My friend Emily, who just came back from a girls’ trip to Palm Springs, said before she left she checked my blog to see if I had a guide to the town. I felt terrible because I hadn’t written my thoughts after my 5 day trip there for New Year’s Eve.
To put it bluntly, I’m not a fan. The town is old, the hotels are needlessly expensive, and there isn’t much to actually do there…I love to lounge, but I also like to be active and do things I can’t in the city. As a retreat from LA where you would have your own house, I could see how Palm Springs delivers, but as a visitor, I wouldn’t go back again.
We stayed at The Parker, a Starwood Resort property that is regarded as one of the best hotels in town. It’s like the Chateau Marmont or Soho House – a great place to eat, party, and be seen amongst the celebs, but not a cozy place to hole up and sleep because it’s simply old. Even though the interiors were renovated 2 years ago by Jonathan Adler, the mod rooms still felt musty and lacked 4-star accommodations. The showers were smaller than mine at home; there was no mini bar to grab a late night snack; the old school tv’s produced a picture that looked like a game of tetris. I don’t usually watch tv on vacation, but when you’re there for 5 days, it’s nice to take a night off and watch a movie, ya know. The vintage books and posters were charming, but not enough for me to suspend my discomfort.
Thankfully, the rest of the property was delightful. The famous Norma’s (from NYC) was creating their standard masterpiece plates for for breakfast and Mr. Parker’s was dark and equally decadent for dinner. The grounds were what you would expect from Palm Springs: lawns lined in palm trees, small sitting and swinging areas to lay out and read, and a big fire pit to keep guests warm at night.
The tiny pool surrounded by greenery took me back to what I believe would be the 70’s. This retro aspect I really enjoyed…as long as I made it there by 8:30 to reserve chairs before my workout.
At night, the lounge centered by a fireplace and the tiny 8-seat bar were good places to hang out while we waited for our table, but not sufficient enough to enjoy a meal there.
Other notable hotels would be The Ace Motel, just like the one that hails from NYC, where the hipsters stay and play. There is a Viceroy that appears luxurious and the contemporary Hotel Zozo that didn’t get much lip service but looks interesting. We chose the Parker for its history and charm, big mistake for the price.
Nearby in Palm Desert is the La Quinta Golf Resort which houses tons of private condos, cute casitas and villas populated with visiting couples and families, and common areas where everyone gathers to either chat, relax, or play games. It’s like a little town inside their compound! We played golf, finished the afternoon by the pool with ritas and pulled pork tacos, got a massage at the spa, and then dined at Morgans, a glorified average steakhouse where the older crowd congregates and the young people come to celebrate. Southerners of all ages seemed to be the majority of the visitors at La Quinta so I fit right in.
As for the town, it’s so far past it’s prime. From what I hear and saw with my own eyes, the gay male community is still loving it. I have no idea where the shopping is people rave about. I found a Crazy Shirt store and the ice cream shop where they made the first date shake. That was about it. Woot.
Golf is a big deal in the area. I opted for La Quinta’s PGA West golf course, which was challenging, but not as pretty as others I’ve played. The critical factor for me was the heat. It was almost unbearable!
If you’re looking for fine dining hit up the hotels. As I said, Mr. Parker’s was exactly what I was looking for: dark atmosphere, trendy people, and delicious food. The Ace has a surprisingly healthy diner for breakfast and a fun bar scene where you can shoot tequila and sip on boutique beer with the cool crowd.
I guess these reasons explain why people spend so much time at the spa in Palm Springs. There just isn’t much to do. Or that I saw anyway. I don’t have a list for you, but they all seem pretty nice to me.
Here’s my bottom line for Palm Springs: We had a nice time. For me it wasn’t about the places as much as the company. That being said, I always take my critical eye with me so I can relate my experience to you. Obviously from this breakdown, I wouldn’t send you there. I can recommend at least 5 places to visit over Palm Springs for a relaxing getaway. In fact I did for the Huffington Post, see the slideshow here. To name a few: Santa Ynez Valley, Northern California, The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Austin, Charleston, Greenwich, Sedona or even Phoenix!
Now, if I’m crazy and I missed the charm, feel free to write that in the comments. I couldn’t see everything in one trip, especially when I was trying to relax by the pool :) Your thoughts and suggestions are not only welcome, but also encouraged here!Tweet this!