A tourist destination since the late 19th century, Palm Springs evolved into an ideal hideaway for early Hollywood celebrities. They could slip into town, play some tennis, lounge around the pool, attend a party or two, and, unless things got out of hand, remain beyond the reach of gossip columnists. But the place really blossomed in the 1930s after actors Charlie Farrell and Ralph Bellamy bought 200 acres of land for $30 an acre and opened the Palm Springs Racquet Club, which soon listed Ginger Rogers, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable among its members.During its slow, steady growth period from the 1930s to 1970s, the Palm Springs area drew some of the world's most famous architects to design homes for the rich and famous. The collected works, inspired by the mountains and desert sands and notable for the use of glass and indoor-outdoor space, became known as Palm Springs Modernism. The city lost some of its luster in the 1970s as the wealthy moved to newer down-valley, golf-oriented communities. But Palm Springs reinvented itself starting in the 1990s, restoring the bright and airy old mid-century modern houses and hotels, and cultivating a welcoming atmosphere for gay visitors.You'll find reminders of the city's glamorous past in its unique architecture and renovated hotels—for an overview, pick up a copy of Palm Springs: Brief History and Architectural Guide at the Palm Springs Visitor Center—and you'll see change and progress in the trendy restaurants and upscale shops. Formerly exclusive Palm Canyon Drive is now a lively avenue filled with coffeehouses, outdoor cafés, and bars.
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Things You Can't Miss
Glide 2½ miles up the sheer Chino Canyon. Hike — or snowshoe — through the wilderness at the top, or dine at one of two restaurants.
Window-shopping and people-watching will fill an afternoon in the El Paseo Shopping District, with its array of big-name designers, art galleries and boutiques.
Hark back to the days of the Rat Pack on a three-hour driving tour of the stunning mid-century homes of such stars as Frank Sinatra.
At the Living Desert zoo and gardens, take in a palm oasis, a sage and cactus garden, Gila monsters and bighorn sheep. Bring water and a hat; it’s hot!
You have to have at least one Rat Pack experience, so head to Melvyn’s, where Sinatra ate. His favorite dish? Steak Diane.
Desert too hot for a hike or bike tour? Take a great Jeep tour instead with Desert Adventures. A three-hour ride through surreal scenery.
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A lot of hotels in Palm Springs have become nighttime hangouts. If you don’t like the noise, make sure to stay far away from the pool and bar.
Shared Trips to this Destination
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Must Reads Before You Go
Sampling the local cuisine can be an adventure in some countries, but if you aren't up for scorpion or tarantula, there are some delicious alternatives.