Palm Springs’ most popular byway is unquestionably Palm Canyon Drive, which traverses the low desert plain before abruptly turning into the palm-tree lined thoroughfare that hits the heart of downtown, with plenty of stops along with way.
Read on for 10 of our faves:
Today it’s known as the Palm Springs Visitors Center, but when this edifice with a spaceship-style roof debuted in 1963 it did so as the Tramway Gas Station. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway’s Valley Station sits farther up Tramway Road. Designed by midcentury architects Albert Frey and Robson Chambers, it’s every bit as distinctive now as it was then, and fittingly it’s the first thing you see when rolling onto Palm Canyon from Interstate 10. A selfie stop under that famous cantilevered, wedge rooftop is obligatory.
2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive
PHOTO BY GREGG FELSEN
The Visitor’s Center is a perfect place for that first Palm Springs selfie.
Whether or not you’ve snagged an invite to a chic poolside party somewhere in Palm Springs, around here it pays to look the part. Fortunately Wil Stiles makes it easy with his fine range of jaunty midcentury modern–inspired men’s shirts. You can find colorful womenswear and a selection of international labels, too, at this quintessential Palm Canyon boutique.
875 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Koffi is Palm Springs’ ever-cheerful answer to Starbucks and its flagship location has served as a gateway to the Uptown Design District. The expansive lawn in back is where locals perch and sip house-roasted coffee. Meander a couple doors down in the same building to Just Fabulous to peruse the art and design books and a vast range of cool, midcentury modern–themed gifts.
515 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Built in 1936, the 800-seat Plaza Theatre is no longer in use, although there are whispers of a restoration project. Legend has it the theater is where the 1930s classic Camille premiered, with star Greta Garbo incognito in the back row. The adjacent arcade shopping center is a throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood and worth a stroll anytime of year.
264 N. Palm Canyon Drive
The lovely Welwood Murray Memorial Library anchors the corner of East Tahquitz Canyon Way and South Palm Canyon Drive. Most tourists walk right past without realizing the Welwood is the oldest intact civil structure in Palm Springs, with roots stretching back to 1886. Dr. Welwood Murray built the city’s first hotel with a small adobe building in the back that was a free library. When his son took over the property, he gave the land to Palm Springs in the late 1930s on the condition that the land be used to house a free library. Recently renovated, it serves the Palm Springs Historical Society. Stop by for free tourism information and a peek at the small interior garden.
100 S. Palm Canyon Drive
The Palm Springs Historical Society Museums prove there’s a lot more to this desert oasis than the Rat Pack. You’ll find a microcosm of it amid the Palm Canyon bustle at the lovely Village Green Heritage Center. It’s the parklike setting for a cluster of minimuseums including the McCallum Adobe, a pair of 19th-century pioneer homes, and Miss Cornelia White’s “Little House.” There’s a historical display and film on Palm Springs history inside the restored adobe.
221 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Set in a former bank building surrounded by urban desert landscaping, the Architecture and Design Center, part of the Palm Springs Art Museum, is billed as “the hub of the museum’s exploration of architecture and design” and always has deftly curated temporary exhibitions. A museum shop with design books and gifts is tucked inside the former vault. Even better, admission is free.
300 S. Palm Canyon Drive
There are Bank of America branches all over Southern California, but only one was inspired by Le Corbusier and it’s parked on South Palm Canyon Drive. Built in 1959 by Victor Gruen Associates, the design was inspired by Corbusier’s groundbreaking chapel in Ronchamp, France (which had only been completed four years prior).
The thick, curved white roof seems to float above the walls, which are mostly white but covered with blue tile on one side. Even if you’re not a customer, it’s worth popping in for the cathedral-caliber view of the mountains from the westward-facing floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
588 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Sure, you can find Louis Vuitton in the desert, but the best part of shopping in Palm Springs is the stuff you won’t find anywhere else. Vintage reigns supreme. While thrift shops and consignment stores abound in the desert, Revivals Resale Mart stands out for its wide selection of absolutely everything under the sun. Sales benefit the Desert AIDS Project. There are different branches, but this one’s the original — and the retro strip mall it anchors is also home to a healthy café that’s a known haunt of Miley Cyrus and Suzanne Somers.
611 S. Palm Canyon Drive
V Palm Springs is a retro-chic hideaway from the commercial fray. It’s both a throwback to the Palm Springs motel culture of yore and a nod to the midcentury modern craze of now. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy gourmet nibbles poolside at Elixir, the property’s beachless gourmet cabana with a chef-driven menu and creative cocktails.
333 E. Palm Canyon Drive