Thursday, April 16, 2009

Palm Springs, the retro classic is suddenly hip again

Known for its unflappable sunshine, dry desert air and a myriad of premium golf courses, Palm Springs, California, is often known as a retiree’s paradise. However, Palm Springs hasn’t always had this mellow reputation.

Back when Hollywood had its Golden Age, Palm Springs was known as “The Playground of the Stars”, the place where Sonny Bono would become mayor, where Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner drank their way through debauchery and scandal and where streets take on names such as Kirk Douglas Way and Ginger Rogers Road.

Now, Palm Springs is going through a revival in attempt to reclaim its golden years, becoming more and more appealing to young, active and stylish travelers. A two-hour drive from LA, Palm Springs has become an easy jaunt for those looking to experience the retro classic.

Where to sleep

For a taste of Old Hollywood, you can’t go wrong with the new Movie Colony Hotel. With 16 rooms in three 1930’s whitewashed buildings, the Movie Colony is boutique-style luxury with a retro twist. Choose from lounging around in cushy chaises on the vast balcony or in your 400-thread count sheets in your swank room. In the 30’s the hotel was a favorite desert escape for martini-sipping celebrities. Indulge in one at the hotel’s refreshing al fresco bar.
726 N. Indian Ave., 1-800-953-5700,; room rates $190–$289

A favorite of today’s stars is Le Parker Meridien, where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie shacked up last year during a photo shoot. The hotel has all the amenities you would expect from Le Meridien plus a laid-back desert vibe and kitschy vintage décor. The full-service spa, the not-so aptly named Palm Springs Yacht Club, boasts 15,000 square feet of relaxation with four swimming pools and four clay tennis courts. Enjoy a Swedish massage after a hard day of schmoozing in the downtown bars, only ten minutes away.
4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive., 1-800-543-4300,; room rates $250-$500

The Viceroy Palm Springs Resort and Spa is another popular hotel and understandably so. This hip oasis has a fresh, Continental vibe with attention to detail like ceramic whippet statues, Italian designer sheets and luxurious bath products. Manicured gardens, adorned with fragrant citrus trees, line the spacious grounds, which is quite popular for wedding ceremonies. But fear not you singles, the Citron’s cocktail lounge is great for socializing with other hipsters.
415 South Belardo Road Palm Springs; 1- 800-670-6184,; room rates $149-$389

Out to eat, out to drink

Piero’s Aqcua Pazzo California Bistro, located in The Rivers shopping complex on Rancho Mirage’s famous restaurant row, is great for a night out. There’s a little something for everyone at this spacious and stylish restaurant, accented by indoor waterfalls and smiling staff. For a European touch, try the Wild Mushroom Soup with white truffle and olive oil. Pazzo also offers diners outdoor seating on the terrace, which is the perfect place to people-watch and enjoy the ½ price happy hour.
71-800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; (760) 862-9800, $10-$30

For a taste of the tropics, Halewia Joes offers Hawaiian-style dining with fresh fish flown in daily. Popular with locals and visitors alike, the restaurant is in a magnificent setting, the building set into part of a mountain. Aside from the setting and relaxing, island décor, the food at Halweias is something to hula about. For a rich, mouth-watering seafood dish, try the catch of the day, baked in a macadamia nut crust or, if you have a light appetite, a plate of sticky ribs or Thai lemongrass calamari should do the trick. Wash it all down with a Madam Pele, a mix of coconut rum, strawberries and cream.
69-934 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; (760) 324-5613, $10-$35

Close to Halewia’s is Tastings, a unique restaurant with a fun, trendy vibe. Tastings concentrates on its extraordinary wine list and consequently all dishes on the menu are meant to compliment it. They currently have 42 different wines by the glass. This novel approach to dining means that you can sample from a range of tapas-style dishes, all particularly suited for one wine or another. The space is sleek and relaxed with comfy couches perfect for curling up with a dish of steamed mussels and a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc.
69-930 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; (760) 324-4044, $12-$35

Keeping with Palm Springs new retro-theme, The Deck is one of the hippest bars around. Perched atop The Chop House, this bar offers light dining, live jazz, toasty fireplaces and a happening happy hour (3:30-6:30) that cuts 50 per cent off drinks and bar food. Swing by on a Friday night for a few drinks before heading out on the town.
262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Downtown Palm Springs; (760) 325-5200

A good place to have your night out on the town is at the Atlas Restaurant and Nightclub. This club serves food until midnight but the drinks fly all night long (or at least until 2 AM). With a spacious dance floor, great sound and an extensive martini list, Atlas has a retro-modern theme that’s very fun and very now.
210 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Downtown Palm Springs; (760) 325-8893

What to see, what to do

A trip to Palm Springs is not complete with out seeing The Palm Springs Follies in action. This Vaudevillian song and dance team is world-famous and Broadway caliber. The twist here is that none of these talented troopers are a day younger than 55, proof that seniors in Palm Springs do more than just play golf and bingo. The shows run from November to May 30th so see them while you can. You’ll be looking at your Grandmother differently afterwards.
128 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Downtown Palm Springs; (760) 327-0225

Opened on New Years Eve 2005, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is the area’s largest casino with 2000 slot machines, 30 table games and off-track betting. The four-star resort also features 250 rooms and suites, as well as four restaurants with cuisine from Asia, Brazil, Italy and Mexico. A 24-lane bowling center lies adjacent to the property. Because the casino is open 24 hours, being bored here is not an option.
84 245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 1-800- 827-2946; rates $126-$279

About a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs is the $250 million Morongo Casino Resort and Spa. Already a favorite with celebrities, this new, sleek high-rise in the nearby town of Cabazon is like Las Vegas condensed. With a private 2400-square-foot poker room, thousands of slot machines and a hip nightclub, Desert Rain, Morongo will entertain you for days, or at least until your money runs out.
4970 Seminole Drive (off of I-10), Cabazon; 1-800-252-4499; rates $109-$269

Every January, Palm Springs holds its International Film Festival. Hosted for the last several years by Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart, the Film Festival draws big names and great films. Shirley MacLaine was recently honored with the festival’s lifetime achievement award.
Go to for more information

For all you adventurous types, 4x4ing in a Hummer through desolate desert hills might pique your interest. Hummer Adventure Tours will take you over the shifting San Andreas Fault or through the wild and beautiful Joshua Tree National Park. Just remember to wear lots of sunscreen and make sure your hat secures around your head. You don’t want it to fly off and have to wrestle a cactus for it.
Call 1-877-WE-HUMMER for reservations or email at; rates $89-$119

If you prefer to see the scenery from a more natural mount, try Crazy Horse Ranch. The owner Jacklyn Barrett, takes the traditional trail riding expedition and makes it her own. All riders and horses are coached in Natural Horsemanship, a new wave of “horse whispering” that provides greater understanding between horse and rider and ensures for a memorable ride.
50440 Cheyenne Trail, Morongo; (760) 831-6450; rates $50-$100

Of course an even more adventurous view would be from the seat of a vintage Warbird or Biplane. Nostalgic Warbird Rides gives visitors the chance to ride in one of these bad babies, dipping and twirling above the desert floor. Some planes are even fitted with stereos to play music from the era, all to get you in the mood. Of course, the company also offers more serene sightseeing flights for those who don’t feel like losing their lunch.
Call 1-800-991-2473 for more information; rates $125-$479

Where to buy

El Paseo is Palm Springs version of Rodeo Drive, a several block span of upscale boutiques, eateries, art galleries and a Saks Fifth Avenue, all sumptuously adorned by palm trees and desert scenery.
Call 1-877-7EL-PASEO for more information

Desert Hills Premium Outlet is located in Cabazon across from the Morongo Casino and Resort. The sprawling open-air shopping mecca features hundreds of stores such as Coach, Tods, Bebe, Guess, Versace and Gucci all at 25 to 65 per cent off retail prices. Best bet is to go in the morning before the tour buses from LA and Las Vegas show up and unload their shop crazy passengers.
4800 Seminole Drive, Cabazon

The River Shopping Complex
is located in the middle of restaurant row in Rancho Mirage. The River has several quality stores such as Borders Books and Music, Ulta, Bath and Body Works, beauty salons and local boutiques.
71-800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

Celebrity Seconds
is one of the many vintage and consignment stores in Palm Springs. What makes Celebrity stand out from the crowd is its vast collection of vintage clothing and jewelry that was worn by the stars, including Ginger Rogers’ private collection. The tiny shop also offers more affordable vintage pieces, although the previous owner is more likely to have been an old lady who lived down the street.
333 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Downtown Palm Springs; (760) 416-2072

Trina Turk’s flirty flagship store is located here in Palm Springs. A favorite wardrobe choice among Young Hollywood, Trina Turk offers gorgeous, feminine designs. This is California chic at its finest.
891 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Downtown Palm Springs; 760) 416-2856

How to get to there

Palm Springs is well serviced by several American airlines such as Alaska, Delta and United with seasonal flights to and from Canada from Westjet and Harmony Airways. provides a more extensive list of flights

Taking to the road is another option. Palm Springs is just 110 miles from LA, 273 miles from Las Vegas and 280 miles from San Francisco. The Mexican border is just a short days drive away.

13 said they wanna go too:

Blogger Expat Traveler wanderlusted...

ok west ender - hehe...

I see one common thing that is wrong... It's great to go here if you have money to throw away but if you're a backpacker... well it's not so afordable unless you can sleep in the desert...

Great places to go. I'm from Cali but never got to palm springs exactly, all around it but not close enough...

8:12 AM  
Blogger Wanderlusting wanderlusted...

You are so right. Affordable it isn't, unless you go for a weekend. Which I think is all you really need in Palm Springs...after that you'll get mistaken for a senior.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Eric wanderlusted...

Wow - I was doing a search on the Follies and got your blog. You are a talented writer! I live in Palm Springs and gotta say - you really did an excellent job of nailing the hot spots. I would also recommend the Living Desert Zoo (large African area with a newborn baby giraffe). As for hiking - I go every weekend. The Palm Springs Museum trail climbs 1,200 feet in 1.5 miles and affords an incredible view of the valley. And I completely agree with you both - it's way too expensive in this valley (rich retirees and Orange county refugees drive up prices).

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous wanderlusted...

Just thought I'd say Hey!!!! We you the one who was asking me where I was working on the internet? Take it easy, I'm enjoying this California weather!!!! I just moved here from the east sooooo :)

I made an extra $2000 a Month Using this site!!

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous wanderlusted...

Just thought I'd say Hey!!!! We you the one who was asking me where I was working on the internet? Take it easy, I'm enjoying this California weather!!!! I just moved here from the east sooooo :)

I made an extra $2000 a Month Using this site!!

3:19 AM  
Blogger jeff and ross wanderlusted...

Spam, spam, eggs and spam.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Palm Springs Savant wanderlusted...

well when will you buy a place here of your own???

8:09 PM  
Blogger Karen wanderlusted...

target! in canada! that would be so amazing, i love target and their designer collaborations :)

1:09 PM  
Blogger Cassiopeia wanderlusted...

Woop! Oh for hollywood... looks immense! :D


3:03 PM  
Blogger Melinda wanderlusted...

All of your travels look like so much fun! Can't wait to read more!

9:43 AM  
Blogger Mademoiselle Frou-Frou wanderlusted...

i have lived in LA my entire life and have never been to Palm Springs! i can't believe it either!
your post is inspiring me...

5:55 PM  
Blogger Underfunded Heiress wanderlusted...

I live in OC, CA and I love going to Palm Springs! It's so true that it's becoming hip again for the young and stylish. I went last summer and stayed at the Viceroy-AMAZING!! I loved the decor of this boutique hotel!

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous wanderlusted...


10:25 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home