Check In and Chill Out: Summer in Greater Palm Springs

Jun 17, 2021

Greater Palm Springs is in the Southern California desert, and while daytime temperatures may rise during the summer, the season might just be the area's greatest. Summertime brings splash-filled family fun, serene spa days, endless poolside relaxation, mild nights at cool restaurants and truly outstanding deals on stays. For us, the advantages of this season make it well worth a visit.

Those of us fortunate enough to be acquainted with the sun-drenched playground know that Greater Palm Springs (which comprises nine cities) is easy to access. It's located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles and has its own airport where travelers can fly directly from 31 cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Dallas.

Read on for our favorite ways to chill out as you soak up the summer in Greater Palm Springs.

By the pool

For many, the pool is a centerpiece of any summer vacation, and in this department, Greater Palm Springs has an embarrassment of riches (we're talking 10,000+ pools in the Coachella Valley.) Your options here vary from on-resort family waterpark to adults-only cabana with bottle service. Let's dive in, shall we?

For Adults

Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel

If you're headed on a couples retreat, gals (or pals) getaway or looking for solo self-care time, you'll likely lean toward the adult-centric end of the spectrum.

An intimate boutique resort that we love in this category is Villa Royale where the three pools (and the entire resort for that matter) are restricted to guests ages 21 & up. You can relax poolside in a cabana at no extra cost, but do remember to stake your cabana claim early in the day as they're first-come, first-served. 

For a pool with a view, plunge in at Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, set on the valley's only accessible rooftop. Sip a Little Tuscany cocktail (amaro, pineapple, prosecco & tonic) and catch the sunset for one of the best views in the region.

La Quinta Resort & Club has a whopping 41 pools on property. While there are a number of public swim options (including a lap pool, a 21+ option and a cabana-flanked main pool), we think it's worth the splurge for a private casita for your own private pool.

The Saguaro Hotel & Pool

And if it's DJ-led pool parties you're after, Ace Hotel & Swim Club (a retro-hip spot with handcrafted cocktails), ARRIVE Palm Springs (think cult classic film screenings at "dive-ins", water balloon fights and ice cream) or The Saguaro Hotel & Pool (fun, loud and colorful) are the spots to let loose.

For Families

Fortunately for those with kiddos, poolside family fun is just as easy to come by in Greater Palm Springs as the adult variety. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, for one, features a lazy river, two 100-foot waterslides and a recently renovated water park.

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort's on-site water park features thrilling attractions like a three-story tower with dueling waterslides, a lazy river and five pools.

For a perfect marriage of beach and pool, play at Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa Indian Wells where you can sunbathe next to the pool while your little ones build sandcastles in the manmade beach nearby.

Dining out

Greater Palm Springs's desert enclave has catered to the fashionable and famous for decades, so it's no wonder that the valley's culinary scene attracts celebrity chefs, style-forward restauranteurs and chic diners to fill the dining rooms. 

This summer, plan to dine at new and buzzy spots like Bar Cecil, where the elevated New American menu features dishes like the caramelized onion tart, smoked pork chop and the Beaton Burger, served in a (very cute) custom takeout box.

Bar Cecil | Elevation Creative Agency

Tac/Quila is a Jalisco-style Mexican food joint from the husband and wife owners of Farm (a beloved French restaurant on the historic plaza in Palm Springs). The menu has a variety of cup-runneth-over-style tacos on house-made corn and flour tortillas (a must) and truly delicious mains—like the carnitas stuffed roasted poblano pepper. Order a margarita (or a flight of four mini margs if you can't pick one style) and dine on the outdoor patio where a massive plant wall will act as the backdrop to your perfect meal.

If your pup is along for the trip, you can both dine in the newly opened, open-air lounge at Boozehounds. For the pooch, order treats and snacks (like turkey jerky) or a full meal (e.g., chicken bowl with rice and cauliflower). Humans will love the atmosphere, cocktails (many of which are named after famous dogs; we're eyein' you for happy hour, Old Yeller) and the yummy shareable menu. 

With the Summer Eats Pass, you can visit local-favorite restaurants throughout the valley—like Babe's Bar-B-Que & Brewery, Heirloom Craft Kitchen, The Cafe at Shields and Wally's Desert Turtle—while unlocking discounts and free meals. 

At the spa

With summer comes more time in the sun, so we're booking spa appointments for hydrating face and body treatments to restore much-needed moisture (especially since those poolside cocktails aren't exactly known for their hydration properties). Greater Palm Springs spas have plenty of options on offer, many of which weave in local, natural ingredients to boot.

An excellent place to begin is at the bohemian Two Bunch Palms where the spa is set to reopen in June. The Desert Hot Springs resort (located about 15 minutes from downtown Palm Springs) is perhaps best known for sitting atop a natural, mineral-rich spring which is used to fill the pool, the iconic grottos and cement-and-teak soaking tubs. For true and utter transcendence, book a deep tissue massage that incorporates CBD oil.

For its part, the spa at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa offers a Desert Journey body treatment using fragrant scents inspired by the desert in bloom; it begins with a citrusy scrub, followed by Swedish massage, hot stones, a paraffin foot treatment and a scalp massage. Heavenly. The resort's exfoliating Coachella Date Facial uses locally-grown Medjool dates as a base for its all-natural resurfacing peel.

The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage draws spa treatment inspiration from the desert as well. The Desert Wildflower Poultice Massage employs ayurvedic traditions combined with indigenous and organic herbs. The deeply relaxing treatment includes some gentle stretching and focuses on pressure points to relieve tension and soreness.

Appreciating art

Don't leave the desert this summer without visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum where you can catch the end of two exhibits by Agnes Pelton—who lived and worked in nearby Cathedral City in the mid-20th century—on display through Sept. 7. Experience the two fascets of the American modernist painter's work: spiritual abstracts and desert landscapes. 

Also currently on display are a number of works by abstractionist Helen Lundeberg, whose mid-century era work includes "cool and crisp compositions with defined forms and a smooth finish," according to the Palm Springs Art Museum. You'll need a timed ticket to visit the museum currently; see their website for tickets and more information.

If you plan to visit later in the summer and (incidentally) miss the Palm Springs Art Museum exhibit that you had your eye on, head to Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, where the 200-acre grounds house the former winter home of Ambassador Walter Annenburg. The 25,000 square-foot, midcentury estate (designed by architect A. Quincy Jones) will reopen after its annual hiatus ends after Labor Day. In addition to touring the historic home (which has hosted world leaders and celebrities, including presidents, princes and Frank Sinatra), visitors can explore the desert art garden and Sunnylands Center that houses a rotating collection of art.

Adventures with the family

For a quick thrill without all the hubbub, take the family for a ride on The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The tramcar will slowly rotate while climbing, offering ever-new, sweeping views over the rocky canyon cliffs before ultimately stopping near the lush forested area at Mount San Jacinto State Park. Once you make it to the Mountain Station (elevation: 8,516 feet) stop into one of the two restaurants, take in views from the observation deck or set out on a hiking trail. The higher elevation means cooler temperatures so hiking is an option here, even in summer.

For a cool ending to your summer getaway, explore The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (tickets required for admission; open 7 am - 1:30 pm in summer) where you will all have the opportunity to see more than 450 desert-native animals, including cheetah, giraffe, jaguar and bighorn sheep. Enter the Petting Kraal and your little ones can groom animals, or purchase separate tickets to participate in daily giraffe feedings.  

Ready to go? See more things to do and places to stay in the Southern California oasis of Greater Palm Springs.

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