Coachella is rarely mentioned outside of festival season, but there’s more to this desert gem than neon bikinis and Instagrams of ferris wheels. Located two hours from Los Angeles, Palm Springs and the surrounding areas have been long-time road-trip destinations for Hollywood celebrities. And it’s not hard to see why: The temps are high, the humidity is low, and the sky is always a crystal clear blue. This, of course, makes for perfect pool weather. But don’t let the days slip—this Californian oasis is brimming with unique attractions. From glamorous modern architecture to a trippy folk art mountain, here’s our guide to enjoying design in the desert.
The Saguaro Palm Springs
Quintessential Palm Springs with bright pop colors and dreamy palm trees, this hotel is often home to parties during music festival season. The other 11 and a half months of the year, you’ll find a peaceful oasis. Lay by the pool (the pool bar is stocked with snacks, fruit, juices, and boozy frozen drinks), take one of their daily yoga classes, or hang out on your private balcony.
Palm Springs Art Museum
A hidden art gem, the Palm Springs Art Museum is sure to please all types of art lovers with its vast and eclectic collection. You’ll find Native American pieces next to contemporary sculptures and breathtaking photography, proving that even tiny spaces can be mighty.
Joshua Tree Stargazing
A spiritual mecca for artists and musicians (specifically, artists and musicians who partake in, ahem, substances) this park also offers plenty of universally appealing activities, with the most unique offering occurring after dark. Joshua Tree is one of the best places for stargazing in the country because it’s located about 5,000 feet above sea level and is far from major cities (which create light pollution). If you’re looking for an unrivaled view, here’s a pro tip: Make your way to the east side of the park for the best visibility.
King’s Highway Diner
Formerly a Denny’s, King’s Highway Diner is now part of the Ace Hotel and is best described as “refined diner fare with a desert flare” (think: corn fritters, black lentil soup, and a killer key lime pie). With round lights, raw wood tables, and clean minimal lines, this restaurant throws you back to an earlier time but offers of-the-moment meals.
Built by Leonard Knight in the 1980s as a testament to his faith, the multicolored, pastel Salvation Mountain is constructed from adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of paint. You can spend hours poking around this trippy site, but since it’s truly in the middle of nowhere, as everyone on Yelp can attest to, don’t forget to pack LOTS of water.
Desert Modern Architecture
Nature and design exist in harmony in Palm Springs, where you’ll find some of the most spectacular and breathtaking homes. You can take a self or pro-guided tour of the desert modern homes and buildings designed by visionaries like Albert Frey, John Lautner, Richard Neutra, and William F. Cody.
A favorite local spot for treasure hunting, Gypsyland is filled with the vintage finds you’d expect to dicover out west. From coats that scream Penny Lane to rabbit fur pelts to vintage shot glasses, this is the ultimate destination for one-of-a-kind gifts.
Pappy & Harriet’s
From old desert roadhouse to live music venue, you can easily spend all night at Pappy and Harriet’s. Grab a drink (served in a mason jar) and order some bbq (all their meat and fish are cooked on an outdoor grill with Mesquite wood) before the intimate show. Check out their calendar to stay in the know on their legendary live acts. (Paul Mccartney played there last year!)
Jonathan Adler recently refreshed his first hotel project, yet it’s still a dreamy mix of an earlier time (think: a Mid-Century Modern Moroccan hookah lounge) and today’s insatiable desire to share our lives online. (Adler told the New York Times, “I felt this urge to make something that was timeless, but also relevant and provocative in the age of Instagram.”) You’ll find fluffy sheepskin rugs in the guest rooms, a vintage sign that reads “Drugs” in the lobby and a floating fireplace in the lounge, leaving you with endless adventures and social sharing opps. Plus, the pool is chlorine-free, a huge relief for those California blondes looking to avoid green locks.
Nikola Tesla-disciple George Van Tassel described his one-of-a-kind, all wood, acoustically-perfect dome as “a time machine for basic research on rejuvenation, anti-gravity, and time travel.” Built on an intersection of powerful geomagnetic forces, the structure has a complicated and messy history, but in 2000 it was purchased by three sisters who now promote it as a place of healing. The main activities offered are sound baths: sonic healing sessions involving crystal singing bowls, where you’re “bathed” in sound for extreme relaxation and rejuvenation.