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TPG’s ultimate guide to Palm Springs, California

Dec. 29, 2021
9 min read
Palm Springs sign in Palm Springs
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


Situated about two hours to the east of Los Angeles, in the Coachella Valley of the Sonoran Desert, Palm Springs, California, has long been a favorite getaway destination for Southern California residents — and those from all over the country, for that matter.

Thanks to its desert location, Palm Springs — and nearby towns and cities like Palm Desert, Indio, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells and more — enjoys pleasant weather practically every day of the year and is surrounded by stunning mountain vistas.

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But it’s not just the good weather and views that have people flocking to Palm Springs and its environs. For decades, the city has been an epicenter for midcentury modern architecture, arts and culture, LGBTQ+ travelers and, of course, the plentiful activities available thanks to its ideal location.

While Palm Springs has been steadily popular over several decades, it seemingly exploded during the pandemic. The abundance of open-air spaces, outdoor activities, rental homes, resort properties, delectable restaurants, and so much more made it a perfect place for anyone desiring a mid-pandemic escape.

Airlines took note, too. Major airlines have been adding flights to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP).

Despite concerns about the omicron variant, travel is still coming back, and many foreign borders are still reopening, but Palm Springs will undoubtedly remain popular if history is any example. Here’s what you need to know about planning a trip to Palm Springs.

When to visit Palm Springs

There’s not necessarily a bad time to visit Palm Springs. No matter when you go, you can expect sun and warmth. It really just depends on how much heat you really want. Traditionally the most popular time to visit is the winter, from January through March. It’s cold in much of the country, and while it’s warm in the desert, it’s not overwhelmingly hot … yet. But this time of year is typically hectic in Palm Springs — you should expect crowds and lines pretty much anywhere you go.

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Summertime might be a bit too hot in Palm Springs, so maybe try going in the winter months. (Photo by Kate Ballis/Getty Images)

As the year goes on and spring turns to summer, it does get sweltering in Palm Springs and the surrounding area, with daytime temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees. The silver lining, though, is that the desert heat is much drier than most people are used to, so there isn’t a significant amount of humidity to deal with. And the crowds are thinner this time of year, which could result in a more leisurely visit.

From about October through December is somewhat of a sweet spot time to visit the area, as temperatures are cooler than they were in the heat of summer, and not as many people are in town due to the winter holiday season.

How to get there

As mentioned earlier, airlines consistently added air service directly into Palm Springs throughout the pandemic. Here’s a look at the current state of commercial service into PSP, arranged by airline:

  • Air Canada: Vancouver, British Columbia (YVR — seasonal).
  • Air Canada Rouge: Toronto (YYZ — seasonal).
  • Alaska Airlines: San Francisco (SFO); San Jose, California (SJC); Seattle (SEA); Boise (BOI — seasonal); Everett, Washington (PAE — seasonal); Portland, Oregon (PDX — seasonal); Reno (RNO — seasonal).
  • Allegiant: Bellingham, Washington (BLI); Boise (BOI — seasonal); Eugene, Oregon (EUG — seasonal).
  • American Airlines: Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Phoenix (PHX), Chicago (ORD — seasonal), Philadelphia (PHL — seasonal).
  • Delta Air Lines: Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), Salt Lake City (SLC), Atlanta (ATL — seasonal), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).
  • Frontier Airlines: Chicago (ORD — seasonal), Denver (DEN — seasonal).
  • JetBlue: Boston (BOS — seasonal), Fort Lauderdale (FLL — seasonal), New York (JFK — seasonal).
  • Southwest Airlines: Denver (DEN); Las Vegas (LAS); Oakland, California (OAK); Phoenix (PHX).
  • Sun Country: Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP — seasonal).
  • United Airlines: Denver (DEN), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD — seasonal), Houston (IAH — seasonal).
  • WestJet: Calgary, Alberta (YYC); Vancouver (YVR); Edmonton, Alberta (YEG — seasonal); Winnipeg, Manitoba (YWG — seasonal).

And, since Palm Springs is near Los Angeles, you can fly into any one of the LA-area airports — including LAX, Ontario (ONT), John Wayne Airport (SNA), Hollywood Burbank (BUR) and Long Beach (LGB) — and then drive to the desert.

Alternatively, Palm Springs is around two and a half hours from San Diego, which means if you happen to find more desirable flights there, it’s a relatively easy drive from the airport — if you can find a rental car, that is.

Where to stay

The Palm Springs area has no shortage of excellent accommodations. You may choose to rent one of the many midcentury modern homes during your visit, but if a hotel is more your speed, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Here’s a look at some of our top picks:

  • Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa: Starting at 17,000 World of Hyatt points (Note that Hyatt has implemented peak and off-peak pricing.)
  • Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs: Award rates vary.
  • La Quinta Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort: Award rates vary.
  • Triada Palm Springs, Autograph Collection: From 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage: From 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
  • The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa: From 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
  • JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa: From 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
  • Hotel Paseo, Autograph Collection: From 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
  • Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells: From 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

What to see and do

No one is going to fault you if you simply want to relax at the pool and check out a new restaurant each night for dinner while in Palm Springs, but there’s plenty to do if you're going to get out and explore during your trip. Here are a few ideas to help inspire your travels:

Golf

(Photo by 2HotBrazil/Getty Images)

The desert climate of Palm Springs lends itself well to golf, and if you’re a fan, prepare to be blown away by the sheer amount of courses you’ll encounter: The area is home to almost 125 courses. Some highly regarded ones include the Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Club, Indian Wells Golf Resort, Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, SilverRock Resort and more.

Take a day trip

Palm Springs is well situated for day trips in the surrounding area to explore some of the natural beauty on offer. Go on a hike to a desert oasis complete with a 50-foot waterfall in Tahquitz Canyon, or head out a little farther to Joshua Tree National Park, where you can behold the wild beauty of the area, famous for its yucca plants and extraterrestrial-feeling terrain. The park offers several hikes for all skill levels and, of course, plentiful photo opportunities.

See the architecture

One of Palm Springs’ main draws is the abundance of fantastic midcentury modern architecture. The city turned a 1960s-era gas station into a visitors center, and now it’s become a midcentury icon. You can book tours of the city at the visitors center or take a self-guided drive through some neighborhoods with numerous examples of the city's architecture, including Tennis Club and Araby Cove.

Arts and culture

The Palm Springs Art Museum. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Palm Springs has made a name for itself as a hub of art and cultural attractions. Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum to see contemporary works of all kinds and exhibitions that reflect the history and culture of the local area. Attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival, operating since 1989. The city is also known for its art galleries, design studios (most feature a midcentury aesthetic, of course) and antique shops — whether you’re window-shopping or have a new 1960s bungalow to furnish, you’ll have plenty to feast your eyes on.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

No visit to Palm Springs is complete without a ride on its iconic tram. It’s operated since the early 1960s and brings riders from the hot, arid desert up to the top of a mountain in about 10 minutes. Pack a few layers because it’s not uncommon to see snow once you get to the top. The 360-degree views of the Coachella Valley below are pretty spectacular, too.

Bottom line

Palm Springs is a perenially popular American destination, and it’s easy to see why. With great (albeit a bit hot at times) weather year-round; a plethora of restaurants, bars and cultural offerings; plenty of golf courses and tennis courts; easy access to spectacular natural beauty; celebrated midcentury modern architecture and design; and so much more, the city — and its surrounding area — has something for everybody.

And with increased air service into the city, it’s never been easier to reach this Southern California desert hideaway.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more