Destination Main Streets

Palm Springs, California

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Palm Springs, California got its start as a tourist mecca. Specifically, what brought people here in its early days was so-called health tourism, the hope that the warm dry air would cure visitors of their ailments. The city is perfectly situated just at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains, which can help shade the area and provides a buffer between the desert and the real world to the west. Eventually, more hotels and resorts opened. Celebrities began to flock to the city as well to get away from Hollywood and enjoy the weather. Main Avenue was eventually renamed Palm Canyon Drive, which continues as the premier commercial drag through the city. More shops, restaurants, and hotels continued to open along this stretch. The area developed a lively resort-style environment where it was not uncommon to see celebrities up and down the Drive.

Today, the Palm Canyon Drive area continues to be successful, with shops, restaurants, hotels and other attractions. The heart of the area is probably where La Plaza meets Palm Canyon Drive. This is where two complexes exist, one across the street from the other, the Mercado and La Plaza. Also, where Palm Canyon Drive meets Alejo Road is the dividing line between Downtown Palm Springs and Uptown Palm Springs. Palm Springs is located in the Coachella Valley region of Riverside County and is about 107 miles east of Los Angeles and about 139 miles northeast of San Diego.

Photo Gallery Tour

We'll start our tour of downtown Palm Springs from the south and work our way north. Palm Canyon Drive serves as the city's Main Street. Here we have Las Casuelas Terraza, a Mexican restaurant that opened in this spot in 1979. The historic structure that the restaurant is located in dates back to the 1920s.
We'll start our tour of downtown Palm Springs from the south and work our way north. Palm Canyon Drive serves as the city's Main Street. Here we have Las Casuelas Terraza, a Mexican restaurant that opened in this spot in 1979. The historic structure that the restaurant is located in dates back to the 1920s.
Across the street is the Village Green area, featuring numerous historical structures and museums. The McCallum Adobe, seen here was built in 1884. Along with the Cornelia White House (also located in this complex) built in 1883, they make up the two oldest buildings in Palm Springs. In the background we see Ruddy's General Store Museum, which offers visitors a glimpse back into the 1930s.
Across the street is the Village Green area, featuring numerous historical structures and museums. The McCallum Adobe, seen here was built in 1884. Along with the Cornelia White House (also located in this complex) built in 1883, they make up the two oldest buildings in Palm Springs. In the background we see Ruddy's General Store Museum, which offers visitors a glimpse back into the 1930s.
Here we have a typical street scene along Palm Canyon Drive. In the distance is the La Plaza outdoor shopping center. Note the stars running along Palm Canyon Drive in the sidewalk. This is the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, a walk of fame honoring various people who have lived in the greater Palm Springs area.
Here we have a typical street scene along Palm Canyon Drive. In the distance is the La Plaza outdoor shopping center. Note the stars running along Palm Canyon Drive in the sidewalk. This is the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, a walk of fame honoring various people who have lived in the greater Palm Springs area.
This colorful collection of shops and restaurants is the Mercado, built in 1999 on the site of a former Bullock's department store. On the left, we have a fountain with a statue of Palm Springs' most famous resident and former mayor, Sonny Bono.
This colorful collection of shops and restaurants is the Mercado, built in 1999 on the site of a former Bullock's department store. On the left, we have a fountain with a statue of Palm Springs' most famous resident and former mayor, Sonny Bono.
Directly across the street from the Mercado is La Plaza shopping center. Completed in 1936, this outdoor shopping was the first of its kind anywhere and today, serves as a template for other mixed-use developments and lifestyle centers that have been built since.
Directly across the street from the Mercado is La Plaza shopping center. Completed in 1936, this outdoor shopping was the first of its kind anywhere and today, serves as a template for other mixed-use developments and lifestyle centers that have been built since.
Further north is the Plaza Theatre opened in 1936. The theater was active for many years, all the way to 1989. After that, the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies ran in the theater from 1990 to 2014. As of this writing, the theater sits empty but there have been talks about getting it back in business.
Further north is the Plaza Theatre opened in 1936. The theater was active for many years, all the way to 1989. After that, the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies ran in the theater from 1990 to 2014. As of this writing, the theater sits empty but there have been talks about getting it back in business.
Just next door to the Plaza Theatre is this colorful collection of buildings, housing boutiques, restaurants, and even an ice cream shop.
Just next door to the Plaza Theatre is this colorful collection of buildings, housing boutiques, restaurants, and even an ice cream shop.
Here is a view looking southwest down Palm Canyon Drive. In the distance are the San Jacinto Mountains, which tower over the Palm Springs area.
Here is a view looking southwest down Palm Canyon Drive. In the distance are the San Jacinto Mountains, which tower over the Palm Springs area.
The stucco building with the arches is known as Lykken's Department Store. It was built by desert pioneer, Carl Lykken in 1914 as a general store. The store was remodeled with the existing overhang and arches when sidewalks were installed in the early 1930s.
The stucco building with the arches is known as Lykken's Department Store. It was built by desert pioneer, Carl Lykken in 1914 as a general store. The store was remodeled with the existing overhang and arches when sidewalks were installed in the early 1930s.
Newer buildings have recently sprouted up along Palm Canyon Drive, many of which feature well-known brands. Here, a shopper stops to have her picture taken.
Newer buildings have recently sprouted up along Palm Canyon Drive, many of which feature well-known brands. Here, a shopper stops to have her picture taken.
At the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Andreas Drive, we have the Carnell Building. The structure is named for Julia Carnell, heiress to the National Cash Register fortune. Like many well-off people of the era, Carnell chose to winter in Palm Springs. She had the Carnell Building constructed in 1934 and was also responsible for building the nearby La Plaza in 1936.
At the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Andreas Drive, we have the Carnell Building. The structure is named for Julia Carnell, heiress to the National Cash Register fortune. Like many well-off people of the era, Carnell chose to winter in Palm Springs. She had the Carnell Building constructed in 1934 and was also responsible for building the nearby La Plaza in 1936.
The banner on the light post calls this area Palm Springs Downtown North. Various boutiques and gift shops line this block. Notice the wrought iron work at the top.
The banner on the light post calls this area Palm Springs Downtown North. Various boutiques and gift shops line this block. Notice the wrought iron work at the top.
Palm Springs has a storied history surrounding the many hotels and resorts that have opened in the area over the last 100 years. Originally, health tourists came to the area, since it was believed the warm dry air could help with their conditions. Here, we see a more modern building, a Hyatt, which takes up most of this block. There are several other hotels right on or near Palm Canyon Drive.
Palm Springs has a storied history surrounding the many hotels and resorts that have opened in the area over the last 100 years. Originally, health tourists came to the area, since it was believed the warm dry air could help with their conditions. Here, we see a more modern building, a Hyatt, which takes up most of this block. There are several other hotels right on or near Palm Canyon Drive.
And now a look at Palm Springs' grittier side. This mural is called Mountain Charmers by Angelina Christina. The business here has since closed down, but hopefully, the mural will remain.
And now a look at Palm Springs' grittier side. This mural is called Mountain Charmers by Angelina Christina. The business here has since closed down, but hopefully, the mural will remain.
This is the Chamberlin Building, built circa 1945. The building is named for Charles and Sophie Chamberlin who came out to Palm Springs in 1923, hoping the dry weather would cure Sophie Chamberlin's pneumonia. It worked and Charles became a builder in the area and even had offices in this building. Today, the building houses Casa de Bellas Artes, a collection of charming antique stores and salons.
This is the Chamberlin Building, built circa 1945. The building is named for Charles and Sophie Chamberlin who came out to Palm Springs in 1923, hoping the dry weather would cure Sophie Chamberlin's pneumonia. It worked and Charles became a builder in the area and even had offices in this building. Today, the building houses Casa de Bellas Artes, a collection of charming antique stores and salons.
This small Spanish Eclectic structure was the northernmost residence in Palm Springs when it was built in the 1920s. Eventually the home was converted to office space and served as doctor's offices for many years. Since 1972, the building has served as a real estate office.
This small Spanish Eclectic structure was the northernmost residence in Palm Springs when it was built in the 1920s. Eventually the home was converted to office space and served as doctor's offices for many years. Since 1972, the building has served as a real estate office.
We reach the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road. This is the dividing line between Downtown Palm Springs and Uptown Palm Springs. Continuing north, we will now head into Uptown Palm Springs. Notice the overhead archway greeting people entering Downtown Palm Springs.
We reach the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road. This is the dividing line between Downtown Palm Springs and Uptown Palm Springs. Continuing north, we will now head into Uptown Palm Springs. Notice the overhead archway greeting people entering Downtown Palm Springs.
Here at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Chino Drive, we have the last of the original street markers found in Palm Springs. They were built shortly after the incorporation of Palm Springs in 1938. Speaking of streets, many of the street names had been renamed in 1930, including Main Avenue, which became Palm Canyon Drive.
Here at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Chino Drive, we have the last of the original street markers found in Palm Springs. They were built shortly after the incorporation of Palm Springs in 1938. Speaking of streets, many of the street names had been renamed in 1930, including Main Avenue, which became Palm Canyon Drive.
Here we have a sign introducing folks to the Uptown area of Palm Springs. Behind the sign is the Palm Canyon Theatre, which provides live entertainment. The building was originally the Frances S. Stevens School. The first two rooms of the school were completed in 1927.
Here we have a sign introducing folks to the Uptown area of Palm Springs. Behind the sign is the Palm Canyon Theatre, which provides live entertainment. The building was originally the Frances S. Stevens School. The first two rooms of the school were completed in 1927.
The Uptown area features a wide array of shops and restaurants, including quite a few design centers and shops specializing in home decor.
The Uptown area features a wide array of shops and restaurants, including quite a few design centers and shops specializing in home decor.
This is the Pacific Building, built in 1936 by the aforementioned Charles Chamberlin. The Mission Revival building with Mediterranean/Spanish elements contains office and retail spaces on the street level with several apartments upstairs.
This is the Pacific Building, built in 1936 by the aforementioned Charles Chamberlin. The Mission Revival building with Mediterranean/Spanish elements contains office and retail spaces on the street level with several apartments upstairs.
We've reached the end of our tour but we'll check out one more historic building. This is the El Paseo Building, built in 1926 and 1927. This Spanish Eclectic complex is built around a courtyard. The frontage along Palm Canyon Drive has been altered, but much of the original building remains hidden behind the "modern" storefronts.
We've reached the end of our tour but we'll check out one more historic building. This is the El Paseo Building, built in 1926 and 1927. This Spanish Eclectic complex is built around a courtyard. The frontage along Palm Canyon Drive has been altered, but much of the original building remains hidden behind the "modern" storefronts.

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