Cradled amidst the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains, and just over 100 miles from Los Angeles, Palm Springs has long been regaled as “the playground of the stars.” From the 1930s through the 1970s, Hollywood’s biggest stars maintained residences in this little city with big allure. When studios held contracts with screen stars back in the day, Palm Springs was the perfect playground (just 90 minutes away, should some starlet be called back for a screening). This indulgent legacy endures with Palm Springs’ rich cultural, culinary and golf offerings and widespread pampering in this thriving and vibrant year-round destination.
Today, we explore Palm Canyon Drive. Be certain to take in the plenitude of sights, unique shops and art galleries along this fabled byway. Start the day with a caffeine boost at trendy Koffi. Whether it’s the daily special blend, double espresso or Americano- the choices and varieties are extensive. Accompaniments include a diverse array of pastries, muffins and baked goods. Koffi’s décor is decidedly ‘Palm Springs style’ and this popular ‘klatch point’ offers inside and al fresco garden seating with stunning views of the surrounding majestic mountains.
Public art and sculpture are ubiquitous in Palm Springs, with more than 50 installations within the city’s limits. Palm Canyon Drive’s artistic proclivities are apparent with just one stroll along either side. Installations along your route include Lawn Chair by Blue McRight (622 North Palm Canyon), Rainmaker Sculpture by David Morris (555 North Palm Canyon), Squeeze by John Clement (538 North Palm Canyon), Standing Woman by Felipe Castaneda (221 South Palm Canyon), Sonny Bono Memorial Fountain by Emmanuil Snitkovsky (155 South Palm Canyon) and Lucille Ricardo Bench also by Snitkovsky (Palm Canyon at Tahquitz).
Palm Springs is also rich with significant architectural masterpieces by Neutra, Cody, Wexler, Alexander and Frey. Your next stop, a few blocks up Palm Canyon is the Palm Springs Visitors Center. Designed by noted post-modern architect Albert Frey, the Center was originally home to the Tramway Gas Station and today, remains a significant piece of urban architecture.
Next, head to Spectrum Salon & Spa for a non-invasive facelift (full body lifts are also offered). Developed by Gerry Pollock, co-inventor of the first pacemaker, the thirty minute treatment will lift and firm, plump and clean! Working on a cellular level, the treatment recharges cells, purifies the blood and detoxifies the lymphatic system. It also stimulates muscle structure and, after a series of body treatments, some claim the loss of several inches of girth. This system has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Elle and Harper’s. This personal pampering will leave you feeling rejuvenated with a fresh, glowing complexion.
Next, a relaxing lunch at Azul. The outdoor patio features covered glider tables which rock gently. (The writer suggests patrons stop gliding when food or beverages are being served.) Known for its tapas dinner menu, Small Bites, Big Plates, Azul’s lunch menu offers an array of healthy salads, innovative sandwiches and juicy hamburgers. Try the super-lean buffalo burger with goat cheese and roasted peppers. The tuna sashimi with rice noodles, ginger and wasabi is another tried and true entree. The drink du jour is dependably interesting at a value price. Azul, can also be counted on for an always lively happy hour. For dessert, the Crème Caramel Shooter or Apricot dumplings served with ice cream and caramel sauce are popular.
Any perfect day in Palm Springs must include a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum. Since 1938, the Museum has been epicenter of Palm Springs’ arts community. The 125,000 square foot modern building houses a permanent collection of modern as well as contemporary art and Native American art in virtually every artistic discipline. From watercolors to oils, glass and metal sculpture to photography; indigenous Native American arts include woven baskets, pottery jars, rugs and blankets.
Before freshening up with a swim, shower or nap, stop across from the Museum at The Coffee Bean. Here, enjoy a caffeine libation and afternoon snack, recap the lively day and capture a photo with Lucy Ricardo on her bench sculpture is just outside.
Primp and refresh before an evening at Willows Inn, just a few blocks off Palm Canyon. This Mediterranean-style villa offers the ultimate in indulgent accommodations. Presiding over four acres, the Inn features a romantic waterfall. The Inn has indulged many silver screen luminaries since opening its doors in 1924 including Marion Davies, famed mistress of William Randolph Hearst who called this expansive retreat her home. Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned here. Shirley Temple played here. Albert Einstein (really) slept here.
The property was reclaimed in the late 1980’s by a Los Angeles couple who painstakingly restored The Willows, attending to the finest detail and historic preservation. Outfitted with contemporary amenities, patrons are certain to feel very special here.
The stars are out in the Palm Springs’ night sky, too. But these are not the only stars one encounters in this city in the desert. (Did you observe the popular, enduring Palm Springs Walk of Stars embedded in the sidewalks?)
At an evening performance at the Las Vegas-styled Copy Katz, one is likely to laugh, sway, clap and sing to its stimulating and lively performances. The shows are energetic and impressive, as is the fully-outfitted showroom. It’s not uncommon to find yourself in the company of such celebrities as Barbara Streisand, Cher, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Boy George and George Clooney.
The Kit Cat Club, located above the Copy Katz, offers live jazz and blues entertainment amidst its stylish and sexy bordello-esque décor. What is even better, is the club never has a cover charge. Copy Katz has a limited liquor license (beer, wine and rice vodka; similar to sake, rice vodka is distilled rather than fermented and not too sweet). Guests may choose dinner and show or show only.
If opting for a romantic, intimate dinner, The Falls restaurant (located just above the Sonny Bono Fountain) will not fail to please. Known for its ‘smoking’ martinis, the lounge’s centerpiece is a huge waterfall-like fountain. The Falls, offers indoor or al fresco dining on a balcony overlooking Palm Canyon Drive. On a crisp evening, opt for balcony dining. Some tables offer their own fire pit. Come with an appetite, too. The Falls is known for its remarkably tender, juicy, prime aged beef. Here, even the non-beef palates will be sated with choices such as Ahi tuna and free-range chicken. This restaurant should be on everyone’s itinerary-if not for dinner, for happy hour cocktails and appetizers in its bar.
A restful night’s sleep awaits you, with sweet dreams of a perfect Palm Springs day without ever leaving Palm Canyon Drive, but for a block or two. Don’t forget tomorrow morning’s delicious breakfast at the Willows, but for now, let the hypnotic sound of the waterfall allow you gently drift off to sleep.
What & Where:
Palm Springs Koffi (515 North Palm Canyon; 760-416-2244)
Palm Springs Official Visitor’s Center (2901 North Palm Canyon Dr; 760-778-8418)
Spectrum Salon + Spa (405 North Palm Canyon Dr; 760-318-2944)
Azul (369 North Palm Canyon; 760-325-5533)
Palm Springs Art Museum (101 Museum Drive; 760-325-7186)
Copy Katz (200 South Palm Canyon; 760-864-9293)
The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn (412 West Tahquitz Canyon Way;760-320-0771)
The Falls Restaurant (155 South Palm Canyon;760-416-8664)