For those in the southern California area, the Palm Springs weekend getaway is always a solid move. The drive is less than two hours, the weather is even warmer, and the slow pace is perfectly relaxing. Bring some single digit SPF and your favorite swim trunks for a guaranteed solid time. If you're outside of California and are visiting the Los Angeles area for a signifiant amount of time, it's 100% worth taking a night or three off from the city lights and driving out to the desert. If done right, it's perfect.
1.) First and foremost, avoid the JW Marriott and Renaissance Hotel like the plague unless your idea of a good time is a knock-off Vegas hotel filled with Tiesto music, fist-pumping, and bad tattoos. A good vacation always starts with a great hotel, so avoid any temptation to book a room at either of these spots, despite what TripAdviser coupon they might be handing out. You'll regret it.
2.) Ace Hotel is also a big name out in the desert, but it's the most hipster of hipster places. It's fine if that's your cup of tea, but if you're into "luxury" more than "Urban Outfitters," the pick in tip #3 is for you.
3.) After vacationing in Palm Springs a few times a year over the last decade and testing out almost every place you can stay, the absolute best resort to vacation at is the La Quinta Resort and Club, especially after its multi-million dollar restoration which turned things up a notch and added another layer of cool to the iconic 1926 landmark. It's the kind of place you'll want to move into and never leave. Beautiful, tasteful, comfortable, well done, amazing staff, and stunning views. In the desert, nothing else competes. Here's a few shots of the place...
4.) At the La Quinta Resort, there are dozens of killer advantages, but an easy one to love is their on-sight tennis club. Even if you're not Andre Agassi, it's a lot of fun to get active and casually play with your partner-in-crime travel companion. There's also a ping pong table at the tennis club for some slightly more relaxed gameplay and a handful of golf courses surrounding the resort for a daily round of 18 or a quick morning driving range session.
5.) If you're looking for wild nights with loud bars or anything even remotely resembling a "club" club, this is probably not the vacation for you. Your best bet when out in Palm Springs is to find a great hotel and wrap yourself in its community and amenities. Leave the car with the valet, avoid day trips for quick bites or shopping breaks, and just soak in the sun by the quiet (and gorgeous) pools, get a quick workout in at the stellar gym, and make a trip or two to the spa. The less time you spend driving aimlessly around town, the more you'll enjoy the trip. This isn't like a major European city where you want to soak in all the different types of cultures, it's the kind of vacation where you want to put comfort and relaxation about all else.
6.) The food at La Quinta Resort and Club is quite frankly, amazing. It's main restaurant, Morgan's, is flat out terrific, and it's snack bar/coffee shop has some of the best stuff around. If you're hungover after drinking too much wine under the desert stars the night before, their breakfast spot has a dozen different eggs benedict variations that will blow your mind. Outside of the resort, Lavender Bistro (make sure to request a seat outside) and Cliffhouse Grill and Bar are good options.
7.) Avoid shopping in Palm Springs. The local mall is terrible, most of the boutiques around town are rather tasteless, and whatever you do, DO NOT STEP FOOT IN THE OUTLET MALL. They might have a few big names---think Prada and Rag & Bone---but the place is always a zoo, the quality of each store is subpar, and if you can afford a trip away from home, you can afford to not save a few bucks by shopping at that place. You're better than that.
8.) When you've reached peak relaxation and your tan is deep, swap the swim trunks for some gym shorts and borrow a bike from the hotel and go on a ride. It's a beautiful and safe place to ride and an awesome way to check out a lot of the mid-century architecture. Most hotels, including La Quinta, have some that are a breeze to borrow. Hiking is also a great move. Ask the concierge for a few good spots that are close and he or she will be able to hook you up with an A+ route.
9.) Bring board games and cards for some daily fun. Scrabble in the hot sun by the pool or cards on the patio with some strong tequilla-based cocktails is an excellent time. The laid back fun is a nice break from whatever addicting iPhone game you're playing or subpar bar you feel obligated to check out.
10.) Buy a disposable camera on your way in and use it to capture memories on the trip. In the world of SnapChat and Instagram, so much focus is on the instant gratification of seeing exactly what you just shot, but the old school film camera makes you wait until you get it developed. A week after you're back and you pick up all of the photos, you'll really enjoy looking through everything and reliving the moments.
All in all, the Palm Springs area is one of the best escapes you can make, no matter where you live. It's gorgeous, relaxing, and flat-out perfect. If you're not looking to get wild and hammered at a DJ-thumping club every night, you can't find a more enjoyable couple days. It's the kind of place where a great hotel will make for a great trip and a bad hotel will make for a bad one, so it's highly advised that you stay at La Quinta like we recommended or shop around yourself and find one that you'll love. That's not a paid recommendation or anything like that, it's 120% genuine.