Go with a guide!
4 great guided experiences in Palm Springs
Visiting a new city can be intimidating. How do you know where to go, what sites are the best to see, or where you should eat? If you’ve only got a short stay planned, you don’t want to waste time. That’s why a guided tour can be a great way to get acquainted with a new city. Here in Palm Springs, there’s many options to get to know the area.
Take a guided food tour
Desert Tasty Tours are short three hour walking tours that take you to a handful of restaurants and food retailers in downtown Palm Springs to give you a sampling of where to eat or shop. A knowledgeable guide chaperones you to each stop, and will give you a bit of info on the history of the business and what makes it special.
I had a chance to take a Desert Tasty Tour recently and found the variety of stops and the pace of the tour very enjoyable. We sampled a beef dip and wine at the Kaiser Grille, as well as frozen desserts, fudge, pizza, and a cocktail and snack at the Hard Rock Hotel. We also visited an oil and vinegar bar and received free samples to bring home. Each of the places we stopped at was new to me and it was nice to get to try a good variety of options.
There are two different tours, and each is an easy one mile walk, starting and ending at the same spot.
Guided Hikes in the desert
The idea of venturing out into the desert can be thrilling, but it can also be daunting. If you’ve never hiked in this kind of extreme environment before, there are some different considerations. That’s why having a guide can take some of the pressure off.
Stout Adventure offers guided hikes to places like Joshua Tree National Park, Indian Canyons, or nearly any other location that inspires you, all accompanied by a knowledgeable local. Matt guided us on a 4 hour trek through Joshua Tree on our last visit to the desert and the experience was unforgettable.
Matt knew the history of the area well and shared stories with us. He was also extremely knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the desert, pointing out animal tracks and burrows, as well as introducing us to a variety of unique plants. Matt is also search and rescue trained, which gave us peace of mind, should anything go wrong out in the high desert.
His smart, thoughtful route planning meant we had a relatively easy walk through beautiful desert scenery, then hiked down a high ridge (on our own we wouldn’t have known about the elevation change, and might have ended up having to climb instead) to wrap our journey. I also appreciated that I had a guide who knew exactly where to lead us so I could relax and enjoy the vistas.
Stout Adventure will also arrange transportation, gear rentals and any other equipment for multi-day treks too.
Historical Walking Tours
If you’re looking to learn a bit about the history and culture of Palm Springs, I highly recommend one of the Palm Springs Historical Society’s walking tours. There are more than half a dozen different options to choose from, all running at different days and times. Each tour is done on foot with a local guide.
The tour I chose was the Rat Pack Tour. Our group (we were a small group of 5 on the day we went) met on a street corner in the Vista Las Palmas residential area. The walking route took us past numerous celebrity homes, as well as several architecturally significant places; all had some type of connection to the stars that made up the Rat Pack.
Our guide was a former architect and it was a treat to pick his brain about the homes, some of the new construction, as well as the historic properties. He brought a book with some photos of the stars we talked about, as well as interesting historical photos of properties, and drawings and diagrams. That was very useful, as I was unfamiliar with some of the celebrity's homes we saw, so being able to see their photos helped.
We saw quite a few homes in the two hours allowed for the tour and learned a lot. It made me want to take another tour in a different neighborhood to learn more. These tours are great if you’re into star homes or the unique mid-century modern architecture of the Palm Springs area (and can’t get to the very busy Modernism Week).
Modernism Home Tour
If you’re looking to get closer than the curb to modernism, a great way to get insider access is via the Palm Springs Art Museum’s tours.
The Modern Tour is the museum's official operator and offers small group tours (maximum 6) where you can go inside some homes, like the Frey II house. This iconic piece of modern architecture is an example of modernism at its most minimal; floor to ceiling glass walls, spartan interior, and a boulder as a room divider are just some aspects of this property that make it not only iconic, but historic.
Getting to know Palm Springs with the help of an expert guide on one of these amazing guided experiences is a great way to learn about the city. I can recommend each of these tours heartily.