Coachella (the three-day music fest) only comes but twice in April, but there are plenty of other reasons to venture east to Coachella (the valley) year-round. Southern California's excuse for winter weather affords us the convenience of mostly-sunny getaways even in the middle of December — and given that the holidays tend to leave us in a state of much-needed relaxation, why not explore the desert as the fest-going masses are still planning their spring escapades?
While Palm Springs promises no shortage of midcentury modern marvels and vintage retail therapy, neighboring cities like Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert are worthwhile destinations if you're looking to explore the desert valley beyond its most popular hot spot. We recently took a weekend road trip with our friends at Chevrolet, who kindly provided their all-terrain 2018 Equinox for us to test-drive. Besides enjoying the compact SUV's WiFi and stylish and spacious interiors, and roomy trunk, we also loved the car's 26 city/32 highway gas mileage that took us to our destination with just one tank.
On that note, we're highlighting some of our favorite places to stay, play, and shop in the three vacay-ready locales — whether you're exploring with the entire fam in tow, going with your S.O., or bringing your coolest crew of friends, see our picks below.
L'Horizon Palm Springs
Before its fashionable facelift in 2015 by renowned interior designer Steve Hermann, this 1952-built property previously hosted stars like Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable during its time as the private retreat of TV producer, hotelier, and oil tycoon Jack Wrather and his movie star wife, Bonita "Bunny" Grantville. Originally designed by legendary architect William F. Cody, the three-acre L'Horizon Palm Springs is now a pristinely manicured 21+ luxury getaway, complete with 25 stylish bungalows and private one-bedroom villas, bathrooms stocked with Le Labo body products, and an infinity edge pool, to name a few amenities. Guests will want to keep their eyes peeled for personalized touches throughout their room, like notepads monogrammed with their initials and a brass door plate engraved with their name.
As far as dining, L'Horizon's upscale So.Pa restaurant promises a menu of globally-influenced dishes and drinks in a luxe alfresco setting. Grab a seat at a table for two or indulge in your meal family-style at the 26-foot live edge communal table, then order up from an elevated menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
L'Horizon's on-site spa also offers luxurious pampering for those seeking to recharge and replenish their body and mind. Expect 60-minute treatments ($185 each) like the Seaweed Wrap, which boosts the lymphatic system and helps to detox the body by infusing it with vitamins and minerals; the Espresso Mud Wrap, which uses black silt clay and volcanic pumice to scrub away impurities and leave the skin smooth; and the Moisture Drench facial, which hydrates the skin with botanical ingredients and keeps it protected from the desert air.
Forgot to pack a bikini and SPF? The hotel's boutique stocks swimwear and resort wear from Mikoh, skincare and apothecary products from Le Labo and Naturophatica, candles from Tom Dixon, and eyewear from Barton Perreira.
Bungalows range from $580 to 1,065 per night and up; get more details and book online here.
L'Horizon Palm Springs, 1050 East Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 92264; (760) 323-1858 or (760) 318-2781
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway & Hikes
After ascending two and a half miles up Mt. San Jacinto, outdoors enthusiasts may want to take full advantage of the state park's picturesque trails. There's something for every skill level here, from the under-one-mile Long Valley Discovery Trail loop and the "moderately strenuous" Desert View Trail (a 1.5-mile loop featuring breathtaking overlook views) to 11-mile round-trip hike to San Jacinto Peak, SoCal's second highest point where a clear day might reveal Catalina Island or even the lights of Vegas from afar. (Be sure to bring plenty of water and food as the heat and elevation can catch up with you even on cooler days.)
Tram tickets are $26 for adults ($24 for seniors 65+) and $17 for children ages 3 to 10; see more options and book online here.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, 92262; (888) 515-8726
Historic Downtown Palm Springs
Home to the flagship of designer Trina Turk (whose colorful approach to fashion is synonymous with Palm Springs), Downtown Palm Springs' stylish corridors of North Palm Canyon and South Indian Canyon Drives are dotted with too many stellar vintage clothing shops, furniture stores, and art galleries to name here. (We'll save that exhaustive retail therapy guide for another time.) On top of Turk's colorful shop, fashion hunters will want to explore The Frippery, a printastic vintage boutique stocked with kaleidoscopic pieces from the '70s through '90s; The Shops at 1345, a collective of 14 boutiques and galleries offering everything from edgy-bohemian tees and nature-inspired sculptural jewelry to poolside-ready dresses made from vintage silk scarves (as well as vintage Moroccan rugs, contemporary paintings, and more home and decor finds).
Seeking home furnishings? Among the latest to join Palm Springs' shopping scene is globally-inspired lifestyle boutique Thick As Thieves, which opened in early 2017 and stocks vintage home furnishings, decor, clothing, jewelry, handmade gifts, and other one-of-a-kind finds "that blend industrial, primitive, modern and global styles." Longtime favorites like celebrity-frequented A La Mod (known for its incredible inventory of statement-making '60s seating, lighting, and decor) and Modernway (beloved for its pristine midcentury modern furnishings) are also worth a visit.
North Palm Canyon and South Indian Canyon Drives between West San Rafael and West Ramon Drives, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Rancho Mirage & Palm Desert
Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa
For those traveling with the fam, this 240-acre resort and spa promises plenty of things to do for grown-ups and kiddos alike. On top of featuring a 27-hole golf course, 25 tennis courts, and five dining options, the 444-room, 22-suite desert oasis offers no shortage of poolside lounging for every type of guest. The kid-friendly Splashtopia water park boasts a lazy river and two 100-foot slides, while those seeking a quieter experience can order up a grapefruit jalapeño margarita or a burger at the adults-only Azure Pool (complete with a hot tub).
Speaking of food, gourmands can choose from an array of classic American, Californian, and Southwest-inspired fare, from chilaquiles and huevos rancheros for breakfast to street tacos (including carnitas, Korean braised short ribs, Thai shrimp, and chicken tinga) for lunch and dinner. Vegetarians will also find a culinary haven here, thanks to options like the egg white scramble bowl for breakfast, the veggie "chicken" burger, and the avocado-portabello burger, to name a few.
This is also the place to go if you're a serious R&R buff: The resort recently revamped its spa menu with innovative desert-inspired treatments that use locally-sourced ingredients, like the Signature Las Palmas Cactus Healing Massage ($185 for 50 min., $235 for 80 min.), which we recently got the opportunity to try. It starts with warm cactus pads (don't worry, they're smoothed and de-needled) that ooze soothing antioxidant-rich gel to nourish the body with detoxing and anti-inflammatory properties, and is finished with a healing oil blend made of sage, arnica, and other indigenous flora to relax the mind.
For the visage, there's the Signature Paradise Lifting and Firming Facial with 3D Stem Cell Rescue and the deep cleansing Nature's Solution Facial, among others; all of which are tailored to your skin type and concerns. There are also a slew of new 50-minute body treatments ($155 and up), like the Organic Desert Date and Wild Honey Buff (a nod to the Coachella Valley's status as the date capital of the world), the Tone and Glow Guava Sugar Scrub, and the Organic Desert Essence Salt Exfoliation (which uses a blend of Dead Sea salts, peppermint, and rosemary to slough away dry skin). Body service enhancements include hot stones, body butter, aromatherapy, and CBD pain relief, to name a few ($10 to $35).
As far as rooms, rates start at $229 to $290; get more details and book online here.
Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, 41000 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage, 92270; (760) 568-2727
JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
Flamingos will greet you as you drive into the massive luxury oasis, which just happens to be the area's largest hotel. Although the 450-acre getaway is in the midst of an over $50 million revamp, guests will hardly notice any hammering — especially when there are gondolas for exploring the hotel's waterways, two golf courses, tennis courts, and a luxurious spa to keep themselves busy. (As if all of that wasn't enough, the resort's not far from the world-renowned Living Desert Zoo & Gardens.)
Speaking of supreme relaxation, the resort's Spa at Desert Springs also has plenty of offerings, including traditional and holistic massages ($80 to $235) and Ayurvedic healing treatments ($165 to $270), like a full-body exfoliating mask infused with herbal oils and the Shirodhara treatment that relaxes and balances the central nervous system, to name a few. Of course, expect a full menu of decadent facials ($90 to $230), many of which use locally-sourced citrus and dates: From an algae-infused hydrating facial to the organic Medjool date-powered resurfacing and regenerative peel, there's an option for every skin type.
The spa also recently added a CBD Herbal Relief Massage to its menu (perfect for winding down from that two-hour-plus drive from LA). We had the opportunity to try the treatment during a recent desert visit and found that tension felt like it melted away on our sore muscles, particularly those in our shoulders and upper back. Those unfamiliar with cannabis products should know that the oil only uses cannabidiol, which is the non-psychoactive substance in the plant that's been proven to relieve inflammation and pain. (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the substance that'll get you high.) And if you're looking to give your visit a superstar upgrade, the spa's VIP suite — complete with its own jacuzzi — is available to host private getaways, bridal showers, and more events.
Rooms start at $209 to $284 and up; get more details and book online here.
JW Marriott Desert Hot Springs Resort & Spa, 74-855 Country Club Dr., Palm Desert, 92260; (760) 341-2211
El Paseo Shopping District
Lined with designer boutiques and contemporary art galleries, El Paseo is nicknamed "the Rodeo Drive of the desert" for a reason. Luxury label lovers will find plenty of retail therapy at classic American brand Ralph Lauren, LA-based eyewear favorite Oliver Peoples, and European fashion houses like Burberry, Gucci, and Bottega Veneta, to name a few.
Local favorites include Candice Held, who's beloved for her high-end resort wear made from colorful vintage scarves; avant-garde fashion boutique Riga, which stocks hard-to-find designers hailing from across the globe; and Grayse, the mother-and-daughter-founded edgy-luxe label known for its embellished womenswear (Marie Gray co-founded luxury knitwear brand St. John, which also has a boutique on El Paseo).
Fashion treasure hunters will want to clear their itinerary (and make room in their travel bag) for the Fine Art of Design, a high-end designer consignment boutique filled with the pre-loved closet castoffs of the desert's ladies who lunch — many of whom have graciously let go of mint-condition pieces from Chanel, Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, Dior, Diane Von Furstenberg, and many other labels across every stylish decade.
Modern art collectors will want to explore Elena Bulatova Fine Art Gallery, where contemporary art enthusiasts will find whimsical pieces from gallery's namesake artist as well as lithographs by Salvador Dali, large-scale paintings by Buma Project, stunning landscapes from esteemed wilderness photographer Rodney Lough Jr., and 3D pop art made from recycled screws by Israel-bred, Cali-based Efi Mashiah, to name just a handful.
Stroll further east on the stylish stretch and you'll find plenty of familiar fashion names at The Gardens on El Paseo. The outdoor shopping center's stylish directory includes Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Vince, Tesla, Brooks Brothers, and Pottery Barn as well as mall stalwarts like Apple, Sephora, Lucky Brand MAC Cosmetics, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and more.
El Paseo Shopping District, El Paseo Drive between Pines to Palms Highway 74 and Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, 92260