Thinking about a vacation in the desert and considering Palm Springs or Palm Desert? 🏝
Both are excellent choices, but the two are very different.
They both have similar populations at around 50,000 people, and have similar median ages and incomes, but that’s where the similarities end.
Here is an in depth look at each city and then you can choose which one is for you!
Palm Springs Vs Palm Desert🏝
Table of Contents
Is Palm Springs the same as Palm Desert?
Despite their similar sounding names, they are actually two distinct and wonderful locations worth exploring.
Situated in Riverside County, Palm Springs offers a unique cultural experience like no other. With its art galleries, fine restaurants and variety of entertainment options, this oasis in the desert will make your visit an unforgettable one.
Palm Desert on the other hand is known for it’s golf courses and shopping outlets. From designer labels to thrift shops it’s got something for everyone’s taste.
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How far apart are Palm Springs and Palm Desert?
From the comfort of your home, you might think that Palm Springs and Palm Desert are not too far apart— after all, they have similar names. But don’t let this trick you into thinking they’re next door neighbors.
In reality, Palm Springs and Palm Desert are about 21 miles apart in California’s Coachella Valley. You could take the bus or drive, but chances are you won’t get lost along the way: just look out for some spectacular mountain views in between.
Palm Springs Vs Palm Desert: Vibes 🙌🏼
Let’s start with the overall vibe of each place.
Palm Springs was developed before Palm Desert and tends to have more of a sense of nostalgia with trendy boutique hotels and eclectic local shops.
Palm Springs has a vibrant energy and a faster pace than Palm Desert.
The architecture is mid-century modern with lots of charm and interesting design elements.
Palm Desert on the other hand, is like a big suburban outdoor shopping mall.
There are lots of country clubs, mega cinema complexes, traditional shopping malls with big box stores and franchise restaurants you’d find in any big town.
Palm Desert has a lot of condominiums, as well as large hotel chains. Many tourists with families visit Palm Desert with its large resorts with multiple pools.
There is also a shopping area, The Shops on El Paseo, that is for the extremely wealthy, similar to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
Winner – Palm Springs
The night scene in Palm Springs has seen a recent revival with a younger generation visiting.
Downtown Palm Springs is the place to see and be seen with hip restaurants, fun bars, and pool parties.
There are casinos, dance clubs and late night happy hours. Be sure to visit a place called Bar on Palm Canyon Drive to experience world class craft cocktails and DJ music sets.
The Village Pub is also another place for live music. If you like to dance, Zelda’s and Toucan’s are 2 staple night clubs in Palm Springs.
For the classic Rat Pack experience, stop in to Melvyn’s, The Purple Palm or Copley’s!
Palm Desert is a bit more subdued when it comes to nightlife, which makes sense since it is more of a family environment.
There are more than 150 restaurants in the area, but many of them are chains.
There are a few nightclubs including The Nest which is a bar with a dance floor and usually has a line to get in.
Looking for a good sports bar? Then a visit to The 19th Hole is a must.
Winner: Without a doubt Palm Springs.
Palm Springs vs Palm Desert: Arts and Culture 🎨
Palm Springs has a ton of history, art and culture to explore.
Visit the movie colony and design district to see the old school Palm Springs you’ve been dreaming of.
Downtown Palm Springs has amazing art exhibitions to be found at the Palm Springs museum, and if you are into interior design, there are plenty of stores and showrooms in the downtown area.
Looking for something local?
The Village Fest happens every Thursday in Palm Springs and features local artists, traditional food and vintage desert finds.
Another area to visit is the Backstreet Art District with working studios where you can interact with nationally recognized artists.
Palm Desert has seen a recent revival in its art scene after winning the Award for Excellence in the Economic Development Through the Arts Helen Putnam Award in 2016.
There are more than 150 public artworks throughout the city. Think large sculptures, funky bus shelters, etc.
Palm Desert is also home to the First Weekend which is held the first weekend of every month from November through May.
There are art gallery receptions, live music, classic car shows, performing dance art, festivals and more.
With a plethora of art galleries scattered throughout Palm Desert, it really is a mecca for cultural tourism.
Winner: Palm Desert
Best accommodation options in Palm Springs🏨
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel – A fantastic luxury hotel in the heart of Downtown Palm Springs, with a rooftop pool and a bar serving classic and retro cocktails, craft beers from Coachella Valley, and crisp wines, as well as a breathtaking view of the desert landscape.
Andreas Hotel and Spa – This small boutique hotel in Downtown Palm Springs offers an authentic desert experience with its Spanish Revival architecture and Craftsman style of the 1930s, as well as Jacuzzi tubs, walk-in rain showers, shaded pool deck, couples massage, and a fine selection of cocktails.
An excellent option for couples on a budget romantic vacation.
Hotel California – Tucked away at the base of the mighty San Jacinto Mountains, the Hotel California is an iconic Palm Springs getaway for adults looking to enjoy and relax in the sun.
The hotel has a fantastic sparkling pool, bar, and spa set in a lush courtyard with swaying palm trees that complement the stunning desert scenery.
Best accommodation options in Palm desert🏨
The Westin Desert Willow Villas – This amazing semi-luxurious hotel is ideal for families with children, with three sparkling pools, a kids pool, cabanas, a whirlpool spa, a 159 foot waterslide, Sanctuary pool bar, and a fantastic Golf course.
Aside from the amenities, The Westin Desert is only a few minutes’ walk from attractions such as the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and Palm Desert Aquatic Center.
JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa – If you’re looking for the best luxury accommodations in Palm Desert, the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort is your best bet.
Gondola rides along meandering waterways, restaurants serving the finest international cuisines, two championship golf courses, relaxing pools, rejuvenating Spas, fitness center, you name it, the JW Desert Springs has it all and more to make your desert vacation unforgettable.
Embarc Palm Desert – If you’re on a romantic vacation or honeymoon, the Embarc Palm Desert is the ideal place to stay. The hotel is conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from popular tourist attractions.
The hotel has a pool, barbecue facilities, free parking, and a front desk that is open 24 hours a day.
Transportation options 🚗
When visiting Palm Springs, you do not need a vehicle since everything is within walking distance and the town itself is friendly towards pedestrians.
There is also Uber and free bicycle rents at most hotels. The local airport for the area is also in Palm Springs, which makes it easily accessible from most cities.
On the other hand, if you want to get around Palm Desert, you are going to want a car.
The total area of this suburbia is about 70 kilometers and everything is pretty spread out.
There are a ton of Ubers available if you have had a few drinks or aren’t wanting to drive. And the Uber cost between Palm Springs and Palm Desert runs around $20/25 per trip.
Winner– Palm Springs, as every popular attraction and amenities are within walking distance from each other.
Palm Springs Vs Palm Desert: Things to do 🏌🏻♂️
Best things to do in Palm Springs
Both cities have a plethora of things to see and do.
Palm Springs tends to have more action with its hotel pool scene, trendy restaurants and boutique shopping.
If you are into outdoor recreation, Palm Springs has it all.
Here are 5 Best Things to do in Palm Springs
Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum 🏛
The Palm Springs Art Museum, founded in 1938, reflects the ruggedness and beauty of the Palm Springs landscape through its art exhibitions.
The museum houses a vast and permanent collection of over 12,000 objects rooted in modern and contemporary art, design, and architecture that have evolved throughout Palm Springs’ history.
Many native American artifacts have also been meticulously preserved in order to educate the public about the rich and fascinating history of the desert’s early settlers.
The tickets for the Art Museum range from $14 for adults, $11 for senior citizens and $6 for students and teachers, while the ticket prices for the Architecture and design centre is $5 per person.
Enjoy a round of Golf 🏌🏻♂️
When it comes to golf, Palm Springs has literally hundreds of courses to choose from.
Palm Springs is a golfing paradise with world-class, well-manicured golf courses designed by famous architects such as Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, and Jack Nicklaus.
Some of the top-rated Golf courses in Palm Springs include ⛳️
- Indian Wells Golf Resort
- Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort
- Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club
- Escena Golf Club
- Desert Dunes Golf Club
Take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway 🚠
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway provides breathtaking views of the entire valley.
The mighty and mesmerising San Jacinto Mountains surround Palm Springs, and the 10-minute and 8000-foot ride to the mountains provides a breathtaking view of the Coachella Valley below.
There are more than 50 miles of hiking trails for adventure seekers, so the fun doesn’t stop here.
What about cross-country skiing and snowshoeing?
Winters are an excellent time to enjoy both before returning to the valley below.
💡 Pro tip
Visits to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway are often busy especially during peak tourist season, make sure you book your tickets online to avoid waiting in long ticket queues.
Eat, Shop, Drink and Dance at Palm Canyon Drive 🍔
Palm Canyon Drive is the liveliest and most vibrant part of Palm Springs, buzzing with tourists all year.
Palm Canyon Drive has it all- from outdoor dining restaurants to boutique shops to fantastic art galleries- whether you’re looking for delicious food, exploring local arts and culture, or shopping for souvenirs.
If you happen to be on the Drive on Thursday, you can enjoy the fun year-round VillageFest, when this massive street transforms into a big party with more than 180 vendors set up along the city’s main street.
Many local musicians and street artists perform throughout the evening, making it a joyful experience.
Tour the town in a Jeep 🛻
Tours through the desert can be taken with one of the many jeep tour companies, and other tours include movie star homes tours, architectural tours, and windmill tours.
Get into an open jeep and experience the surreal beauty of Palm Springs, a rugged and radiant affluent town.
Best things to do in Palm Desert
Palm Desert has a little slower pace of life and some of the things to do include golf, swim, cook dinner and hang with the family.
Here are 5 Best Things to do in Palm Desert
Go shopping at El Paseo 🛍
If you enjoy shopping, you will enjoy Palm Desert’s El Paseo, which features stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, Lululemon, Ralph Lauren, Anthropologie, and many more.
With over 300 fabulous shops to choose from and set against the backdrop of stunning mountains, El Paseo is the happening place in Palm Desert.
Feeling peckish after a day of exploring the city? Treat yourself to some fine southern cuisine at one of the many restaurants, cafes, and boutique-styled hotels in the desert setting.
Explore the Cabot Pueblo House 🏛
The Cabot Pueblo House, built by Cabot Yerxa in the 1940s, is a captivating example of Pueblo revival design with 35 rooms and standing 4 stories high.
The house’s architecture reflects the ruggedness of the Palm Desert landscape, with the majority of the construction made from natural materials.
Cabot and his wife decided to open their home to tourists for tours before his death, and it has since become an iconic museum with art galleries, artefacts, and artwork from his personal collection as an architect.
Spend a day at the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve🏝
This pristine 20,000-acre wilderness area whisks you away from the hustle and bustle of the vibrant desert city.
The preserve, located 20 minutes from Palm Desert in the Coachella Valley, has several picnic areas for families as well as a series of hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Desert Bird Walk, Explore the ecology of fault line Oasis hike, and tour of Two Oases hike are among the most popular hikes in the preserve.
Explore Desert Life at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens🦓
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is a one-of-a-kind museum where you can explore and experience natural desert life up close.
Many desert plant and animal species native to the surrounding desert landscape are on display at the museum.
Be prepared to see wolves, giraffes, badgers, and other animals roaming free in their natural habitat.
The botanical section of the park includes many local and international plant species, with a special emphasis on cactus and palms, as well as a butterfly garden with a palm oasis area.
For a few extra dollars, you can pet or feed some of the animals at several interactive attractions.
The Final Verdict
It would appear Palm Springs is the ultimate winner since it’s the pick of 3.5 of the above categories, but it really depends on what you are looking for.
Palm Springs, with its exquisite golf courses, celebrity mansions, luxurious pool resorts, and high-end shopping scene, is more trendy and ideal for couples on their honeymoon.
Palm Desert, on the other hand, is a perfect destination for a family vacation, with a suburban backdrop and a wide range of shopping malls, affordable lodging options, fine restaurants, historical and cultural attractions, and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy for kids and adults alike.
Or better yet, why not visit both and decide for yourself?
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