Palm Springs is one of Southern California’s most famous resort destinations. Located in the Coachella Valley and surrounded by golf courses and palm trees, it’s hard to beat as a winter getaway. Long equated with Spring Break, and as a Hollywood celebrity hideaway this oasis in the desert is also known for pampering visitors in style with its numerous high end spas, luxurious accommodations and top notch restaurants.
In most cases, looking for a day of pure luxury and decadence would include visiting a combination of notable, lavish locations that together create an unforgettable experience. Not so with today’s perfect day. What is more relaxing than realizing you don’t have to think about your car, your next appointment or where you need to be for the rest of the day? You’ll soon find out because today we visit the Parker.
Like many things in Palm Springs; looks can be deceiving. Driving down East Palm Canyon Drive, you might easily cruise by the enormous white wall that surrounds the Parker Palm Springs property and its modest signage, without realizing you passed one of the most unique, hip and sought after hotel and spa experiences in the desert.
The property was originally opened in 1957 as the first Holiday Inn. Subsequently it has been Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch and then Merv Griffin’s Givenchy Resort and Spa. Once again it has been reinvented as the Parker.
As you head to the entrance, and drive onto the secluded 13-acre property you are immediately transported to another era. As your car is whisked away by the valet, in tandem two extremely easy to look at young men open giant orange doors and welcome you as you enter a lobby that can only be described a cross between art-deco-hippy with a few suits of armor thrown in for fun. Officially described by the hotel as “mid-century-Moroccan happy chic”, you will quickly realize this is no ordinary hotel.
The hotel’s concierge, John Featherbush, says “People either hate it or love it. We are all about surprise and shock and everything is tongue in cheek”. In fact he says they don’t call it a hotel at all, but instead the estate that falls somewhere in the middle of your own home and a hotel.
I fell firmly into the ‘love it’ category and quickly! I felt like I had been transported to another time and space. Maybe a glamorous resort in Cuba in the 1950’s. I wasn’t quite sure where my imagination took me, but I knew I liked it.
As you make your way through the large hip and retro lobby offering piped in Spanish and French music which add to the tropical atmosphere, it’s hard not to be pulled to one of the couches with woven blankets thrown on them, or to take a seat by the giant fireplace.
After you soak up the lobby’s overflowing ambiance head to the garden and make your way to the hotel spa. What better way to start the day than in total luxury with a full morning visit to the Palm Springs Yacht Club otherwise known as the PSYC. Their manifest begins with “We believe in the American country club experience: mixed doubles, a long steam, and a stiff cocktail” and ends with “we believe you are only young once… but you can be immature forever.”
Upon entering the recently renovated 20,000 square foot space you will be greeted with a hearty “Welcome Aboard”. It’s hard not to smile as your enter this faux-sailing oasis in the middle of the desert. After a tour, head to your port-holed locker to prepare yourself for one of the many rubdown, soak, scrub, wrap or facial options. Popular treatments include the Nuts and Bolts facial and the Ringer massage. Another top choice is the Rockstar hot stone massage which is a 75-minute completely relaxing, totally decadent experience. It begins with choosing music from a thick binder of options, then you’ll be escorted to one of the 19 treatment rooms for a massage which integrates the heat of different size stones that relax muscles in a deeper way any regular massage, while incorporating deep tissue work with hot oils to make for an experience you may barely be able to stay awake to enjoy.
After you peel yourself off the table you will be offered 2 m&m’s and an elixir to drink. To continue the experience head to the gender only indoor pool, whirlpool, steam or sauna for a little more relaxation. Once hunger pangs alert you its lunch time and you’ve grown tired of the fruit and spa water offerings, head to Norma’s. With entrees ranging from $17-$1,000, this indoor-outdoor space is sure to please the most discerning and hungry palates. Known for the best French fries in the desert and their signature dish, the shrimp frittata, as well as other favorites such as the salad nicoise; it is the zillion dollar lobster frittata with a Sevruga caviar accompaniment that will cost you $100 for a regular one-ounce portion and for the big spenders and lovers of fish eggs they can supersize for a mere $1,000 for 10-ounces.
Next, take some time to wander the grounds where you will find numerous spots to lounge, nap and relax. Choose a hammock, where you can sway beneath the palm trees and take in the flowing sounds of nearby water fixtures or an outside couch and take some time to appreciate the amazingly manicured and sculpted gardens. If you are in the mood to be active and social look into a game of croquet, petanque or check out the red clay tennis courts. Or stop by the lemonade stand for a quick libation and head to one of the two outdoor pools for a swim or to merely lounge and soak up the sun.
For a late afternoon cocktail head to the lobby bar. While most bars in a lobby tend to be a boring, generic experience- again the Parker doesn’t disappoint. Veiled in strings of glass beads are six bar stools in a mirrored and funky space just pleading you to order a martini or some sophisticated cocktail.
For dinner, there is but one choice- Mister Parkers. The door to the restaurant might be psychedelic, but inside is all elegance. This dimly lit, large dining room overflowing with chandeliers, offers leather bound booths, intimate tables and a baby grand just waiting to be played.
Self described as “A deconstructed formal hangout for fops, flaneurs and assorted cronies” the French inspired menu offers sophisticated entrees such as rack of lamb in a sundried tomato and rosemary-garlic sauce, Scottish Salmon with a vermouth buerre blanc and sautéed duck confit with truffled potatoes as well as a stellar wine list.
After dinner head out to the grounds and the communal fire pit. Take a seat and gaze at the stars- at the Parker they may be in the sky or sitting right next to you. To take your day of luxury one step further check into one of the estate or patio rooms or splurge on a suite and extend your experience for another day. Whether you spend a day or extend it for more, the sad news is… eventually you will have to leave the Parker.
What & Where:
The Parker Palm Springs (4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr; 760-770-5000 or for reservations 800-543-4300)
Palm Springs Yacht Club (760-321-4606)
Mister Parkers (760-321-4629)
Getting There: Palm Springs is located in south central California along I-10, about two hours from Los Angeles or San Diego.