Palm Springs offers a glimpse of the glam life that Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Marilyn Monroe lived in what was the Hollywood hideaway. Palm trees swaying in the warm desert air, nonstop sunshine and pools aplenty still make Palm Springs a great playground.
Less than a 90 minute plane ride from San Francisco, this oasis is surrounded by the dramatic San Jacinto, Little San Bernardino and Santa Rosa Mountains. Palm Springs is the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and much of the land is tribal-owned. Known for its mid-century architecture and focus on modernism, Palm Springs introduces you to this wonderful era beginning at the Donald Wexler-designed airport.
Stay: From intimate hideaways to sprawling resorts, Palm Springs has something for everyone.
A hidden gem located blocks from downtown, The Willows was once a private estate. Built as the winter home of a well known businessman, house guests included Clark Gable and Albert Einstein. The entire house has been restored to its original glory. Today, the historic property is home to lush landscape and eight unique guest rooms.
I stayed in the Marion Davies suite (a former tenant), complete with a bathroom the size of most hotel rooms (and its own chaise lounge). With beautiful antique furniture, gas fireplace and a patio overlooking the pool, it’s a luxurious way to enhance a desert stay. From the villa’s hillside locale, the mountains and verdant grounds are ever present. There’s even a waterfall outside the floor to ceiling windows of the elegant breakfast room.
Another night, I stayed at the Riviera Palm Springs situated on 24 acres. It combines modern architecture with many amenities spread across the property. Opened in 1959, it was designed like the hot Vegas hotels of the time that were frequented by the Rat Pack.
Rooms are a vibrant combination of mid-century modern with Hollywood caché – bright colors, white leather furniture and Warhol pop art. The hotel’s lobby areas are bedecked with crystal chandeliers, mirrors, sofas and a pool table.
Dine: Here’s a selection of Palm Springs’ many restaurants:
Zini Café Mediterrano is casual and fun. Sharing tapas like the baby octopus salad, the spicy lime drizzled shrimp or the grilled artichoke with asparagus and Serrano ham is a great way to taste a variety of menu items.
Situated next to one of the many Palm Springs golf courses, the escena Lounge & Grill is a relaxing location to take in the scenic mountains and lush greenery. Savor a signature martini with homemade chips and tangy dip. The spicy southwest chicken wrap is full of flavor.
At the Riviera, try Circa 59. Nestled by the pool, the restaurant’s patio and indoor seating areas offer mid-century style showcasing stunning crystal chandeliers and other modern fixtures. The scallops and beet salad was tender and sweet and the mushroom stroganoff was rich with a deep umami flavor. Find interesting wines on their international list.
If you’re a gambler or don’t mind going through casinos, try The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino. Pair your dish (including lots of seafood options) with a wine from their award-winning list and hit the jackpot.
We heard about these, but didn’t get to them: Cheeky’s, Jake’s and Copley’s.
While at The Willows, you’re served delicious hors d’ouevres and wine in the afternoon and a heavenly three-course gourmet breakfast in the morning.
OTHER ESSENTIALS: Palm Springs Tourism
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb