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Hope springs

Hope springs

It has an average of 360 days of sunshine every year and hosts the hippest music festival in the world, but Palm Springs offers eco-tourists so much more than tans and Coachella. Think modern architecture, street fairs, ethical wildlife parks and horse rides in spectacular desert canyons. Oh and date shakes.

Poolside at Ace Hotel

A mere two hours’ drive from LA, Palm Springs gained prominence in the 1930s as a getaway hideout for stressed stars wanting to escape Hollywood for a few days of rest, recuperation, cocktails and stunning views. For today’s travellers, Ace Hotel’s 173-room hotel spa and resort is the perfect place to stay. With its reclaimed furniture, industrial showers and festival-chic luxury, it’s basically like quirking out in a Wes Anderson flick. And you don’t even need to drive – Ace has bikes you can borrow for free. Make sure you try the Date Shake at the hotel’s diner, King’s Highway. To veganise, ask them to sub the ice cream for avocado!

Eco-conscious foodies can rejoice in Palm Springs, with all tastes and price ranges catered for. Café Europa does a particularly delicious line in organic breakfasts, while Workshop Kitchen + Bar creates culinary masterpieces using local produce. My personal paradise is Native Foods. This vegan fast-food joint serves burgers, nachos and chilli to satisfy (and maybe even convert) the most hardcore meat eaters.

Sinatra’s house, courtesy of Beau Monde Villas

The best introduction to Palm Springs is a tour with local architecture aficionado Robert Imber, who takes small groups on customisable trips. If you’re not already a fan of mid-century modern’s minimalist simplicity, you will be after a few minutes with Robert. He’ll explain how Palm Springs came into being and is also happy to discuss alternative energy production and why so few Californian properties have cottoned on to solar panels. Architecture buffs should put Palm Springs’ Modernism Week, which takes place every February, in their diaries.

For those who want a nature-based adrenalin rush, a ride up the jagged rock-face of the San Jacinto mountain in the world’s largest rotating aerial tramcar is a must. This thing travels fast, and the views as you hurtle up 8,500 ft are spectacular. From the mountain station you can head off on a hike, or stand on a viewing deck and hopefully spot a (notoriously shy) bobcat.


Other local animals are more outgoing, including the horses at Smoke Trees Stables. There is no better way to explore the awe-inspiring mountain desert environment than on horseback. For even more animal encounters, head to The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens where you can cuddle goats, ride camels and feed giraffes. This brilliant ethical wildlife park even lets you visit its hospital to find out how sick animals are cared for.


No trip to Palm Springs would be complete without some serious shopping. I recommend a day at Desert Hills Premium Outlet, where cut-price Michael Kors, Bose and Nike also draw big crowds. For those who prefer unbranded goodies, every Thursday the town’s main streets are pedestrianised as VillageFest takes over. This street market offers everything from local produce, art, jewellery and clothes, to California’s best dog-spotting opportunities. Thrift-store shoppers are also well catered for – pick up some second-hand Ralph Lauren sweaters or 1980s designer vintage dresses at Angel View.

Even if you are heading to Palm Springs predominantly for the sun and music, be sure to explore the rest of what this desert gem has to offer. You may even find yourself copying environmentalist superstar Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s just bought a house in Palm Springs…