By Anthony Giampetruzzi
Contemporary modern is king in the Hamptons, but those in the know will attest the East End is far from the mod homeland. Palm Springs, California, took that trophy long ago, and, in recent years, the statuette has taken on considerable shine.
The legendary weekend getaway for the jet set of L.A. and its lux environs, this fabled Coachella Valley oasis is once again attracting the easy going chic to its posh but devil may care hotels, the eager to impress to photo op parties, and would-be aesthetes who want a crash course in what has to be the largest concentration of mid-century modern architecture and design in the U.S.
You can cram a lot into long weekend in this easy-to-get-to destination … or you may just want to plant yourself at a pool and breathe in the ultra clean desert air before taking in a party or an evening of hotel bar hopping (the Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel is not to be missed).
Regardless of your poison, there are some must-dos.
Where to stay
Easy. The newly-named Avalon Hotel Palm Springs has been sitting in stunning contrast to its desert setting since the 1930s, nestled between Downtown’s main drag and the foot of the rugged San Jacinto Mountains. Its Spanish architecture is punctuated by a series of secluded, private villas, most of which surround one of the property’s three exclusive pools.
The Avalon prides itself on “holding an affinity for one-offs, anomalies and the irrefutable allure of a personal touch – our trademarks are small batched. Think of us as your own private hideaway. All you have to do is stay.”
Consider a Bungalow or Premium Courtyard Studio for easy access to the best pools in Palm Springs, extreme people watching from the privacy of your own room, and proximity to Chi Chi, which serves up some of the freshest West Coast cuisine in the desert.
Renowned designer Kelly Wearstler’s careful touch is experienced everywhere with modern baroque furnishings and charismatic finishes. From custom terry robes and Italian designer linens to exceptional Momo bathroom amenities from Davines, and a curated minibar, the rooms wow.
Whether you are relaxing in your digs, lounging by a pool, or seeking a more formal sit down, Chi Chi restaurant’s specialized menus and innovative Latin standard dishes will leave you feeling both satisfied and refreshed. Whatever you decide, don’t miss the Grilled Chicken and Watercress Salad by the pool at lunch and, at din, the Seabass Veracruzanna.
Estrella Spa is named for the original hotel property where a full menu of the usual (although not the ordinary) is supported by nods to alchemy, holistic health and global herbal medicine. The holistic healing treatments use only handmade herb-infused oils and butters combined with custom-blended essential oils provided by American Medicinal Arts.
Where to eat and drink
Palm Springs is on the cusp of becoming as important a destination for food as it is for its glam. Workshop Kitchen and Bar is a case in point. The elegantly spartan interior is supported by a menu punctuated by local farm to table options ranging from artistic smalls (SHAVED BRUSSELS SPROUTS, organic kumquats, murray farm’s cherries, pepitas, balsamico, pumpkin seed oil, pecorino romano – insane!) to mouth watering plates (MESQUITE-GRILLED DUCK BREAST, Temecula farm’s honey & lavender glaze, duck confit lentils, bloomsdale spinach, rhubarb – explosion!).
Whatever you do, don’t miss a Workshop seasonal craft cocktail. In fact, arrive early and try one or two at the impressive bar.
What to do
Though not on the scale of the manses in the East End, the modern architecture of Palm Springs is no less impressive – mainly because this is where today’s top architects and designers draw the inspiration. Don’t attempt a self-guided tour through the dense neighborhoods, especially if you want to find homes of bygone celebs. Wexler, Neutra and Anderson are all well-covered during a Palm Springs Modern Tour. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance.
Though not for the faint of heart, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, commonly known as “The Palm Springs Tram” offers the best views in the greater Palm Springs area from atop San Jacinto Peak. Bring a jacket – daytime desert weather doesn’t apply here where you’ll likely find patches of snow. Visit the bar for a high altitude bev.
By all means, shop … and prepare yourself for the very real possibility of shipping home some modern treasures from the likes of Corbusier, Eames, Saarinen, and Prouve. The inventory here is amazing if not overwhelming. For something new, check out hip designer Trina Turk’s flagship store (891 N Palm Canyon Dr), or the unmistakable art of Shag (725 N Palm Canyon Dr.)
Got a little extra time? About an hour away is the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, one of the most magnificent and unique parks in the system. Set aside 3-4 hours to drive through this oasis of fascinating vegetation and eye-popping vistas.