Known as Hollywood’s playground, Palm Springs is full of ritzy hotels, excellent shopping along Palm Canyon Drive and stunning mountain backdrops. The SoCal city also has the world’s highest concentration of mid-century architecture, which is celebrated during Modernism Week (February 14 to 24, 2019). Here’s how to experience this glamorous desert city for less.
1. Attend Modernism Week Events
This 11-day festival showcases Palm Springs’ mid-century and modern architecture and design. While tickets to galas can run up to US$250, many events run around US$10. These include author and architect talks, exhibitions, and a walk through a full-sized replica of a Paul Rudolph-designed Florida beach house. For US$30, you can take a tour of one of Modernism Week’s five featured homes, including the the 1958 glass-walled Green Gables. There are also free offerings such as movie screenings, vintage car shows and architecture-focused bike rides. All events are ticketed, so reserve in advance.
2. Stay at the Infusion Beach Club hotel
Located in Uptown Palm Springs, Infusion Beach Club re-opened in 2018 after a two-year major renovation and rebranding. Each of the 62 rustic, modern rooms feature an eating area, leather furniture, fridge and king or queen-sized beds. But the real highlight is the 5,500 square-foot pool area, with mountain views, quirky murals, cabanas and weekly outdoor movies. Other amenities include wine tastings, bike rentals, musical performances and a photo booth made from a retro Coca-Cola vending machine. Rooms start at US$75/night.
3. Eat For Less
Start the day with breakfast at Cheeky’s where a bacon flight costs US$7 and includes five flavours ranging from jalapeño to apple cinnamon. The happy hour menu at Lulu California Bistro starts at 11 a.m. so sidle up to the bar and lunch on fish tacos, Kobe beef burgers or a lobster quesadilla for under US$10. For supper, head to the Parker Palm Springs hotel and find its Counter Reformation speakeasy. The medieval-esque space serves almost 20 types of wine by the glass (US$7 for a three-ounce pour) and small plates like foie gras macaron or Jamón Ibérico for between US$10 and US$16.
4. Go Hiking at Whitewater Preserve
Outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts will love Whitewater Preserve, located 25 minutes north of Palm Springs. The 2,851-acre park has cliffs where bighorn sheep frolic, unbelievably clear waters full of trout, sand dunes that are home to endangered lizards and more than 217 bird species. Self-guided hikes include the moderate 3.5-mile Canyon View Loop Trail and sections of the California-spanning Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. And, don’t miss the preserve’s free programs, which include bird walks and stargazing events.
5. Check Out VillageFest for Free
Mingle at this free, weekly community street party. Every Thursday night (from 6 to 10 p.m. in February), a stretch of Palm Canyon Drive opens up to pedestrians with more than 180 stalls flanking the street. There are local treats—try a date shake or handmade tamales—and mid-century-inspired homeware, the event has street performers and is steps away from the Palm Springs Art Museum, which also has free entrance on Thursdays.
Unusual Desert Attractions Around Palm Springs
Greater Palm Springs, and the surrounding area, is a luxurious retreat for sun-seekers, but these oddball attractions offer a glimpse into the eccentricities of desert culture. Visit a creationist museum inside a dinosaur or a dome created from plans allegedly delivered by aliens.