By Eric Lavey
Palm Springs is hot (no really, it’s like 115 right now). I’m talking about the heat Palm Springs has been getting the last few years. Some will say that this happens every 20 years or so, and that this is just another instance in the usual cycle. But this is different. There is definitely a renaissance happening. Its popularity over the last half-decade, which is now culminating in a perfect storm of Hollywood/Silicon Valley power players, the music festival crowd, the dining scene and the realization that Palm Springs is the perfect destination to steal away for 48hrs without anyone realizing you are actually out of town. And this is not just Angelinos – The Bay Area, San Diego and Laguna Beach crowd has also fully co-signed on the same feeling – Palm Springs is officially The West Coast Hamptons.
I will admit I’m sold on everything about this place – literally sold. After purchasing and restoring a mid-century property in the South End part of town, I have spent the last couple of years stealing away as many weekends as possible (back in LA just in time for a Sunday Open House, of course) in this truly intoxicating destination many of us simply call “The Desert.” From boutique resorts, farm-to-table dining (and drinking) to historic architecture, Palm Springs is a place you can visit over and over – and always discover something new and special.
Where To Stay:
The resort scene has been changing by the year – and it is continuing to grow, with some big names on the way. But right now I still love the Colony Palms Hotel, just of the fringe of downtown. Their pool may be the best in the desert, their on site restaurant and bar, The Purple Palm, has been very good, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll find a crowd that likes to relax more than rage. The old Spanish-style architecture and environment is – in my opinion – the Desert’s version of our Chateau Marmont.
If its privacy and mid-century modern architecture you are looking for, the Horizon Hotel is something that cannot be duplicated. Located in the middle of the South End, and designed by one of the masters of modernism – William F. Cody – it sits on over 2 acres, with only 24 rooms that feature walls of glass and patios flowing out to the original pool. About 10 years ago the property was restored according to Cody’s original blueprints.
If you have some time to really explore the Desert, something you should not miss: Hotel Lautner – one of John Lautner’s first projects in 1947. Tracy Beckmann and her crew went through an extensive and meticulous restoration a few years back and she absolutely killed it. Located in Desert Hot Springs (about 20 min from PS), Hotel Lautner is really the only exciting destination in this old desert town; that’s okay though, because the move here is to spend a night and just stay on-site and enjoy one of the property’s four micro-apartments where it will truly feel like you are in a time-capsule of mid–century perfection. In my opinion, the best thing is to get some friends and ask Tracy to buy out the entire property for the weekend and have an experience you won’t forget.
After an early morning court time at the historic Palm Springs Tennis Club, it’s my weekend ritual to enjoy breakfast with some fellow members at Spencer’s Restaurant, tucked into the mountainside on the downtown club’s campus. Spencer’s has indoor and outdoor space (the only air conditioned outdoor patio in the Desert), an easy bar and a classic American breakfast menu with maybe the best huevos rancheros in SoCal.
It would be downright irresponsible not to mention Elmer’s, located in the South End (near The Ace Hotel). It’s always filled with locals and there’s always a line; get there by 9 a.m. – latest – or be prepared to wait. It’s worth a wait for their Northwest hash browns and homemade biscuits.
Also in the South End is the King’s Highway Diner, located in The Ace Hotel. King’s Highway is a favorite of the Coachella crowd and locals as well. Although I’m a fan of their Micheladas – be sure to order a Bloody Mary – their gourmet selections are the best in town.
If you leave the pool for some lunch, you cannot miss Tyler’s. If I had to pick one place I could not live without, this is it. Situated in the middle downtown across from the updated Hard Rock Hotel, Tyler’s is a locally-owned operation turning out what many people (myself included) think are the best burgers on the West Coast. And if you are not a burger lover, order the kale salad with Diana’s secret homemade dressing – which is off the menu and by request only… (yes, I have the recipe.)
When it comes to dinner in the desert, the town has many more options than it did just a few years ago – and it’s ever-changing. One of these newer additions is Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Located Uptown in the Design District (north of downtown) in the former Design Within Reach building, Workshop serves up a spectacular artisan cocktail program usually only found in top US cities, and organic dishes such as octopus carpaccio and a rich oxtail burger. If the industrial chic design reminds you of something you would walk into on NYC’s Lower East Side, that’s because Manhattan-based Soma Architects completed the project to contrast against the building’s Colonial architecture. Once the temp heats up for the season, you will find the crowd tilt toward bachelorettes out together for serious celebrating…
When we look for something easy and comfortable for dinner, Bernie’s has become our go-to neighborhood spot – where I can reserve my favorite table (I can’t tell you which one). Located in the South End off Palm Canyon Blvd, it’s quickly become a local favorite after less than a year. It’s a supper club offering traditional American fare and friendly service. Must order the shrimp cocktail – which is delivered fresh from Santa Monica Seafood. And if it’s a Saturday, you’ll enjoy live entertainment from a couple of guys that croon all of the favorites from the Rat Pack era. By your third Manhattan, you will be singing along with them.
For pre-dinner drinks on Friday or Saturday, check out the new Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage – which just opened about a month ago. This place is all about an amazing setting with huge views, which are rare in the Desert. The patio offers comfortable seating for individuals and larger groups. The service is spot on, which of course, the Ritz is known for. They also have a special Sunday Brunch that is quickly becoming a popular weekend destination for locals and visitors alike.
Something Else To Do
While most visitors may only be checking out the downtown area and the Palm Canyon Drive shops, if you are looking for special furnishings, start on Perez Road in Cathedral City (minutes outside of PS). Your first stop should be Hedge, where my friends Charles and Thomas showcase a wide selection of hard to find mid-century gems – at a fraction of the cost you will find in LA (or on FirstDibs.com).
Next door to Hedge you will find one of the Desert’s best kept secrets: Spaces. Think Fred Segal meets flea market. Shop director Paula has assembled an all-star collection of smaller vintage dealers who update inventory daily.
Flow Modern Design – In the Uptown Design District, where my designing friends Andre and Brigitte brilliantly curate a stylish space with vintage jewelry, furniture and art, which the couple source from all over the globe.
Play a match at the historic Palm Springs Tennis Club, where famous Desert residents, such as Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra and even a Vice President or two have played. It gets busy in the season (Oct-May), so find a friend who is a member (or friend of a friend) to help you reserve a court three days in advance.
Finally, what would a visit to Palm Springs be without a self guided architectural tour? The architecture of Palm Springs is as diverse and fascinating as the community itself. Of course, I favor Mid-Century. Start in the beautiful Vista Las Palmas neighborhood, where you will find the Dinah Shore House (recently purchased by Leonardo Dicaprio) and the famous Elvis Honeymoon House. Next, hit the North End Racket Club section, to drive past the Kaufman House, the site of (arguably) the most iconic image of Desert lifestyle – “Poolside Gossip” (Slim Aarons 1970). Just a few blocks away in the Movie Colony neighborhood, you’ll find the Sinatra Twin Palms Estate and the Clark Gable Estate. Don’t forget to check out the Donald Wexler Homes in the El Rancho Vista area, just East of Indian Canyon Drive, north of downtown.
I could write volumes here, but the most important thing to know about Palm Springs is that you can discover something new –which will become your own “favorite spots” – at any time of the year. Just be sure to share them.
Eric Lavey is an agent working out of The Agency’s world headquarters in Beverly Hills. Comfortable handling transactions of any size, Eric takes the entire process very seriously, starting with market research and analysis and moving onto carefully-crafted and deliberate marketing strategies. This approach has gained Eric top producer awards, invitations as a speaker to industry events, press from such esteemed outlets as The Wall Street Journal and The Hollywood Reporter, and a committed group of appreciative repeat and referral clientele.