Whether you’re traveling to Los Angeles or San Diego on business, the one thing the two cities have in common is that both are driving distance to Palm Springs and, along with it, a few rounds of golf or tennis on your own or with work colleagues. Although a little time in the sun and on the green does mind and body good, there are a few worthy indulgences (over and beyond the amazing three-branch Palm Springs Art Museum) beyond your familiar haunts that will broaden your horizons of this desert playground.
Unique Design Hotels for Stylish Weekends
In North Palm Springs’ “Design District,” the Skylark Hotel (Skylarkps.com) updates the 28 rooms and the of the original 1950s building’s structure with a palate of mellow blues, greens and ivories midway between pastels and crayon brights. Each of the cool and crisp rooms is furnished with mahogany and walnut mid-century Danish reproductions, a decadently cozy custom made pillow top mattress, LED flat screen televisions, and high-speed internet. The San Jacinto mountains provide a postcard backdrop for the pool area. Just outside the front and back doors, you will find some of the city’s chicest boutiques, vibrant murals, public sculpture and a variety of art and furniture galleries. Active visitors and avid photographers will appreciate the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is minutes by car from the Skylark.
In the south end of town, just beyond its downtown, the Palm Springs Hotel (thepalmspringshotel.com) makes cheerful and bold orange, gray, silver and black palette timelessly fashionable, offsetting the desert-modernist architecture, inspired combinations of 50s, 60s and contemporary “urban arts district”-inspired furnishings, and decidedly essential features such as an Apple TV and a perfectly maintained pool. Each room features its own art, some with icons like Frank Sinatra and Bridget Bardot in their Mid-Century prime and others with interesting mood lighting.
A half hour from downtown, this 1950s 13-room desert retreat in Desert Hot Springs was artfully transformed by its owners into El Morocco Inn & Day Spa (elmoroccoinn.com), one of the most authentically Moroccan escapes in North America. Each room is its own oasis, with most of the hand-crafted textiles, furniture, light fixtures and artwork curated and purchased at the source in Morocco–many at collectives benefitting single women, widows and moms who are crafting the pieces. Inside the charming lounge at the front end of the inn, you can enjoy some of Desert Hot Springs’ incredible ethnic to-go food while enjoying “Casablanca.” With its casually opulent pool and covered spa, patio area and the adjoining Spa Garden, it wouldn’t be surprising if you decided to spend a full day enjoying the surroundings. Above and beyond an extremely friendly staff, oft replenished supply of Moroccan lemonade or tea, and the benefits of two ‘Far-Infrared Dry Saunas,’ which the owners say offer a penetrating heat which moves throughout your entire body.
Luxury Hotels and Spas
The Azure Palm Hot Springs (AzurePalmHotSprings.com), a day spa and overnight resort in Desert Hot Springs overseen by co-founder Maria Lease, sets itself apart with a Modernist aesthetic re-imagined with refined and tasteful “global” textiles and furnishings. The breakfast/lunch cafe follows suit with some of the best healthy foods around, including a magical flourless chocolate cake that achieves richness with beets and black beans (!) and juices one will find remarkably satisfying on their own or taken in as part of the cleans program offered by the property. And speaking of interesting, original menus, Azure Palm offers 30 specially curated spa therapies or spa packages to rejuvenate mind and body. The resort offers 22 spacious Spa Suites with private in-room mineral spring tubs. Throughout this year, they will be available on a half-day basis allowing day guests to enjoy the benefits of rich mineral spring water in the privacy and safety of their own suite. Western facing rooms feature balconies with stunning city and mountain views of Mount San Gorgonio and Mount San Jacinto.
Korakia Pensione (korakia.com): One of central Palm Springs’ most fashionable addresses began as a cluster of small villas and bungalows from the early 20th century that began with one house serving as a hideaway for noted Scottish painter Gordon Coutts. Through his connections, it evolved into a gathering place for musicians and top artists of the day such as John Lavery, Agnes Pelton, Nicolai Fenshin and Grant Wood. Celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino and Errol Flynn, were known to stop by, and it is rumored that Winston Churchill tried his hand in the villa’s Artist Studio. Today, the still-exclusive property blends the Moroccan aesthetic Coutts loved with influences of Mediterranean Europe and Riviera towns through the blend of architecture styles and refined eclecticism with the curated furnishings and pieces. Though the place was devised as another world, it is a few minutes’ walk from a fashionable stretch of downtown Palm Springs.
The Willows (TheWillowsPalmSprings.com): Visitors wanting to start (their holiday) at the beginning of Palm Springs’ reign as Hollywood’s favorite backyard will appreciate the art deco grandeur and intimacy of The Willows, which only has seventeen guestrooms and is only open for a limited number of stays from September to May. The Willows maintains a “Class 1” historic designation, and as one of the oldest structures in the Palm Springs area, it has that “if these walls could talk” appeal: Marion Davis, Charlie Chaplin and other luminaries were regulars. Among the eight rooms of The Willows, three have their own outside entrances overlooking the swimming pool. The remaining five rooms and suites have French doors leading to private patios and balconies or views of the mountains and 50-foot waterfall cascading down a sheer rock formation. The Bishop House, adjoining The Willows building with a terraced pathway or the swimming pool, holds nine rooms including several with their own outdoor and separate entrances. The Garden and Tahquitz Rooms, both with their own entrances, are situated in a freestanding two-story cottage.
Coming attractions: The hotel ZOSO (hotelzosopalmsprings.com) will be undergoing a multimillion dollar redesign that will begin this summer and is projected to be completed by winter. While the management informed us that the guestrooms and public spaces would be upgraded to a new, luxurious standard, there will also be a new restaurant concept, an updated nightclub concept, a fresh retail partner and more.
Luxury Home Rental
One of TurnKey Vacation Rentals’ (www.turnkeyvr.com) most exclusive offerings—a 2,000 square foot gated palace anointed “Best New Home” in Metropolitan Home magazine— is the epitome of Mid-Century modern luxury reshaped for the 21st century. The main house, master suite, and guest suite have the hallmarks of the architectural and design genre, along with a saltwater spa, built-in gas fireplace, heated saltwater pool, expansive bar and state-of-the-art electronics. Natural light illuminates the sophisticated “Great Room,” while the gourmet kitchen is equipped with a full suite of top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. The home-away-from-home’s other hotel-inspired amenities include the tanning shelf in the private pool, yoga platform for meditations and workouts, a misting system to quench desert heat and two outdoor showers. The Rat Pack would approve the outdoor bar with its own fireplace and gas fire pit.
Del Rey at Villa Royale (delreypalmsprings.com). Flanking of one of the city’s hottest higher end boutique properties, Del Rey endeavors to put the romance back into date nights with its dark, atmospheric twelve-seat oak and marble bar, vinyl booths and an eclectic mix of artwork and furnishings. This flows into an outdoor patio illuminated with a fire pit, and both areas are tiled together with colorful tiles and iron fixtures. It is much inspired by Southern Spain’ taperías as it is Palm Springs as well as zesty cocktails and a sublime sangria.
Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge (eight4nine.com): Blend an interior designer’s fever dream with a lot of local color, and you get Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge. The main room and massive patio blend together seamlessly, while private rooms and smaller dining spaces inside the venue each have their own conversation-starting surroundings. The drink and food menus follow suit with beautifully presented dishes, sassy desserts and jewel-like cocktails. That said, some of the most straight-forward and classical dishes are the kitchen’s strongest.
Farm Palm Springs (farmpalmsprings.com) specializes in the dishes and flavors of Provence in southern France. If you’re craving elegant home-style classics à la Français, the everyday menu checks all of the boxes: Savory and sweet crepes, house-made jams and condiments, brioche French toast, canard (duck) and roasted pear salads, and (naturally) loose leaf specialty teas and French-press coffee.
LG’s Prime Steakhouse (lgsprimesteakhouse.com) When it comes to a special occasion destination that’s at once not too fussy and uniquely atmospheric, you can’t go wrong with a steakhouse (though reservations, understandably, will be necessary) with a great patio. Beyond its cache, it also has its central location in Downtown Palm Springs going for it as well as its epic USDA-Prime Porterhouse steaks cured in an on-premise dry room, on its own or enriched with butter, Bearnaise or peppercorn sauce. Prime choices for those not into red meat include Poupon Lobster Tail, King Crab Legs and its oven roasted chicken breast.
Shabu-Shabu Zen (shabu-shabu-zen.com),in Rancho Mirage, has its culinary roots in Osaka, Japan (via the owners, who hail from the area) and specializes in flavorful high-end “Japanese Tapas,” house-made dipping sauces, sashimi, and variations of the interactive traditional dish built into its name. Those familiar with Japanese cuisine and newcomers alike will get a kick out of the DIY experience, choosing a soup base, vegetables, and proteins and then cooking up the components after a few minutes of instruction.
Thai Palms (thaipalmsdhs.com), a local institution in Palm Desert and Palm Springs for two decades, keeps things simple in the restaurants, but pours all of its love and attention into its aromatic curries, rich noodle dishes, spicy appetizers and specialties like its New Zealand Lamb Red Curry—all which crackle with complex flavors and fresh ingredients. Come hungry, as the portions are massive.
Chef Tanya’s Kitchen (cheftanyaskitchen.com) If you happen to be a little bit off the beaten (Modernist) trail, a sandwich or salad to go from Chef Tanya’s Kitchen is a must—especially if you consider that Tanya Holland conceived and founded Native Foods, America’s first national plant-based restaurant chain.
Wilma & Frieda , Wilmafrieda.com: The two locations of this popular hangout (The Gardens on El Paseo + Downtown Palm Springs), not only specializes in elevated childhood favorites and farmhouse comfort food (both omnivore and plant-based), but also superb coffee and an impressive bakery case with its star item–elevated “Pop-Tarts!” Standouts include “Mark’s Short Ribs Eggs Benedict,” “Signature Griddled Meatloaf and Eggs,” “Bernie’s Chile Verde with Pork & Brie Omelet,” “Fresh Strawberry and Spinach Salad” and “Chilaquiles with Soy-Rizo, Egg and Queso Fresco.” Dinner served at the Downtown Palm Springs location.
Culture, History & Points of Interest
Cabot’s Museum (cabotsmuseum.org) is a facinating hybrid of history museum and inspirational design destination. The Hopi inspired Pueblo in the heart of Desert Hot Springs was built by Cabot Yerxa (b.1883) on a stretch of land he homesteaded in 1913 and lived in until his 1965 passing. In building it, Cabot gathered reclaimed materials for 10 years from as far east as the Salton Sea, north to Morongo Valley, south to Palm Springs and west to White Water. The Pueblo is four-stories, 5,000 square feet and includes 35 rooms, 150 windows and 65 doors, with many unique features including windows and doors collected and reassembled from abandoned homesteads, old telephone poles, buckboard wagon parts, and many other materials that end up becoming greater than the sum of all of the parts.
Janssen Artspace (janssenartspace.com): Artist and gallery owner Steven Janssen uses the quarantine period to upgrade his creative home-away-from-home as a by-and-for artists kind of destination–evidenced by its discreet location off Palm Springs Boulevard and around the corner from the soon-to-be upgraded Hotel Zoso. While the location builds confidence with A-list art collectors (Jennifer Aniston, Chelsea Handler, Mario Lopez, Lucy Lui, Michael T. Weiss, Brian Bowen Smith, Kevin Mazur and Kevin Huvane among them), seek it out to check out his own gorgeous abstracts as well as pieces from the best artists and photographers you’ve not yet heard of or who are known but re-emerging with exciting new pieces.
Oswit Land Trust (oswitlandtrust.org): Hiking, biking and walking trails are as ubiquitous as “Modernist”-focused stores across the Coachella Valley. However, doing some advance homework at the Oswit Land Trust’s site will offer itinerary ideas, helpful tips, and most importantly, an appreciation of the non-profit organization’s conservation efforts. The organization took shape when Jane Garrison (its President and the United Nation’s 2020 “Humanitarian of the Year”) launched a campaign to stop a housing development in Oswit Canyon that threatened its bighorn sheep, desert fox, bobcats, mountain lions, migratory birds, raptors and other wildlife and plant life. The organization is now hard at work campaigning to reclaim shuttered and under-utilized golf courses and other notable spaces for use as natural reserves.
Palm Springs Air Museum at Palm Springs Airport (palmspringsairmuseum.org) houses one of the world’s largest collections of flyable WWII aircraft as well as Korea- and Vietnam-era aircraft. During midday heat, dive into its air-conditioned hangars to view these magnificent machines, rope free. True enthusiasts can also spend time in the museum’s extensive library and ask questions of a crew of expert volunteers who can provide prolific details on the aircraft and what it may have been like to fly in them.
The Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory (ranchomiragelibrary.org/observatory.html) is a full-blown educational and cultural center with the distinction of having its own fully functioning observatory with state of the art equipment and a docket of programs and events. While the clear, mostly pollution-free night skies of the Coachella Valley offer optimum opportunities for regular stargazing events, the observatory team also shows films and videos on astronomy as well as lectures and discussion sessions with astronomy and science professionals from Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA and many other organizations. It is open free of charge to the public.
Sunnylands Center & Garden (sunnylands.org): From the day Walter Annenberg (founder of “T.V. Guide”) and philanthropist wife Leonore moved into their custom-crafted and decorated Sunnylands, what happened behind its doors became the stuff of legend. New Years’ Eve and pool parties were a who’s who of “Golden Age” Hollywood. However, the Annenbergs also devised the compound to serve as the “Camp David” of the West, becoming a site for political summits and state dinners, and welcoming almost every U.S. president along with other world figures including The British Royal family. There are many ways to experience a taste of the Mid-Century good life: A guided 90-minute immersion into the Annenbergs’ charmed life and tastes ($48 w/advance reservation); A 90-minute guided garden tour Wednesdays through Sundays ($20, no reservations required); and an expert-guided “Birding on the Estate” expedition Thursdays and Saturdays ($38 w/advance reservation). Parking, access to the grounds and other programs are free to the public, giving Sunnylands an added community center element to it. Its wellness program includes Friday yoga and Saturday tai chi (both at 10 a.m.).
The Body Deli (Thebodydeli.com). Many organic skincare brands talk a compelling game, but, The Body Deli is arguably pushing the boundaries of all-natural, raw and organic face, body and hair care for men and women. Under store manager Ashley Skarin (following in her cosmotologist mother Margaret’s footsteps) a team of ‘cosmetic chefs’ handcraft all skin and hair care products in small batches daily in the in what Skarin calls its “cosmetic kitchen.” The Body Deli endeavors to “provide nourishment to hair and skin directly,” as it uses food-grade ingredients, a juicer and small-batch essential oils to make many of our products, some which require refrigeration and have specific sell by dates.
Candice Held , (candiceheld.com): A few blocks and a few years beyond Trina Turk’s aesthetic, you will find an exclusive selection of the namesake designer’s luxuriant resort for men and women at this opulent, jewel-box styled boutiques. The color palate and vibe add a touch of Swinging London to the Coachella desert.
Rancho Relaxo (ranchorelaxoca.com): Owner Stella Adena’s Rancho Mirage-based Rancho Relaxo is the destination to cultivate a year-round (not just concert season) desert wardrobe or “good-vibes” ambiance. Much of the space is dedicated to local designers and artisans, with the space being a collage of wearable boho-styled clothing (for every family member), home decor, gourmet foods, and unusual gifts when you want to do better than the mug or refrigerator magnet route. The shop’s signature tee shirts are the main draw among those seeking the perfect “only in Palm Springs” gift.
Running Wild (runningwildps.com): There’s no shortage of big box sporting good stores in the Palm Springs area, but if you want the right shoes and gear for Palm Springs’ specific terrain (as well as support a genuinely local business), this retailer’s locations are worth seeking out. While they carry some of the biggest international brands of athletic shoes, including some you may have not heard of, regulars return for astute customer service and attention to detail.
The Shag Store (shagstore.com): One could spend an hour or two admiring the clever approach Shag (né Josh Agle) brings to his canvases and prints presenting the Palm Springs ethos at its grooviest and most colorful. He blends pop culture (not just the usual suspects of “Old Hollywood” in far out settings, but also the Rolling Stones, Beatles and Bowie) with the iconic architectural and interior design elements of Palm Springs.
The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five (theshopsat1345.com): In the outskirts of Palm Springs’ “Design District,” there is a treasure trove of artist-made clothing, accessories and decorative items with the creators selling out of their own pocket-sized spaces. Arguably, the heart of this distinctive assemblage of boutiques is Soukie Modern (soukiemodern.com), created with love by owners Kenya Knight (who is also the owner of a successful Los Angeles modeling agency) and Moroccan-born Taib Lotfi (who sometimes can be seen weaving investment rugs integrating time-tested North African and European techniques with a variety of locally sourced and imported fibers). The retail experience is broken down into enchanted space for clothing and fashion accessories to a cheery, sunlit area with eye-catching home goods to a tea room where you can sip Moroccan mint tea while surveying the couple’s pride and joy–the aforementioned rugs–while making friends with other discerning collectors from nearby communities and folks coming in from the big city.
Trina Turk, Mr. Turk and TTResidential (www.trinaturk.com): Los Angeles-based designer Trina Turk’s Palm Springs block-covering presence houses the ultimate trifecta of Palm Springs chic, where trendy and timeless harmoniously coexist. Shoppers will find her signature mid-60s and early 70s flavored prints in men’s and women’s attire, as well as an eye-popping collection of housewares and gift items. The one-story building, built in 1962 by desert modernist architect Albert Frey, holds the three connected boutiques while the white surfaces, bright lemon-yellow walls, and strong prints tie the shopping experience together.
For more information, visit: visitgreaterpalmsprings.com