See the best midcentury modern architecture

Form your own mini mod squad!

How to take a Palm Springs Modern Tour

If you’re into touring unique architecture and happen to be in California, the Palm Springs area has some of the world’s best modernist tourism stops. From lodging to shopping and restaurants, the area offers many mid-century modern places that are scenic as well as inspiring.

Form your own mod squad for the day!

If you’re looking to experience beautiful architecture, form a Palm Springs mod squad with your friends and venture off into an unforgettable self-guided midmod design tour! This is our ideal itinerary for enjoying a Palm Springs weekend.

Brunch at Norma’s or Mid-Mod Cafe

Norma’s at the Parker Hotel. Photo courtesy Parker Hotel.

To start out on your self-guided 2019 Palm Springs mid-century modern tour, book a brunch at Norma’s, located inside the Parker Palm Springs Hotel. The hotel itself is known as the former home of country singer Gene Autry and architect Jonathan Adler kept the mid-century modern vibe when he refurbished it more recently. Norma’s open air terrace seating offers a great view and the restaurant not only has some of the best food in the Palm Springs area but also has your favorite brunch beverages like mimosas. Or sample the Smoothie of the day!

Alternatively, you can stop into the Mid-Mod Cafe on Palm Canyon Drive for a quick breakfast or delicious pastry. The architecture here matches up with your typical mid-century modern layout, with high glass doors and windows as well as wide open, airy spaces in the outdoor-seating portion of the restaurant.

Take a Palm Springs Modern Tour

Since it’s always beautiful outside in California, a scenic modernist drive through Palm Springs is always a great option. Rent your Palm Springs mod squad a nice convertible and cruise by amazing buildings. Not sure where to pilot your pals? Check out Modern Tours Palm Springs’ Modern Architecture 101 tour! This self-driving, multimedia tour is guided by mapping and GPS and features an audio tour guide, and will take you to over a dozen of the best modern buildings in Palm Springs, plus you’ll get an interior tour via some sweet snaps of some of the homes and buildings. Our Modern Architecture 101 tour is all done at your own pace—no holding up the tour group or trying to negotiate a stop for a selfie!

Driving tour of midcentury modern architecture

If you want to go it on your own, make sure to cruise by the Coachella Valley Savings & Loan bank, which was created by the architect E. Stewart Williams and maintains the mid-century modern look with an expansive overhanging roof and openings between the high columns that allow a lot of natural light into the building.

See modern architecture

Next, check out Palm Springs City Hall, which is extra unique because it was designed by four of the most prominent architects in the area—Albert Frey, E. Stewart Williams, Robson Chambers, and John Porter Clark. The building is made up of stacked, angular metal tubing that blocks the desert sun yet allows plenty of light and sightseeing opportunities. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the overhang that has a wide hole in the middle for some classic palm trees.

Palm Springs also has some amazing houses, so plan for a Palm Springs modernist home tour. This can include the 5,000 square foot Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, which holds up to 180 guests at a time and is made up of natural stone and floor-to-ceiling windows that give a panoramic view of the surrounding valley. Another worthy drive-by is the Kaufmann House, which was created by Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. in the late 1940’s and features several huge glass sliding doors that give the home a very roomy feeling as well as specialized “fins” that protect the house from the desert heat and sandstorms. Sadly this home is strictly off limits to the public and only a lucky few have ever been inside.


Kaufmann House Palm Springs

Also notable are the “Leonardo Dicaprio House” which can actually be rented out for a cool $4,500 a night, and the Swiss Miss Houses, which have housed residents such as Marilyn Monroe and are made up of 15 homes that have distinct “A-frame” roofs and 18-foot glass walls.

Where to hang out in style after your modern tour

After all of the sightseeing, you might be quite hungry and looking for a nice vintage eatery to grab some lunch at. A reliable option is always The King’s Highway, which is located at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs and features the typical mid-century modern glass and steel architecture, or hit up El Jefe at the Saguaro Hotel, which is owned by the same owners of the Ace Hotel and gives a colorful, retro vibe while serving excellent tacos and other Mexican cuisine.

Melvyn’s Restaurant & Lounge is also a great place for lunch, as it features old photos and antiques as well as a more formal feeling while keeping the large glass windows and a carved mahogany and oak bar that was restored to fit the original 1895 design. Previously-mentioned Norma’s also serves lunch, so if you missed Norma’s for breakfast, it’s worth a stop.

Best shopping in Palm Springs

Your Palm Springs modernist tour wouldn’t be complete without some shopping, so after lunch you can spend your afternoon browsing stores and buying vintage merchandise with your Palm Springs mod squad. There are various areas of Palm Springs where you can find shops for mid-century modern clothing and gifts, but arguably the best option is the Uptown Design District. The District is made up of over 50 boutiques, galleries, and stores all housed in mid-century modern buildings.

Perhaps the most popular shop in the Uptown Design District is Trina Turk’s store, which is owned by the popular fashion designer and maintains a retro look with curtains made of small beads, shag carpeting, and floral wallpaper. Retro clothing such as men’s suit jackets, neon pink swim trunks, and funky-patterned pillows are just some of the options available. Destination PSP is also a popular stop where customers can browse through apparel, home decor, gifts, swim gear, and kitchenware that all come with a retro Palm Springs mid-century modern vibe.

If you’re into the arts, the Uptown Design District is perfect because you can also catch a show at the Palm Canyon Theater or view unique creations at the Desert Art Center.

Dine out in style

Eight4Nine restaurant

If you’re ready to sit back, relax, and reminisce on the fun-filled day you have just had, Eight4Nine Restaurant is an excellent place to go. Guests walk in to the ultra modern wide-open room and immediately see a backlit onyx wall behind the bar. The riotous color and ambient lighting illuminate the room, giving it a midmod flair. Even the food is labeled “modern American cuisine” and the menu includes options for everyone, ranging from salads to steaks to fish. The dessert menu also features delicious twists on everyday delicacies including their peach cardamom creme brulee.

Perhaps best of all is their drink menu, which features excellent wines and cocktails including the “Mid-century,” which is served on the rocks and concocted with bourbon, Benedictine, and honey syrup.

Ultimately, Greater Palm Springs has endless things to do and see, so round up your own Palm Springs mod squad and head off to your mid-century modern tour of the city.