Ciseal's Guide to Palm Springs Modernism Week

by Nicole Hodsdon

Ciseal's Guide to Palm Springs Modernism Week

Photo: Casa Runner

Every February, Palm Springs Modernism Week attracts thousands of Modernist fans from across the globe.  For mid century modern buffs, it’s quite possibly the most wonderful 10 days of the year.  There is so much to see and do during Modernism Week that it can be difficult to narrow it down to what you have time for - even if you’re in town for the whole 10 days.  To make the most of what there is to do, it helps to do some research before you go.  Hopefully this guide will help you narrow it down a bit to help you make the most of what there is to do during your trip.

Many official Modernism Week events sell out months in advance, so it would be prudent to check out as soon as possible to reserve your spot.  Some events can be reserved closer to the day of the event for the more casual planners among us, but it doesn’t hurt to reserve a spot as soon as possible.  There’s a great mix of things to do as well as price points associated with the various events (from free to several hundred dollars).  Here are some of the most popular things to do and events to attend during Modernism Week:  


Palm Springs CAMP

Photo: Atomic Ranch

The first place you will want to go once you arrive in Palm Springs is CAMP (the Community and Meeting Place).  CAMP is located in downtown Palm Springs just next door to Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture & Design Center.  It’s essentially the festival center where you can get yourself oriented to everything that’s going on in town, purchase event tickets, attend a lecture, take advantage of a free event or exhibit, or pick up some souvenirs.  CAMP is also where most tours start from, so it’s good to have it on your radar.

House Tours

Modernism Week Show House

Photo: Modernism Week

Historic home tours offer the rare opportunity to walk through historic mid century modern masterpieces like the Desert Palisades Al Beadle Home and many others.  I highly recommend doing at least one of these on your trip.  A slightly different house tour is the Show House which brings together various tastemakers to create unique rooms in one house.  It’s pure interior design eye candy where you’ll find so many ideas that you won’t know what to do with them all.

Double Decker Bus Tours

Modernism Week Double Decker Bus Tour

Photo: Modernism Week

These tours are awesome because the height of the bus allows you to see over walls and landscaping at street level and take in the glorious architecture.  You also get a very informative narrator who will share all of the interesting bits about what you’re seeing.

Walking Tours

Palm Springs Walking Tour

Photo: Modernism Week

You can actually do a walking tour on your own year-round if you download the Palm Springs Modern: Mid-Century Architecture Tours app for iPhone or Android for just $5.  It offers three different guided tours and will give you directions from one stop to the next.  It even provides photos and information about the architect and the building itself.  If you’d prefer a human-led tour, Modernism Week has several exclusive guided walking tours in multiple neighborhoods.

Preview and Cocktail Parties

Modernism Week Cocktail Party

Photo: Modernism Week

Preview parties are the perfect way to get a sneak peak of all of the fabulous exhibitors or step inside an historic home and experience what it would be like to attend a cocktail party in the Mad Men era.  Many of these events are previews, so they’re going to happen before Modernism Week starts, but some of the cocktail parties happen throughout the week, and they’re a great chance to have a bit more of an intimate experience inside an architectural gem.

Exhibits, Lectures & Films

Modernism Week Lecture

Photo: Modernism Week

CAMP (The Community and Meeting Place), The Palm Springs Public Library, and The Palm Springs Art Museum all host architectural exhibits, lectures and films specifically for Modernism Week, so be sure to check their schedules for the days you will be in town.

Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale

Palm Springs Modernism Show

Photo: Modernism Week

This is the show that started Modernism Week, and it’s easily the most well attended event of the week.  It is a can’t-miss treasure chest of vintage and new mid century modern furniture, lighting, prints, sculpture, and decorative arts.  So, if you’ve had your eye on a George Nelson lamp, an elusive Herman Miller chair, or a Charles and Ray Eames bent ply splint this is where you’re most likely to find it.  You’ll find it at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Palm Springs Fine Art Fair

Palm Springs Fine Art Fair

Photo: incollect

While at the Convention Center, make your way over to the The Palm Springs Fine Art Fair which features post-war and contemporary photography, sculpture and paintings.  It is a huge fair with over 50 exhibitors, so there’s plenty of interesting pieces to see for everyone.

This was just a small taste of all that there is to do during Modernism Week.  Be sure to peruse before you leave on your trip.  There is simply too much to see and do, so please do your homework before you go!  Modernism Week is absolutely a wonderful time to immerse yourself in the best that Palm Springs has to offer.  

Nicole Hodsdon
Nicole Hodsdon