Vin­tage Hol­ly­wood glam­our with a mod­ern flair

Travel Guide to California - - PALM SPRINGS - BY CHRISTO­PHER P. BAKER

PALM SPRINGS HAS LONG DE­FINED the mean­ing of a re­lax­ing oa­sis of glitz and glam­our. In the 1950s and ’60s, it was the re­treat of Frank Si­na­tra and a con­stel­la­tion of tanned Hol­ly­wood stars who par­tied pool­side in their Mid-cen­tury Mod­ern bun­ga­lows. By the 1970s, the movie stars and moguls had moved on. Palm Springs sank into a pe­riod of sleepy re­tire­ment. But the city has since come full cir­cle. Newly fresh and com­pelling, this epi­cen­ter for desert va­ca­tions again ex­udes laid-back contemporary cool.

A spec­tac­u­lar re­de­vel­op­ment plan has put a new lus­ter on down­town Palm Springs, in­clud­ing a pedes­trian walk­way link­ing the world-class Palm Springs Art Mu­seum to “The Strip.” Add Up­town art gal­leries and fash­ion stores, ex­cit­ing new au courant restau­rants, an edgy night scene plus su­per-trendy ho­tels that push the Mod­ernist de­sign ver­nac­u­lar into the now. No won­der a whole new gen­er­a­tion of Hol­ly­wood stars and mil­len­ni­als is flock­ing to where it’s the swing­ing 1960s all over again.

In fact, Mad Men-era retro reigns in Palm Springs. Pop­u­lated by trade­mark vin­tage mo­tels with 21st-cen­tury ac­cou­trements, candy-col­ored fur­nish­ings and kid­neyshaped pools with DJS, this desert bolt­hole is ground-zero for any­one in search of throw­back movie star glam­our. Think vin­tage Palm Springs with mod­ern flair.

So­phis­ti­cated Ar­chi­tec­ture

Any sojourn through Palm Springs is a mag­i­cal mys­tery tour of “art-chi­tec­ture,” thanks to the city’s stock of more than two

thousand Mid-cen­tury Mod­ernist homes. Many of the finest ex­em­plars of Mod­ernism are bou­tique ho­tels—ar­rive, L’hori­zon, The Mon­key Tree and V Palm Springs, to name a few—and al­most all have played host to the Hol­ly­wood A-list. “Si­na­tra slept here” and “This was An­gelina Jolie’s room” is no idle chat­ter. By the way, many of the fa­mous per­son­al­i­ties who’ve lived, loved and played in Palm Springs—from Elvis Pres­ley to El­iz­a­beth Taylor—are com­mem­o­rated in pink gran­ite stars (the “Walk of Stars”) em­bed­ded in down­town side­walks.

Its pop­u­la­tion once surged in win­ter and cleared out by May. No longer. Palm Springs is now a trendy year-round des­ti­na­tion, not least as the week­end haven of choice for sleek LA hip­sters come to laze or party by the pool with cock­tail in hand. The “Tes­loop” chauf­feured rideshare be­tween Los An­ge­les and Palm Springs in Tesla elec­tric ve­hi­cles makes it easy. But Palm Springs travel of­fers far more. Snow­birds, re­tirees, art lovers, spa-go­ers and ac­tive va­ca­tion­ers flock too to this amaz­ingly cos­mopoli­tan city. And Palm Springs’ size­able gay and les­bian pop­u­la­tion trans­lates into an uber Lgbt-friendly and fun des­ti­na­tion, and never more so than dur­ing the an­nual Gay Pride Fes­ti­val (Novem­ber) and White Party (May). At any time of year, Hun­ters night­club keeps the LGBT party alive with its nine-hour-long happy hour!

Cul­tural At­trac­tions

To sat­isfy cul­tural yearn­ings, start at the Palm Springs Art Mu­seum. Con­sid­ered one of Cal­i­for­nia’s finest re­gional mu­se­ums, this world-class venue is notable for its contemporary art and as­tound­ing glass art in the Den­ney Western Amer­i­can Art Wing. Its Me­soamer­i­can col­lec­tion in­cludes bas­ketry, pot­tery and other ar­ti­facts by lo­cal Amerindian tribes. A few blocks away, the re­cently de­buted Palm Springs Art Mu­seum Ar­chi­tec­ture & De­sign Cen­ter, in a 1960s for­mer bank build­ing of clas­sic Mid-cen­tury Mod­ernist styling, houses the mu­seum’s grow­ing col­lec­tion of ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign-re­lated pieces.

Mean­while, Palm Springs’ Na­tive Amer­i­can her­itage is hon­ored at the down­town Agua Caliente Cul­tural Mu­seum, where bas­ketry, pot­tery and other tra­di­tional skills work­shops are hosted. And avi­a­tion buffs and WWII afi­ciona­dos will ex­ult to the war­birds on dis­play at the Palm Springs Air Mu­seum. It’s one of the world’s fore­most mu­se­ums ded­i­cated to WWII air­craft, dis­played in two hangars repli­cat­ing the Euro­pean and Pa­cific the­aters. Fly­ing demos are oc­ca­sion­ally of­fered, as are War­bird Rides in a P-51 Mus­tang and C-47 Sky­train.

To truly ap­pre­ci­ate Palm Springs’ beauty and scale from on high, lace up your hik­ing shoes. The Bogert Trail com­plex re­wards hik­ers with sen­sa­tional views over the city, as does the Desert View Trail in Mount San Jac­into State Park. The lat­ter is reached via a sen­sa­tional ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tram. Talk about sav­ing the best for last!

PIC­NIC AT IN­DIAN CANYONS, op­po­site top; Palm Springs Art Mu­seum, op­po­site bot­tom; cock­tail party in mid-cen­tury home, Palm Springs, right; fam­ily hike in In­dian Canyons, bot­tom.

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