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The Ultimate Palm Springs Getaway Guide

Palm Springs has been the classic Los Angeles weekend getaway forever. For a long time it was the retro mid-century feel of the town, along with its glamorous association with classic Hollywood, that was the big draw.

While the history is fascinating, it’s not all about the good old days. Over the last few years, Palm Springs has begun a creative revitalization that has put a new spin on the classic Palm Springs vibe. So whether you’re planning to party, or just want to hang out by the pool, here’s the best of Palm Springs.

 

Where to Stay

Parker Palm Springs

This lush, green oasis in the middle of the desert has a feeling of secluded romance to its labyrinthine pathways, secret pools, croquet lawns, and ivy-covered Hollywood Regency-style architecture. It’s like hanging out in a Wes Anderson movie. At one time it was owned by Gene Autry, and you’re still likely to catch a glimpse of a Hollywood celebrity or two wandering the grounds.  

 

L’Horizon

Of course, Palm Springs is all about mid-century modern design, so why not stay in a piece of it? L’Horizon is a William Cody original, built in 1952, that was recently renovated by architect-to-the-rich-and-famous Steve Hermann. In its heyday the hotel hosted everyone from presidents to the Hollywood A-list, but Hermann’s renovation isn’t short on 21st century glamour. With only 25 bungalows (nestled amongst some incredible mountain views), a private guests-only bar, and an 18+ age limit, the vibe here is sophisticated and intimate.

 

Arrive Hotel

If you’d prefer an updated take on the Palm Springs aesthetic, this minimal but fun hotel opened in 2016 and ticks all the Palm Springs boxes, along with some additional innovations like text-able room service, and check-in (with a drink) at the bar. The pool hosts regular movie screenings and pool parties, and there’s even an ice cream shop on the premises.

 

Ace Hotel & Swim Club

It opened in 2009, so by now you no doubt know the deal: retro design, DJs, touring bands, designer sunglasses, and even a monthly drum circle.

 

Colony Palms

If you’re looking for something a little more tranquil and family friendly, this small but charming Spanish colonial-style hotel features everything you need for a low-key Palm Springs getaway. Centrally located, the hotel is within walking distance of Downtown, features a poolside bar and cabanas, and you can even bring your dog.

 

Where to Eat

SO.PA

Dine al fresco under the vast desert sky, or take a seat at the 26-foot communal table made from solid walnut. The menu features upmarket contemporary takes on Mediterranean flavors, with plenty of seafood, summery cocktails, and globally-sourced wines. Note that this is the “private” L’Horizon restaurant and is only open to the public for dinner (guests can eat here any time).

 

Birba

The enchanting garden dining area is the perfect place to while away those warm desert evenings over a fruity cocktail and slice of traditional, Italian-style pizza. Or, if things get serious, you can take on the whole Dungeness crab with paprika butter.

 

eight4nine

There’s something quintessentially “Palm Springs” about this upmarket eatery and its opulent, all-white interior and eclectic menu. Whether you’re in the mood for a light salad and a cocktail, or a 26-ounce rib-eye topped off with a lobster tail, it’ll be more fun when consumed in eight4nine’s over-the-top, kitschy atmosphere.

 

Rooster and the Pig

Even though this Vietnamese joint is hidden away in a strip mall, it’s so popular with the locals you may have to wait up to an hour for a table. Once you fight your way through the crowd, though, you’ll realize why people are so desperate to get in here. Offerings include plenty of delicious takes on Vietnamese classics, like rice paper rolls and lemongrass chicken, with a few American flourishes.

 

Smoke Tree BBQ

If you’ve done your share of minimal and modern contemporary meals, or just need a juicy hangover cure, Smoke Tree BBQ is the answer. It’s the perfect place to get your desert fix of ribs, slaw, and cornbread—washed down with an ice-cold beer.

 

Where to Shop Mid-Century Modern

Hedge

There’s always a good chance you’ll snag a mid-century bargain by a well-known designer at this well-curated space that’s just a short drive out of town.

 

Spaces

Just down the street from Hedge, Spaces stocks an unusual selection of reasonably-priced mid-century and designer furniture, décor, clothing, and art objects.

 

JP Denmark

As the name suggests, the focus here is mid-century modern Danish furniture along with rya rugs and Euro-centric ceramics.

 

The Private Collection

Great collection of designer furniture, décor, and art at this well-known consignment store.

 

After Dark

Dead or Alive

If the blindingly hot desert sun is getting to you, the best option is to hide away somewhere dark—or maybe even pitch black. When you walk into Dead or Alive, it’s going to take your eyes a few minutes to adjust, and even then the bartender will need to give you a flashlight to read the menu—which features a solid wine list along with local craft beers.

 

Truss & Twine

Truss and Twine is a new project, with a focus on classic cocktails broken down into era-specific menus (Golden Age, Prohibition, Tiki, and Dark Ages). They also offer up a Spanish-inspired tapas menu featuring oysters, rabbit, jamon, and a “spot prawn dog” (a kind of seafood hotdog on a brioche bun). On the music side, they seem to be flying in some groovy LA DJs of the indie, psych, and pop persuasions.

 

Bootlegger Tiki

As a desert oasis, Palm Springs is a real-life Tiki fantasy, so why not make the most of it? Housed in the building that was once home to the Palm Springs outpost of Don the Beachcomber, Bootlegger Tiki is a modern update on the Tiki tradition. You won’t find Pina Coladas and Scorpion Bowls here, but instead look for riffs on classic Tiki cocktails like the Acid Drop, an adaptation of the Mai Tai that features rum, absinthe, citric acid, and bitters.

 

Melvyn’s

If you’re looking to take a trip back in time to the old Palm Springs, Melvyn’s hasn’t changed since the glory days when Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. graced its bar. While Frank and Sammy are long gone, you can still order up a martini at the bar and enjoy some old-school crooning from the local piano man.

 

Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

With cheap drinks, regular drag shows, dancing boys, and friendly staff, you can’t fail to have a good time at this Palm Springs dive.

 

Where to Party by the Pool

Ace Hotel Swim Club

With regular appearances by high profile DJs, free-flowing alcohol, and a relaxed vibe, it’s been the go-to for Angelenos in the know since 2009. If you prefer your parties a little dryer, head to the Amigo Room (the Ace Hotel’s bar).

 

The Saguaro

With its brightly colored façade and steady stream of LA DJs, the Saguaro is almost always in a party mood. With parties starting at 11 a.m. on most weekends, get ready for a few hazy days.

 

JW Marriott Desert Resort and Spa

With its sprawling eco system of pools, bars, and spas, there’s always something going on at this mega-resort—check their Facebook though, as you may have to buy tickets for larger events.

 

The Riviera

This sophisticated Palm Springs haunt has incredible mountain views from the pool and 70s-inspired décor. Weekends feature regular parties with house DJs.

 

Hard Rock Hotel

Okay, so it might not be the most glamorous location in Palm Springs, but they do throw regular pool parties and feature touring acts in the lounge bar.

By

Matthew O’Shannessy is a writer living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Tasmania, Australia and moved to LA via Melbourne where he joined an art collective and worked for the Melbourne International Film Festival. His work has been published in various magazines and he's currently co-editing an arts anthology. He lives in Echo Park, but you can often find him scouting out the San Fernando Valley.

More articles by Matthew O'Shannessy

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