Credit: Idea Peddler on behalf of the City of Palm Desert

Your Guide to Exploring the Sun-Swept City of Palm Desert in a Day

With World-Class Resorts, Outdoor Adventures and Charming Restaurants, This Desert City Is Perfect for a 24-Hour Escape

Part of the sun-drenched Coachella Valley, Palm Desert is a premium destination for golfing, shopping, dining and all things leisure. Whether you’re visiting from Los Angeles, Orange County or nearby Palm Springs, Palm Desert is the perfect place for a quick 24-hour escape. Embrace the desert lifestyle poolside with a cocktail in hand, dine alfresco on the city’s shop-lined El Paseo or see some amazing wildlife up close at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Ready to hit the road? Here’s our guide on exploring the best Palm Desert has to offer.

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DAY 1

4 p.m. Check-in at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Palm Desert City Guide
Credit: JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Enjoy mountain views at the palm tree-lined oasis that is the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. This luxury resort boasts some of the most tranquil and lush grounds in the area, and in addition to the pools, there are also beautiful lakes across the property, creating a serene desert scene. Upon checking in, head up to your recently remodeled guest room or suite and take in views of the expansive property. Mountain vistas can be seen from most of the suites and rooms, and you’ll find unbeatable amenities like rain showers and quartz vanities.

 

6 p.m. Dinner at Ristorante Mamma Gina

Palm Desert City Guide
Credit: Nathan Cox

Ristorante Mamma Gina is one of the most locally loved restaurants in Palm Desert. The original restaurant opened in Italy in 1956, but in 1986, it made its way to the Golden State. Now, locals and visitors alike are able to enjoy authentic Italian cuisine right in the heart of Palm Desert. The housemade pastas are the highlight of the menu, but before you dive into the main course, start off with some of their most popular appetizers. The fried zucchini sticks and pan-seared scallops are local favorites, but the bruschetta is a must-order. Once you’re ready for pasta, be prepared to make some tough decisions, as there are more than 12 different options. The seafood linguini and carbonara are both delicious, but if you’re looking for something a bit more cheesy and hearty, the gnocchi al gorgonzola is a no-brainer. Also, don’t forget to order a side of Mamma’s sweet peas with pancetta!

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8 p.m. Dessert at La Dolce Piccola

Looking to cure your craving for something sweet? Head to La Dolce Piccola Gelateria. This family-owned gelateria serves the tastiest treats, and all of their gelato is completely homemade. The modern interior sets the scene for a post-dinner scoop or cone, and there are tons of different flavors to choose from. Consider cooling off with the tart lemon gelato or sweeten things up with a scoop of strawberry. In addition to gelato, you can also enjoy freshly baked goods like brownies, cookies and cakes.

 

9 p.m. After-Dinner Drinks at the Libation Room

Credit: Visit Greater Palm Springs

End the evening with a nightcap at the Libation Room. This exciting new lounge and bar has a snazzy interior enhanced by crystal chandeliers, plush booths and a sleek bar, resulting in an industrial yet romantic setting. Enjoy live performers and local DJs as you sip and savor creative craft cocktails. If you’re craving something smokey and spicy, sip on the mezcal-forward El Oaxaca. The Pasea Rose is a sweeter and more floral choice. Though it is only open Thursday through Saturday, the Libation Room keeps the party going until 2 a.m.

 

DAY 2

9 a.m. Breakfast at Wilma & Frieda’s

Credit: George Duchannes

Fuel up for an adventurous day ahead by stopping at Wilma & Frieda’s for breakfast. This locally-loved diner puts a modern twist on comforting favorites. Whether you prefer sweet or savory, Wilma & Frieda’s has you covered. The churro waffle and Kim’s banana caramel French toast are both favorites for those who have a chronic sweet tooth, while Mark’s short rib eggs Benedict is a hearty and savory delight. Of course, you can always keep things simple by building your own scramble with everything from onions to mushrooms to mozzarella.

Local Insight: Don’t leave without trying one of their amazing homemade pop tarts!

 

10:30 a.m. Rhino Encounter at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Palm Desert City Guide
Credit: Visit Greater Palm Springs

Experience a true taste of the desert when you visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. This family-friendly attraction is a non-profit organization with a mission for conservation and allows visitors to get up close and personal with animals like leopards, cheetahs and giraffes. The new Rhino Encounter is a one-of-a-kind experience that offers an intimate encounter with one of two rare black rhinos. In addition to learning the habits and behaviors of these fascinating creatures, guests may even have the chance to feed or brush a rhino, depending on the time of visit. This experience is not included in a regular admission ticket and must be purchased separately.

Exploring Palm Desert

12 p.m. Red Jeep Tour of San Andreas Fault

Palm Desert City Guide
Credit: Red Jeep Tours

Get your blood pumping with a Red Jeep Tour of the famous (and daunting) San Andreas Fault. These open-air tours have been a hit since 1988, and you can choose between a private or public tour. This exciting and fun ride is also a great way to glimpse the beautiful desert landscape. Ride through towering peaks and beautiful boulders as your knowledgeable guide teaches you all about the San Andreas Fault. During your ride, you’ll also hop out of the car and do some slot canyon exploring and even embark on a tour of the Cahuilla Indian Village. 

 

2 p.m. Lunch at Sherman’s Deli & Bakery

Palm Desert City Guide
Credit: Sherman’s Deli & Bakery

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Sherman’s Deli & Bakery for lunch. This family-owned deli has been a desert staple since 1953, and you’ll always find it bustling with loyal locals. Though there are sandwiches for every kind of preference and diet, the hot pastrami with Swiss cheese is a must-try. Craving something a bit lighter? You can’t go wrong with the lox and cream cheese or the sliced turkey breast sandwich. While the sandwiches are easily the star of the show, the stuffed cabbage is a delicious and authentic appetizer. 

 

3 p.m. Shopping on El Paseo 

Palm Desert City Guide
Credit: Chartwell Properties | Shops on El Paseo

El Paseo is the ultimate place for some retail therapy while exploring Palm Desert. From high-end brands to one-of-a-kind boutiques, this bustling street is a fashionista’s dream. Need to update your wardrobe basics? House of Lolo has some of the best blazers, sweaters and slacks—most of which come in neutral colors that can be worn on a daily basis. Rancho Relaxo is another trendy shop with home decor, fun gifts and famous printed tees. When it comes to bohemian dresses, denim and timeless jewelry, Elizabeth & Prince is your best bet. 

 

4:30 p.m. Afternoon Coffee at Varraco Coffee + Roasters

Credit: Varraco Coffee + Roasters

Before heading home, give yourself a much-needed caffeine boost at Varraco Coffee + Roasters. The beans used are directly sourced from the Philippines and are roasted to order. If you aren’t familiar with coffee from Southeast Asia, prepare for a caffeinated kick. The coffee is strong and bold, boasting beautiful aromatics that fill the entire shop. Order a smooth latte or a mouthwatering matcha along with a seasonal scone. Also, don’t forget to grab a bag of beans to go so you can enjoy your own brew at home. Exploring Palm Desert

 

 

 

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Allie Lebos graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2017 with a BA in Communication. While in school she was a staff writer at The Daily Nexus for nearly two years. Since graduating she has written for The Palisades Magazine, as well as Hidden Hills Magazine. Currently living in Santa Monica, Allie loves to indulge in good food, hot yoga, and daily walks along the beach; writing articles on travel, special events, as well as features on local businesses and individuals.

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