what to do in indian wells

Shop and stroll along El Paseo. (Photo: Alamy)

Palm Springs

Insider’s Guide to Hidden Gems in Indian Wells and Beyond

As the playground of celebrities and presidents, Indian Wells and its surrounds have larger-than-life attractions — world-famous golf courses, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the high-altitude Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. But there are also unexpected pleasures that often fly under the radar.

The Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells is ideally positioned within easy reach of the major attractions — and the hidden gems — that make Greater Palm Springs a joy to visit.

Whether you’re looking for classic activities, such as a midcentury architecture tour — Palm Springs has the world’s largest concentration of this style — or off-the-grid locals’ favorites to experience the desert’s inner personality, your Renaissance hotel Navigator, a modern take on the traditional concierge, can steer you in the right, and oh, so rewarding, unique direction.

Art Gems

The El Paseo shopping district in Palm Desert is an art lover’s mecca. Dotted with bold, colorful public art, the avenue is home to dozens of galleries featuring works in all mediums by artists ranging from renowned local talent to Picasso and old Masters.

CODA Gallery, midway along El Paseo, sports a cheerful vibe to match its vibrant collection of paintings, photography, sculpture and glass by emerging and established artists. You’ll find works here by several artists who designed the public installations.

what to do in indian wells
Get a culture fix at the museum. (Photo: Getty Images)

Consider ending your art sojourn with a stroll along the landscaped paths of the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert. It’s at El Paseo’s north end, with four acres of significant works by modern masters. Admission is free. A free one-hour tour is given at 11 a.m. every Wednesday.

French Flair

Find authentic French cuisine at reasonable prices at the French Corner Café in Palm Desert. This local treasure serves it all — breakfast, lunch and dinner — from crepes to croques-monsieur (and madame), cassoulet to steak au poivre, coq au vin to filet of sole and more.

Plus it houses a bakery with house-made macarons and other heavenly pastries and pain frais (fresh bread). Don’t be surprised if your server is one of the French owners.

A Blast from the Past

Tucked into the same spot in Palm Desert since 1957, Keedy’s Fountain & Grill is a time warp back to the ’50s, with Formica counters, delicious pancakes and burgers, and a real soda fountain serving milkshakes and even cherry Cokes.

Date Night

what to do in indian wells
Enjoy dinner under sparkling lights at Lavender Bistro La Quinta. (Photo: Chris Miller)

When romance is on the menu, dining under the twinkly lights on the patio at the Lavender Bistro La Quinta is pure magic. With soft live music, fine wines, Scottish salmon, rack of lamb, lobster tail and other sophisticated fare, this will be a night you’ll remember.

Resale Heaven

Escada. Pucci. Chanel. For pennies on the dollar? You bet! Marga’s Repeat Boutique in Palm Desert has stylish new and gently used designer and upscale women’s apparel, shoes, handbags, accessories and jewelry.

If you prefer vintage finds for men and women, Mitchells Palm Springs features a curated collection of new and vintage designer apparel, jewelry and killer retro sunglasses including original Porsche aviators. His Emilio Pucci dresses are to die for.

Star Struck

Not many community libraries have an observatory and full-time astronomer, but the Rancho Mirage Library has gone where no library has gone before.

Opened in spring 2018, the Rancho Mirage Observatory allows visitors to explore the night sky and interstellar space through a 27-inch PlaneWave CDK telescope. Check the website for nighttime star parties and talks. Daytime observatory tours are Monday to Friday.

Get Outdoors

what to do in indian wells
Soak up the views from Highway 75. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Coachella Valley is the only spot in North America where you can experience a true oasis, where cool waters bubble from the desert beneath the shade of California fan palms. The Coachella Valley Nature Preserve offers an opportunity to explore this phenomenon on your own, or on naturalist-led hikes (no reservations needed) into the Thousand Palm Oasis.

For a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the desert landscape, drive up Highway 75 to Coachella Valley Vista Point, about five miles into the Santa Rosa Mountains. You’ll enjoy a panorama across the entire valley, the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains, and on a really clear day, the Salton Sea sparkling 40 miles away. Entry is free. Parking is plentiful, and you’ll often have the views all to yourself.

Sip a Cocktail

At happy hour — and really, any hour — cocktails are a way of life in the desert.

The Nest, just down the street from the Renaissance Esmeralda, has been a favorite hangout for decades, and not just with locals. You may even see a celebrity or two. Sit at the bar or a high-top table, soak up the scene and dance the night away.

Looking for lowbrow? Head to The Hood in Palm Desert. It’s a great little dive bar (on purpose) with live music, pool and delicious pizza.

Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club in Rancho Mirage offers casually sophisticated cocktail camaraderie and cool jazz combos. Regulars include local interior designers and once, Lady Gaga.

For spectacular sunsets over the Coachella Valley, clink your glasses at La Quinta Cliffhouse Grill & Bar. Sit outside at the bar — it’s carved into an actual cliff!

Part the velvet curtain and enter the dark and sultry Libation Room in Palm Desert. It’s a modern speakeasy with a classic 1920s twist. Dress the part — or not. Lounge, sip expertly crafted cocktails, and groove to the resident DJ.

Discover genuine local experiences at our 160+ hotels worldwide by visiting RenHotels.com.