The Saguaro Palm Springs

Best Things to Do in Palm Springs, Calif.

BY Rob LeDonne | February 1, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Palm Springs? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Palm Springs?”

It’s a sparkling California oasis, a desert paradise with heaps of history and glamor. Palm Springs has been a getaway for the rich and famous, culture seekers, avid golfers and music mavens, as well as well-to-do retirees and East Coast transplants for the past 50-plus years. In fact, it’s a community that had its tourism industry sprout up largely thanks to the Old Hollywood stars it once attracted (movie studios would limit talent to excursions no more than two hours outside of Los Angeles, making its location a natural choice).

Palm Springs has continually been at the cutting edge of culture, from the days when Frank Sinatra called the community home to its current status as host of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Stagecoach Music Festival and Modernism Week and part-time home to stars including Leonardo DiCaprio and Kim Kardashian. Here’s your guide to an iconic West Coast gem and all of the places that make it sparkle.

YOU'RE HERE FOR ICONIC EATS

Melvyn’s
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Melvyn’s

Melvyn’s

200 West Ramon Road, Palm Springs, CA, USA

It’s a restaurant that reflects the golden days of Palm Springs. Located at the idyllic Ingleside Inn, this elegant American eatery is a classy destination where locals and tourists alike treat themselves to a celebratory meal or an elevated regular night on the town. With a menu that includes top-tier cuts of steak (all prepared tableside), duck and fresh fish and a fun atmosphere that features a piano player who regularly croons selections form the Great American Songbook, it’s no wonder why Melvyn’s has been a Palm Springs staple for the past 40+ years.

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Norma’s
#2
Norma’s

Norma’s

4200 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA, USA

Located at the high-class Parker Hotel, Norma’s is a brunch spot where it’s just as important to see as it is to be seen. Elevated brunch fare, whether it’s the James Beard Award-winning potato pancakes or its famous donuts, are just the start when it comes to the Norma’s experience. With decor that pops with color and gourmet spins on drinks ranging from Bloody Marys to mimosas, Norma’s is the place for brunch in a city that takes the meal as seriously as possible.

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Tyler’s Burgers
#3
Tyler’s Burgers

Tyler’s Burgers

149 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA, USA

This is a burger spot that’s a bona fide local legend. A bustling cafe with its small but mighty menu regularly has a wait, but with an array of delectable burgers on the menu as well as their beloved shakes and root beer float, all brought together with unbeatable prices, it’s obvious why it’s become a legendary part of the Palm Springs food scene. Housed in a ’30s-era building and first opened in 1996, Tyler’s is a yummy Palm Springs must.

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El Jefe at the Saguaro Palm Springs
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El Jefe at the Saguaro Palm Springs

El Jefe

1800 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA, USA

El Jefe, the cantina off the lobby of the Saguaro hotel, is where you’ll find a delectable all-day menu of delicious coffee, perfect margaritas, fresh fish tacos and assorted apps.

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Sherman’s Deli and Bakery
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Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

401 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA, USA

It’s an iconic diner experience where the servings are massive, the history is deep and the atmosphere is high energy. A Jewish deli and bakery, Sherman’s attracts both visitors and locals for hard-to-find dishes and bites prepared to perfection, whether its sweet rugelach, sandwiches overflowing with pastrami and brisket or finer delicacies such as liver and onions or gefilte fish. A unique eatery in this part of the country, it was originally opened by Battle of the Bulge veteran Sherman Harris. Harris passed away in 2008, but his culinary legacy continues to thrive.

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WHERE TO STAY

The Saguaro Palm Springs
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The Saguaro Palm Springs

The Saguaro Palm Springs

1800 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA, USA

Exploding with vibrant color and exuding joyful vibes, it’s no wonder countless high-fashion and editorial photoshoots have taken place at the colorful Saguaro. A mini chain (they have another location in Scottsdale, Ariz.), the 244-room Saguaro, with its accents of pinks, yellows and oranges, is a feast for the eyes. The rooms offer private balconies that look out on the mountains or the Olympic-size pool’s lively scene. El Jefe, the cantina off the lobby, is the perfect spot to kick back a few before hitting one of the regular parties that overlook the property’s central pool.

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GET OUTSIDE

Joshua Tree National Park at sunset.
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Joshua Tree National Park at sunset.

Joshua Tree National Park

74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA, USA

About an hour outside of Palm Springs lies the tranquil national park made famous thanks to its perch in both culture (U2’s seminal 1987 album of the same name) and nature. Located at the intersection of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, Joshua Tree (which takes its moniker from a prevalent tree of the same name) has been a mecca to many finding peace and mindfulness amid the surroundings, whether through camping, hiking, bird watching or astrology.

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Pga West golf course in La Quinta, Palm Springs, California. Photo by Shutterstock.
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Pga West golf course in La Quinta, Palm Springs, California. Photo by Shutterstock.

PGA West

56-150 Pga Blvd, La Quinta, CA, USA

Aside from culture and art, golf is a major staple of life in the area thanks to its fabled courses and destination for renowned tournaments. The crème de la crème of courses is PGA West, which offers five resort courses and four private courses, located in nearby La Quinta. Whether you’re playing in the pulsating summer heat or in the comfort of the area’s warm spring and fall, each respective course showcases landscapes courtesy some of the brightest minds the PGA has ever seen, from the aforementioned Arnold Palmer to Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus.

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PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA, USA - August 7, 2021: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway moves through Chino Canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains.
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PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA, USA - August 7, 2021: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway moves through Chino Canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA, USA

It’s a community surrounded by the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, so why not pay a visit to the mighty natural wonders? Located just outside the heart of the city, the Tram (which bills itself as the “world’s largest rotating tram car”) serves as a nearly 9,000-foot trip up into the sky. Taking just 10 minutes to get to the top and running every hour, the top of the tram offers spectacular views, dining options and even a theater. Book ahead though, as the small tram cars tend to fill up in advance, especially during peak hours.

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WHAT TO SEE

The exterior of the Palm Springs Art Museum on Museum Drive. Palm Springs, California. November 10, 2020
#10
The exterior of the Palm Springs Art Museum on Museum Drive. Palm Springs, California. November 10, 2020

Palm Springs Art Museum

101 North Museum Drive, Palm Springs, CA, USA

One of the most important aspects of life in Palm Springs is its passion for both art and architecture. In fact, it’s a city that’s largely known for its eye-popping prevalence of modernism and midcentury design, as many of the homes and structures sprouted up between the ’50s and ’70s thanks to the deep pockets and chic taste of incoming residents. It’s a quality that’s on full display at the Palm Springs Art Museum, which is housed in a unique concrete structure. It features a grab bag of rotating collections and displays, from the blown glass of Chihuly to the photographs of Robert Long that comment on present-day American politics.

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Palm Springs -June 18, 2018: Sunny downtown Palm Springs
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Palm Springs -June 18, 2018: Sunny downtown Palm Springs

Palm Springs Walk of Stars

Palm Springs Walk Of Stars, North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA, USA

Staying true to its strong ties to show business, the Palm Springs Walk of Fame can be found up and down of the downtown area and features a host of bold-faced names ranging from the aforementioned Sinatra to Elvis Presley, political figures with ties to the area like President Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George Patton and golf stars like Arnold Palmer. It’s a list that keeps on growing; the most recent class of inductees includes Dionne Warwick.

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Palm Springs - December 26, 2021: The Forever Marilyn statue by Seward Johnson
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Palm Springs - December 26, 2021: The Forever Marilyn statue by Seward Johnson

Forever Marilyn (Marilyn Monroe Statue)

Museum Way, Palm Springs, CA, USA

Accompanying the Walk of Stars as a Hollywood landmark two hours from Tinseltown is a towering statue of Marilyn Monroe. Inspired by the famous pose of Monroe holding down her dresses as the wind from a subway grate blows it up while filming “The Seven Year Itch,” the 26-foot-tall statue was first commissioned in 2011 and has since become a prime spot for pictures.

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