Gorgeous Palm Springs — Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs
First time in Palm Springs? While spending the day poolside sounds tempting, there's much more to this desert resort city than swimming pools and cabanas. If you want an authentic Palm Springs experience on your first visit, pack comfortable shoes and plenty of water - you have a big day ahead of you.
First, fuel up for your Palm Springs adventure with breakfast at Cheeky's in the Uptown District or Pinocchio's in downtown. Cheeky's is known for its rotating menu of farm-fresh, artisan brunch items (not to mention its bacon flight), while Pinocchio's is beloved for its generous portions and bottomless mimosas. If you're short on time, grab a cup of organic, fair-trade coffee and a fresh muffin from Koffi, Palm Springs' favorite coffeehouse.
A slot canyon in the San Andreas fault — Photo courtesy of Marco Combs
Next, it's time to see another side of the desert on a Desert Adventures tour. From the back of an open-air red jeep, you can tour natural wonders like Joshua Tree National Park, the Indian Canyons or the Painted Canyons, but for your first time in Palm Springs, opt for a tour of the San Jacinto fault line. Desert Adventures has exclusive access to property on the fault line, and your 3-hour excursion will include a nature walk to a natural palm oasis, a walk through a recreated Cahuilla Indian village and a trip up a narrow slot canyon in the heart of the fault.
The Monte Cubano sandwich at Jake's — Photo courtesy of Marissa Willman
With a better understanding of the desert's natural history, it's time for an al fresco lunch on the private patio at Jake's, best known for its tasty Euro-inspired fare, dog-friendly attitude and legendary dessert case. Whether you opt for a hearty Monte Cubano sandwich or vegetarian Southwest salad, be sure to save room for a peanut butter cupcake before you leave.
After lunch, take half an hour or so to slow down and explore the Uptown District while walking off some of those cupcake calories. This stretch of Palm Canyon Drive is filled with boutiques showcasing retro-inspired art, mid-century modern home accents, vintage finds and designer threads.
The view as you climb the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway — Photo courtesy of Marissa Willman
While you won't be able to experience all of the desert on your first trip, your next stop will at least offer a glimpse of everything. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will take you above it all on a rotating tram car. As you climb the San Jacinto mountains, you'll trade palms for pines as you reach San Jacinto National Park. The tram station has a viewpoint where you can see the entire Coachella Valley, and there are plenty of flat nature trails where you can soak up the scenery.
If heights aren't your thing, head downtown to check out the Palm Springs Art Museum instead. This contemporary art museum and performing arts theater is home to more than 12,000 pieces of art and and a 12,000-piece natural science collection. After finishing up at PSAM or the tramway, head to Copley's on Palm Canyon for dinner in the courtyard. Housed in Cary Grant's former guesthouse, this award-winning restaurant serves perfected modern cuisine and provides a thoroughly romantic setting for dinner.
The Melvyn's Martini — Photo courtesy of Marissa Willman
If you have time for after-dinner drinks, step back in time with a stiff martini as live piano music fills the lounge at Melvyn's. This uniquely Palm Springs restaurant is all about Old Hollywood glamour, from the piano player singing show tunes to the tuxedo-wearing waiters to the celebrity photos lining the walls. Sit back, enjoy a Melvyn's Martini and let the charm of your first time in Palm Springs sink in before calling it a night.