outfits summer travel

what to do in palm springs & joshua tree

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dress: ASOS (on sale!) // shoes: c/o Fiesta Feet // purse: Mar Y Sol c/o Shopbop // earrings: c/o Woll

photos by Chelsea Francis

I have to be honest with you: I may or may not have planned a few of my outfits for my Palm Springs trip based on where we were going. I’m not proud of it (jk I totally am) and I’m even a little embarrassed by it (jk I’m totally not).

This was the outfit I planned to wear when we visited The Saguaro, the colorful hotel of my dreams. Little did I know, I would actually visit The Saguaro a whopping three times because I just couldn’t stay away! The only photos I got in this outfit while I was there were on my ole iPhone (goodness, I need the new one so badly!), so I had Chelsea snap some Palm Springs-esque pics once I got back to Austin. You can just pretend I’m still in the Palm Desert because I certainly am!

I’ve had a few requests for my Palm Springs and Joshua Tree recommendations, so I thought I’d compile a couple of my favorite things we did during my week-long trip! For clarity’s sake, I feel like I should explain that my vacation started out as a work trip, but the event at which I was going to speak was cancelled. Since many of us had our tickets already, we decided to still go and invited a handful of other photographers (most wedding) from around the country to come hang in the desert for a week. I, myself, am not a photographer (I think most of you know that!), but due to my job, I spend a lot of time talking to wedding photographers, so it was fun to run around California with them for a week!

Where to Stay

Aloha Ranch – Yucca Valley

Aloha Ranch was the first of two Airbnbs we rented during my trip. We had five people comfortably in this home, but could have fit a couple more in the three-bedroom, two-bath setup, one-couch setup. I loved the vintage Americana decor, including a huge old western movie poster framed next to the door that I’m still obsessing over. While we didn’t have a chance to use it, this rental also comes with a “cowboy dip,” which is just a big tin tub you can fill with water in the summertime, as well as a fire pit.

Spirit Wind – Joshua Tree

If you’ve got a big group (we had 10 when we stayed), Spirit Wind is the Joshua Tree Airbnb you want to be in! It was by far the most unique home I’ve ever seen and its clever use of space allows for a large group to stay comfortably. It’s technically three-stories because of a loft bedroom, has two official bedrooms on the second floor with an additional lounge area and office, and cubby twin beds and giant, comfy couches on the first floor. One of our favorite aspects of Spirit Wind was the circle of hammocks outside, which the welcome book notes is perfect for “life-altering conversations” beneath the stars (can confirm).

What to Do

Palm Springs Unofficial Hotel Tour

Seeing as my obsession with Palm Springs started with writing about so many weddings that took place there, visiting my favorite boutique hotels I’d never been to was at the top of my list. My top three were The Saguaro, The Parker, and the Ace Hotel. The Saguaro, as I mentioned, is like Disney Land for people who love bright colors, AKA me. The hotel has a gorgeous outdoor courtyard including a pool, as well as an onsite bar and restaurant called El Jefe. The Parker is the classiest of the three and, while the drinks are terribly expensive, it’s worth visiting to see the beautifully curated interior. The Ace Hotel has a more hipster cool vibe and a great onsite diner called King’s Highway. If you’re going to dine-in at one of the three, I would recommend eating at the Ace! It’s free to walk through the lobby and courtyard areas of all three hotels, but the pools and other amenities are available to guests or by an additional fee depending on what it is.

Palm Springs Midcentury Modern Architecture Tour

Okay, so we actually just drove around some pretty neighborhoods near the hotels I mentioned, but I just found a self-guided architecture tour that I totally wish we’d used instead! Palm Springs is known for its architecture (if you don’t believe me, check out this KFC), and the midcentury modern homes are its crowned jewel. I really wanted to take one of these guided tours, but we didn’t have a chance, so I guess I just need to make another trip! 😉

Yucca Valley Unofficial Vintage Tour

I couldn’t go on vacation and not hit up some vintage shops! I heard lackluster things about the vintage shopping in Palm Springs proper, so we decided to shop closer to the desert for better finds and better deals. Along 29 Palms Highway through Yucca Valley, you can find a handful of great vintage stores that have been carefully curated. My absolute favorite was The End (where I got the top worn in this post) which has a little something for everyone, all at reasonable prices. A couple of other notable shops we hit on our tour were Funky and Darn Near New and Promised Land.

Joshua Tree National Park

Hopefully a visit (or seven) to Joshua Tree National Park is on your list, but in case it isn’t – GO! I’ve never seen anything like it, and the further into the park you drive, the more diverse the landscape becomes. Perfect for camping, hiking, photo sessions, watching the sunset and/or stargazing, spending plenty of time enjoying the park is in your best interest.

Imperial Sand Dunes

Okay, this isn’t actually in Palm Springs or Joshua Tree, but at two hours away, I had to include it on this list because it was that good. In fact, the Imperial Sand Dunes are one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen. I actually got really emotional as we ran around the seemingly endless, overwhelmingly large dunes of sand as we watched the most incredible sunset I’ve ever witnessed. If you have access to a car during your trip, I highly recommend making the trip!

What to Eat + Drink

Bootlegger Tiki – Palm Springs

Though I had a drink while hanging out at each of the above mentioned hotels, my favorite cocktails were actually at Bootlegger Tiki. This tiny tiki bar is easy to miss; it looks like it’s the back half of a coffee shop on the same corner, but is actually its own entity. Bootlegger is known for its handcrafted cocktails and happy hour specials. Basically, it’s a must-stop for your tropical cocktail Instagram needs and the drinks really are that good!

Frontier Café – Yucca Valley

This became our go-to coffee shop and breakfast spot for the week and I honestly wish I could just go anytime I wanted. Great food (light fare and yummy breakfast) and drinks (the frozen chai!!), plus it was so cute and cozy. If you’re hitting the vintage shops I mentioned above, this cafe is along the way!

2 Guys Pies – Yucca Valley

Y’all, don’t sleep on 2 Guys Pizza. After spending sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, we were driving around starving, looking for a place that was open because everything closes early in the desert. We were so lucky to come across 2 Guys Pies, and not just because it happened to be open, but because it was truly an amazing experience. I have never had better service at any restaurant (I left a 5-star review on the drive home and we left a giant tip – they even tried to tell us we tipped too much because they’re that kind!). The food was insanely good and in huge portions. The menu is hilarious and unique, as each pizza and dish is named after a music reference. I really cannot recommend this spot enough and wish I could hug the employees a hundred times.

There’s so much that I didn’t do that I’d still love to cross off my bucket list, like Salvation Mountain, Salton Sea, and Mirage (the latter was closed when we tried to visit), so I’m hoping to head back out to the Palm Desert in my future! If you’ve been, where were your favorite places you went so I can add them to my list?

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