There’s a Palm Springs awakening afoot, as sleepy enclaves with pastel-swathed retirees welcome a hip, younger crowd that goes beyond the annual Coachella set. Once again, old Hollywood’s getaway party town is a hot place to be—and not just because of the desert climate.
It starts downtown, where a $400 million-revitalization project ushered in shiny new buildings anchored by a newly planted Kimpton Hotels property. The seven-month-old Rowan boasts two restaurants, two bars and 153 modern rooms with midcentury furniture and views of the San Jacinto Mountains.
Photo credit: Steve Kepple
Look through the west-facing floor-to-ceiling windows to spot the Palm Springs Art Museum. The chief curator has been scouring LA galleries since the ’70s to build a contemporary collection that includes Diane Arbus, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Donald Judd and Andy Warhol, which the museum is currently tapping as it mounts an exhibition to celebrate its 80th anniversary.
Art isn’t the only thing to ogle out here. Take in some natural beauty during a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Nestled into the mountains a few miles from town, the tram’s rotating 80-person cars cruise a staggering 8,500-foot ascent at 22 miles per hour. If you can stomach the 10-minute trip, a welcome temperature drop of at least 20 degrees awaits, as do a few easy hikes that offer views of a miniscule-looking windmill farm. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as chickadees and the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog as the subtle scents of butterscotch and vanilla breeze by from the Jeffrey pines. The more agile can plan a half-day adventure to the summit, where the lights of both LA and Las Vegas beckon.
Photo: Laure Joliet
Of course, the height-averse can get a different view—and still cool off—back at the Rowan. The seven-story hotel is home to the city’s only rooftop pool. Beginning at 10 am, High Bar serves date-infused Old-Fashioneds and by-request frozen Aperol spritzes, and sunbathers can also drink in views of the airport tower while lounging in cabanas.
Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to find a go-to dinner spot. The rooftop shares space with 4 Saint’s clusters of rattan pendants and light leather banquettes. Settle in to nosh on thick cuts of hamachi crudo flown in from Japan, served with yuzu sauce and tangerines, and the deliciously flaky John Dory en croûte that makes its way from New Zealand. Trust your server’s recommendations and wine pairings and you can’t go wrong, but it’s worth a return trip to sample something else—or at the very least, convince your fellow diners to share a few bites of their own selections.
PALM SPRINGS BREAK: Enjoy cocktails at Truss & Twine and lounge by the Rowan’s rooftop pool in Coachella Valley. Photo: Laure Joliet (top), Audrey Ma (bottom)
Hit the ground running for some liquid dessert. The industrial-chic Truss & Twine orients its menu around historic cocktail eras, like Prohibition and the “Dark Ages,” which has the expert staff upgrading the not-so-great drinks of the ’80s and ’90s: a Vietnamese coffee-infused gin stars in a White Russian, Cosmopolitans are made with a housemade lime cordial that has a touch of ginger, and the Long Island iced tea actually tastes like tea. Bootlegger Tiki, a few short blocks away, should be the final place to visit: Happy hour is from midnight till 2. This tiny Tiki bar is set in the footprint of the third location of Don the Beachcomber, the godfather of tropical tipples. Grab one of six seats at the red-lit bar lined with jars of dehydrated fruit slices, herbs, flowers and crazy straws, which end up in punnily named drinks like Spike Tyson and (Straw)Barry White.
The time traveling continues as you do some downtown shopping. The Shops at 1345 is home to a collective of purveyors and their goods, from Soukie Modern’s Moroccan rugs and butterfly chairs to the Lindy’s brass napkin rings, malachite bowls and other antique trinkets that beg for a spot in your already-jampacked suitcase. Just down the street, the Frippery’s rainbow racks of vintage kaftans, bustiers and other scores are straight out of a Slim Aarons photograph.
For vintage of a different kind, head to the Ingleside Inn. The onetime estate of an early 20th-century automobile heiress wrapped up a top-to-bottom renovation of its 30 rooms this spring. The original parquet floors remain in the former library, the sole spot where one previous owner, Ruth Hardy, allowed guests to drink as she’d take notes on their favorite Scotch, while also keeping an eye on their alcohol intake to determine if they’d be welcomed back. Not to worry—these days, staff will whisk a martini service straight to your doorstep between 4 and 6 pm.
The drinks have always flown at Melvyn’s, the inn’s New York supper club-inspired restaurant that opened in 1975. Many of the charming, tuxedoed wait staff have been there from the start and can tell you about Frank Sinatra’s regular visits to the joint—along with the likes of Liberace, Lucille Ball and Bob Hope, as seen in the black-and-white photographs on the walls. The blue-eyed crooner is no longer barging into the kitchen to cook his own steak just right, but you can order a tableside-
prepared dish made to his liking, and he’s well alive during the Casablanca Lounge’s nightly entertainment and Sunday jam sessions, which fill the small dance floor with young and old alike.
After a complimentary breakfast in the morning, dry out by the pool. Peruse a small library of Danielle Steele novels and later mosey to the lawn for a friendly round of croquet. The good news: It’s easy to squeeze in maximum sun time, as the airport’s just 10 minutes away. The downside: Eventually, you’ll fly, fly away. ◆
– On Thursday nights, VillageFest floods Palm Canyon Drive with dozens of artisans, food vendors and live musicians.
– Stroll through thousands of varieties of cacti and succulents at Moorten Botanical Garden, and poke into its Cactarium, an Instagram-worthy greenhouse packed with exotic plants.
Bootlegger Tiki, bootleggertiki.com; The Frippery, thefrippery.com; Ingleside Inn, inglesideinn.com; Moorten Botanical Garden, moortenbotanicalgarden.com; Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, pstramway.com; Palm Springs Art Museum, psmuseum.org; The Rowan, rowanpalmsprings.com; The Shops at 1345, theshopsat1345.com; Truss & Twine, trussandtwine.com; VillageFest, villagefest.org