A Perfect One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary. Like most Irish-Americans, my mother was a ride or die U2 fan. It feels I’ve been listening to the Joshua Tree album since I was a fetus. But who can complain about classics like “With or Without You”, “Where the Streets Have No Name”, or my personal favorite, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”?

So imagine my surprise and delight to find that the Joshua Tree National Park is a real place! Moreover, it’s just an easy trip as part of a one day in Palm Springs itinerary. Come with me, and I’ll show you where the streets really have no name…because they’re in the desert and there are no streets at all.

One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary

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 one day in Palm Springs itinerary. 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.

If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’d rather explore great deals on over 500 hotels in Palm Springs, click here.

One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary

What to Pack

A Perfect One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary 2

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.

A Perfect One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary 3

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!

One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary

One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary

Morning: Joshua Tree National Park

The Joshua Tree National Park is located across two deserts: the Mojave and the Sonoran. It is the best place to go if you want to see the majestic, gnarled, spinivorous Joshua tree plant. And, unfortunately for non-driving me, it is only reachable by motor vehicle. Fortunately for me, Hummer Adventure Tours offers regular excursions from Palm Springs into Joshua Tree National Park.

The tours last five hours and leave early-ish in the morning, so there will still be plenty of time for Palm Springs sightseeing in the afternoon of our One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary. Plus you get to ride around in a real military Hummer, some of which have seen active military service. For a city slicker like me, this was a once-in-a-lifetime treat. Now I won’t give away all the tour’s secrets here. But I’m excited to share with you…

approximately top 5: joshua tree national park edition

1) The San Andreas Fault

As a super cool bonus on the tour, you get to visit the actual legendary San Andreas Fault. The stopping point here is at the third largest oasis in the world. (My photos really don’t do it justice.) You’ve heard that California is a little bit famous for its earthquakes? Well, many blame the San Andreas Fault for that. It is the fault line between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. (This is the second tectonic plate I have featured on this blog, after the one in Iceland.)

The San Andreas Fault is definitely responsible for the famous 1906 earthquake that leveled San Francisco. I recommend bringing a small animal to sacrifice, perhaps a baby goat, to ensure that the fault doesn’t cause any quakes when you are in California.

louis wilhelm house
2) Thousand Palms Oasis Cottage

Our next stop at the San Andreas Fault area was the Thousand Palms Oasis Vistor Center. This center is located in a cabin that used to belong to one of the original settlers of the Thousand Palms Oasis, Paul Wilhelm. His father, Louis Wilhelm, bought the oasis for two mules and a wagon back in 1905. Considering how popular the surrounding Coachella Valley is right now, that seems like a pretty sweet deal to me. I think in the future if anyone ever tries to buy some of my property for two mules and a wagon, I’m going to have an independent appraiser look into the situation.

The cottage has exhibits on the local flora and fauna, so nature lovers will find plenty to appreciate. I liked that the guide at the visitor center let us eat one of the local fruits, which was sticky and sweet like a date. I always like a little mystery fruit on my travels.

Joshua trees joshua tree national park
3) Joshua Tree Time!

At this point, we transferred from our air-conditioned van into the Hummer. It was time to go on a Joshua tree hunt in Joshua Tree National Park! Our guide, whom I shall call The Edge, said that no one knows exactly where the name Joshua tree comes from. However, it’s said that the Mormons called it the Joshua tree as a Biblical reference. It does sort of look like a hand stretching up to heaven, especially if you are a dehydrated Mormon.

The Joshua tree, despite its name, is not actually a tree. It’s actually a member of the agave family. Does that mean you can turn it into a fine mezcal? I’m sure if you can, attendees of the Coachella Music Festival have discovered it already. But the Joshua tree isn’t the only kind of wildlife in Joshua Tree National Park. We also spotted many quail and jackrabbits running all about the desert. It was hard to get a good picture bouncing about in the back of a Hummer, though.

Eureka Peak Joshua Tree National Park
4) Eureka Peak

The highlight of the tour was getting to the top of Eureka Peak. This peak is one of the highest points in Joshua Tree National Park. You get amazing views of the surrounding Yucca Valley. (Keep in mind that it gets a little windy. You can see my skirt poofing up in the picture above.) From up here, it’s easy to forget that the traffic and smog of Los Angeles are a pretty short distance away. For hikers or people who have all day, you can definitely hike the Eureka Peak trail up here. But I prefer to have my military Hummer do the legwork for me!

joshua tree national park
5) Lunch at Frontier Cafe

After the drive back through the park, you’ll switch from the Hummer back to the van. At this point it will be lunchtime, so there’s opportunity to get a snack at the adorable Frontier Cafe. I had their lox bagel, and as a New Yorker I have to say that it was shockingly good for a bagel with fish in the desert in California.

joshua tree

I forgot to take a photo of my California Fish Bagel, so instead I’m tossing in some more random pictures of Joshua trees. You’re welcome, Internet Stranger!

Palm Springs Art Museum

One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary

Afternoon: Palm Springs Art Museum

As I mentioned in my previous post on Palm Springs, the city has more Super Cool Old People per capita than any other. And all those Super Cool Old People need something fun to do in between antiquing and spa sessions. Enter the Palm Springs Art Museum. It is home to a fabulous collection of contemporary art, mid-century modern architecture, and art of the American west. Allow me to make you as hip as a Super Cool Old Person with…

three fun facts: Palm Springs Art Museum

Old Couple on a Bench
1) So What’s an Example of Contemporary Art?

As I was wandering around the museum, I bumped into this pleasant looking old couple sitting on a bench. I assumed they were not locals because though they are old, they are clearly not Super Cool. I apologized to them, but they didn’t answer. At first I was offended. But then I realized they weren’t actually live people. They were Duane Hanson’s appropriately named sculpture, Old Couple on a Bench.

I think one of the points of this piece is to make you think about the people who visit the museum, not just the works of art in the museum. My first reaction was to judge these people for not being glamorous, instead of appreciating them, like I do the other sculptures in the museum.

So what’s the difference between modern art and contemporary art, then? My idea is that if you look at a work and think, “Hmmm…weird. Not sure it’s actually art,” then it’s modern art. But if you look at a work and think, “Ha ha! Weird! But I’m not sure it’s actually art,” it’s contemporary art.

mid century modern architecture
2) What is Mid-Century Modern Architecture?

Mid-Century Modern architecture is a style that was popular from the 1930s to the 1960s. The style is so associated with Palm Springs that there’s an entire section on the Mid-Century Modern wiki page devoted to PS. It can be hard to define the style. I always associate Mid-Century modern with clean lines, curves, and a lot of glass. Basically if it looks like it belongs on The Jetsons, it’s probably Mid-Century Modern.

I was lucky when I was at the Palm Springs Art Museum because there was an exhibit on Mid-Century Modern furniture designer George Montgomery. Dude was not only a furniture maker, he was also an actor, a boxer, and the husband of singing legend Dinah Shore. He starred in movies with titles like “The Cowboy and the Blonde”, “From Hell to Borneo”, and “Guerillas in Pink Lace”. I can only aspire to live a life half as amazing as all that.

picasso angry owl
3) What’s the Most Famous Piece in the Museum?

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was famous for many things: inventing a squarer way of painting people, having a lot of mistresses, drinking heavily in France. But did you know he also inspired the game Angry Birds? Here we have his sculpture Angry Owl. Picasso apparently loved owls and kept one as a pet. If Picasso loved owls so much, why did he make this one look so cranky? And why did he turn the owl’s head upside down. That’s probably what made it made, Pablo! Put its head on the right way, and maybe that owl will smile again.

One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary

Evening: Dinner at Tropicale

How can a trip to Palm Springs be complete without a giant, splashy dinner at a piano bar that serves cocktails the size of your head? Answer: it cannot. So allow me to escort you to Tropicale, which will make you feel like you’ve stepped into that scene in Goodfellas where Ray Liotta takes Lorraine Bracco to the Copa.

It was a little tricky to figure out what the theme was for the menu at the Tropicale, but my best guess is “things people would have liked to eat at a restaurant in the 1960s”. So you have fancy cocktails, Asian-influences apps, and classic American main courses. I feasted on all three!

tropicale cocktail

24 Hour Treat: Seasonal Sangria

Do you remember how I said the cocktails at Tropicale were the size of your head? Well, that was not a joke, but a very real statement of fact. Tropicale always features a different seasonal sangria on the menu. That’s a little hilarious to me because it’s in Palm Springs, which doesn’t have seasons. But let’s pretend that it was a proper New England autumn when I visited, and so my apple sangria was seasonally appropriate.

In any case, it was delicious enough that I drank the whole thing. That’s quite a compliment, considering this sangria was big enough to fill Frank Sinatra’s swimming pool.

spring rolls

One rule I almost always follow at restaurants is to alternate light courses with heavy courses. I knew I wanted something substantial for my main, so for an appetizer, I opted for these light Vietnamese spring rolls. They look like they’re wrapped in lettuce, but it’s just the way the green from the filling kind of shines through the rice paper wrapping.

I prefer Vietnamese spring rolls to fried spring rolls because they are so cool and light. They actually taste like spring! Restaurants should call the fried kind winter rolls. Although this doesn’t make that much difference in Palm Springs because there is no spring or winter.

fried chicken

24 Hour Treat: Fried Chicken

It’s rare to find a restaurant that will serve you Vietnamese spring rolls, fried chicken with collard greens, and a fat-baby-sized sangria in the same meal. But Tropicale is a real blast from the past in that way. The fried chicken was as moist as the dulcet tones of Dean Martin as he slurs his way through the lyrics of “Volare”. Unfortunately the portion was so large that for the first time in my life, I did not save room for dessert. I guess the sangria as big as Joey Bishop can count as my dessert.

That’s a Perfect One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary!

What would you do with a One Day in Palm Springs Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Palm Springs right now? Can you live with or without the Joshua Tree National Park? And is that sangria the biggest you’ve ever seen, yes or yes? 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 enjoy a one day in Palm Springs itinerary. If you have time for another one day in Palm Springs itinerary, try this one!

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