- Distance from San Francisco: 107 miles
- Best time: November to May
- Best for: Girl's GetawayRomanticShopping
There is nothing quite like a getaway with a few good girlfriends to fuel the soul, and with its sun, pool scene, spas, and shopping, Palm Springs is tailor-made for quick weekend getaways. The desert oasis is an easy drive from L.A., especially if you time it right (read: avoid I-10 during peak times). And because most of your days are spent around the pool or lounging in a spa, you really don't have to pack much. Downtown Palm Springs offers all you need in terms of nightlife—great restaurants, wine bars and cocktail lounges—and it's all very walkable or a short cab ride to anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite spots to pamper yourselves and bond with your best buds. –By Lesley Balla
Palm Springs Cheat Sheet
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1. Drive to Palm Springs with a bikini on under your dress because the first stop you want to make is the hotel pool to ease into your weekend. You could even head to one in another hotel: There's a fun party scene at the pool at the Riviera, or at the rainbow-hued Saguaro. Grab a few chairs, order a cocktail or two, and enjoy the late desert sun.
2. A lot of people look to Kings Highway at the ACE Hotel for filling breakfast fare, but the modern comfort diner food with a seasonal, artisanal twist is perfect for dinner, too. Poached Pacific sea bass with grilled lemon and toasted local almonds, red wine-braised pot roast, and dynamite roast chicken are just a few standouts. Cocktails, like the La Sancha (gin, grapefruit bitters, lavender, and soda) hit the spot.
3. The action really heats up at the ACE after dark. There's always something going on at the hotel's lobby bar, Amigo Room. Live bands and DJs provide the scene and talented mixologists provide the fuel. Outside, hang out around fire pits or check out the desert night sky from the stargazing deck. Still in that bikini? The pool stays open until 2 am (non-guests pay an entrance fee).
1. Brunch is necessary, so head to Norma's at The Parker. It's secluded and oh-so-stylish, and the patio is one of the best you'll find in this desert. You can get anything from the light and healthy egg-white primavera omelet to the Zillion Dollar Lobster Fritatta—it's actually $100 or $1000, depending on your caviar mood. Spritzy mimosas add to the fun.
2. Linger at The Parker for your spa day—there are fantastic, well-priced packages at PSYC with names like Guilty Pleasures and Motley Mix—and all visitors can lounge at the Deck, a leafy outdoor space and pool, for as long as you want.
3. If you're feeling really lavish, head out to the spa at La Quinta. The beautiful property is its own desert oasis, with flower-strewn patios, tranquil gardens, and a phenomenal spa. Check the website for the current month's offerings. The Spa Rancho Las Palmas is another lovely all-day retreat, with great herbal scrubs, baths, and wraps.
4. Relaxed and rejuvenated, time to do some window (and actual) shopping around the Design District. Start at the legendary shop Trina Turk, then continue around this area, where several newer boutiques and shops have popped up, including Wil Stiles for men's and women's clothing and accessories, Déjà Vu for swoon-worthy vintage frocks, and Bon Vivant for delightful period-piece home decor.
5. Stop for drinks at TRIO, which has a fun cocktail menu and bar snacks (the homemade chips and dip are addictive). Stay for dinner, or head over to Matchbox for wood-fired pizzas and other specialties like green curry mussels and steaks.
1. Take a quick dip in the pool before you check out, and then grab breakfast at Cheeky's, one of the best spots in town. The bacon flight—four different flavors, from vanilla to jalapeno, served side by side—is a tasty (and memorable) way to start. There are also great omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and seasonal specialties.
2. Roam around the shops and galleries at the El Paseo shopping district in Palm Desert, a 25 minute drive from Palm Springs. With more than 50 high-end department stores and boutiques at The Gardens, it's often dubbed the "Rodeo Drive of the desert." There are hundreds of restaurants around, but Sammy's Woodfired Pizza is always a favorite for salads and gourmet pies, or relax on the patio for French-inspired fare at Café des Beaux Arts.
3. If you didn't get enough shopping in, stop at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets on your way back to L.A.
Where to Stay
There's a joke that every hotel in Palm Springs used to be a Holiday Inn. Two of our favorite converted spots are the super colorful Saguaro (rooms from $179/night) and uber-hip Ace Hotel (rooms from $260/night). Both have great pool scenes, good restaurants, and quality service. Check out packages like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" at the Saguaro, which includes really affordable room rates, plus pool bar and spa credits.
For something more exclusive and still in town, there's the celeb-magnet Parker Palm Springs (rooms from $360/night).
When to Go
High season in Palm Springs offers the coolest temps and bigger crowds, usually November to May. Hotel rates are a bit higher, but the town is full of activity, which makes it more fun. Big events that draw people are the Palm Springs International Film Festival (January), and the mega Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in nearby Indio (April).
The temperature during summer months are typically over 100 degrees daily, but it's the best time for finding special weekend packages at a lot of the hotels and resorts. With its deals restaurants, spas, hotels and attractions, Palm Springs Restaurant Week is becoming a big draw in June.
How to Get There
By car from Los Angeles: Palm Springs is about 2 hours from Los Angeles, with light traffic. Take I-10 east to the Highway 111 turnoff to Palm Springs. North Palm Canyon Drive leads you right into town.
By car from San Diego: The trip is about 2 and a half hours from San Diego. Take I-15 north to I-215 and pick up I-10 east.