There’s more to sunny Palm Springs than working on your golf swing or lounging by the pool. This resort town two hours from Los Angeles has a variety of artistic attractions that you can add into your California holiday. In fact, we’ve found five ways to inject some cultural pizzazz into a stylish desert getaway.
Architect some art
The Palm Springs Art Museum has been featuring works by noteworthy modern artists for decades, but its newest addition highlights architecture and design — appropriate in a town that’s known for its vast number of midcentury modern homes.
Located in downtown Palm Springs, a few blocks from the museum’s main building, the Architecture and Design Center is a classic, low-slung midcentury structure. Through May 1, the center is showing an exhibit of architectural photos by Gordon Watkinson, “Bauhaus twenty-21: An Ongoing Legacy.”
See what’s new in a hidden gallery district
You might not expect to find fine art in a desert strip mall, but Backstreet Art District lets you wander through several local galleries in such a setting. Feel free to chat with the artists working in their studios whenever you pop in, but the best time to visit is on the first Wednesday of every month between 6 and 9 p.m. during the district’s regular Art Walk open house.
Go desert green
Discover a different type of culture at the Moorten Botanical Garden, a compact, cactus-filled retreat, where desert plants of many varieties line the shaded paths. Opened in 1938, this family-owned arboretum showcases more than 3,000 types of cactuses, palms and other vegetation.
Walk through celebrity history
The Palm Springs Historical Society offers a variety of engaging walking tours, highlighting the city’s design heritage and its legacy as a Hollywood holiday haven. On the Rat Pack Playground tour, explore modernist homes in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood, including properties where celebrities like Dean Martin, Debbie Reynolds and Elvis Presley once lived and played.
Architecture aficionados will appreciate the nearby Kaufmann House, which architect Richard Neutra designed in 1946, although for pop culture fans, the more entertaining tidbit may be that, from 1973 to 1993, the house’s owner was crooner Barry Manilow.
Another historical society tour takes you through the “Movie Colony,” where Hollywood stars, including Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson and Jack Benny, settled in the 1930s and ’40s. In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra built a home here, cementing the district’s celebrity party reputation.
Shop and sip Uptown
A great destination for design devotees is the Uptown Design District, along North Palm Canyon Drive. Colorful shops such as Pelago and notNeutral feature housewares, gifts and furnishings for your own modernist pad, while the town’s own Trina Turk sells brightly hued resort wear for both men and women.
When you’re ready for a restorative beverage and snack, stop into whimsically designed Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, a former 1950s post office. The eponymous signature cocktail blends vodka, prosecco and limoncello, while The Skinny Watermelon mixes tequila, lime, agave nectar and watermelon.
Prefer your thirst-quenchers with a side of (well-designed) kitsch? Then take your tipple at Bootlegger Tiki, a classic cocktail lounge that once housed the original Don the Beachcomber restaurant. Besides, is there anything more stylish — and fun — than dressing your drink with a paper umbrella?