Palm Springs, about an hour and a half’s drive from Los Angeles, began its life as a city-wide pleasure palace for the rich and famous, escaping the smog, responsibilities and paparazzi of L.A.
And hot spoiler: It still is.
“Palm Springs is about pleasure,” says local expert, author and architecture aficionado Michael Stern. “There is literally no industry here.”
Nestled in the Californian desert and surrounded by picturesque mountains, it’s one of the few places in the world where palm trees actually grow natively.
It’s also one of the foremost places in the world where modern architecture thrived in the mid-century and remains to this day. The clean lines, large windows, pops of colour and sloping roofs are present on almost every single building in the vicinity, with designed by names to make architecture nerds froth. The rich and/or famous were happy to go a little nuts with their properties, says Stern, because these were ‘second’ homes. Throw in a pool, add another lounge area, why the hell not.
Of course, a place so lush and in such close vicinity to Hollywood would attract celebrities. Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Cher were among the rich and famous drawn to this oasis, and Leonardo DiCaprio has a house there that you can famously rent for around $4,500 on Airbnb.
But since Palm Springs is a city practically designed for the Instagram age, we’ve rounded up a bunch of posts that prove its the most Instagrammable place on earth.
First off, let’s just appreciate the overall ~mood~ that is Palm Springs for one second. Dusty sunset colours, flat buildings, distance mountains and approximately one million palm trees is a strong aesthetic – bonus points is there’s a pool or some weird architectural feature involved.
One house – with a pale pink (alright, millennial pink) door and white walls, even got so popular amongst the Instagram set that the owners set up their own Instagram account, @ThatPinkDoor.
Seriously, people just pop along and take pics outside of it. Gotta get that hot ‘gram content, you know?
If you can get yourself on a modern architecture tour, then absolutely do it for the chance to peak inside some of these wonders – like Frank Sinatra’s house (with a pool in the shape of a piano), or the famous Kaufmann Desert House.
Then let’s talk iconic hotspots. The Ace Hotel, The Parker and The Riviera are all known for celeb-spotting, day-drinking, and impromptu photoshoot-taking. You know what looks good on the ‘gram? A huge sign that says “drugs”.
The Ace Hotel is a mid-century motel turned luxe-but-still-nicely-weird hotel (complete with iconic roadside diner – get the date smoothie, trust me), while the Parker is seeped in lowkey celebrity scandal (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie checked in under aliases in the first days in their relationship, and Robert Downey Jr. once had a drug-induced meltdown here and got arrested). The Riviera – bolt hole of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor – is nothing short of Palm Springs legend.
Think even something like HUGE, FAKE DINOSAURS couldn’t be Instagrammable? Think the hell again.
A little trip to the Moorten Botanical Garden Showplace is an ideal spot for
learning about a huge variety of cacti getting that perfect ‘gram shot.
Even places that should be absolute trash have an aesthetic about them.
Want a pop of col0ur? Head out to Salvation Mountain just east of the Salton Sea, one man’s tribute to god and the world. Look, it’s about an hour-and-a-half out of Palm Springs but it’s insanely worth it.
Want a pop of col0ur? Head out to Salvation Mountain just east of the Salton Sea.
Or: if you want to witness Palm Springs in all its faraway glory, head up the aerial tramway.
Of course, no trip to Palm Springs is complete without heading out to Joshua Tree and the nearby desert. And if you’re heading that way, you might as well swing by Pioneertown – an almost-deserted Western film set – and have a drink at Pappy + Harriet’s, the tiny pub almost every Coachella act has played at.
Yes, there’s a bunch of less vapid reasons to go to Palm Springs like….. uh….. the history. But whatever. Just go, stage a photoshoot, down some cocktails, lightly stalk some celebs, perve on the architectural porn and just soak up the sun from any one of the many unfathomably aesthetic pools. Do it for the gram.
The author travelled to Palm Springs courtesy of Air New Zealand and Visit California.