The Best of Palm Springs in 48 Hours

Palm Springs in southern California is a playground for cool hunters. If you like retro-chic, Palm Springs is your place. Located only 90 minutes east of LA, this hip desert town is full of bold colours, mid-century marvels and, of course, those endless summer vibes. If you’ve only got time for a quick weekend getaway to this famous desert resort, book one of the Palm Springs villa rentals as a base while you explore. Next, plan your itinerary with our guide to the must-do things you need to do in Palm Springs in 48 hours.

See the best of Palm Springs in 48 hours:

Marvel at the midcentury modern homes

If you walk around the wealthy neighborhoods like Araby Cove, you’ll notice quite a few impressive houses. The modernist designs make the architecture somewhat unique to Palm Springs. Stroll or drive around and see where the affluent residents live. The most popular ones to see include Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway and the Del Marcos Hotel. Just remember that most of the houses are private and you need to be discrete. Also, remember you haven’t been to Palm Springs if you haven’t snapped a picture in front of ‘that’ pink door.

Palm Springs in 48 Hours, Pink Door

Image via Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Particularly suited for families and animal-lovers, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a popular activity in Palm Springs. The large zoo has two sections: one for North American species and the other for African wildlife. As you walk around the park, you’ll see more than 1000 different species of plants and a range of exotic animals. Giraffes, meerkats, bighorn sheep, mountain cats along with tortoises, hedgehogs and African wild dogs are here too. The zoo is just a few kilometers from downtown Palm Springs and is a must for anyone who loves animals.

Explore the Cactarium at the Moorten Botanical Garden

Cacti lovers will be in heaven here at the Moorten Botanical Garden, home to the world’s first Cactarium. Inside the gardens you’ll find more than 3000 species of desert cacti and other interesting desert plants. Wander through the Cacterium and observe many rare and unique species. Keep your camera close by – the light inside is Insta-perfect. Admission is only $5 per person and the gardens are open every day except Wednesdays.

Palm Springs in 48 Hours, Cactarium

Image by Chris Goldberg via Flickr

Shop for vintage treasures

Did you know that Palm Springs is also famous for its collection of vintage stores? Bring your wallet and hit the boutiques of the Uptown Design District. Here, you can find everything from big-ticket midcentury furniture, to homewares, books and prints. It’s heaven for design lovers. Don’t leave without popping into Just Modern, Hedge, Bon Vivant and A La Mod. Just a warning: you might need to check an extra suitcase on your return trip home!

Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a must-do on any trip here. The gondola began construction in 1933 and took 30 years to complete with its official opening in 1963. As you ride the rotating car, you’ll rise up the mountains overlooking the Coachella Valley below. If you visit in the summer, the air at the top will be refreshingly cool compared to the oppressive heat below. And in the winter, you may even find snow! There’s a restaurant and café with incredible views at the top.

Best of Palm Springs in 48 Hours, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Image via Visit Greater Palm Springs

Play a round of golf

There are two large golf course resorts in Palm Springs: Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort and Indian Canyons Golf Resort. Both are situated against the backdrop of fantastic scenery and dry, craggy mountains in the distance. The country’s wealthy often come here for a game or two in the spring and fall so you could be rubbing shoulders with some of the big name celebrities and personalities on the course! If you’re a keen golfer, there are around 100 other courses to choose from in the region too. Palm Springs’ climate creates a perfect environment to tee off at any time of the year, which makes it a favorite retreat during the winter.

Head to Joshua Tree National Park

If you’re into nature and want to get out to the desert, check out the Joshua Tree National Park. The national park takes approximately 45 minutes to reach from Palm Springs, but it’s worth it for the rock formations, strange Joshua trees and generally feeling like you’ve left Earth. There are several trails to take you around the area along with picnic spots, beautiful scenery and lots of opportunities to get a photograph.

Inside, you’ll find an art gallery, café and Visitor’s Center. Consider going to the Visitor’s Center first to get some background on this massive 794,000-acre park. Some tourists may not want to spend the best part of half a day visiting here when they only have 48 hours in Palm Springs. But, it’s worth the trip if you want a unique experience.

Related: How to Have an Epic Weekend in Joshua Tree National Park


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The Best of Palm Springs in 48 Hours

Disclosure: this post is in collaboration with Luxury Retreats. 

Have you been to Palm Springs? Share your tips in the comments below!