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

From Hot Air Balloon Rides to High-End Shopping, Here’s How to Spend a Weekend in Palm Desert

Your Weekend Under the Sun Awaits!

Winter months can seem to drag on with no end in sight, so brighten your days with a weekend getaway to Palm Desert! Two hours from Los Angeles, Palm Desert offers an unplugged oasis with terrain to be explored. At this time of year, it’s not too hot and it’s not too cold; the temps are just right to spend the weekend dining al fresco, hiking, golfing or soaring to new heights in a hot-air balloon. We’ve rounded up the top places to visit for the ultimate weekend trip to Palm Desert.

 

Hiking

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

The desert landscape is a gratifying change of pace from the suburbs and cities. Sand-swept canyons, fan palms, flowering brittlebush and rocky hills stretch for miles. Unplug and explore the terrain! Hopalong Cassidy Trail is one of Palm Desert’s most popular hiking spots, which is named after Western film star William Boyd. Stretching 7.4 miles, Hopalong Cassidy Trail is not for the faint of heart. The expansive view of the desert from the loop’s peak is well worth the climb, however. Randall Henderson Trail is a moderate 2.5-mile loop with just the right amount of distance and difficulty for the whole family–find the trailhead at the San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center. For experienced hikers, scale the hills of Art Smith Trail, where bighorn sheep can be spotted along the path of dry brush and palm forests. Lace up and map out your morning, but don’t forget water and sunscreen; even in the winter months, you’ll need it!

 

Dining

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

New foodie finds are always a highlight of travel, and Palm Desert’s restaurants are can’t-miss. Boasting American classics, fine-dining options and international cuisine, the Palm Desert culinary scene is something everyone can hop on board with. Wilma and Frieda’s modern diner puts a twist on tradition by reinventing childhood classics. The Short Rib Scramble and custard French toast do not disappoint! But one of the best parts of desert weather is being able to enjoy an al fresco meal. Reserve a table on Wildest Restaurant and Bar’s string-lit patio and order from a menu of sustainably sourced rib eyes and wild-caught fish. Celebrating a special occasion? Head to Pacifica Seafood Restaurant! This classy rooftop eatery is located in the El Paseo shopping district and is known for its award-winning wines and fresh fish. And maybe it’s the desert heat, but no trip here is complete without a margarita! Guillermo’s Restaurante is a family-owned and -operated local favorite that truly offers a taste of tradition. Pro tip: try their tequila-marinated fajitas! 

2/23

 

Shopping

Commemorate your desert getaway with a souvenir…or a shopping spree! Start your search on El Paseo. This mile-long shopping strip is home to over 200 luxury shops and hosts Fashion Week El Paseo every year in March, so save the date! The Shops at El Paseo are home to name brands like Ralph Lauren, Chicos and more. In The Gardens on El Paseo, you’ll find everything from Ann Taylor and Anthropologie to Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Not to mention, this shopping mecca comes to life on the first Friday of every month with self-guided art walks, a classic car show and live music. Shopped till you dropped? Rest your feet and catch a lift on one of El Paseo’s courtesy carts, which offer free transportation from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., October through May. On hot desert days, beat the heat at The Shops at Palm Desert, an air-conditioned indoor mall and movie theater. Don’t miss the opportunity to shop local either; visit the Certified Farmers Market on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Entrada del Paseo. End your shopping adventure by hunting for vintage gems at The Fine Art of Design or Revivals

 

Excursions + Experiences

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

Open vistas are plentiful in the desert, so take advantage of them with a leisurely day of golf at one of the city’s award-winning resorts. Tee up at Desert Willow Golf Resort, which offers stunning views of the Coachella Valley and environmentally sensitive design features for a splendid day of desert golfing—watch out for those bunkers! To see more of the desert terrain, hop on horseback for a trail ride or take a biking tour from the sandy hills to the city centers. Equally as adventurous are off-roading Jeep tours, which cover more ground. Professional drivers will share the history of the land as you accelerate through the canyons of the San Andreas Fault zone. You can also lift your spirits and see it all from above with an unforgettable hot-air balloon ride above Palm Desert. And for those looking to interact with nature, you’ll want to take a walk on the wild side at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Spot native desert tortoises and Australian yellow-footed wallabies! Zoo tickets are $30 per adult and $20 per child.

 

Arts + Entertainment

Coachella Valley is known for its musical history–the performing arts included. McCallum Theatre attracts world-class performers that make for a memorable night of live entertainment. With just over 1,100 red velvet chairs and warm stage lighting, each audience is captivated by the intimate opera house atmosphere. Performing this season is “One More For the Road,” an extraordinary tribute to Frank Sinatra, “My Fair Lady” and “On Your Feet!” Much larger in size, events at the all-new Acrisure Arena are currently the talk of the town. This modern music hall and sports venue opened in December 2022 and already has a full calendar of entertainment options. Catch a hockey-game and root on the local Coachella Valley Firebirds in the 10,000-seat arena. Hockey games take place almost every weekend of the season! When pucks aren’t flying, the arena doubles as a concert venue for bands such as the Eagles, who will be performing their Hotel California Tour on Feb. 24 and 25. Escape to the desert and be reminded why California is the place to be!

Check out the Palm Desert Instagram to view their pocket guide for even more details on the best of Palm Desert.

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Lover of the beach, food and fitness, Emily enjoys exploring all sunny Southern California has to offer! She has a passion for sharing about her favorite local gems and began writing for Locale in 2022. On the weekends, find her creating recipes for her food blog or out in Laguna!

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