When you pull up listings on various real estate search sites, you might find a “walkability” rating. Tired of always having to get in the car to go somewhere, more people are looking for neighborhoods where they can walk to shops, restaurants and entertainment. Sure, driving around in Palm Springs is nothing like driving around LA (local traffic reporters get all excited when there’s a backup on the 10 during Coachella). But, still, having a “walkable” neighborhood is considered a plus.
So, what are the best walkable neighborhoods in Palm Springs? It depends somewhat on what you’re walking to. But for our purposes, let’s say you want to be able to walk to stores, restaurants, nightlife and, maybe, some hiking.
The oldest neighborhoods in Palm Springs are also the closest to Palm Canyon Drive (North, South and East). Which figures. Palm Canyon has always been the main drag, the street where all the original businesses and hotels were located.
The Movie Colony
The oldest part of the Movie Colony is south of the Desert Regional Medical Center (site of the old El Mirador Hotel with its iconic bell tower) and north of Alejo Road. The neighborhood’s west border is North Indian Canyon Drive, where you can now find several chic hotels and restaurants. That’s one block from North Palm Canyon Drive and the city’s Uptown Design District, with a lineup of popular restaurants and bars, plus a selection of shops featuring vintage and contemporary home furnishings, art and hip duds. Close to Alejo, there’s Francis Stevens Park, the Palm Canyon Theater, the Desert Art Center, and (soon) the new Andaz Hotel. All this is with in a few blocks of most of the Movie Colony.
A bit further east in the Movie Colony, you can walk to one of the largest city parks, Ruth Hardy Park, named for the owner of the famed Ingleside Inn and the first city councilwoman in Palm Springs. On any given day, Movie Colony residents walk and play with their dogs and kids, have picnics, take in a tennis or basketball game and stroll through the Wellness Park opposite the Medical Center.
During the holidays, Movie Colony residents can walk to Robolights on Granvia Valmonte! Which is great, because neighborhood parking for this “attraction” is forbidden, thank goodness. Whether Robolights is an attraction or a menace is debatable: whatever it is, it’s definitely weird.
Old Las Palmas
Across North Palm Canyon Drive from the Movie Colony, sits another classic Palm Springs neighborhood, Old Las Palmas. North of Alejo Road and east of Via Monte Vista you’ll find meandering streets with large lots, high ficus hedges, big palms and old homes, some in the multimillion dollar range. At Alejo and North Palm Canyon, there’s the neighborhood hangout, the Corridor, which includes Koffi (a local alternative to Starbucks), and several restaurants and shops surrounding a charming, park-like courtyard.
Not to be confused with Vista Las Palmas, which is west, up against the mountains and newer, Old Las Palmas is just blocks away from Uptown, with all the attractions mentioned earlier. And just walking around through the neighborhood is very pleasant; there’s very little traffic, no sidewalks, and pedestrians pretty much seem to ignore cars and bicycles, just walking aimlessly down the middle of the street, chatting with neighbors and boring the crap out of their dogs, who sit down and wait patiently for their owners to get on with it already. If you like that easy-going pace, Old Las Palmas is for you.
The Historic Tennis Club
Named for … well, guess. The Tennis Club itself is nestled up against the mountains and anchored by Spencer’s Restaurant. Pearl McManus, a name you’ll hear a lot in Palm Spring history, started the club in the 30s. The neighborhood grew up around it. It’s a snap to walk to South Palm Canyon Drive (that’s anything south of Tahquitz Canyon Way) and to the Palm Springs Art Museum, the new downtown park, and the retail and hotel developments around Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon Way.
Village Fest, the Thursday evening street fair on South Palm Canyon, is such an easy walk you can gloat about it to your friends who have to find parking on those busy evenings.
It’s also walking distance to restaurants in the many boutique hotels in the neighborhood, such as Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn, Azucar at La Serena Villas and Four Saints at The Rowan. The neighborhood is a terrific place to see old and new Palm Springs, sometimes in the same place.
At the southwest corner of the neighborhood, at Ramon Road, the homes butt up against the mountains and the North Lykken Trail, which connects to several other mountain trails. Across Ramon from the Tennis Club, newer neighborhoods have sprouted, most recently homes dubbed Skye, million-dollar plus showcases built along midcentury modern lines.
Follow the big curve in the road on the south end of town along East Palm Canyon Drive, and you’ll find a row of what looks like cheap motels. That is what they used to be.
There’s still a Motel 6 among this strip of what has become a series of millennial hip motel-to-hotel conversions, such as the Ace Hotel, the V, L’Horizon and Sparrows Lodge. (During Coachella, the average age of the neighborhood drops by a couple of decades.)
Tucked just south of East Palm Canyon at Camino Real lies the Twin Palms neighborhood. One of the original Alexander Construction Company neighborhoods, it’s small, full of fine examples of midcentury modern homes and suddenly, within the last decade, walking distance to some of the finest dining in town. Evzin (at Caliente Tropics), King’s Highway (at the Ace). SO.PA (at L’Horizon), Europa (at Villa Royale) are a few examples.
Another Koffi (there are three in Palm Springs) is next to the Ace, and the Smoketree Shopping Center, with a Ralph’s and several good restaurants, is close by.
Besides the nearby attractions, the neighborhood is just fun to walk around in. There aren’t many places where you’ll find a street named Aquanetta.
If you’re looking into condos, the area around Twin Palms has some new developments, adding more residential units along Twin Palms Drive and East Palm Canyon, all adding to the walkability of this neighborhood.
This lovely midcentury-to-contemporary neighborhood of unique homes is situated across East Palm Canyon Drive from Twin Palms, and a little bit further east (south of Ocotillo Drive and west of Sunrise Way). Like Old Las Palmas, it’s lightly trafficked, since few streets go through, and residents stroll around in the middle of the lanes, walking their dogs, and chatting with everyone they see. Like it, or not.
As it’s close to East Palm Canyon, it is also walking distance to the same attractions as Twin Palms. But it is closer to the Smoketree Shopping Center and the ever-popular Purple Room, a restaurant and bar with live entertainment that’s been around since the Frank Sinatra era.
And Don’t It Feel Good!
Palm Springs has great weather for walking and hiking, so here a neighborhood’s walkability makes sense to home buyers. And when you live close to Palm Canyon Drive, you have many interesting and fun destinations. Once you’re off the main drag, however, the neighborhoods are so quiet, you wouldn’t know you’re mere blocks away from all the activity.
But this is still a small town — we’re not talking about the whole Valley, just the city of Palm Springs. You can drive anywhere in minutes. Or better yet, bike. It’s flat. You don’t even need gears, and the city has put in lots of bike lanes and paths that makes riding a breeze and safe.