Culture / Travel

36 Hours in Palm Springs — Restaurants, Hotels and Attractions You Need to Know

Babies, Dinosaurs, Coffee Havens and More

BY // 10.03.19

Palm Springs, California is known for being an oasis within a desert, surrounded by mountains and incredible sunsets. After a recent two-day trip to the resort town, I learned that this description is completely accurate. Quiet and sunny bliss is the theme here.

Having only one half day (as driving from Los Angeles is a bit of a journey) and another full day, I set out to explore the best the town had to offer.

Palm Springs Hotels

The Kimpton Rowan was built just two years ago near downtown Palm Springs. As the tallest building in Palm Springs, the hotel has incredible views of the mountains. Especially from the rooftop pool, and 4 Saints bar & restaurant, which is rated one of the best dining options in Palm Springs. I stopped by for lunch at Juniper Table one day and had a brief tour of the property.

Besides the stellar views and great restaurants, The Rowan has a rooftop pool that you can obviously use if you’re a guest and rent out cabanas. Or, even if you’re not a guest, you can purchase a day pass for pool access on weekdays. Drinks and snacks are available at High Bar, downtown’s only rooftop bar.

The lobby includes a small library which serves as a place to work or read and a bar called Window Bar, which has happy hour from 5 pm to 7 pm on Sunday through Thursdays. The fitness center is also decked out with treadmills, bikes, dumbbells, and hula hoops for mid-vacay workouts.

Palm Springs Sights

Right behind The Rowan sits the Palm Springs Art Museum. And the first glimpse of art you see lies right between the hotel and museum. Referred to by locals as “The Babies,” a large sand pit is filled with ten 8-foot-tall baby sculptures crawling throughout. It’s a bit creepy as the babies don’t have faces, but also pretty intriguing.

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Created by David Cerny, ‘Babies on the Move’ was installed last year.

PS Babies
Photo by Megan Ziots

As for the art museum, it’s also filled with tons of interesting contemporary art. Currently on exhibition is “Brave New Worlds: Explorations of Space,” which includes sculpturally immersive installations from five contemporary artists. Projects come from artists Kelly Akashi, Gisela Colon, Victoria Fu, Karen Lofgren and Adee Roberson.

The permanent modern collection houses 3,000 sculptures, paintings and prints. Highlights include End of the Day #2 by Dale Chihully and The Big 4 by Robert Motherwell. Native American Art is also a big part of the museum, including works from Gerald Clarke, Dan Namingha and Cara Romero.

Palm Springs Coffee Shops

In one and a half days I could only manage to hit two coffee shops. Both were great in very different ways and worth a stop in. First, I went to Cartel Coffee Lab. Originally from Arizona, Cartel begun its national expansion in Palm Springs and Austin. The barista explained that they like to call themselves alchemists, as coffee making is a chemical science.

It was 4 pm in the afternoon when I got there so I settled for an iced Chai latte. It ended up being delicious. I’d love to try their coffee sometime.

Ernest Coffee was the must-try shop on my list so I went when it was early enough for me to drink espresso and not be up all night. A pistachio rose latte was the most interesting option on the menu so I gave it a try. Pulling Stumptown espresso, the drink has rose water and pistachio pieces for flavoring. It’s wonderful iced. I added on a spinach feta croissant and I was set for the morning.

Palm Springs Restaurants

I was feeling Italian one of my nights out in Palm Springs, and I was pleasantly surprised with how great my choice of Birba was. An Italian restaurant on Palm Canyon Drive, all of the seating was outdoors on a patio under string lights and lamps. Lighting was dim, but romantic and the food was outstanding.

My boyfriend and I shared the Birba pizza with prosciutto, honey and chili oil and pappardelle bolognese with pecorino and basil. We also got an order of the roasted cauliflower appetizer with capers, aged parmesan and chili flakes. All were delicious, but the pizza with honey drizzle was exceptional. Also, don’t leave without trying the butterscotch pudding or tiramisu.

We were really feeling pizza as we also tried the pesto chicken pizza at Revel Public House. Paired with the “Best Sangria in Palm Springs,” which was how it was advertised on the menu, it was a great midday snack.

What To Do (When It Reopens)

One thing I was very disappointed was closed for maintenance during my visit was the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It’s a one and a half mile ride along the cliffs of Chino Canyon to Mount San Jacinto State Park. The largest rotating tram car, it features incredible views and once you reach the top (8,516 feet), there are two restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, and over 50 miles of hiking trails. Oh well, next time.

Where To Stop (On The Way From L.A.)

If you’re driving from Los Angeles, or don’t mind traveling 25 minutes west of Palm Springs, the Cabazon Dinosaurs attraction is a weird, must-visit location. Since 1975, the Cabazon Dinosaurs have been a popular roadside attraction that have been featured in movies like Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure and The Wizard.

Now mainly used for Instagram photo opportunities, the giant dinosaurs you see off of the I-10 are actually the entrance to a museum. For $13, you can actually enter the fenced in space to view 50 lifelike dinos, do a fossil dig, and climb inside Mr. Rex. Or for free, you can do the same with Dinny, the giant brontosaurus, which also acts as a gift shop. I did the latter.

Cabazon Dinos
Mr. Rex (Photo by me)

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