Rancho Mirage Desert Itinerary
Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

Discover the Best of Rancho Mirage With This Dreamy Desert Itinerary

Here’s Where to Dine, Shop and Explore in This Desert Town

Nestled in the heart of the California desert, the sun-kissed landscapes of Rancho Mirage unfold, inviting travelers to dive into a desert oasis. The city is also known as the “Playground of the Presidents,” and it exudes a unique charm that beckons both thrill-seekers and poolside loungers. Famous for presidential visitors, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, and Golden Age celebrity residents like Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, this gem of a city combines sophistication and leisure while offering warm days and balmy nights year-round. From championship golf courses and culinary havens to vibrant arts and culture events, Rancho Mirage seamlessly blends picturesque scenery with attractions and activities for every type of tourist. Here’s how to spend a day or two in this laid-back desert town.

 

DINE

Wally’s Desert Turtle

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Rancho Mirage Desert Itinerary
Credit: Nathan Cox

From the founder of the famed Velvet Turtle chain, Wally’s Desert Turtle is a culinary haven that pays homage to the region’s bounty as well as three generations of family ownership. Renowned for its commitment to fresh, seasonal ingredients, the five-star menu and carefully curated wine list at Wally’s offer a symphony of flavors carefully crafted to delight the palate. From succulent seafood dishes that capture the essence of the Pacific Ocean to locally sourced produce that showcases the richness of California’s agriculture, each bite tells a story of the desert’s vibrant culinary tapestry. The attentive and knowledgeable staff adds to the overall experience, ensuring that every visit to Wally’s is not just a meal but a journey into the heart of Rancho Mirage’s gastronomic scene. With an opulent dining room and special performances from live musicians, Wally’s Desert Turtle welcomes its guests into a world where culinary artistry meets warm hospitality.

 

Si Bon

Credit: Manuel J Lerma (cv_food)

Transport yourself to a European culinary escapade at Si Bon, the Belgian bistro nestled in the heart of Rancho Mirage. Whether you’re craving a savory French crepe for breakfast, mussels for lunch or steak frites for dinner, Si Bon offers a charming and delicious dining experience at any time of day. The cozy bistro is an ode to Brussels with cafe chairs and hand-painted murals—an idyllic setting to indulge your taste buds in a variety of Belgian-inspired dishes along with some American classics. 

Local Insight: If you’re a fan of shareable plates, be sure not to miss Si Bon’s happy hour! 

 

DO

Explore Sunnylands Center + Gardens

In 2012, Sunnylands Center & Gardens opened its gates to the public, unveiling 15 acres that promise a journey through a desert art garden, leading to the sleek glass facade of Sunnylands Center. This contemporary marvel is a spacious retreat for culture enthusiasts, boasting a rotating art exhibition, a charming cafe, a gift shop and multimedia treasures that intricately weave the tale of Sunnylands and its visionary founders, Walter and Leonore Annenberg. You can also step into the historical embrace of the Annenbergs’ former winter abode—an architectural masterpiece spanning 25,000 square feet in the heart of midcentury modern elegance.

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Unwind at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Rancho Mirage

Rancho Mirage Desert Itinerary
Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

A sanctuary of desert-inspired rejuvenation, The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Rancho Mirage goes beyond the ordinary day-spa experience. Boasting 16 beautiful treatment rooms—some of which have private terraces with sweeping views of the valley—this serene retreat is just as gorgeous inside with its elegantly designed stone and wood architecture. Immerse yourself in a world where indigenous botanicals shine through massages, facials and body treatments for a holistic wellness experience. Some of our favorite services include the Art of Wellness Massage, the Spirit of the Mountains treatment, the Indigenous Desert Wrap and the Ultimate Radiance & Renewal Facial.

 

Stargaze at the Rancho Mirage Observatory

Rancho Mirage Desert Itinerary
Credit: Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory

Step into the cosmic realm with Observatory Public Exploration Nights at the Rancho Mirage Observatory, where you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the universe with the facility’s PlaneWave Instruments CDK 700 telescope. Admire celestial marvels and interact with passionate astronomers and enthusiastic docents who are there to answer your questions and offer more information while you marvel at 100-350x magnified views of different planets, nebulae, star clusters and more (depending on weather and time of year). No need to fret about reservations—this is a drop-in, open-house-style event.

 

Hike the Bump and Grind Trail

Credit: Bureau of Land Management California

Journey through the captivating landscapes and natural beauty of Rancho Mirage while exploring this 4-mile loop trail. The Bump and Grind Trail is a moderately challenging route—the adventure typically takes less than two-and-a-half hours, promising a fulfilling experience for hikers, mountain bikers and runners alike. For the best conditions, plan your visit between October and May, when the weather lends itself to the perfect blend of sunny skies and light breezes. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted on this trail, so you’ll need to leave your pup behind this time. (Don’t worry, you can take them out to a dog-friendly restaurant to make it up to them!)

 

SHOP

Coco & LuLu Boutique

Credit: Visit Greater Palm Springs

Nestled in The River shopping center is CoCo & LuLu Boutique, a family-owned shop where California fashion meets a vibrant BoHo vibe. This boutique takes pride in curating a collection that embodies fun, quality and, most importantly, affordability. CoCo & LuLu’s offerings range from stylish clothing to home goods and accessories, and with new arrivals coming in every week, you’ll always be able to find something new and exciting. The CoCo & LuLu team pours love and meticulous attention into each acquired item, ensuring that every piece reflects the essence of the boutique’s whimsical energy. 

 

Rancho Relaxo

Rancho Mirage Desert Itinerary
Credit: Tara Howard Petrilla

From humble beginnings within the desert expanse of Greater Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, Rancho Relaxo has blossomed into a celebration of the leisurely side of life, which is perfect for the desert’s resort lifestyle. Today, the shop meticulously curates a collection of items sourced from around the globe, with a special emphasis on the craftsmanship of California. Each piece is chosen not only for its inherent beauty but also for its resonance with the unique spirit of Rancho Relaxo—inspiring shoppers to cultivate their personal paradise wherever they may be. 

 

STAY

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

With sweeping views of the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, fine dining and luxurious ways to unwind in the spa or by the pool, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage offers an elevated retreat that encapsulates the beauty of Rancho Mirage. Contemporary design lends itself to the surrounding desert, offering breathtaking valley panoramas at The Edge Steakhouse and spa experiences inspired by the spirit of the Coachella Valley. The resort’s opulence harmonizes with the area’s rich history, creating an ambiance of refinement and indulgence. With spacious layouts, private balconies and expansive bathrooms, each room captures the essence of the resort. For enhanced amenities and top-notch service, we recommend opting for The Ritz-Carlton Club Level.

Writer | Website | + posts

Born and raised near the Pacific Coast, Jordan Nishkian is a California girl through and through. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology, and her favorite place to be is curled up in a comfy chair with a book in her hand and a pen in her hair.

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