About the time cool was invented, the Rat Pack was lounging poolside, martini in hand, in Palm Springs. Cool never really left, and today it is wrapped in the guise of Coachella, a revival of the Mid-century modern architecture that was the backdrop to Frank and Dean’s playtime, and an enviable getaway lifestyle that long ago broke out from the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains and swept eastward 30-plus miles across a valley become vacationland, taking in Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and several other cities. So come chill, California desert-style.
Orbit In is one of a number of Palm Springs hotel hideaways where retro-revival design resonates (562 W. Arenas, Palm Springs, 760-323-3585). The desert’s largest resort, JW Marriott Desert Springs goes boldly grand over coyly boutique in the mid-valley landscape (74855 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, 760-341-2211). La Quinta Resort & Club was hosting the hip well before anyone else in the desert, going all the way back to the 1920s (49499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta, 760-564-4111). California Mission is the look here.
Shanghai Red’s is the cannery row dive bomb-y iteration of a small family of outstanding, desert-fave fishhouses; swimmers come in fresh daily from the nearby Pacific. (235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760-322-9293) Open, airy and buzzing at all times, year-old LuLu California Bistro has an ecletic all-meals menu that might run as long as the establishment’s daily 12-hour happy hour (200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs 760-327-5858). For tastes of the Far East in the heart of the tony West, set a course for Thai at Bangkok 5 (70026 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, 760- 770-9508). Desert life is active life so start the day on the right foot with a morning fill-up at Louise’s Pantry (47150 Washington Street, La Quinta, 760-771-3330).
House, alt/rock, electro keep Coachella alive during non-Fest times at The Date Shed at Empire Polo Grounds (50725 Monroe Street, Indio, 760-775-6699). Amigo Room at ACE Hotel, a classic-era Howard Johnson turned in getaway spot, spins a mix of DJ and live music and shakes cocktails classic and avant (701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760-325-9900). If gambling’s the ticket, Indian casinos spread across the valley, including Agua Caliente (32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, 888-999-1995) and Fantasy Springs (84245 Indio Springs Drive, Indio, 800-827-2946). The Wine Bar at Old Town beckons down in the La Quinta Cove; check for tastings and musical events (78015 Main Street, La Quinta, 760-564-2201).
Out and About
Forget the tired muni, publicly owned golf here does stuff like, oh, host PGA Tour events, and three of the best not only here but in the nation are Desert Willow Golf Resort (38995 Desert Willow Drive, Palm Desert, 760-346-7060), Indian Wells Golf Resort (44500 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells, 888-753-1270) and SilverRock Resort (79179 Ahmanson Lane, La Quinta, 760-777-8884). Go from sand to snow in a matter of minutes aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (One Tram Way, Palm Springs, 888-515-8726). Andreas, Murray and Palm and Tahquitz—the Indian Canyons—are the ancestral and spiritual homes to the Cahuilla and where guided and self-hikes range from short to arduous take in hidden waterfalls and palm oases (Downtown Palm Springs, 760-323-6018, 760-416-7044 . Is it a world-class museum, zoo or botanical garden dedicated to plants and animals of arid spaces? Yes. The Living Desert (47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, 760-346-5694).
What’s In the ‘Hood?
To know the desert is to know it is a land of abundant diversity, not scarcity, and few if any desert spaces are as rich and hauntingly beautiful as Joshua Tree National Park (park entrances are 45-60 minute northeasterly of Palm Springs, 760-367-5500). Nearly 150 quality-not-schlock retailers make Cabazon’s Desert Hills Premium Outlets and Cabazon Outlets must-stops for the shop brigade (20 minutes west of Palm Springs/45 from La Quinta on I-10, 951-849-6641, 951-922-3000). One of America’s greatest drives, Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, winds from near-sea-level desert floor to mountain ceiling and back in about four score miles, hundreds of sweeping turns and countless smiles (Hwy 74, Hwy 243 and I-10 from Palm Desert to Idyllwild, Banning and back to the desert). Drop the top.
What a Ben Will Bring in the Desert
- Three-hour open-air Hummer tour of desert oasis and San Andreas Fault. (Adventure Hummer Tours, 760-285-0876).
- A round of golf at the desert’s best least-known course, Desert Dunes (19300 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs, 760- 251-5370).
- One-day high-performance road or mountain bike rental for two. The Coachella Valley has hundreds of miles of dedicated and multi-use bike trails, both on- and off-road. (Big Wheel Tours, 760-779-1837).
- 80-minute Swedish massage at Miracle Springs, a true mineral-spring-fed spa in the north valley (10625 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs, 760-251-2069).
Want to learn more? Check out Insiders’ Guide to Palm Springs, 2d Edition