Palm Springs and Palm Desert are famous for being the playground of the rich and famous. It’s easy to see why as the city pampers and spoils its tourists with a wealth of things to see and do.
From lush palm oases, steep canyons, towering mountains, and plenty of green pockets, both are scenic cities at every turn. Combine that with their great shopping, outdoor adventures, thriving art scene, and more. Both Palm Springs and Palm Desert offer a well-rounded experience that every tourist dreams of.
But while they’re so alike in many ways, they each have their strengths. And knowing this will help you figure out a city to spend more time in to tailor your trip to your preferences. To get to know both cities more, below is a list of some of their draws to help you decide between the two.
Sitting at the western end of the Coachella Valley is the picturesque city of Palm Springs. With its oasis-like landscape and stunning architecture, Palm Springs has its own charm. But there’s more to this glamorous desert paradise than its looks.
Palm Springs is the go-to winter playground of movie stars, and it’s easy to see why. The city pampers you with a plethora of spa hotels, offers endless natural attractions, and fills your belly with its exciting food scene. More than that, Palm Springs is an adventurer’s playground, with a seemingly endless list of outdoor activities.
This is still only scratching the surface, as Palm Springs has an offbeat side that offers unique attractions. Considered an underrated city, below are some reasons why you should go for Palm Springs on your trip.
What Makes Palm Springs Unique?
A Green Oasis at Every Turn
Palm Springs is a stunning desert city located in the famous Coachella Valley. Because Palm Springs gets sunshine year-round, it’s home to thriving, lush flora that decorates and gives the city pops of color. Some of these are in clusters sprinkled across the city, so you’ll find no shortage of tranquil oases to immerse yourself in nature.
Gorgeous yuccas, massive boulders, and ragged peaks await you at Joshua Tree National Park. This massive park isn’t only famed for its size, but also for its ethereal views at sunrise or sunset.
This park doesn’t fail to take your breath away with its stunning rock formations. Most popular is the towering Arch Rock, the most photographed sight here.
What’s more fascinating about this park is that it’s home to two diverse ecosystems. The Colorado Desert is the lower part of the park that’s full of creosote bushes. While the Mojave Desert is where you can find the stunning Joshua Trees.
Although the Joshua Tree National Park is at the top of the must-visit lists in the city, it certainly isn’t the last. Palm Springs is home to several of the most stunning desert landscapes in the world. And each of them is a feast for your eyes.
Among the most picturesque ones is the Smoke Tree Ranch. It’s easy to see why this lush oasis is among the best-loved attractions in Palm Springs. Think of desert plants arranged in rows from shortest to tallest, with the San Jacinto Mountains looming over in the backdrop.
There’s also the Moorten Botanical Garden, which is home to a wide variety of cacti and desert plants. There are over 3000 of these in the garden. And when you’re ready to go home, you can visit the nursery to take a plant souvenir back with you.
A Hiker and Golfer’s Paradise
With the sun always shining on Palm Springs, the city is an exciting outdoor playground. And with so many ways to have fun in Palm Springs, there’s always something to do no matter your interest.
Given the breathtaking landscape of Palm Springs, hiking is one of the top things to do in the city. Palm Springs is one of the very few places in the country where you can get a glimpse of snow-capped mountains and palm trees from one vista. Add in the amazing rock formations around the city, and this is a hiker’s paradise.
In Palm Springs, you’re spoiled for hiking options so it’s easy to pick out your favorite one!
Make your way to the Tahquitz Canyon, and here you’ll find a cascading waterfall in the middle of the desert. There’s also the Araby Trail, with views of the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains and an architectural icon called Bob Hopes house. Even the Joshua Tree National Park is a hiking haven, and if you camp overnight, it’s the best spot to stargaze in the city.
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can still get a breathtaking view of the Palm Springs landscape. Just hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and you’ll get a 360-view of the city! You’ll also go to the top of San Jacinto Mountain, where there are restaurants, exhibits, and more.
Maybe you’d rather practice your golf swing instead. Palm Springs is one of the best places to play golf. With over 100 excellent golf courses, the city is a golfer’s paradise too!
You have the option of a championship-level golf course such as the Indian Canyons Golf Resort. But there are also more relaxed spots such as the Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort. No matter which one you choose, you’ll still get surrounded by beautiful scenery.
A Plethora of Pampering Options
While Palm Springs packs a ton of adventure, it also offers everything you need for relaxation. If you’re looking for an ultra-pampering vacation, you can’t go wrong with Palm Springs.
The city is famous even among celebrities as a relaxation getaway. Since it has a plethora of world-class resorts, recharging at a spa is one of the best things to do in the city. These hotels offer a wide range of services such as facials, massages, and relaxation in a natural spring.
Each resort has a distinct vibe and signature service so you’re bound to find one that’s right up your alley. JW Marriot Desert Springs Resort & Spa is famous for its CBD wellness massages. While Margaritaville Resort’s Avocado Pear Refresher body treatment is quite popular.
No trip to Palm Springs is complete without dipping in a hot spring though. Relax in mineral-rich waters to soften your skin and unwind. There are plenty of spots in the city that offer this, such as Desert Hot Springs and Two Bunch Palms.
Take your relaxation a step further and go for a mud bath. Like hot springs, mud baths pack a ton of minerals to soothe and nourish your skin.
Something a bit more unique is going on a highly immersive sound bath. With this meditative experience, you’ll lie down as you listen to resonant sounds. This ranges from singing bowls to echoing sounds that bounce off the room.
The Thriving Art Scene
Discovering and indulging in Palm Springs’ artistic side is easy as art is everywhere here. They’re not just within the four walls of a museum. But art lives in the streets of Palm Springs, from art installations to buildings to street art.
So when you stroll around the city, you’ll easily see that Palm Springs is full of character.
An art lover’s trip to the city isn’t complete without visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum. This museum has a wealth of modern and contemporary art from national and international artists alike. Some of these are the likes of Robert Motherwell, Mark di Suvero, and Sam Francis.
The museum’s exhibitions focus on the desert’s culture. This includes the American West and the Native Americans.
While some art museums can feel stuffy, you won’t find the same here at Palm Springs Art Museum. Pops of colors are everywhere inside. From glass sculptures to paintings to the outdoor sculpture garden.
Once you got your art fix from the museum, make sure to look for those outside the museum’s walls too. Just outside the museum is a piece by Gonzalo Lebrija called the History of Suspended Time. This is a 1986 Chevy Malibu suspended midair above a pool of water.
Elsewhere in the city are fun installations that give Palm Springs such a high quirk factor.
There are sculptures of faceless babies crawling on a vacant lot across the museum as well. Near Rowan Palm Springs Hotel is a sculpture by Julian Voss-Andreae called Isabelle. It’s a statue of a woman that changes depending on the angle where you’re viewing it from and it’s illuminated by cool lights at night.
A more urban sight you can visit is the city’s Graffiti Yard near Belardo Road and Museum Way. Almost all items here are entirely adorned with art, from garbage cans to concrete blocks.
Tons of Foodie Delights
No vacation is complete without good food to fuel you on your trip. Dense with top-notch restaurants, it’s easy to sample the best food Palm Springs has to offer to delight the foodie in you! From upscale dining to casual restaurants, there’s something to indulge everyone here.
The city’s thriving food scene is quite international. With restaurants that offer cuisine from all over the world, the city can cater to your every craving.
If you’re craving Mexican food, head to El Patio and try their delicious enchiladas. Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse is the go-to for barbecues, as they make everything from scratch. If you want to dine outdoors in a beautiful spot, Eight4Nine looks straight out of a rom-com engagement scene.
Several restaurants in Palm Springs are pet-friendly too! Among those is Boozehounds, which has a large patio that’s perfect for your pooch. But there’s also an indoor spot if you’re dining without a furry friend.
If you prefer your meals with a side of booze, Palm Springs has tons of bars at your disposal. Truss & Twine serves several unique concoctions, and they also serve the usual bar food such as wagyu-oxtail grilled cheese. A little more laid-back is the city’s speakeasy, Seymours, with Oaxacan Hemingway as their best-loved drink.
Popping up on the desert like an oasis in the sun-drenched city of Palm Desert. At a glance, it’s a scenic town filled with cacti, palm trees, and more, with soaring mountains looming over in the backdrop. But there’s more to this vibrant winter refuge than its breathtaking views.
Palm Desert is an outdoorsy person’s paradise as most of its draws take advantage of its glorious scenery. With plenty of hiking trails, jeep tours on rugged terrain, pools to plunge in, and more, you’ll have an action-packed trip here.
But this is only scratching the surface of this multifaceted city though. Palm Desert has a fascinating arts and culture scene, an exciting shopping experience, and more for you to discover.
What Makes Palm Desert Unique?
A Wealth of Scenic Natural Attractions
With colors ranging from pale bone to bright crimson, along with pops of green, Palm Desert’s landscape is impressive. From weathered peaks to sheer canyons, and other natural wonders, there are tons to see in the city. And while you can get a stunning view of this from the city, Palm Desert rewards the adventurer with a treasure trove of scenic wonders.
Go on a drive and make your way to one of California’s most breathtaking driving roads. The Palms to Pines Scenic Byway offers diverse sights, from palm-fringed deserts to craggy hills and soaring trees. You’ll pass through various ecosystems, and at the end of the drive, a view of snow-capped peaks.
If you have time to stop, you can hop out of your car and stretch your legs on short and easy trails. This leads you to many scenic vistas for you to take in everything from a bird’s-eye view.
Verdant vegetation and thriving wildlife await you at the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve. This sprawling land is a feast for your eyes. With a lush palm oasis and a diverse variety of exotic fauna, there’s something to marvel at every turn. Wander through watering holes, the dune system, and marshy areas.
Make sure to watch out for the endangered fringe-toed lizard by the sand dunes!
Soaring from the floor in the middle of the desert is the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. This vast monument is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Here you can find hot springs, palm oases, and lush wilderness spots to discover. Here, you can also find snow-capped peaks to further wow you with the mountains’ mesmerizing beauty.
More than just a feast for your eyes, Living Desert Zoo and Gardens offers an exciting experience. You’ll find a wealth of wildlife here, even those that you wouldn’t associate with deserts. Along with wolves, camels, and eagles, this garden also has giraffes that you can feed!
An Outdoor Lover’s Playground
Palm Desert’s stunning landscape isn’t just for pretty pictures. One of the city’s major draws is its wide variety of outdoor activities! And with sunny weather year-round, Palm Desert can be your scenic playground no matter when you visit.
The city is a paradise for hikers as it’s home to countless hiking trails. Ranging from easy paths to challenging ones, there is a trail for everyone in the city.
Among the most popular ones though is the Bump and Grind Trail. Although it’s only a short, 4-mile (6.4 km) loop, this trail packs a ton of excitement. The Bump and Grind Trail has an elevation gain of around 1000 feet (305 m), so you can expect a thrilling workout here!
This trail is free for everyone, has several parking spots, and is a stone’s throw away from an air-conditioned mall. Most come here to hike, while others go here to cycle!
If you want to venture off to further heights, hot-air ballooning is one of the top attractions in the city. A memorable and scenic experience, this will take you to breathtaking vistas of the Coachella Valley. With only the breeze to direct you, you can float above golf courses, lush orchards, polo fields, and more.
With various operators to choose from, you can tour the skies depending on your likes. Tours range from relaxing rides to hour-long tours around the Californian desert
If you’d rather stay on the ground, you can take an exhilarating jeep tour in the desert. With Red Jeep Tours, you have several trip options to suit almost anyone regardless of preference. This includes exciting rides to the Indian Canyons, Painted Canyon, and Mecca Hills Wilderness Area.
But two trips are the most sought-after for their fascinating views and excitement…
One is the San Andreas Fault tour. With this, you can go through a maze of canyons and gorges where two tectonic plates come together. You can also get views of palm oases, and underground springs, and explore a Native American Site!
This is also the only way you can go on an outdoor adventure to the sprawling Metate Ranch, located in the Indio Hills. This site is miles and miles of untouched desert with an exclusive palm oasis. This trip also offers other outdoor fun, such as hiking, wagon rides, and tons of sightseeing.
A Fascinating Art and Cultural Side
Palm Desert knows how to indulge adventurers and nature lovers. But the city also has a vibrant arts and culture scene that spoils the aesthete or culture vulture in you.
Right within the heart of the city is El Paseo, the main shopping district of Palm Desert. While it’s the place to be for some retail therapy, it’s also the leading art destination in the area.
For modern and iconic artworks, there’s the Elena Bulatova Art Gallery. The Melissa Morgan Fine Art Gallery is home to contemporary works from artists around the world. Just around the corner is Melissa Morgan’s Sculpture Garden, which houses interactive art.
While there are plenty more art galleries to visit in the city, an unmissable one is the CODA Gallery. For decades, this gallery has been a crucial cultural center of the Palm Desert.
The gallery has an exquisite collection of contemporary art of all kinds. From paintings to sculptures, from glasswork to photography, and more!
What’s special about CODA Gallery is that almost every artwork you see here is for sale! Whether you want to spruce up your home or bring home a beautiful souvenir, you can do both here.
If you want to dabble in Palm Desert’s history, the best place to start is Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. This museum was once the home of Cabot Yerxa, one of the founding fathers of Palm Desert. He built this Hopi-style home by hand, using things found lying around the desert.
From the outside, it’s an impressive example of Pueblo Revival design. The house has four floors and 35 rooms for you to explore. And from the inside, it’s full of artwork, artifacts, and other items from Yerxa.
The Indulging Food Scene
With any vacation, what you have on your plate is just as important as where you stay and the places you visit. And when you visit Palm Springs, you’ll find a wide array of restaurants to indulge you with tasty eats.
Palms Desert offers restaurants that range from year-round patio dining to upscale restaurants. Many restaurants in the city also offer picturesque views as you dine or a lively bar scene for a lively night out. The city sees to it that you’ll have the cuisine, vibe, and price point that best fits your preference.
One of the stars of Palm Desert’s food scene is Grill-A-Burger. This burger joint has a laid-back vibe and serves burgers, salads, hot dogs, and more! They offer a wide variety of specialty burgers that use only the best, antibiotic-free USDA beef.
More than that, they have various offers catered to those with allergies or special diets. You can even order a gluten-free bun or have a lettuce wrap with your burger instead.
Other than tasty eats, Palm Desert’s gastronomic experience extends to its thriving beer scene.
Get your craft beer fix at the Coachella Valley Brewing Company! Nestled in Thousand Palms Oasis, this brewery offers more than glorious beer. You can tour the area to see the brewing process. There’s also a taproom with over 20 types of beer for you to taste!
You can also head to Desert Distilling to sample some local spirits. This distillery offers top-quality, locally made fine gin, rum, and other spirits. You can sample their products on-site in their tasting room, buy some bottles, or tour the distillery!
A Vibrant Shopping Scene
Palm Desert is a haven for shopaholics as it’s home to a plethora of shops and boutiques of all kinds. The best thing about the city’s shopping scene is that it’s contained in one area so it’s always easy to hop from one boutique to another to look for something to splurge on.
If you ever need to go on a retail therapy day, make your way to El Paseo. This shopping district houses over 300 boutiques, spas, jewelers, and more. Stores there range from local shops to global brands to luxury boutiques.
High fashion brand lovers can make their way to The Gardens at El Paseo right away. This spot is full of luxury brands, from Louis Vuitton to Tiffany & Co. And when you need a short break on your shopping spree, El Paseo also has tons of restaurants to fill your tummy.
If you’d rather go for a bargain-shopping experience, head to the College of the Desert Street Fair! This event occurs every weekend at the College of the Desert’s parking lot.
This street fair offers almost everything you can think of on a budget. From furniture to vintage automobiles to gourmet food, and more. There’s always something to splurge on here no matter your likes and budget.
The highlight of this street fair is that you may find a one-of-a-kind hidden gem! The organizers of this event focus on those who sell antiques, collectibles, and artisans offering handmade goods.
What Is Better – Palm Springs or Palm Desert?
Both cities have similar draws, so you can’t go wrong in choosing either of the two. But ultimately, the choice will depend on your preferences.
Choose Palm Springs if you want luxury and the ultimate pampering experience. The city is full of upscale resort spa hotels, a high-end shopping scene, and celebrity mansions. It’s also more tourist-oriented, livelier, and liberal, and is home to a more diverse crowd.
Choose Palm Desert if you want a family-friendly trip, with a more casual feel and an uncrowded city. The city has a wealth of attractions that cater to kids too, along with many tours and spots for outdoor adventure.
Is Palm Desert Warmer Than Palm Springs?
Since the two cities are only under half an hour away from each other, their climate is similar. Palm Desert’s year-round temperature is around 44 to 107 F (6.7 to 41.7 C). While Palm Springs’ varies from 45 to 106 F (7.2 to 41.1 C).
Both cities have hot and arid summers. Palm Desert has cool winters and the weather is typically clear year-round. Meanwhile, Palm Springs’ winters are cool and partly cloudy.
The hot season in Palm Desert is longer though, as it lasts for around 3.5 months. Palm Springs’ hot season is a bit shorter at around 3.4 months. Both cities’ hot seasons run from June to September, with their hottest month in July.
Is Palm Desert the Same as Palm Springs?
Palm Desert isn’t the same as Palm Springs as they are two different cities in California. There is some confusion around this though, as the Palm Desert is a part of the Greater Palm Springs area. With this, some people say that Palm Desert is a suburb of Palm Springs, but they are separate cities.
Is Palm Desert Close to Palm Springs?
Palm Desert is quite close to Palm Springs, and you can travel between the two cities in under half an hour. The shortest route from Palm Desert to Palm Springs is only around 14.4 miles (23.2 km) and has a travel time of around 23 minutes.
There are other routes you can take though, one covers a distance of around 15.2 miles (24 km) while the other has a distance of 16.5 miles (27 km). Still, taking either of these routes will only take you around 25 minutes of travel time.
Where Is Palm Desert in Relation to Palm Springs?
The city of Palm Desert lies around 14.4 miles (23.2 km) to the east of Palm Springs.
How Far Is Palm Desert From Palm Springs?
The shortest distance between Palm Desert and Palm Springs is via CA-111 N, which covers a distance of around 14.4 miles (23.2 km). If you go through CA-111 N and Ramon Road, the distance between the two is around 15.2 miles (24 km). While the longest distance between Palm Desert and Palm Springs is via CA-111 and E Alejo Road, with a distance of 16.5 miles (27 km).
Palm Desert to Palm Springs
You have three transportation options when traveling from Palm Desert to Palm Springs. You can travel by car, taxi, or bus.
If you have a car, driving is one of the fastest ways to travel to Palm Springs. The shortest travel time is only around 23 minutes depending on the route you choose and the traffic. The shortest route is via CA-111, which only has a distance of 14.4 miles (23.2 km).
If you don’t have a car, then you can take a taxi if comfort and speed are your priority. This option has around the same travel time if you travel by car. The downside is its high price tag as this costs around 50 to 65 USD.
If you’re traveling on a budget, take a line 1 bus instead. A bus ticket from Palm Desert to Palm Springs usually costs around 1 to 4 USD. The downside to this is its long travel time, as the journey may take around 28 minutes to complete.
This is a direct bus and you can catch one from Hwy 11 at San Luis Rey. Buses leave for Palm Springs every 30 minutes and travel between the two cities daily.
Palm Springs Airport to Palm Desert
You also have three options when traveling from Palm Springs Airport to Palm Desert. You can choose from a bus, taxi, or car. All three of these options are available right at the airport grounds.
The bus stop is at the north end of the airport’s Terminal Roadway. Several bus operators are available here to take you to Palm Desert directly.
Taking the bus is the cheapest option of the three as bus tickets only cost around 2 to 5 USD. But this is the longest option as the travel time is around 1 hour and 27 minutes.
Buses leave the Palm Springs Airport hourly and operate every day.
You can also take an airport taxi for a faster and more comfortable trip, and you have three taxi companies to choose from at the airport. This option only has a travel time of around 18 minutes. But this comes at a high price as the taxi fare can cost around 45 to 60 USD.
If you want to drive, there are rental cars available at the airport too. This has around the same travel time as a taxi. Renting a car may cost around 6 to 8 USD a day.