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Palm Springs vs Palm Desert: Which area is best for you?

April 2, 2018

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Palm Springs or Palm Desert

Palm Springs vs Palm Desert has become a hot topic for individuals looking to plan a trip to the area. With Greater Palm Springs continuing to grow in popularity as an affordable and all encompassing vacation destination, many wonder which area is right for them. Below I outline what to expect in both areas to give you a better sense of which slice of paradise is right for you. I’ll start by saying you can’t go wrong with either, so rest easy, take a deep breath, and let’s find your destination!

Why stay in Palm Springs vs Palm Desert?

Palm Springs Mid Century Home

Transportation
  • You do not need to rent a car in Palm Springs. Everything is fairly walkable, and the streets are very pedestrian friendly.
  • Getting around is easy. With Uber and free bicycles available at almost every hotel, you won’t need to spend too much time getting from place to place.
Accommodation
  • Trendy hotels, romantic getaways, Air b-n-b’s. You’ll spend more $$$ in Palm Springs, but there are a lot more options if you’re looking for that iconic lively Palm Springs experience. Here are some great options.
Things to Do
  • Downtown has it all. Boutique shopping, hip restaurants, the famous Palm Springs Museum, art galleries, pool parties, great happy hour, thrift shopping. Needless to say, you won’t run out of things to do.
  • Palm Springs is the oldest part of the area, which means a plethora of history to explore. With the movie colony and design district right in town, you’ll see the traditional Palm Springs you’ve seen in travel magazines and splashed over social media.
  • You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world that does mid-century modern better than Palm Springs. Exploring the nearby neighbourhoods will give your camera a serious workout. Painted doors, slanted rooftops, minimalistic design elements. The architecture will inspire you.
  • If you’re an interior design buff, you will be in heaven in Palm Springs. The downtown shops are lined with incredible stores and showrooms. You’ll want to buy a house and start furnishing it ASAP.
Lay of the Land
  • Palm Springs is more tourist oriented, so if it’s your first time to the desert, it might be best to stay in Palm Springs vs Palm Desert. You can head out on a day trip to explore Palm Desert to see if it’s more your scene for your next trip (and I promise, there will be a next trip.)
  • Palm Springs is very eccentric, with a vibrant energy you just won’t get in the other areas.
    • If you are younger (or young at heart), Downtown Palm Springs is definitely where I recommend staying. With tons of trendy boutique hotels and restaurants, a few lively bars and entertainment, it has a faster pace than Palm Desert and neighbouring suburbs.
Unique Selling Points
  • The Village Fest, an outdoor local market, happens every Thursday in Palm Springs, a fun place to shop around for vintage finds and desert knick knacks
  • The airport is in Palm Springs, making it a quick and cheap transport to your accommodation
  • The Rat Pack hangouts like Melvyn’s, The Purple Palm at Colony Palms and Copley’s are all in Palm Springs and worth a visit!

Why stay in Palm Desert vs Palm Springs?

Palm Desert Pool

With chic Country Clubs, big box stores, cinema complexes, golf courses at every turn and mainstream shopping malls, Palm Desert is a place to relax and stay awhile. It has more of a suburban feel to it, with condos and large hotel chains like the Marriott and Hyatt. However, there are still plenty of cool restaurants and things to do in Palm Desert, making it the best of both worlds.

Transportation
  • You will need a car in Palm Desert, as everything is very far apart. The blocks seem to sprawl forever, and the suburb is 70 square kilometres. Lots of ground to cover!
  • One thing I love about Palm Desert and Palm Springs is the amount of Ubers available. You won’t have a problem hailing one after a few too many margaritas at The Fresh Agave (a must try if staying in Palm Desert!)
Accommodation
  • Palm Desert is great for families as there are more affordable house rentals, many in Country Clubs that have pools on every corner.
  • Hotel giants like JW Marriott and Hyatt have restaurants, bars, golf and pools onsite. AKA you never have to leave.
  • Palm Desert is ideal for longer rentals or snow birds as you can create more of a routine and home life. Easy access to grocery stores, yoga and fitness studios, hiking, restaurants and a few bars.
Things to Do
Golfing
  • Golf a big part of your vacation plans? Then Palm Desert is a better place to rest your head.  You can stay at one of the many country clubs or hotels that reside on golf courses, or rent a house and try a few different courses. There are hundreds! Palm Springs does have a few golf courses, but if you’re an avid golfer, Palm Desert is a better fit.
Shopping
  • Looking to shop till you drop? El Paseo is considered the Rodeo Drive of Greater Palm Springs. The street is lined with luxury boutiques and upscale restaurants. Saks 5th Avenue, Gucci, Lululemon, Ralph Lauren, and Anthropologie are just a few of the stores you’ll find. It is also home to some incredible restaurants!
  • Palm Desert has a Nordstrom Rack and Saks off 5th for the ultimate discount brand name shopping experience.
Unique Selling Points
  • The College of the Desert in Palm Desert has a street fair every Saturday and Sunday in peak season. The fair is worth checking out for a frozen lemonade and some bargain hunting. Great for golf gear, jewellery, socks, and home decor.
  • Palm Desert is close to La Quinta (10 minute drive), which is another great suburb with tons of restaurants, movie theatres and golf courses (PGA West, one of the most famous golf complexes in town, is located in La Quinta).
  • The Nest (a bar with a dance floor and epic people watching) is located in Palm Desert, an experience everyone should have at least once in their life! Be prepared to wait in line!

So, which is it? Palm Springs or Palm Desert? As mentioned, it comes down to the type of experience you’re after. For a mid-century infused, trendy experience with great food, lots of action, a vibrant hotel pool scene and a chance to take in all of the storied history Palm Springs has to offer, stay in Downtown Palm Springs.

For a more local experience, where you can lay your roots, play some golf, relax poolside, cook dinners, shop, and spend time with family, Palm Desert is more your speed. Keep in mind, Palm Springs is only a $20/25 minute Uber ride away from Palm Desert. You can always spend a day or two exploring there if you choose Palm Desert. It doesn’t have to be one or the other!

For your reference, I always stay in Palm Desert as we have a condo there. If I am staying for a week, I will always visit Palm Springs a few times during my stay, usually on the weekend. I’ll walk around and shop a little, have happy hour, and end with dinner followed by Melvyn’s for drinks. I also love heading down on a Sunday for brunch and pool hopping. That way I get the best of Palm Springs, but can spend the rest of the time chilling out in Palm Desert laying by the pool, cooking and hanging out in a lower speed, more relaxed environment.

I hope you found this helpful and that it gives you some clarity on where to stay in Greater Palm Springs! If you have any specific questions, ask away below!
Palm Springs Itinerary

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