Located about a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles, Palm Springs serves as a popular weekend getaway for Southern Californians, as well as a relaxing destination for tourists looking for vintage vibes and desert adventures. With three days, you can explore the full range of attractions and activities this sunny locale has to offer. Here’s how to make the most of your time.
Day 1: Explore the City
Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway high up into the San Jacinto Mountains inside a revolving gondola. The temperature in the mountains can be up to 40℉ (4℃) cooler, making this a great escape from the desert heat. Up top you can hike, picnic, or just enjoy the views of Mount San Jacinto State Park and the surrounding wilderness. Winter activities include tobogganing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. In the afternoon, take a guided tour of Palm Springs’ celebrity homes, including the former residences of Marilyn Monroe, Nat King Cole, and Elvis Presley, and learn about the area’s history along the way. Alternately, ride the aerial tram in the evening hours, followed by dinner at the restaurant located at the top.
Day 2: Head Into the Desert
Now that you’ve seen those endless skies and the ever-changing rugged landscape from the tram, head farther afield to Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. (Get an early start in the summer to beat the heat.) Alternatively, stay closer to town and hike into the scenic Indian Canyons, ancestral home of the Cahuilla tribes; bring your swimsuit in case the streams are running. Those interested in geology can venture to the San Andreas Fault, and adventurous travelers can bike along the faultline on a guided cycling tour. In the evening, take advantage of the lack of city lights to view stars in the dark desert sky. With the help of a telescope and your guide, you’ll learn how to spot celestial objects like a pro.
Day 3: Day-Tripping
On your final day, head about 1.5 hours out of town to Temecula, taking in views of the Syrah- and Tempranillo-vine-covered countryside along the way. Once there, visit a series of wineries, sampling some of Southern California’s best wines, including the popular almond-infused sparkling wine. Book a guided tour with round-trip transportation for added convenience. Another easily accessible day trip option, the Salton Sea (which is twice as salty as the Pacific) is a little more than an hour away from Palm Springs. Outdoor activities like boating (boats float better here because of the salt content) and fishing are the main attractions, as well as bird-watching, and the colorful outdoor art installation Salvation Mountain is located nearby.