Palm Springs Guide: 8 Steps to an Awesome SoCal Day

Palm Springs Guide from HeadRoam
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This Palm Springs Guide is for you if you saw the “City Guide: A Great Day in Palm Springs” video featured on the Jumprope app:

And here’s a quick overview of what we’re going to look at in a little more depth. Feel free to jump directly to a particular tour stop that piques your fancy.

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 1, Getting There

A few years back, I came to Palm Springs to visit a friend. While he was working, I decided to see what I could reasonably get out of the city in a day.

It’s wonderfully walkable, so the first thing you want to do is park. Fortunately, that’s free. Just go to 235 South Indian Canyon Dr.

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Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 2, Fountains!!

Once you’ve parked and emerged into the sunlight, and pretty much as soon as you start walking, you’ll see a number of very lovely fountains. You are, after all, in a desert.

And bless my stars, who is that right here on South Canyon? Why, it’s Mr. Sonny Bono, one-time mayor, one-time Cher husband, and now SO ready for a selfie with you, my friend.

palm springs guide: the sonny bono statue in downtown palm springsPin

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 3, MidMod and Classic California Details

Continue to stroll, keeping your eyes peeled not just for the many cool fountains—there are more in the video above—but for many, many lovely MidMod/Classic California details.

Chase Bank, at 499 S Palm Canyon Dr., is frequented by a certain Miss Judy Jetson. Ok, not really, but…if she were real, she would totally bank here.

palm springs guide: The iconic MidMod Chase Bank in Palm Springs, on 499 S. Canyon.Pin

Or palm trees with hula skirts….

Palm Springs, with its unique hula skirt treesPin

When you keep your eyes open, you find little visual amuses bouches all over the place. Alas, I didn’t note where this is. Do you know? Please leave a comment!

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Need a chilled out, stroll-friendly break, heavy on MidMod architecture and design? Check out our Palm Springs Guide: 8 Steps to an Awesome SoCal Day. Click To Tweet

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 4, P.S. Museum Architecture and Design Center

First off, the Palm Springs Museum Architecture and Design Center is housed in a super cool building, straight out of the Mad Men L.A. sequences. The docent explained that the building had been a bank, restored to truly dazzling midmod glory. At the time of my visit, the main exhibit featured reusing materials—saris, in the case of these works by artist Christina Kim.

palm springs guide: The Palm Springs Museum Architecture and Design Center. Artist: Christina KimPin

I loved the details in Kim’s work.

palm springs guide: The Palm Springs Museum Architecture and Design Center. Artist: Christina KimPin
palm springs guide: The Palm Springs Museum Architecture and Design Center. Artist: Christina KimPin

Naturally, the museum has an awesome gift shop.

palm springs guide: The superb gift shop of the Palm Springs Museum Architecture and Design CenterPin

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 5, Shopping High and Low

Palm Springs is, of course, all about shopping. I was pretty enamored of the H3K Design store across from the museum…..

palm springs guide: H3K designPin

Then again, how can you dispute the glorious kitsch for sale at Just Fabulous Palm Springs?

palm springs guide: Just Fabulous Palm SpringsPin

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 6, Refuel

There is no lack of great food in Palm Springs. I went, on my friend’s reco, with Peppers Thai, which bills itself as “authentic Thai home cooking,” and is very tasty. Still, if that’s doesn’t tickle your fancy, rest assured you will eat well and as healthy or un- or in-between as you want in P.S.

palm springs guide: Peppers Thai, one of our favorite spots to grab a bite in downtown Palm SpringsPin

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 7, the Palm Springs Art Museum

The big highlight for any contemporary art lover is the Palm Springs Art Museum. (If you go to the Architecture Design Center, the $5 you pay to get in there is deducted from your ticket here.) It’s massive…

palm springs guide: The Palm Springs Museum Pin

…and a genuine treasure inside. First stop was the downstairs gallery, which featured some pretty swell contemporary work for sale, including this painted tansu from artist Georg James, apparently a Japanese version of a credenza.

palm springs guide: art from Georg James at The Palm Springs Museum Pin

Titled “The Fox and Persimmon Tansu.” Mr. James has created some of the most amazing trompe l’oeil I’ve seen. I mean, those aren’t drawers. That’s a painted flat surface.

palm springs guide: detail of art from Georg James at The Palm Springs Museum Pin

The gallery is flanked by two separate sculpture gardens. My favorite, the Elrod, could charm the most manic Type A into a puddle of bliss.

palm springs guide: the peaceful Elrod sculpture garden at The Palm Springs Museum Pin

At the time of my visit (late 2018), the current main floor exhibit was “Unsettled: Art on the New Frontier.” Dealing with colonialization, displacement of indigenous people, and American mythology as relating to both, it included this piece, “Erasing the Border.” By Mexican artist Ana Teresa Fernández, it was a joy to behold, big and powerful, and accompanied by a film where a woman dressed like the one in the picture paints over a fence.

palm springs guide: "Erasing the Border" art from Ana Teresa Fernández at The Palm Springs Museum Pin

On the second floor, you may, like me, stop in my tracks.

palm springs guide: epic Dale Chihully glass art at The Palm Springs Museum Pin

I’m not a Chihuly fan. I just don’t feel all that yellow. But seeing this piece in a midmod setting—be still, my heart.

If all Chihuly pieces were displayed singly and against this type of architecture, I’d be a big old fan.

It’s also a delight to see a work from Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed. I’d seen one of his works at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.

palm springs guide: "melting carpet" art from Faig Ahmed at The Palm Springs Museum Pin

He creates a carpet design, manipulates it in Photoshop so that it looks like it’s melting, then has weavers reproduce the new version.

palm springs guide: "melting carpet" art from Faig Ahmed at The Palm Springs Museum, detailPin

It’s like a waterfall of color, and such a fresh way to visualize this ancient art form getting poured into the 21st century.

palm springs guide: "melting carpet" art from Faig Ahmed at The Palm Springs Museum, detailPin
Our favorite destination to check out MidMod architecture and contemporary art: Palm Springs, with one of the coolest art museums in the western U.S. Check out our Palm Springs Guide: 8 Steps to an Awesome SoCal Day. Click To Tweet

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Step 8, the DIY MidMod Walking Tour

It’s finally time to pick up your car and head to a residential neighborhood and just walk and take pictures. My friend lives in the Vista Norte Victoria Park area, and it’s a great one for a quiet, insanely photogenic stroll under blue skies that look Photoshopped. But nope. They’re just that blue.

palm-springs guide: walking tour highlights in Vista NortePin

House after house is a variation on the themes of straight lines and color pops…

palm-springs guide: walking tour highlights in Vista NortePin

My friend lives in the same neighborhood as the house Sammy Davis Junior had built for himself. It’s an easy walk from the Racquet Ball Club, one Mr. Davis could stumble down when drunk off his butt. (That, btw, is not gossip but an actual directive from Mr. Davis to his builders.)

palm-springs guide: walking tour highlights in Vista NortePin

Palm Springs Guide for a Day Trip: Conclusion

Appreciate Palm Springs at a saunter; it’s not for the power sightseer. Just suck up that bone dry, crisp blue air, feast your eyes on the surreality of it, and realize that sometimes, staying on the surface is the best way to swim. Especially when the surface shimmers like this one.

palm springs guide: turbines as you leave the cityPin

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading our Palm Springs Guide. Tell us about your PS favorites. Take pictures, tag me on insta and twitter (@headroamer), #mustseePalmSprings. And let me know what you love about this place in the comments. And for more updates on US, European, and Latin American travel, as well as lots of posts on how to travel without leaving home, we’d be thrilled if you’d subscribe to the Head Roam newsletter. Feel free to share this post to your social networks as well.

Happy trails!

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About Me

Welcome to Head Roam! I’m Nan Bauer. Join me in rethinking travel in the world we live in now. Learn more about how I got here.

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