The Posh Playground
By Andrea Tyler Evans & Brian Pentek of Luxe Life Travel
We may have the desert living thing figured out here in the Valley of the Sun, but there’s another desert destination along the I-10 to enjoy. Whether you’re up for a fun-in-the-sun weekend or a pit stop on a California road trip, Palm Springs and the surrounding communities are filled with chic resorts, creative dining and adventures everywhere you turn.
Where to Stay & Play
Mega-resorts have been a Palm Springs mainstay since the 1980s. Today, there are new offerings as well as classic properties that have stood the test of time. Kimpton Rowen Palm Springs Hotel boasts stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains, five dining options (including a rooftop pool) and access to the heart of downtown Palm Springs. Their seventh-floor signature restaurant, 4 Saints, is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or toast your arrival.
For old-school charm, check out The Colony Palms Hotel and Bungalows — one of California’s premier luxury hotels. Established in 1936, it has been recently renovated, keeping its period charm. Choose one of the 57 boutique rooms in the main building or experience one of the bungalows or a luxury suite. The Colony sits on a 3-acre oasis where you can enjoy many amenities, including custom beds with Italian Frette linens, complimentary Nespresso and luxe dining options for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
For a funky, boutique experience, check out the Parker Palm Springs. The Jonathan Adler makeover of the property in 2004 and interior design refresh in 2017 provide a feast for the eyes and fun everywhere you turn. Pools, lawn games and a spiked lemonade stand create a stay-and-play vibe, as does the yacht club-themed spa. For a special occasion, consider booking the Gene Autry two-bedroom house on the property, which includes a private screening room.
We can’t forget our golf and tennis enthusiasts! If you’ve never been, the 45-acre La Quinta Resort & Club is a bucket-list stay. The hacienda-style property has 40 pools, 21 tennis courts and five golf courses. If you’re headed to Coachella or Stagecoach this spring, this is your luxury spot to escape the crowds without being too far from the action. Make sure to get a reservation early to dine at the iconic Cliffhouse restaurant or Lavender Bistro during your stay.
Where to Taste & Toast
Up for brunch al fresco or a sunset cocktail? Visiting a few other plush resorts is something to consider … and a way to check out options for your next stay. The Pink Cabana at the Sands Hotel & Spa has a whimsical dining room with Moroccan accents designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard. The Mediterranean menu includes freshly shucked oysters with preserved Meyer lemon mignonette as an all-day offering, chorizo shakshuka for brunch, and king salmon with a vadouvan curry crème and seasonal cocktails influenced by the Great Spice Route each evening.
Palm Springs has long been known for its Mexican restaurants and that proud tradition continues. While strolling downtown through shops and galleries, swing by Tac/Quila for a flight of four uniquely flavored margaritas (think Pineapple Passion and Spicy Cucumber), an extensive taco menu and elevated entrées like avocado tempura, seared ahi tuna with mango salsa or octopus ceviche.
For a special night on the town, Workshop Kitchen & Bar is a modern farm-fresh destination for evening dining only. Small plates include fig & burrata, goat cheese pierogis and curried sweet potato & peanut soup. The curated entrée selections are colorful interpretations of items like black cod, Flannery flat iron steak and even a pork chop. And if wine pairings are your thing, their list is extensive.
Want to dine like a local? Here are three picks deemed “not-to-miss.” Bar Cecil, an homage to Cecil Beaton, commemorates the late artist’s expressionism, individuality, charm and style. Check out the creative menu, including beef tartar and red Thai curry mussels, and splurge on the $50 martini and Ossetra caviar. Le Vallauris in downtown Palm Springs is the highest-rated restaurant in the valley. There, chef Jean-Paul Lair offers unbeatable, traditional French dining. For the ultimate nostalgia, dine in Cary Grant’s former guesthouse at Copley’s on Palm Canyon and enjoy a rustic setting in the heart of Palm Springs. Indulge in crafted cocktails, poached Maine lobster, charred beef filet or Mediterranean spiced Colorado lamb.
Architecture tours are in vogue these days and Modern Tours Palm Springs has several options. These guided driving tours offer celebrity abodes (Elvis, Bob Hope and Leonardo DiCaprio!), mid-century modern masterpieces or a Palm Canyon walking tour. If you’re heading there in fall, Modernism Week takes place over 11 days each October and features insightful presentations, house tours and iconic red bus excursions to learn about the architectural history that helped lay the foundation for what the city would become.
Looking to add to your art collection or glimpse inspirational works of art? Start with the Palm Springs Art Museum while visiting downtown for an eclectic mix of Western art, modern exhibitions and rotations of sculpture, photography and glasswork. To take in the many galleries, start with an afternoon on Palm Canyon Drive or do some research to create your own gallery tour throughout the vast desert enclaves.
If the outdoors are your thing, there are some can’t-miss natural wonders. For a view from the top, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car. It climbs over 8,500 feet up Chino Canyon to a mountaintop with restaurants, a natural history museum and the gateway to 50 miles of hiking trails. To take in the sights across the sandy landscape, check out the local Jeep, ATV or covered wagon tours, horseback outfitters and bike rentals. After the sun goes down, reserve a spot to see the stars like never before from Joshua Tree National Park with state-of-the-art telescopes and storytelling by the team at Sky Watcher.
If shopping is your sport of choice, Palm Springs is a mecca. From the tony El Paseo Shopping District in Palm Desert to the bargain-hunters paradise at Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon, luxury brands and independent boutiques will tempt you to find a special souvenir (or 10) during your trip.
To learn more, go to visitgreaterpalmsprings.com.