Best of Getaways: Heading East

Posted online: April 2013

Palm Springs



Parker Palm Springs

A mid-century modern vibe suffuses the Parker Palm Springs—set on 13 garden acres of Gene Autry’s former Melody Ranch—where designer Jonathan Adler’s playful decor fills the 144 rooms and private villas. The same tongue-in-chic but pampering attitude is evident in the Palm Springs Yacht Club spa—whose manifesto touts the country club experience of mixed doubles, a long steam, and a stiff drink. With three pools, this is a place for serious lolling around, though athletic interludes could take you from the red-clay tennis courts to the petanque courts to the croquet lawn, where, they say, a Pimms cup is the drink de rigueur. Norma’s upscale indoor/outdoor diner promises breakfast all day; after dark, though, the scene naturally shifts to Mister Parker’s, where the sexy dark wood and leather ambience fits the French bistro-style cuisine.
PARKER PALM SPRINGS 4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760-770-5000,

Korakia Pensione

Morocco comes to the California desert at Korakia Pensione, where two artistically restored villas from the 1920s and ’30s—owned by an artist and a movie actor—form the basis of a one-of-a-kind Palm Springs oasis. Inside the carved Moorish wooden double doors of the keyhole-shaped entrance, you’ll find serene courtyards with tiled fountains and lush plantings of citrus, oleander, date palms, and olives. The 28 varied guest rooms, suites, and bungalows are each individually decorated with antiques and handcrafted furnishings that evoke exotic getaways from Tangier to the Greek islands. The Moroccan courtyard is the setting for breakfast and afternoon tea; a bocce court and yoga platform suggest other ways to pass the time, while the two swimming pools are illuminated by lanterns and fire pits in the evenings, when vintage movies are shown outdoors.
KORAKIA PENSIONE 257 S. Patencio Rd., Palm Springs, 760-864-6411,

Colony Palms Hotel

There’s a stylish poolside scene at the Colony Palms Hotel, where the Purple Palm Restaurant—with chef Jeffrey Armstrong newly in charge—pays homage to the hotel’s colorful past. The place was built in 1936 and run by notorious Purple Gang mobster Al Wertheimer, who installed a speakeasy and house of ill repute at the bottom of a secret staircase behind a pantry cupboard. After World War II, new management turned it into a gathering spot for the likes of Frank Sinatra, boxer Jack Dempsey, and Ronald Reagan. Today, the 56 rooms, casitas, and suites balance the hotel’s historic Spanish architecture with exotic touches like Uzbekistani suzanis and dramatic tile, while vintage-style black-and-white photography by Deborah Anderson keeps up the Hollywood glam quotient. Moroccan touches add to the oasis, which is underscored by the dramatic panoramas of the California desert all around.
COLONY PALMS HOTEL 572 N. Indian Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 800-557-2187,

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

Ace hostelries got their start in the Pacific Northwest, and there’s still a bit of Portland hipster in the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, which opened in 2009. Comfort, sustainability, and cultural context are the watchwords here, which means that a cool mix of vintage furniture, natural materials—think canvas, butternut wood, denim, and hemp—and up-to-the-minute amenities fill the 180 rooms that occupy the foundation of a 1965 motel. Recreating the aesthetic of that era is the King’s Highway restaurant, with its upscale diner fare, and the Amigo Room, which reinterprets the property’s original ranch hand bar. More surprising, perhaps, are the Mongolian yurts (for outdoor massages from the Feel Good Spa) and the sno-cone bar, which rolls up in an old-style caravan. Oh, yes, there are two pools, including a rare deep plunge, lined by hammocks and accounting for the aquatic aspect of the hotel’s name.
ACE HOTEL AND SWIM CLUB 701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760-325-9900,

Rancho Las Palmas

Yes, this is the desert, but at Rancho Las Palmas the surprise element is water—lots of it—at the family-oriented Splashtopia. The water park includes two 100-foot water slides, a lazy river, swimming pool, and small sandy beach. But the entire verdant 240-acre property is, in fact, a sort of playground for children of all ages—with a 27-hole Ted Robinson golf course and 25 tennis courts. The sense of fun extends to the menu that incoming chef Billy Deaver has installed at the retro R Bar—offering a Burger Bar of mix-and-match sliders with global flavors. Meanwhile, the just-completed $5 million renovation has revitalized the 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, and redesigned the 400-plus guestrooms and suites in a restful desert-toned palette. There may actually be moments when you want to do nothing at all.
RANCHO LAS PALMAS 41-000 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage, 866-423-1195,

Viceroy Palm Springs

It’s old-style Hollywood regency glamour—in glorious tones of black, white, and lemon—at the Viceroy Palm Springs, which began as a bungalow hotel for glitterati in the 1930s and carries on as a luxe near-downtown getaway with 67 rooms, suites, and villas set around landscaped courtyards. Designer Kelly Wearstler has added theatrical touches like formal drapery, bold black-and white wallpaper, and coachman’s lamps to the decor, which extends to the cabanas and pavilions around the three outdoor pools. At the brilliantly hued Citron restaurant, the menu is California eclectic, but for cocktail drama, there’s the signature Citron Blue martini—made with Hpnotiq liqueur and Ketel One Citron. The private outdoor treatment cabanas at the boutique Estrella Spa are just the place for a revitalizing massage, while the Head to Toe Indulgence adds foot reflexology to a facial that will leave you ready for your close-up.
VICEROY PALM SPRINGS 415 S. Belardo Rd., Palm Springs, 800-237-3687,

There’s a little bit of Vegas in the air at the Riviera Palm Springs, so why not slip past the tangerine-lit lattice walls of the Starlite Lounge and order an old-school cocktail—a Pink Panther, for instance. Or join the after-dark scene around the outdoor pool, with its chaises and lavish private cabanas. The 406 rooms and suites in the midcentury-modern pavilions have a contemporary take on ’60s decor in tones of chocolate and pink with geometric accents, and the Circa 59 restaurant elaborates on the theme with oversize crystal chandeliers and red leather upholstery. The venue where the Rat Pack entertained, however, is gone; guests can now luxuriate in the 18 treatment rooms at SpaTerre, where the sounds of water flowing into the watsu pool are the only musical accompaniment.
RIVIERA PALM SPRINGS 1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 866-588-8311,

Riviera Palm Springs


The Definitive Desert

MICHAEL ERICKSON has the best of both worlds. With his partner, Dream Foundation president Tom Rollerson, he has a residence on the Santa Barbara Riviera and a home on the 17th fairway of a Palm Springs-area golf course, near the offices of luxury KSL Resorts group, where he is vice president of sales. Here are his tips for getting the most out of a Coachella Valley stay.


Trina Turk

Great design meets great food at the new Workshop Kitchen + Bar, 760-459-3451,, in a Spanish-style building in Palm Springs’s Uptown Design District. After your meal, you can stroll Palm Canyon Boulevard and check out the eclectic furnishings at Raymond | Lawrence, 760-322-3344,, or Boulevard, 760-832-9011,, or just concentrate on furnishing your wardrobe at great California chic boutiques like Trina Turk, 760-416-2856,, or the new adjacent Mr. Turk. If you need to freshen your look first, head for Turquoise salon, 760-325-7444,, owned and run by ex-Santa Barbaran Jack Reed. The new 26-foot Marilyn Monroe statue in the center of town is the place for a photo with the icon. Get there soon because she’s only there till June. Sunday brunch outdoors at Cheeky’s, 760-325-7445,, or Birba, 760-327-5678, is always great for people watching. You can even rent pink or blue Townie bicycles across the street to cruise the community in search of Frank’s house, Elvis’s honeymoon pad, or Liberace’s hideaway. Need refreshment after your ride? The best margaritas just may be at El Mirasol, 760-323-0721, And don’t forget the stunning mountain and cactus surroundings; when you’re ready to explore, hop onto a Desert Adventures jeep tour, 760-324-5337,, and see it all up close.



[Getaways, Best of 2013]

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