Whether your tastes run to early-morning rambles among fan palms or poolside martinis and lounge music, Palm Springs satisfies both the dog pack and Rat Pack sides of life. A little more than 100 miles east of Los Angeles, this stylish enclave in the Coachella Valley boasts 354 days of sun a year (January daytime temps reach into the high 70s), an outsized cultural footprint and an even bigger paw print, making it a great winter getaway for you and your pup.
“One of the best things about living in the desert with dogs is that the dogs really can run free and play and explore in so many places,” says former nearby Palm Desert resident Deborah Menduno, now director of operations at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif. “And you can hike for miles while they do.”
There are 12,050 miles of hiking within an hour’s drive. Veteran hike leader and author of the must-have 140 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs (Big Earth, $22.95), Philip Ferranti suggests hikers with dogs head to Whitewater Canyon for early winter treks (or look for flowers later, in March and April) and the North Fork of the Pacific Crest Trail in the San Jacinto Mountains as things warm up, or just about any trail in the famed Mecca Hills. (His book details 50 dog-friendly routes.) Ferranti’s other advice: Be sure to carry plenty of water, plus tweezers and a comb for extracting cholla cactus thorns from your co-pilot’s fur.
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The city’s passion for art and dogs is probably best expressed in the Palm Springs Dog Park (222 Civic Drive North, behind City Hall). At 1.6 acres, this is not the place for large dogs to play hard, but it is a social hub with a jaw-dropper fence. Sacramento sculptor Phill Evans fashioned hot-rolled steel bar into cacti and trees, dogs and, if you look very carefully, a single cat. There’s more al fresco canine sculpture to be had at the new Palm Springs Animal Shelter (4575 Mesquite Avenue), where Monsieur Pompadour, a sparkly fuchsia Poodle by Karen and Tony Barone, stands watch along with Mademoiselle Coco, a very blue Blue Point Siamese.
In Palm Springs, you are where you sleep, and boutique dog-friendly hotels are an excellent way to soak up the town’s authentic Desert Modern roots. A bohemian-sleek reinterpretation of a ’60s-era Howard Johnson hotel, the Ace Hotel & Swim Club is one of several hip, dog-friendly places to crash. Dogs are allowed in patio rooms and everywhere on the premises except the King’s Highway restaurant (artisanal fare in a swankified Denny’s); one dog $25/night, second dog $10/night (701 East Palm Canyon Drive).
Built in 1947 by William F. Cody, the Del Marcos Hotel celebrates local history in its lovingly restored retro rooms designed and named for mid-century architects, icons and ideas (such as the Shaken, Not Stirred). Do you hear the space-age bachelor-pad soundtrack by Esquivel? Canine guests receive a dog bowl, water bottle, treat bag and poop bags; no extra pet fee; 35-pound weight limit (225 West Baristo Road).
Every Thursday night, the shops and galleries on Palm Canyon Drive stay open late as part of Villagefest (6–10 pm, October–May; 7–10 pm, June–September). Live music, arts and handicraft booths, and street food provide a festive atmosphere and training opportunities for pups.
Dogs are welcome at many outdoor eateries around town, but the go-to spot for breakfast and lunch is Cheeky’s. We’re talking lemon buttermilk waffles with homemade lemon curd and raspberries and bacon flights (622 North Palm Canyon Drive, next door to equally chic and dog-friendly pizza lounge, Birba.)
The Palm Springs Art Museum is worth a stop-in sans pup to see Yoshitomo Nara’s delightful Your Dog sculpture and Robb Putnam’s Stray, made of salvaged materials, and, starting in January, a portrait of Jayne Mansfield with her dog (part of Backyard Oasis: Swimming Pool Photography in Southern California 1945–1982, Jan. 21–May 27, 2012).