Drenched in a rainbow of 12 hues inspired by the colors of desert flowers, the Saguaro hotel pops against the mountain backdrop, and the rooms, more fun than fancy, are splashed with color right down to the brightly striped bedding. The pleasures here aren’t purely visual—James Beard winner Jose Garces presides over both the hotel bar and restaurant. From $149 (high-season rates from $249);
El Jefe, James Beard winner Jose Garce’s spot at the Saguaro, is the place for Mexico City–style tacos, tortilla soup, and tequila flights in a kitschy biker-bar setting.
Tinto, also helmed by Jose Garces at the Saguaro, is for finer dining, with Basque pintxos (tapas) like boquerones (marinated white anchovies) and chuleta (ibérico pork loin), and a hyper-regional Spanish wine list.
The once très exclusive Sunnylands Center & Gardens, former home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, is now open to us 99 percenters for tours. But they don’t call it the Camp David of the West for nothing—between tours, world leaders fly in for desert-style diplomatic sessions. A shining example of California modernism, designed by A. Quincy Jones, the 25,000-square-foot one-bedroom house is chock-full of art (yes, that’s a Rodin) and personal photos, including an entire wall of the Queen Mother’s yearly personal Christmas cards to the Annenbergs. Nothing has been altered since Leonore died in 2009, which makes it easy to imagine what it was like to have a private golf course and entertain the Reagans, Prince Charles, and Frank Sinatra. $35;
If you can tear yourself from your poolside perch, hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and head to the top of Chino Canyon at Mt. San Jacinto State Park. A 10-minute ride up the mountainside on the rotating tram (gotta love the 360° views) swoops you up to a dizzying 8,516 feet, where it’s typically 30 degrees cooler than the valley floor, and there are 54 miles of forested hiking trails to explore. Take a free guided nature walk, or strike out on your own on the 1.5-mile Desert View Trail loop with sweeping valley vistas. $24;
You’ll be rewarded for your short attention span at the Palm Springs International ShortFest (tickets from $9; Jun 19–25;psfilmfest.org). Screening more than 325 short films from 50+ countries, it offers a little something for everyone. If long form is more your speed, head to the Palm Springs Art Museum for free Thursday screenings at 6 p.m. The Global Lens 2012 program (May 31–Aug 2;psmuseum.org) features 10 movies from Turkey, Rwanda, Albania, and other countries. Go early to check out the art collections and nab a good seat in the museum’s basement theater.
Since eating outside always makes us feel giddy, like we’re sitting at the kids’ table, we love that desert dining star, Birba, translates from Italian to “little rascal.” The courtyard tables are surrounded by white-light-wrapped trees and low firepits, and fresh cocktails like the Negroni Sbagliato (Campari, prosecco, and sweet vermouth) are the most refreshing way to usher in the summer solstice. Tough call between the thin-crust pizzas topped with everything from housemade ricotta to egg and pancetta, and the eggplant bolognese. Either way, you can sit back and enjoy the unobstructed views of the stars. $$; 622 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/327-5678