Most of us have heard of Palm Springs. It is well known for its hot springs, stylish and unique hotels, golf courses and spas. It’s also noted for its many fine examples of midcentury-modern architecture. Its shopping district, along Palm Canyon Drive features vintage boutiques, interior design shops and some fabulous bars and restaurants. The surrounding Coachella Valley offers hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, as well as a myriad of sporting facilities and an annual music festival.
It has a long and rich history of glamorous, opulent living dating back to the 1920s; and with it, attracts a myriad of dazzling actors and famous people. Yes, its list of residents and frequent visitors include Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr; and couples including Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Elvis and Priscilla, President Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower were known to get away from it all in Palm Springs.
And it’s not just historical. A new generation of Hollywood A-listers has succumbed to the lure of the desert and the relaxing privacy it offers. The Palm Springs International Film Festival, held annually in January and founded by then-mayor Sonny Bono, attracts celebrities such as Clint Eastwood, John Travolta, Ron Howard, Halle Barry, Leonard DiCaprio (who has a permanent home here), Anne Hathaway, Dakota Fanning and many more.
But why is Palm Springs so attractive to such celebrities? Read on to the end to find out.
Palm Springs also caters to the LGBT community, with more than two dozen exclusive LGBT hotels and guesthouses available. Also, if you are a naturists, Palm Springs is also home to several clothing optional resorts.
Things to do
There are many outdoor activities available in Palm Springs and the greater Palm Springs area is an oasis for outdoor adventure, arts and culture, gaming and entertainment. Whether it is high octane activity, taking a hot air balloon ride or pampering in a world class spa, there really is something for everyone on offer. Here are some of my top picks.
Palm Springs Ariel Tramway
Visit the largest rotating tramway in the world and take to the skies to very close to the San Jacinto peak. The 12 minute ride from Valley Station passes north America’s sheerest mountain face. Here you can mesmerise in the incredible vistas, walk the nature trail, or if you are more adventurous, a permit from US Forest Service will allow you to go back country hiking.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
With a mission to preserve a portion of the Colorado desert in its natural state and foster an awareness and appreciation of plants and animals and their worldwide eco systems and to protect desert species in a wild state, the living desert is more than just a collection of exhibits. It is a protective nature preserve, with a series of nature trails with varying degrees of difficulty. As well as plants, you can see a huge range of birds and desert animals including Giraffe’s, giant desert tortoise, wild dogs, leopard, bobcats, caracal, cheetahs, coyote and jaguar’s to name but a few.
With over 100 golf courses and boasting more than 300 days of sunshine each year, the Greater Palm Springs area has earned its reputation as a top golfing destination. Whether you are looking for a casual round or demanding greens, there are all sorts of challenges on offer. Designs by legends such as Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman are a major draw, as are stunning mountain backdrops against the lushly manicured courses.
The Essential Palm Springs Tour
It’s not all spas, relaxing and luxury in Palm Springs, although that in itself is wonderful! Palm Springs is a fascinating mecca for mid-century modern architecture and I would thoroughly recommend an architectural tour of the city to see this in more detail. In just 90 minutes, the tour focuses on the work of six architects that lived here and made Palm Springs the modern city it is today. We see examples of William Cody, Albert Frey, Hugh Kaptur, William Krisel, E. Stewart Williams and Donald Wexler along with others that have been influenced by their version of Southern California Modernism. This is a tour of the exteriors of the architecture.
And now it’s time to consider your celebrity-style get away. Well, you’re spoiled for choice here with many luxury and boutique style properties on offer, and no matter where you choose, you are likely to have majestic mountain views.
Parker, Palm Springs Built as an estate, it boasts 144 room including 12 villas and a 2 bedroom house on 13 lush acres. There are 3 restaurants – Norma’s (of NY fame), Mister Parker’s – a sexy, dark and seductive French bistro and the Lemonade Stand, perfect for an afternoon bite or cocktail. The Palm Springs Yacht Club spa at over 18,000 sq. feet is well-known and a place to indulge in a treatment, take a yoga class or just lounge. Additionally the hotel has 4 red clay tennis courts and grounds filled with croquet, petanque, outdoor firepits, fountains, hammocks and so much more. With a host of sporting activities and facilities on offer, this is the perfect place for discerning families to relax, work out, play sport or wine and dine.
At The Willows historic Palm Springs inn, once a millionaire’s private retreat and a Hollywood favourite for nearly a century, you will find lovely terraced gardens with incredible panoramic views. Today, this Mediterranean villa has been meticulously restored to its original 1930’s elegance with Mahogany-beamed ceilings and natural-stone fireplaces accented by modern amenities with all rooms being different style and decor. This small luxury hotel has welcomed the likes of Clark Gable & Carole Lombard, Joseph P. Kennedy, Marion Davies and Dr. Albert Einstein through it’s doors.
For something s little more unusual, you may want to consider Sparrows Lodge – Palm Springs’ only ranch-style boutique hotel. It is a completely restored 1950s retreat. You are welcomed roadside with a simple hand-painted sign with two Sparrows. It has a modern, rustic vibe that continues into the rooms, communal barn, outdoor fire pit and vegetable garden, all accented by a collection of fine art works. The 20 rooms feature exposed beam ceilings, russet red walls, concrete floors with inlaid pebbles and butterfly chairs. Swiss army blankets top plush mattresses, and instead of closets you’ll find a metal footlocker along with hooks and hangers. The bathrooms feature rain showers, and some also have horse troughs as bathtubs. Most rooms have private patios and with no televisions or phones in the rooms, you truly are getting away from it all in an environment of ease and simplicity. The Barn Kitchen serves light breakfast and is also open for lunch and dinner.
How about lavishing in one of the 25 suites at the adults only 5* L’Horizon Resort & Spa. This resort is a perfect example of the beautifully renovated mid century modern architecture that Palm Springs is so famous for. Indulge yourself in one of the treatments available at the resort’s Le Spa which has 4 treatment rooms and offers a variety of treatment therapies. There is also 24 hour room service, a fabulous restaurant where you can eat al fesco under the stars, a swimming pool. Some of the suites even have a private courtyard and outdoor showers.
There’s all-out luxury too, as if the others weren’t enough! At the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, settle into a suite with contemporary furnishings and mountain views, play a round of golf and then enjoy a body treatment featuring desert herbs and minerals. Elegantly enveloped within the Santa Rosa Mountain range, The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage is located on a 650-foot bluff (high cliff) overlooking world-famous Palm Springs and the picturesque Coachella Valley. This luxurious hotel boasts 244 guest rooms with 16 suites including spacious and private spa suites and is thoughtfully-designed to complement its desert mountain location by featuring natural elements of stone, wood and fire which reflect the local landscape, hues and regional surroundings. Bliss.
Attractive to celebrities:
Many actors and actresses have second homes or settle in Palm Springs due to its proximity to Hollywood in Los Angeles. The legendary “Two-Hour Rule” of Hollywood studios put Palm Springs on the map as a perfect getaway. Actors under contract had to be within two-hours from the studio just in case last minute filming or photo shoots had to take place.
Kim Robertson is Director at Your Way (Travel) Ltd. Your Way (Travel) Ltd. specialises in long haul, tailor-made, cruise and luxury travel to the USA, Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Far East.