For generations of Californians, Palm Springs — and the surrounding Coachella Valley — has been the place to go to get away from the chaos of big city life. Celebrities like Bob Hope and Mary Pickford went there to unwind and escape the public eye.
Today, Palm Springs vacation rentals are popular for all ages. Millennials can enjoy music festivals like Coachella or Stagecoach, while Boomers play a round or two of golf.
One thing is certain: The desert landscapes and incredible design features of Palm Springs simply beg to be photographed! Below is a quick guide to some of some highly Instagrammable spots to visit during your Palm Springs vacation — and some insider tips about how to explore them.
1. Take a Tour of Homes
One thing that makes Palm Springs so unique is its architecture — particularly the modernist homes owned by celebrities over the years. Famous architects Albert Frey and Donald Wexler are responsible for many of the unique designs that visitors see peppering Palm Springs today. Fans of their work can book a spot on a Modernist tour or visit during Modernism Week, which opens up many of the private homes to the public.
The rest of the year, the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway is open for tours. Other celebrity homes like Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms are only available for overnight stays and special events, but you can still catch a glimpse of the design from the outside. A number of homes also have colorful doors that make for great photos — but keep in mind that some are private residences, so it’s a good idea to keep your distance and respect the owners.
2. Embrace Resort Life
After admiring other people’s lavish houses, enjoy a home away from home at one of Diamond Resorts Palm Springs properties. These resort properties have their fair share of Instagram-worthy locales.
Book a stay at Palm Canyon Resort for the chance to snap family photos by the pristine pool. (Tip: the water slide creates an ideal backdrop for Boomerangs!) Or, if you’re poolside at the Desert Isle of Palm Springs, unleash your lens on the unique flora — iconic California palm and citrus trees — framing the resort. From Marquis Villas Resort, let the picturesque San Jacinto Mountains serve as a background for beautiful landscape shots.
3. Meander Among Colorful Art Murals and Sculptures
Greater Palm Springs has some incredible murals and art pieces. Famed folk art site Salvation Mountain is about an hour and a half from Diamond Resorts Palm Springs properties. The project, by visionary artist Leonard Knight, features thousands of gallons of colorful paint that make up a man-made mountain; the site is popular among art aficionados and photographers alike.
Muralist Kelsey Montague, known for her “What Lifts You” series, has also painted a number of walls in greater Palm Springs, including a giraffe mural in Palm Desert and a hot air balloon in Cathedral City.
The Palm Springs Art Museum boasts three locations around the valley, each featuring works by famed artists like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall. The Sculpture Garden in Palm Desert is ideal for groups that aren’t big on museums. Pose with the artwork around the garden to capture the perfect shot.
Art Palm Springs is a popular arts festival in the area, held around the same time as Modernism Week in February. The event attracts more than 15,000 art lovers for the weekend for gallery openings and artist talks.
4. Check Out Quirky Landmarks
Greater Palm Springs has plenty of attractions to suit any traveler’s interests, and many of these eccentric spots are more photogenic than you might expect.
The Moorten Botanical Garden is an incredible landmark specializing in cacti and other desert plants. Originally a private garden, the “cactarium” is popular among Instagrammers. Best of all, admission is just $5.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is an accredited facility in Palm Desert, housing animals like African wild dogs and giraffes. Don’t miss the desert plants in their garden, too.
For a different breed of animal adventure, drive about 25 minutes from the Marquis Villas Resort to Cabazon Dinosaurs — a site famously featured in the film “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” Set behind a gas station, there’s a museum inside one of the dinosaurs. Get someone to take your picture from a distance for scale.
Venture a little farther from town, and you’ll find the area around Palm Springs surrounded by windmills that create energy for the Coachella Valley. Visitors can go on a variety of windmill tours to get up-close photos of the futuristic-looking turbines.
5. Relish Foodie Favorites
You’re never far away from a delicious meal in Palm Springs. But don’t forget to take a photo before you dig in!
Cheeky’s serves all-day breakfast, so you’ll never miss the most important meal of the day, regardless of when you wake up. The bacon flights are the stuff of legend — but don’t sleep on the cinnamon rolls, either.
For more breakfast staples like Eggs Benedict, chilaquiles and french toast, pay a visit to Wilma & Frieda in Palm Desert. The joint serves up one of the best breakfasts in the desert or, later in the day, you can enjoy sandwiches, salads and desserts from their counter.
Workshop Kitchen and Bar is set in a former movie theater and has won awards for its 1920s-inspired design. The Design District restaurant incorporates farm-fresh ingredients in dishes like mussels with housemade merguez and gravlax tartine with a quail egg.
Grab a jolt at Ernest Coffee, one of the area’s few independent coffee shops, which is set inside a former famous tiki restaurant. They serve Stumptown Coffee in lattes and other drinks. They also offer pastries and light bites to start your day.
Over in Palm Desert, Luscious Lorraine’s crafts beautiful and photogenic dishes that are also good for you. They incorporate local organic produce in their avocado toast, sandwiches, salads and wraps. There are also vegan options available.
No matter what style of Palm Springs vacation you’re planning, be sure to charge up your phone — it’s a location that’s a feast for the eyes and your camera lens.
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