Located in the Sonoran desert of Southern California at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, Palm Springs has attracted visitors for generations. 

First, the Cahuilla Indians were drawn to the region for its plentiful shade and water (including the hot springs that give the city its name). Later, it became a popular retreat for movie stars who sought to escape the spotlight of Los Angeles but were bound by contracts to remain within a two-hour drive of the studios. Since then, the city’s laid-back vibe has enticed sun-seekers, snowbirds and celebrities for a century. 

Today, Palm Springs is one of the nine cities that make up the Greater Palm Springs area, and it’s surrounded by scenic mountain ranges and clusters of palm trees. Whether you’re craving outdoor adventure in the Mesa neighborhood or vintage shopping at the Uptown Design District, you’ll find both restaurants and lodging to inspire your stay. 

Wondering about the best neighborhoods to visit in Greater Palm Springs? Here’s our guide to the places not to miss.

Palm Springs lounging
Retreating in the pool is easy to do in the desert oasis of Palm Springs © MECKY / Getty Images

Uptown Design District

Best for art lovers and vintage shoppers

If you’re up for some retail therapy, this neighborhood along North Palm Canyon Drive is bustling with an array of stores, from those that sell home furnishings to art galleries and clothing boutiques. 

The Design District is also the center of the vintage universe in Palm Springs. Check out The Shops at 1345, a unique collective of 14 shops and galleries in a building that was designed by E. Stewart Williams. Discover a treasure trove of creativity, such as Double M Pottery, where artist Mary McDonald sells pots and other ceramic items that were created at her home studio in Laguna Beach.  

After a day of serious shopping, check into the cozy Alcazar Hotel, a fashionable property located in the heart of the Uptown Design District. 

The neighborhood really comes alive at night, and you’ll have your pick of bars and restaurants that serve up creative cuisine. You won’t have to venture far for a meal at Birba, where you can dine on the outdoor patio and enjoy a meal of wood-fired pizza and a handcrafted cocktail on their tree-filled patio. 

If your four-legged companion has made the traveling team, be sure to check out Boozehounds, a relatively new addition to the restaurant scene that features its own food menu just for dogs.

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The Mesa

Best for enjoying nature or being a recluse

Tucked into the hillside of the San Jacinto Mountains, the Mesa is one of the quietest neighborhoods in Palm Springs. A mix of architectural styles that include native adobe, Spanish-inspired and mid-century modern, its former residents include Rita Hayworth, Natalie Wood and Barry Manilow. This is strictly a residential neighborhood with the exception of Moorten Botanical Gardens, which was founded by the desert’s first horticulturalist. As you enter this garden filled with succulents, keep an eye out for Cactus Castle, the family home.

If you’re in the mood for adventure, book the Murray Canyon trail ride at Smoke Tree Stables, where you’ll be guided along streams and native palm groves in the scenic Indian Canyons. Treat yourself to a steak dinner at Mr. Lyon’s, and then make your way to the back of the restaurant, where you’ll encounter Seymour’s, a not-so-secret speakeasy with an eclectic design aesthetic. Indulge your inner hermit at Villa Royale, an adults-only hideaway that strikes just the right note of peace and relaxation. Be sure to have a cocktail at Del Rey, the hotel’s on-site bar and tapas restaurant.

Elvis and Priscilla’s honeymoon hideaway built in modernist architectural style
Palm Springs has a number of architectural wonders, including the former home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley © Mark Read / Lonely Planet

Deepwell Estates

Best for mid-century modern architecture fans

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Palm Springs and named after the deepest well in the Coachella Valley when it was drilled in 1926, Deepwell Estates has a large concentration of mid-century modern homes. As you stroll through the neighborhood, you’ll notice that it's filled with joggers and dog walkers admiring the majestic mountain views. Among the 376 homes and 19 Biltmore houses in this residential community is the former William Holden estate, which is considered among the most architecturally-significant. The Leo Koerner residence is a perfect example of desert modernism, which is characterized by elements that are suitable to the desert climate and lifestyle.

For a deeper dive into mid-century architecture and design, plan to attend the annual Modernism Week in February 2022. An 11-day festival that packs in over 350 events including architectural walking tours of iconic homes, a classic car show and nightly parties, you’ll find some of the homes in Deepwell Estates. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the ‘60s, head over to the Purple Room, the desert’s premier supper club. Tucked inside the Trinidad Hotel, this is where the sophistication and glamour of the Rat Pack era comes alive. Don’t be surprised if you’re seated next to a celebrity—this is Palm Springs, after all.


Best for those who want to be in the center of the action

On any weekend night, being in the center of the action is as easy as hopping in your car and cruising down Palm Canyon Drive. But there’s plenty of reason to stop nowadays, and at the top of the list should be a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum, where you can browse modern works by Picasso, Warhol, and Lichtenstein. Slide into a booth at Johnny Costa’s Ristorante, where Frank Sinatra was once a regular, and order the Steak Sinatra with linguine and clams, which was a favorite of Ol’ Blue Eyes. 

Don’t miss VillageFest, a lively street fair that occurs downtown on Thursday evenings through the year, where you can shop for handmade crafts, enjoy live music, and grab a bite to eat from one of the food vendors. For a special treat, dine on breakfast dishes at Farm, a delightful French bistro. Savor crepes or a variety of egg dishes such as a Parisienne omelette, and pair it with a signature cocktail. We recommend La Mure, which is made with house-infused strawberry mint gin. 

Indio sunset
Indio is well-known for Coachella and Stagecoach, but has other highlights like a beer garden and family-owned eateries © Gregory Cavaluzzo / Lonely Planet


Best for live music lovers and foodies

Located a short jaunt down the 10 Freeway, the city of Indio is perhaps best known as the home of Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals. But there are many reasons to visit any other time of year, and in the spring when the Empire Polo Grounds aren’t in use for the festivals you can watch weekly polo matches. Founded as a railroad town in 1876, Indio evolved into an agricultural region and was the first city in the Coachella Valley to be incorporated. Dubbed the City of Festivals, it also hosts the International Tamale Festival every December, where you can sample creative flavors such as chocolate cherry tamales. 

In the downtown area you’ll find the Indio Food Park & Beer Garden, a locally-owned and operated food truck and pop-up vendor park. Raise a chavela to the spirit of entrepreneurship in this new addition to the neighborhood. Indio is also known as the date capital of the world, so a visit here wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Shield’s Date Garden, which has been in existence since 1924. Famous for its date shakes, you can also dine on the outdoor patio. After your meal, take a walk on the trail that winds its way around date groves and citrus trees.

Rancho Mirage

Best for those with a taste for luxury

Several past US presidents, including Gerald Ford and Barack Obama, have sought solace in the city of Rancho Mirage, which has earned it the nickname “playground of presidents.” Maybe it’s because of the wealth of activities that appeal to both the young and young-at-heart, such as the city’s new state-of-the-art observatory. Book a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, which is perched above the valley and offers spectacular views from The Edge Steakhouse. Afterwards, enjoy a stargazing session with the resident astronomer or roast s’mores over the firepits that are sprinkled throughout the property.

Lucille Ball was the first Honorary Mayor of Rancho Mirage, and in the late 1960s Bob Hope donated more than 80 acres of his personal land to the city, to build what is today the Eisenhower Medical Center. Be sure to visit Sunnylands Center and Gardens, which was founded as the Annenberg Estate and was a popular retreat among Hollywood’s elite, including Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire. Visitors can tour the historic Sunnylands, and then wander around the lushly-landscaped grounds.

Shopping in Palm Springs
Palm Desert has a range of shopping to enjoy, from farmers markets to clothing boutiques © David Roth / Getty Images

Palm Desert

Best for shopping and outdoor delights

Give your credit cards a workout at Palm Desert’s tree-lined El Paseo Shopping District, which is often referred to as the Rodeo Drive of the Desert. You’ll find a selection of upscale stores and boutiques here, as well as La Fe, an intimate wine bar on the east end of El Paseo that also serves a selection of small plates. The annual Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival occurs in March, where you have the opportunity to book a cooking demonstration with a celebrity chef. Just a few minutes down the road from El Paseo is the Cork Tree, a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Known for its upscale California cuisine that is complemented by an extensive wine list featuring California wines, this is a romantic and intimate spot. 

Palm Desert isn’t just trendsetting shops and restaurants, however – it is also home to the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, which specializes in the deserts of the world. Feed a giraffe, mimic a meerkat, frolic with goats and watch the cheetahs run around this desert oasis, as over 150 different animal species are represented here. The botanical gardens feature three nature and hiking trails, where you can immerse yourself in nature and then check out the interactive Discovery Center.

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