City Guide: 36 Hours in Palm Springs

palm springs is the most perfect desert town located two hours south east of la. its’ mid century modern architecture makes my heart swoon. there are a great variety of upscale and cheap eateries as well as many hikes for you to explore the mountains. i have loved this city since i was little. we visited it every summer for about 5 years and always right around my birthday. i can vividly remember the water slides, unlimited root beer (to stay hydrated of course) and cool ac when you first step into your hotel room. we used to stay at the westin (primarily for the kid friendly water slide and day camp), but this year decided on the marriott (both are located in palm desert, which is a short 15 min drive from the heart of palm springs). palm springs will always hold a special place in my heart.



7:00pm dinner at trio (downtown palm springs) – trio’s diverse menu and trendy atmosphere left me knowing i had picked the perfect place for my birthday dinner (two birthday groups and a bachelorette party surrounding us also knew it was the place to celebrate). their slogan is “where palm springs eats” and i can completely see why. the water misters surrounding the building and posh decor even made eating in 100 degree sound desirable. trio even decorated our table with confetti in honor of my birthday. that combined with bread upon arrival instantly won them a couple extra brownie points. although trio may not seem like the most kid friendly place, the wait staff would tell you otherwise. our waiter was sure to keep the bread coming and brought my nephew’s entree with the starter salads. my sister was very thankful and impressed with how attentive he was to kids’ needs.
we ordered coconut shrimp, beet salad, tomato salad, lamb shank, seared ahi and red snapper. every entree was superb. my family could not stop complimenting each of their dishes. we were very full and thought about skipping dessert but, just as we were about to tell our waiter, he brought out a giant strawberry cupcake. it was a great ending to a divine meal.

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8:30pm walk around downtown (downtown palm springs) – this is the best time of day in palm springs, when the sun is setting and temperatures lower to the 80s. It is a delight to roam s. palm canyon drive with the warm breeze in your hair. trio is located about half a mile north of the downtown area so you may want to drive down to the center and explore from there. there are many furniture stores, galleries (including palm springs art museum), restaurants, souvenir and dessert shops to peruse. It is a quaint street and not much is offered once you stray a block off of palm canyon drive. do take a gander at the plaza theater where the fabulous follies’ show used to take place. it is a everlasting piece of history in palm springs.

9:30pm grab a shake at great shakes - now that you have walked off a little of your dinner you must try a shake at great shakes. their shop is located in the heart of s.palm canyon dr. i love the variety and richness of the shakes. great shakes uses homemade ice-cream, mini donuts, fudge, whipped cream and marshmallows when constructing each respective shake. i had to try the s’more shake. look at those perfectly browned marshmallows! yummmmm

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9:30am shopping at just fabulous (palm springs) – head to north palm canyon dr. for fabulous shopping at just fabulous. it is a charming shop with books, cards, calendars, stationary, music and art work. it would be easy to lose your self for hours in the unique treasures just fabulous has in stock.

10:30am brunch at norma’s (parker palm springs) – oh my goodness, words cannot even begin to describe how fabulous brunch is at norma’s, but i will try! norma’s is located inside the iconic parker palm springs (you know the hotel that was designed by jonathon adler?). from the moment i stepped through the large orange doors i knew why this hotel was so beloved (by celebrities and locals alike — the pool security told me richard gere comes to stay often). norma’s is located in the back corner of the lobby. its’ bright colors and mod decor made my hear skip a beat. then came the menu. oh that menu was so expansive. every item made my mouth water. we decided to try the donuts, very berry brioche french toast, waz-za, artychocked benedict and a custom omelette. everything was cooked to perfection. i especially loved the lemon curd that topped the donut holes and artychocked benedict. norma’s serves a classic benedict in the heart of the artichoke. how smart is that? you may remember my obsession with perfectly poached eggs and norma’s didn’t disappoint.

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12:00pm walk the grounds of parker palm springs – you must walk the grounds of the parker palm springs while you are there. their lemonade stand, bocce ball courts and croquet set up is delightful. we walked around the hotel with my sister and parents who couldn’t get enough of the architecture and colors. we all plan to stay there the next time we are in palm springs. every corner you turn has another picturesque scene.

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1:00pm relax by the pool – and now it is time to bask in the pool during the hottest portion of the day. there is really no other way to enjoy the city at this time. we brought floaties and good books and plopped down at the pool for a couple hours. this is the perfect way to digest the heavy brunch and prepare your pallet for what is to come. side note… i am now halfway through a hundred summers and it is hard to put it down. it is a light story about love, friendship and life decisions. i can’t wait to give you a review once i finish!

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3:30pm juice break at fresh juice bar - maybe my vacations revolve too much around food but, i can’t help it. i feel like a big part of experiencing a new city is indulging in the food ( as well as the sights). but around this point in the afternoon when i am completely exhausted from the heat, i need a little pick me up. fresh juice bar was the perfect place. it is located in the downtown area of palm desert (many shops such as kate spade and jcrew were located nearby if you are in the shopping mood. cabazon outlets are another great place to shop, which are about 30 min from palm desert). fresh juice bar puts a lot of emphasis on pitaya instead of acai in their bowls. supposedly it has a lot more health benefits. i tried the pitaya tropical bowl and was a little disappointed. i felt like it is was less flavorful than the acai bowls i am used to. next time i will stick to what i know and love. my parents tried their juices — zinger and immunity rocket. both were quite tasty and fresh. it was the perfect boost to get us through the second half of the day.

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8:00pm dinner at fresh agave mexican bar & grill – b actually picked out this place and i think my whole family was praising his choice by the end of the meal. sometimes the heart (and the stomach) just want some good old fashioned mexican food. we called two minutes before leaving the hotel to tell them that we had a big party with two high chairs. to our surprise, the table was already set upon our arrival. the service just kept getting better from there. chips and salsa were immediately brought to the table, which was hard not to devour. upon request (and an added fee) your server will make homemade guacamole right in front of you. that is how you know you are in a great mexican restaurant.  the menu was extensive with authentic and americanized mexican cuisine. i chose a beef tostada and b decided on flautas de pollo. the portions were large and all entrees were served with rice and beans. some of the best beans i have had might i add. we held off on dessert this time around ( i know a rarity) because we still had more mississippi mud cake back at the hotel. and nothing can beat that.

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9:30am palm springs aerial tramway - confession… we did not head to the tramway this time because we were there for so short and we had two kids with us that don’t love the car. it is about 40 min each way from palm desert. i do hear it is spectacular though and hope we are able to experience it the next time we are in the area. for those of you who don’t know what this is, people board a tram for steep 10 minute ride to take in the views of chino canyon. you are at an elevation of 8,516 ft by the end of the ride and are able to take in some pretty spectacular views. there are some great hikes at the top as well as camping grounds near by. the first tram ride begins at 10am and costs about $24/person. i also hear it is a must see/do because you escape the heat for a little while. have any of you guys ever ridden the tram? is it worth it?

12:00pm grab a date shake for the road at hadley’s orchard -  our last stop in palm springs was hadley’s orchard. hadley’s is famous for their date shakes. i have had about 3 date shakes in my life but trust me when i say it is famous for a reason. the chunks of dates that come slurping through my straw were perfect. it is a very sweet and refershing date shake. i loved having a little piece of palm springs with me for part of the drive home (very long drive so i needed some relief).


there were a few places i did not have a chance to check out (mainly because they were on summer break) that i hope to experience next time:
cheeky’s (downtown palm springs) – for brunch
las casuelas terraza (palm springs) – for lunch, try to sit outside
crave (downtown palm springs) – dessert bar that offers happy hour.. need i say more?
copley’s (palm springs) – this was my first choice for my birthday dinner, but glad we ended up with trio
workshop kitchen + bar - would be a fun dinner spot (didn’t look kid friendly)

and if you are chomping at the bit to go to palm springs now, don’t forget to check out my packing guide for more palm springs advice!

what are you favorite things to do, eat and see in palm springs?

  • estherjulee

    your outfits are suuuper cute!! :) looks like such a great relaxing weekend with tons of good food! i must do palm springs sometime soon!

    • Ems

      thanks esther! yes, you must check out palm springs. it is the perfect weekend getaway.

  • Candi @ A Day in Candiland

    Since I live here, this is a great post. I have not been to Trios yet or Hadleys (crazy) I have been to Agave restaurant and would like to go back. Looks like you had a great time.

    • Ems

      glad to receive the approval of a local! we greatly enjoyed our time in palm springs and hope to return soon. do you have any other recommendations?