How to Hang in Palm Springs Like You’ve Been Visiting for Decades
The first time jewelry designer Caroline Whittington Young set foot in Palm Springs as a teen, she didn’t quite get the hype. “I was traveling with my parents, and my dad promised me there were pools everywhere,” she recalls. “Then we got to Palm Springs, and I was like, ‘I mean there are some pools, but they aren’t, like, everywhere…’” Now older and wiser, adult Caroline totally gets where her dad was coming from. “It really is this fantasyland—it’s hard not to take a moment and appreciate everything there,” she says. Here, her tips for soakin’ it all in—because if you’re not squeezing vintage dresses in your suitcase and sipping dragon fruit smoothies, you’re doing Palm Springs all wrong.
Sure, Palm Springs has no shortage of hotels (Caroline’s brother recently got married at La Quinta, which she loves), but she recommends checking out the amazing local Airbnb options, like this geodesic dome right in the desert. And if you’re on the lookout more great, unusual buildings, Caroline recommends downloading the Palm Springs Modern Committee’s self-guided architecture tour.
For another great house rental option that’s a bit removed from the Palm Springs scene, Casa Joshua Tree is a creative hub that hosts textile and art workshops, and it’s also available for private stays. It’s a quick drive from downtown PS—and book well in advance because it fills up quickly!
If you’re looking for a classic Palm Springs vibe, the L’Horizon is a recently renovated collection of midcentury bungalows that’s on Caroline’s list for her next visit. Marilyn Monroe used to hang at the original, so, ya know...
And let’s not forget all the (sometimes otherworldly) plantlife. “Coachella Valley Preserve is unreal. There were the most massive clusters of palm trees. I’d never seen palm trees so big, fluffy, and fat,” Caroline says. “We took our 16-month-old daughter there, and she had this look on her face like ‘What IS this place?’”
When you can’t take the desert heat, this is the thing. We’ll let Caroline sell it: “The tram takes you like two miles up into the mountains, and then you can hike. It’s about 30 degrees cooler once you get there, which is so surprising and amazing.”
The spoils of Caroline’s most recent Palm Springs vintage haul.
Per Caroline, bypass the ritzy El Paseo shopping area for the a cluster of thrift stores nearby—and Desert Best Friend’s Closet and Angel View are two of her favorites. “I keep a running wishlist of clothes I’m on the lookout for when I am vintage shopping so I can stay focused—silk tops, soft oversized sweaters, and funky, unique one-of-a-kind accessories,” she says. “But on my most recent Palm Springs trip, I almost had too many good finds to take home!”
This cultish local chain just opened a new location in Palm Springs. Caroline’s order: “They have pitaya (dragon fruit) smoothies that’s this bright pink and delicious—everything is really fresh and visually appealing.”
Sure, this spot is on everyone’s list, but Caroline insists it wouldn’t be a true Palm Springs trip without going. As she says, “We always stop here for a date shake and dried fruit—it’s a landmark!”
Cheeky’s has their homefries game down pat.
“Anywhere that I can get a biscuit and eggs and homefries is totally up my alley,” Caroline explains. For the old-school experience, check out the 56-year-old diner Elmer’s, and for a newer take, stop by Cheeky’s to stuff your face with corn pancakes and bacon flights.
Owned by couple Tara Lazar and Marco Rossetti, these are two of the very best restaurants in Palm Springs. Serving modern Italian with a serious cocktail list, Birba’s become a must-stop hangout in the handful of years it’s been open—one of the things Caroline loves: “There’s an outdoor garden seating area with lights and fire pits—you can get a little wild!” And a few blocks down, the brand-new Mr. Lyon’s Steakhouse is a throwback to the city’s classic Ol’ Blue Eyes vibes (wedge salad for the win!).
Inside another one of Caroline’s—and everyone’s—go-to spots in town, The Ace Hotel, this newly overhauled restaurant from the crew behind Brooklyn’s Five Leaves restaurant is one of her best bets for anytime of day—though if you wake up early enough, you can order the crazy-good ricotta pancakes.