in Palm Springs in the early evening.)
24 Hours in Palm Springs
Evening: Sandwich and Pool Time
After those giant portions of food with which we stuffed ourselves on the foot tour, you’re probably not going to be in the mood for a big dinner. And what’s more Palm Springs than lounging by the pool? So I suggest stopping at The Sandwich Spot, the coolest sandwich place in PS and picking up a snack for dinner. Just be sure to get there before it closes at 6.
The Sandwich Spot is famous for a few things: fresh bread, wacky toppings, and funny, celebrity-inspired names for its sandwiches. I liked the Dinah, which came with all the major food groups: bacon, avocado, chicken, and cheese. (I recommend getting jack for the added kick.) Also, I chose to have my sammy on a Dutch crunch roll because I had never heard of this kind of bread. Apparently it’s bread coated in a rice flour/sugar paste before you bake it. That way you get a messy, satisfying crackle all over yourself when you bite into your sandwich.
Once you’ve made your sandwich selection, take your goods back to your hotel pool! (I loved my stay at The Alcazar Palm Springs. Its central location was perfect for a non-driver like me.) Those who are shy can eat their sandwich in their room before heading to the pool area for the night. But personally, my favorite way to eat a messy sandwich is in a bikini in front of some aspiring actress and her creepy producer boyfriend.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Palm Springs!
What would you do with 24 hours in Palm Springs? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Palm Springs right now? Why are fish tacos so much better in California? And why is Sonny Bono’s ghost in my kitchen? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Palm Springs. If you have time for another 24 hours in Palm Springs, try this itinerary!