When Portland's fall season ushers in its melancholy canopy of clouds, it’s time to escape to the blue-skied bliss awaiting in sun-soaked Palm Springs. Postpone popping those pill-sized doses of vitamin D by hopping a quick nonstop flight from PDX to Palm Springs International Airport. Once you’ve landed at the foot of the sprawling San Jacinto mountains, quickly sink into the rhythm—and warmth—of this soothing desert oasis.
If you haven’t been to Palm Springs in, well, the past five years, now is the time to head back—and be prepared for a whole new experience. All your old stomping grounds are intact, along with a healthy mix of luxury and relaxation options (think cocktails on a poolside chaise lounge). But this time around there’s a throng of new shopping, dining, and outdoor experiences, which secure Palm Springs as the hip place for your desert escape. You’ll be awash in a vibrant culture anchored in the arts and mid-century modern architecture, yet there’s a bevy of outdoor treasures waiting to be explored, too—with countless photo ops along the way. Here’s our can’t-miss activity guide to get you on the move.
Follow an expert’s lead.
Let an in-the-know local be your guide, as you climb aboard a Jeep or Hummer, atop a bike, or simply into your walking shoes to get happily led around the sidewalks and trails of this storied place. Whether you’re looking to venture into the San Andreas Fault (Desert Adventure Red Jeep Tours), ogle mid-century modern homes (Modernism Week Fall Preview is Oct 17–20), or bite into the destination from a foodie’s point of view (Desert Tasty Tours), Palm Springs has the tour just for you.
Hit your step goals (and then some).
Hikers, you’re in luck: Palm Springs has three main areas from which to elevate your heart rate and take in stunning views. Enjoy trails located within the City of Palm Springs, the 54 miles of trails found in the Mt San Jacinto State Park, and the 60 miles of trails that are part of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. The Agua Caliente Indian Reservation is home to many canyons ripe for exploring, like Palm, Murray, Andreas, and Tahquitz.
Stretch your legs on local-favorite Palm Springs Museum Trail, just behind the parking lot of the Palm Springs Art Museum in downtown. This steep uphill hike (roughly two-miles roundtrip) is well worth the effort: Once you reach the picnic tables at the top, you’ll find spectacular views of Palm Springs and Coachella Valley—the perfect backdrop for your future profile pic. Plus, on your return, it’s well worth a stroll through the museum and a stop at their restaurant, Persimmon Bistro, for al fresco dining.
Do it for the ‘gram.
Speaking of selfies, Palm Springs was made for the social media era. The region’s natural beauty and man-made creations perfectly complement visitors who can’t conceal ear-to-ear-grins. Pose among the plethora of cacti inside the Moorten Botanical Garden, alongside the iconic stretch of Palm Springs windmills on the northern ridge, up in the clouds while riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (2.5 miles up on the world’s largest rotating tramcar, another great place for hiking and learning about the natural environment), or against dazzling outdoor artwork found near the Kimpton the Rowan Palm Springs, where Collette Miller’s ode to world peace comes in the form of rainbow-hued angel wings. And, if you plan it right, you can hit all of these spots in a single day.
Discover why Thursday is the new Friday.
Head to downtown’s Palm Canyon’s Drive every Thursday evening for Villagefest, where the street is closed off and transformed into a festive pedestrian street fair. Thousands of visitors enjoy its live entertainment and more than 180 vendors selling arts and craft treasures, from handmade jewelry to pottery gems. Savor the buzz of the weekly street fair as you follow wafting aromas to your meal (or meals) of choice; think goodies like corn on the cob, authentic Ethiopian fare, freshly-made donuts, and made-to-order waffles.
For further temptation, and planning your Palm Springs getaway, check out visitpalmsprings.com.