Palm Springs is always a good idea

This article was first published in Malibu Coast Lifestyle print, Conejo Valley Lifestyle print and online at City Lifestyle LA in December 2022.

Just like when movie stars of the ‘20s and ‘50s flocked to the area from Hollywood, Palm Springs continues to be Los Angeles’ favorite getaway. This little big town in the desert, flanked by the dramatic San Jacinto mountains and poking palm trees, provides a playful swanky, sun-drenched landscape just a 2-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

Soak up the mid-century modern design, evident in homes and retail spaces left behind from the days when innovative architects built affordable vacation homes and post-war optimism bred indoor-outdoor living, proud colors, glass and concrete, deep overhangs and dramatic angular roofs. 

Some people escape to Greater Palm Springs to luxuriate in a boutique hotel hideaway surrounded by a picturesque sun-drenched pool. Leisure is indeed one of the major reasons people flock to the Greater Palm Springs desert oasis. Exciting adventures and enriching opportunities abound and there are myriad ways to savor California’s Coachella Valley. Under the desert sun, moon and stars, remind yourself how good life can be. Learn why we keep going back and how you too can explore the Greater Palm Springs area.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, PALM SPRINGS!

5 Dining Options Not to Miss

For the love of dogs, Boozehounds is not just a place to socialize with your dog but an expansive restaurant, lounge, cabana bar and patio that caters to pups with Fido’s own dog menu. Inside the open-air mid-century building stuffed with Tulum-esque foliage and hip doggy decor, enjoy sunset Happy Hour cocktails or a burger with parmesan truffle fries at the main bar facing the San Jacinto Mountain range. Brunch is popular and we also recommend the crudo menu.  

One of the hottest new restaurants to arrive in the desert is Bar Cecil offering seasonal bistro French/California fare and a $50 caviar martini. Created to house the owner’s extravagant art collection, dine next to a Calder or Damien Hirst or read the art book to grasp the beauty around you. Led by Chef Gabriel Woo, house specialties include the ratatouille or steak frites and their famed pavlova with berries. Book a month in advance or show up around 4:45 p.m. to score a seat.

You can’t come to the desert without trying an old-school celeb haunt that has survived since the Rat Pack days. Located within the historic Ingleside Inn, Melvyn’swas the go-to spot for Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood royalty back in the 50s. Order a Dirty Martini at the bar while glossing over the black and white photos of the who’s who of yesteryear. Request a song from the piano player and soak up the ambiance over a classic dinner of chicken pot pie, lobster risotto or steak Diane served tableside. 

For casual take-out food, there is no better option for lunch than Gabino’s Creperie where savory chicken-stuffed crispy crepes are prepared with zesty seasoning on the outside with choices like chicken pesto, ranch and barbecue. “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” (Season 42, Episode 26) with Guy Fieri recently featured this window-serve alley nook with a few outdoor tables.

One of our favorite places for brunch is the flower-laden outdoor restaurant The Farm with a Provencal-style menu serving traditional French dishes like sweet and savory crepes, specialty omelets, salads, sandwiches and brioche French toast. Start your weekend with a mimosa with freshly squeezed juice (watermelon, orange or grapefruit) and order Poulet a La Creme, a crepe loaded with chicken, mushrooms, herbs, creme fraiche and white wine. Also, the three-course prix fixe dinners with live music are a real value.

4 Memorable Desert Experiences

In 10 minutes, zoom one and a half miles up to a pristine wilderness in the largest rotating aerial tram. As you elevate to 8,516 feet on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, you ascend past forest and steep mountain cliffs with sweeping views of Palm Springs and snow may greet you during certain times of the year. Extend your time by grabbing a bite at the newly renovated restaurant atop Mt. San Jacinto State Park or immerse yourself in nature on the 50 miles of hiking trails, but not before gawking at the views from the observation decks and the brand new $13-million Mountain Station design remodel that took three years and reflects the original architectural concept. Make sure to book tickets in advance. 

The former Annenberg estate, Sunnylandsin Rancho Mirage (just a short drive from Palm Springs) has welcomed presidents and royalty since the 1960s, thanks to publisher billionaire magnate Walter Annenberg, who created TV GuideSeventeen Magazine, and one of the first TV stations out of Philadelphia. Most notable is the introductory 35-minute film showcasing the numerous presidents and celebs who brought the estate to life. Walk the wildflower field or Great Lawn gardens and marvel at the history of this former meeting place where often over golf or dinner major ideas were exchanged, and international relations and laws were sorted out and discussed. Admire more than 70 species of arid-adapted plants amongst twin reflecting pools filled with river stones and contemplate life on the Obama bench or while winding through a labyrinth. Yoga, bird walks and private tours of the home can be found online.

Palm Springs Art Museum is an intimate treasure trove of innovative and forward-thinking art but also contains an outdoor sculpture garden, local bistro, lecture hall, theater and a 1,000-square-foot store. Reserve tickets online for free Thursday evenings. Don’t miss the surrounding area filled with whimsical art, such as a car suspended over a reflecting pool, the Marilyn Monroe statue and The Babies crawling in the courtyard from Czech Republic artist David Cerny. The Architecture and Design Center can be found down the road. For those who enjoy witnessing art installations in the desert environment of Coachella Valley, Desert X returns in 2023 from March through May.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens located in Palm Desert is a desert botanical garden with over 500 animals that specializes in deserts of the world with a mission of desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation. The Living Desert recently became a Certified Autism Center (CAC). The impressive landscape with thousands of acres affords animals wide open spaces. Feed giraffes and admire bighorn sheep, African wild dogs, black rhinos and other fascinating species. In the Australian habitat area, wallabies bounce alongside you in an open area. Arrive early in the day mid-week when it’s cooler and there are less crowds. During the holidays, WildLights transforms the setting into a winter wonderland.

3 Boutique Hotel Stays That Feel Like Your Own Villa

Transformed into a design lover’s Zen oasis, the newly opened 1959 apartment building has been reborn as Azure Sky Hotel, an exclusive 14-room sanctuary set in the tranquil Deepwell Estates neighborhood. The design team behind this Palm Springs newcomer has made mid-century modern with a calm aesthetic in this secluded property just minutes from all the action of downtown. Stone tile flooring, walk-in mosaic tile showers and uber-comfy mattresses set in floating platform beds add to the appeal. Clean lines with pops of chic black are peppered throughout the art, furniture and architecture. Almost all rooms come with impressive kitchenettes and private patios with hammocks. But the stunner is the oversized lounge poolscape with bar, jacuzzi and generous unobstructed views of the San Jacinto Mountains. 

Just down the road, step into Villa Royale, an intimate hideaway where Spanish revival style meets mid-century modern design. A vintage car parked outside lets guests know they have arrived. The 38-room villa built in 1947 is spread across a lengthy property with three pools. Bold portrait art and colorful wall murals mesh with Spanish tiles and romantic courtyard fountains. The retro-modern cool ambiance is alluring accentuated with dramatic sunsets, majestic hugging mountains with swaying palm trees, warm winds and expertly crafted cocktails delivered poolside. Some days you may have the pool all to yourself while you devour dishes under the stars at the hotel’s Del Rey Restaurant, and thus it feels like, well, your own villa. 

Sexy romantic little Korakia Pensione is another hotel charmer that feels Old World Moroccan. Some of the Mediterranean-style bungalows come with retro kitchenettes, walk-out patios, artist studio lofts and in-room record players, while fire pits and outdoor movie nights are just some of the perks at this hotel dubbed one of the sexiest hotels in America. 

2 Unbelievable Hikes

While Greater Palm Springs is a mecca for golf and tennis, hiking in the desert terrain is an otherworldly option you won’t want to miss. Start with the 1.7-mile Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation in Palm Springs. Scramble around smooth boulders, ancient irrigation systems and native plants while towering rock faces hug the trail and the valley floor sprawls in the distance. Come at the right time of year and find yourself staring at a surreal 60-foot waterfall. 

Indian Canyons, another nature preserve, offers numerous trails for hiking and horseback riding once you enter this sacred land. Start with the more aggressive 3-mile Victor Trail that scales up and around varying terrain, such as the impressive grove of stately skirted palms, red barrel cacti and over 150 species of plants. An easier 1-mile loop on a flat trail at Andreas Canyon follows a stream by groves of California fan palms and feels more “jungle” than desert. A small waterfall toward the end of the loop is a welcome cool-off respite during warmer months.

1 Modernism Week

Modernism Week (which debuts as a preview in October and features 11 days of celebration in February) has attracted design lovers, mid-century modern fans and architectural buffs from all over the world annually since 2006. Palm Springs holds the greatest concentration of mid-century modern homes in America. Book an iconic home tour, a neighborhood walking tour, a double-decker architectural bus tour, a cocktail party event, classic car show and more. Score vintage finds at the Modernism Yard Sale Or book an intimate tour with Palm Springs Mod Squad. Adventurous types will love to explore the terrain on a self-guided driving or walking tour with ModernToursPalmSprings.com. It may happen twice a year, but there’s only one Modernism Week.

PALM SPRINGS!

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