When is the best time to see sun & snow in Palm Springs?
Have you ever wanted to experience the sun & the snow in the same weekend getaway? No need to jump on a plane to a tropical destination this Winter. Spend a weekend getaway in Palm Springs between December and April for the best chance to play in the snow in the morning and sit by the pool in the afternoon.
Where is Palm Springs and how do I get there?
Palm Springs is located 107 miles East and slightly South of downtown Los Angeles, and 121 miles East of Los Angeles International Airport. The time can range widely from 2 hours to 4 hours + depending on the time you drive to Palm Springs from Los Angeles. The best bet is to depart early in the morning, midday during the week, and after 7:30 p.m.
- Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is located in Palm Springs. There are some great direct options during season (December – April).
- Ontario International Airport (ONT) is located in the City of Ontario. It is about one hour and 15 minutes from Palm Springs. A good option if you are flying from another major market and do not want to deal with the traffic in Los Angeles.
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the best option to fly into the area if you are trying to keep flight costs as low as possible and want a direct flight. You will have to rent a car.
What is the best time to visit Palm Springs?
- High Season is January through April. You will be visiting at the most popular time. The roads will be crowded, hotels will be more expensive, and it will be tough to get dinner reservations. You will however, have the benefit of possibly seeing snow covered mountains (if California is not in drought conditions). The daytime temperatures can range depending on the specific month. But typically, this is perfect weather.
- Shoulder Season includes May, October, November & December prior to Christmas. These months are the best bang for your buck. You can get some absolutely gorgeous days in each of these months. There is a good chance in May & October to have days closer to 100 degrees.
- Low Season includes June, July, August & September. These months in my opinion are the best months to avoid. The extreme heat limits outside activity to mornings before 7:30 a.m. Temperatures can rise to 120 degrees + Unless you are all about being in A/C and want the cheapest prices possible do not book these months.
How to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway?
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is an amazing attraction in Palm Springs. It is the largest rotating tram car in the world! It travels 2.5 miles into the wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. You go from the valley floor of the desert to an elevation of 8,516 feet. It is very similar to the Jungfrau experience in the Swiss Alps. Now how is that for a weekend getaway!?
The tram station has a touristy vibe with restaurants and gift shops. Once you depart the station and venture into the park you suddenly arrive in a crisp alpine forest. Here are some tips;
- Arrive early (in season) soon after the station opens. You can buy tickets online or at the ticket office. They only sell about 15% of their tickets online according to the office. During busy holiday weekends when there is snow, you can wait up to 3 hours or more.
- Bring several layers. You can arrive at the station from the valley in 70 degree weather and the temperature can drop into the 40s at the top.
- Where sneakers or trail shoes. Even walking on the incline in the parking lot is tough.
- Bring water. It is cheaper and if you are hiking it is not available.
- Make sure you are very familiar with the trails if you are hiking in the permit required trails.
- Bring your 10 essentials if you are hiking on the permit only trails.
- Tell someone where you are going the day of your hike.
- Do not attempt to hike on the permit only trails in snow unless you are extremely familiar with the trails when they are snow covered.
- Bring yak trax or micro spikes if there is snow. And waterproof shoes, jacket and pants.
- Bring snacks for hiking.
- Plan on at least 5 hours or more for day hiking in San Jacinto State Park when taking the tram. There are at least 2 hours added on dealing with ticket buying, permits, etc.
- Cell reception is spotty and you can’t rely on it. Download maps from the Alltrails or purchase a map in the gift store.
Where to relax after an incredible hike in Palm Springs?
The ultimate “Snow & Sun” weekend getaway in Palm Springs includes staying at The Parker Palm Springs for the night and enjoying the spa services at The Parker Yacht Club. Funny right? A yacht club in the desert.
Staying at The Parker Palm Springs is a splurge, but totally worth it. The standard room will cost about $400, and the spa services are not the cheapest in town. The high prices are justified by the beautiful and lush landscape and the magical setting. The hotel property is situated on 13 acres and feels like a true oasis in the desert.
The experience also includes the fabulously decorated rooms (Jonathon Adler) hotel common spaces. It feels like a step back into the early sixties, and as if you are sharing the hotel with movies stars of that era. It is definitely an instagram famous place, and you will see many bloggers running around snapping photos;)
Where to dine in Palm Springs?
There are many incredible restaurants in Palm Springs. You will definitely need more than one day and night to experience the wide array of cuisine available.
The Parker Palm Springs is a resort experience, and offers delicious dining options on the grounds of the hotel. We also explored Palm Canyon Drive to see what Palm Spring’s main drive had to offer in the way of a yummy dinner. Here is what we found.
- Trio Restaurant is located on Palm Canyon Drive and is well known among the locals. The website touts the food as “Midwest comfort food with a California edge”. Apparently the owner is a midwesterner transplant to Palm Springs. The food is delicious and fresh. We enjoyed a mojito mocktail, an ahi tower (tuna in the desert?) and main course of chicken piccata. We were impressed, and the prices did not break the bank.
- Norma’s at The Parker Palm Springs We ate an incredible breakfast early at Norma’s. It was so good, that we returned for a late lunch after our spa treatments. The atmosphere is amazing at Norma’s with small decorative touches and a personable wait staff. The breakfast menu included The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata with a super size 10 oz Sevruga Caviar offered at $1000, so obviously not cheap. Definitely try the freshly made donuts with dipping sauce if you are in a mood to splurge.
Where to shop in the Palm Springs area?
- Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs The first time I visited Palm Springs, I was expecting an experience similar to Palm Beach, Florida. I guess it is the shared word of “palm” in the title. It is not like Palm Beach at all. Palm Springs has rebounded to the popularity it once held in the early 60’s. The main street is in transformation, and has lost most of the kitschy feel it had just 5 years ago. It is not a manicured and high-end shopping experience, but it has a charm and like-ability that makes you want to explore the clothing boutiques and mid-century furniture and resale shops. There are also main stream chains including Tommy Bahama, West Elm and H&M. Trina Turk’s boutique embodies the playful style of Palm Springs with vivid prints and cheerful home decor.
If you are enjoying this post, you might enjoy this post about a hiking and spa weekend in Scottsdale, AZ!
- El Paseo in Palm Desert, CA Take a 20 minute drive South on 111 in the Coachella Valley to Palm Desert, and you can explore El Paseo. This is a higher end shopping experience with a mix of designer stores (Gucci, Escada, & St. John’s) upscale boutiques, Saks 5th Avenue, Off Saks 5th Avenue, and nationwide retailers like Ralph Lauren, Lululemon, Anthropologie and Chico’s. A great selection of restaurants as well.
- Desert Hills Premium Outlets – Cabazon, CA On your way back to Los Angeles, or the airport experience The Desert Hills Outlet Center. If you are an outlet center fan, Desert Hills is going to be a shopping highlight for you. The outlet contains almost every major designer, and a huge variety of major retail brands. It is no wonder that buses from Los Angeles arrive with international shoppers on a daily basis.
My thoughts on Palm Springs
Palm Springs is the perfect getaway weekend or a seasonal escape from a cold climate. It is an oasis in the desert where the weather is generally guaranteed during the Winter. Warm days and cool crisp nights are the best.
The activities are plentiful and will keep you busy from dawn until dusk with hiking, pool time, tennis, golf (I could do a blog post separate just on the golf options) pickle ball, happy hours and dining out etc.
A Palm Springs vacation does not include a body of water. It is about the mountain views, incredible sunsets, and leisurely activities. If you have not tried it, give the desert a chance for a long weekend. You might just fall in love.
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