Celeb Home Tours, Hot Springs, and Art: Why Palm Springs Is a Cultural Hotspot

Nestled within the arid landscapes of Southern California lies a desert oasis where palm trees sway in the breeze, and the sun bathes the earth in a golden glow. This is Palm Springs. Luxurious spas, world-class golf courses, and Hollywood glamour coexist with rugged canyons and ancient hot springs.

My knowledge of Palm Springs is most likely as limited as most Australians who dream of retro-chic hotels and towering palm trees. We conjure up images of desert fashion thanks to Coachella and the mid-century modern-style home Harry Styles and Florence Pugh lived in as Jack and Alice Chambers in Don’t Worry Darling. Our fantasies are not far off from the truth, as I discovered on a recent trip to Palm Springs.

best things to do palm springs
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Cultural Oasis

Palm Springs is more than hotel pools, boutique shopping, and a playground for the rich and famous. I might not have spotted one celebrity during my trip, but I did discover its vibrant arts and culture scene.

The city hosts numerous art festivals throughout the year, such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Palm Springs International ShortFest, and the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Art Party. My trip, unfortunately, didn’t align with any of the festivals, but you can bet I will be back. Instead, I spent an afternoon at the Palm Springs Village Fest, a Thursday night street fair boasting local art, food, fashion, and more.

I spent five hours wandering down the main road of downtown Palm Springs, perusing the stalls, sampling the local cuisine, and discovering local artists. I ate my weight in empanadas and picked up a poster from local artist Nat Reed’s gallery (who has since passed on). His retro-inspired, slightly twisted, surreal tableaus muse over post-war nostalgia and are heavily inspired by mid-century modern aesthetics. Reed is a household name in Palm Springs, having designed posters and covers for Palm Springs Pride and Modernism Week. I was immediately drawn to the colours and styles of the ’50s and ’60s.

Another artist to look out for in Palm Springs is Shag, a modernist artist, designer, and illustrator showcasing Palm Springs’s Hollywood history and famous architecture.

After falling in love with the galleries, I headed to the Palm Springs Art Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of contemporary and modern art and exhibitions featuring local and international artists. Spend an hour or two here to get a snapshot of why Palm Springs is a cultural hotspot.

best things to do palm springs
Photo: Natasha Bazika


Before coming to the desert city, I was aware of its connection to Hollywood, but it wasn’t until I drove around the neighbourhoods that I realised just how significant Palm Springs was to Hollywood.

In the mid-20th century, Palm Springs was an important destination for Hollywood celebrities who sought a glamorous getaway from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. The city’s warm climate, luxurious resorts, and stunning desert landscapes offered an ideal setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley vacationed in Palm Springs. Sinatra’s house is still standing today and can be seen from the street.

Join a self-guided tour with Modern Tours Palm Springs, as I did to find celebrity homes, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s holiday home and the unique abode Elvis Presley honeymooned in. While spotting celebrity homes is definitely a thrill, I found the information blasting from my car speakers was the best part. I learned about the architectural evolution here, from desert modernism to tiki-style homes and Swiss chalets. Yes, Palm Springs is a wild place.

best things to do palm springs
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Culinary Paradise

You can imagine catering for Hollywood is no easy feat. You need something fun, something casual, and something over the top. Palm Springs delivers on all three. Whether it’s a classic haunt Marilyn Monroe was regularly spotted, or a modern eatery injecting new world cuisines into the mix, add these restaurants and bars to your next visit to Palm Springs.

Best for:
 Brunch and Big Groups
Palm Springs takes its day drinking very seriously, whether it’s poolside mojitos or bottomless Bloody Marys at Boozehounds. If you’re on the crawl for a boozy brunch, you can’t beat Boozehounds. It’s one of the only places in town that can fit big groups in its sprawling space encompassing an outdoor patio and stylish dining room. The food is American with international influences. Think Filipino-style chicken.

Colony Club Restaurant
Best for:
Poolside dining
This all-day poolside restaurant is straight out of a movie. Expect patterned walls and chic interiors. While the resort of Palm Springs is scrambling for a spot at brunch, you’ll be lounging poolside, tucking into a well-made omelette in peace. If you’re feeling fancy, there’s also a deviled egg and caviar service.

Best for: Craft cocktails and Latin American cuisine
Maleza is the new kid on the block, dishing Baja-inspired plates—family style. The half chicken is the best dish on the dinner menu. Any of the craft cocktails are worthy, but the Paloma is a must-try. There are also rare mezcals you can try.

best things to do palm springs
Photo: Workshop Kitchen & Bar

Workshop Kitchen & Bar
Best for: Farmers market-driven food
Workshop Kitchen & Bar is the healthy place in town. The dishes are vegetable-forward with locally sourced produce. Expect chilled melon soup and steak au Poivre in a high-end, industrial-style dining room.

The Tropicale
Best for: Happy hour
You can’t help but notice this splashy pink restaurant reminiscent of an Old Havana supper club. The menu is global, from meatballs to rice bowls, and the drinks are cheap during happy hour.

Sherman’s Deli & Bakery
Best for: History and deli sandwiches
This historic little New York-style deli has served the Palm Springs community since the 1950s and is still a prominent figure in society. On any given day, you will find locals, visitors, and even celebs chowing down a classic grilled cheese, a supersized deli sandwich, or an egg salad.

Townie Bagels
Best for: Bagels
The water-boiled bagels are considered the best in Southern California. Fill them with smoked salmon, deli meats, and or a smear of cream cheese.

Mr. Lyons
Best for:
Steak and seafood
Hark back to the Rat Pack days at this glamorous steakhouse. Order a New York Strip with your martini and enjoy the mid-century modern decor and an elegant atmosphere. The signature burger with bacon jam is also a highlight.

Best for:
Bacon and brunch
The busiest place in Palm Springs on a Saturday morning is Cheeky’s. This casual Americal-style hangout is the perfect hangover spot. The bacon flight is world-famous, but the menu also has waffles, big plates of pancakes, and big cups of coffee.

best things to do palm springs
Photo: The Good House

Spa City

They call it Palm Springs for a reason. Hot springs and spas have attracted visitors to the desert for centuries for their healing properties and relaxation. The spa hotels of Palm Springs all offer something different, from private hot tubs filled with natural mineral water to a labyrinth of underground hot springs. Visitors can book massages, facials, and body wraps. There are even spa destinations focused on energy healing sessions and acupuncture practices.

For a unique and memorable experience, visit The Good House Hotel & Spa Desert Hot Springs. Doubling as a stunning vacation rental, this luxury resort was originally built in the 1950s and has been beautifully restored and renovated to offer a modern and sophisticated space that blends classic mid-century modern design with contemporary amenities.

The outdoor space at The Good House is impressive, with a sparkling swimming pool, a hot tub, and a barbecue area for outdoor entertaining. The property is surrounded by lush landscaping, creating a private and secluded oasis in the heart of Palm Springs with a Tuscanesque touch.

For those who travel with a lighter carbon footprint, you’ll be pleased to know The Good House features solar panels, a tankless water heater, and a saltwater pool system designed to reduce the property’s environmental impact. The furnishings and decor are also sourced from sustainable and eco-friendly materials, creating a stylish and sustainable space.

best things to do palm springs
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Joshua Tree National Park

As you drive through the arid landscape of the Mojave Desert, the Joshua trees stand tall like ancient sentinels, beckoning you to enter the otherworldly landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. This breathtaking park is a wonderland of strange rock formations, rugged canyons, and towering Joshua trees, all set against the dramatic backdrop of the desert sky—within a two-hour drive from Palm Springs.

Take a stroll through Hidden Valley, a peaceful oasis surrounded by towering rocks that offer a respite from the heat of the desert. Or challenge yourself with a hike up the steep trail to Ryan Mountain, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding desert.

The Cholla Cactus Gardens are incredible and should not be skipped. Sitting just off the main road, you can walk through the gardens filled with the teddy-bear-like spiky Cholla cactus—creating a surreal and otherworldly scene that is particularly magical at sunrise. Venture a few more minutes up the road and explore Arch Rock, a rock formation named for the natural arch that has been eroded by wind and water over millions of years. It stands out as a unique landmark in the desert landscape and is only a short hike to get up close and personal with this incredible geological feature.

best things to do palm springs
Photo: Natasha Bazika

But Joshua Tree is not just about hiking and climbing. The park is a prime location for stargazing opportunities, with its clear desert skies providing unparalleled views of the Milkyway above. Locals Molli and Tony at Addicted2Wonder offer unforgettable stargazing experiences with military-grade night vision goggles—an experience less than 1% of people will ever have. Tony will share fascinating stories of how our ancestors used the night sky.

Related: Andy Samberg’s ‘Palm Springs’ Is the Modern-Day ‘Groundhog Day’

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