Located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles in the Sonoran desert, Palm Springs started becoming a hot spot in the 1950s. The Rat Pack — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop — helped turn the desert oasis into a glamorous, big-city getaway playground. Today the town and surrounding Coachella Valley are still a popular spa retreat destination with the A-list crowd. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Palm Springs.
Most people visit Palm Springs to go to the spa or to golf. As far as spas are concerned, the Palm Springs Yacht Club has some of the best facials in town. For a lowkey spa experience that includes some hot-springs soaking, head to the town of Desert Hot Springs, a 15-minute drive from Palm Springs, and pay a visit to the Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa.
With more than two dozen courses in the region — many by world-class designers — golf has long been Palm Springs’ most revered sport (tennis is a close second). For the scoop on where to play, check out this website.
One of the town’s most-loved attractions is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which climbs almost 6,000 feet straight up from the Sonoran desert floor to its San Jacinto Mountains summit in just less than 15 minutes. From the top you have fantastic mountain, valley and desert views in all directions, but bring a sweater. The temperature change from bottom to top is equally startling.
Palm Springs is also home to some top-end eating holes, including the five-star Norma’s, which is especially famous for brunch. Everyone in the know orders one of the eggs Benedict dishes. Personally I like the artychoked eggs Benedict, which are made with an ostentatiously delicious truffle porcini sauce.
Mid-Century Modern, the 1950s and ’60s architecture featured at the Hotel Lautner and around Palm Springs, is one of the most famous periods in American architecture. It was pioneered by architects incuding John Lautner, Albert Frey and Richard Neutra. You can check out notable buildings in the area by joining an organized tour.
Don’t skip a rollicking revue performed by the Palm Springs Follies, a theater troop that puts on a three-hour show with offbeat comedy, showgirls, music and plenty of dancing all performed by a “cast from the past.” What does that mean? The performers are all Hollywood and Broadway backup stars from the last century, and range in age from late 50s to early 80s. Think of it as a salute to the town’s Rat Pack history.
Whether you come to write a screenplay or to escape the paparazzi, the stylish Hotel Lautner is the hottest place to sleep in the desert. Located in retro-boho Desert Hot Springs — one town over from Palm Springs — it’s a Mid-Century Modern architectural masterpiece with just four private rooms. The property was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John Lautner in 1947, and the hotel is the first endeavor by Los Angeles designers Tracy Beckmann and Ryan Trowbridge. They did a magical job of resurrecting the glamour of 1950s Hollywood at this glass, stone, steel and redwood Desert Hot Springs compound. It feels like sleeping a terrarium.
A town that has been romancing Hollywood as long as Palm Springs has is bound to have some excellent shopping. Head to Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs and hit up all the top designer haunts. On Thursday nights the street closes for Village Fest, with food and craft vendors to accompany your evening shopping spree.
Head to Joshua Tree National Park for out-of-this-world hiking amid the famous trees and desert scenery. It is by far my favorite place to get lost in this area.
Pay a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum for your culture fix in town. It offers a medley of rotating exhibitions plus a strong permanent collection.