Beyond Coachella is a terrain filled with charming mid-century time capsules. With over 350 days of sunshine a year, Palm Springs gained popularity as a Tinseltown hotspot due to Hollywood’s “two-hour rule” from L.A., where celebrities could easily drive back if called into the studio.
Trendy hotels like The Ace have recently tried to stake their claim in this desert oasis, but the retro hotels, diners, beauty parlors drive-thru movies, and vintage car washes that became the fabric of Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs are now facing a revival. We take you on a midcentury modern time-travel of Palm Springs’ nostalgic desert oasis, with the best places to eat, stay, and play.
Where to Stay
For a true 1950s experience, stay at Skylark Hotel Palm Springs (from $129), a retro design hotel built in 1955, recently restored to its former glory in 2014. Hollywood megastars including Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis used to unwind by the same palm-fringed pool that exists today. The twenty-nine rooms feature minimalistic Danish furniture and a muted color palate. Enjoy exceptional San Jacinto Mountain sunset views from the balcony, soak in the clover-shaped Jacuzzi, or sit in the luxurious outdoor steam room for ultimate relaxation (facilities are open 24/7). Scissor Sister’s frontman Jake Shears and Amanda Lepore have been spotted at the hotel.
See and be seen at the technicolored Saguaro Hotel (from $190). With a color palette inspired by desert wildflowers, the hotel boasts a fun and youthful party vibe with dazzling desert views. Each of the 244 color-themed guest room is appointed with Mexican décor and features a balcony or patio. Alexis Kraus of Sleighbells, Sky Ferreira, Rob Ackroyd of Florence & The Machine, Myles Hendrik, Allie Teilzand, and LOLAWOLF featuring Zoe Kravitz have all spun here during the wet n’ wild Coachella weekend pool parties that have made the hotel famous. On-site bars and restaurants (El Jefe, Rocco’s Electric, and the Pool Bar), a spa, whirlpools, gym, and frequent “dive-in movie” nights makes The Saguaro a one-stop destination.
Host your own Sinatra-esque pool party by renting a luxury vacation villa, like 436 Olancha (from $1050, which includes a cleaning fee), a 5-bedroom midcentury modern home with splashes of yellow and turquoise throughout. The impeccably designed rental is equipped with a saltwater pool, hot tub, outdoor showers, BBQ and outdoor fireplace. Hire a private chef from Dash and Handful to whip up a meal in the gourmet kitchen, get a deep tissue massage by the pool, blast oldies, and invite friends. Be sure to reserve ahead of time; weekends often book 6 to 12 months in advance.
Where to Eat
For fine dining with the rich and famous, make a reservation at Melvyn’s at Ingleside Inn, one of Sinatra’s favorite hangouts. Order the Steak Diane ($31.50) and Sidecar cocktail ($10), poured by bartender Mark Myrick, exactly the way Ol’ Blue Eyes liked it. Make nice with Brian, the maître d’ since 1975, and you might be able to take a peek at the hidden wine cellar where Sinatra used to host private meetings.
Reservoir at ARRIVE
Palm Spring’s newest tech-forward hotspot, Reservoir at ARRIVE, is designed with classic “Butterfly Alexander” and “Folded-Plate Wexler” roofs in a neutral palate of wood, rusted steel and concrete. Take in the San Jacinto mountain ridge views from the buzz-worthy pool deck, and order the Palm Springs Punch ($11), made with rum, ruby port, orgeat, and citrus. Try the “Benedict” Sope ($12), an all-day breakfast dish with turkey chorizo, poached eggs and valentina hollandaise sopes.
[1551 North Palm Canyon Drive, Suite B, (760) 507-1650; reservoirpalmsprings.com]
Though Leonardo DiCaprio and Sean Penn eat there, you don’t need to be Hollywood royalty to get a table at Mister Parker. The decadent and dimly lit bistro is known for the Le Magret De Canard, pan-roasted duck breast served with balsamic honey lavender, sweet potato gnocchi and romanesco ($35, paired with a bottle of Bergström Pinot Noir ($180).
[4200 E Palm Canyon Dr, 760 321-4629; theparkerpalmsprings.com]
Enjoy lunch at The Purple Palm, nestled in Movie Colony Village, Sinatra’s old neighborhood. The Mediterranean style poolside ambiance and chic striped cabanas scream old Hollywood glamour. Try the Heirloom Beet and Burrata Salad ($15) with local Coachella Valley dates, basil and balsamic strawberry vinaigrette and sip on the Mojave Mule ($15), an infusion of vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, peach and ginger.
[572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, (760) 969-1818; colonypalmshotel.com]
Post Coachella To-Dos
The Beauty Bubble
Take a daytrip to the spectacular Joshua Tree National Park to check out the iconic Joshua Trees and spring wildflower carpets (a scenic forty-five minute from Palm Springs). While in town, book an appointment at the newly opened Beauty Bubble roadside attraction, a pastel wonderland where you can browse over 3,000 pieces of American hair and beauty memorabilia while getting your hair expertly styled by Jeff Hafler—Michael Jackson’s movie buddy and “America’s Hairstorian”—in a glamorous Beehive or Pompadour to match the area’s vintage vibes.
[61855 29 Palms Highway, 760.366.9000]
Palm Springs Indian Canyons
Hike, meditate, or go horseback riding in the palm oasis at the spectacular Palm Springs Indian Canyons, an Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indian settlements where the flora and fauna is a stark contrast from the surrounding area’s rocky gorges and barren desert.
[38520 S Palm Canyon Dr, (760) 323-6018; indian-canyons.com]
Palm Springs Tramway
Ride the famed Palm Springs Tramway up the Chino Canyon cliffs for a spectacular 360-degree view of the Coachella Valley. The 10-minute ride costs $25 and begins at Valley Station. Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and The Doors have all visited the tramway.
[One Tram Way, (888) 515-8726; pstramway.com]
Modern Architecture Tour
Take a three-hour Modern Architecture Tour ($85/pp) to visit all of the swingin’ midcentury spots, including Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann house, Elvis and Pricilla’s honeymoon hideaway, and The Movie Colony. Get a group together and do a private tour of Twin Palms, Sinatra’s original Palm Springs Estate, with his infamous piano-shaped pool. Do a virtual tour if you’re pressed for time.
[For more information: 877-318-2090]