A Desert Oasis

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Palm Springs and Palm Desert offer an ideal weekend getaway.By Micaela Myers

Those looking for a complete change of scenery and atmosphere need look no further than the Palm Springs area—located just two hours from Laguna Beach. Surrounded by mountains and sprouting with mature palm trees, the mid-century modern architecture, art, shopping, golf and dining, makes this former playground to the stars a truly unique place to get away from it all.

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Stars such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball all had homes in Palm Springs, and the singular mid-century modern architecture, known as Desert Modernism, is noticeable throughout town. The style is noted for its use of glass, clean lines, natural and manufactured resources, indoor/outdoor spaces and its simple elegance. On your way into town, stop by the Palm Springs Visitors Center (2901 N. Palm Canyon Dr.) and purchase an architectural map for just a few dollars to undertake a fun self-tour.

If shopping is more your style, Palm Springs is an excellent place to shop for mid-century modern furniture. On Thursdays, head to Palm Canyon Drive for VillageFest, where venders display arts and crafts, and visitors can enjoy food, live entertainment and a farmers market (palmspringsvillagefest.com).

In nearby Palm Desert, El Paseo, “The Rodeo Drive of the Desert,” is the place to be with a mile of solid shopping, featuring more than 300 shops offering jewelry, apparel, art, home décor and more than two dozen eateries, many with outdoor patios.

Of course, golf is still a major attraction in Coachella Valley, which all totaled is home to more than 100 courses, including Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, with two championship courses. In fact, Golf Digest named Tahquitz “One of the Best Places to Play” (tahquitzcreek.com).

With spring’s still-mild desert weather, it’s an ideal time to hike the ancient palm groves of the Indian Canyons (indian-canyons.com) or visit The Living Desert to commune with all the animals and even feed the giraffes (livingdesert.org).

If you haven’t done so yet, make sure to try a ride on the famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, with the world’s largest rotating tramcar, which ascends 2.5 miles to the top of Mount San Jacinto (pstramway.com).

Stay

Originally built in 1957, the Riviera Palm Springs (psriviera.com) frequently hosted Rat Pack icons such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. Even The King himself, Elvis Presley, performed in the resort’s theater (now home to the 11,000-square-foot spa). Still fresh off a $70 million recent renovation, the resort continues to capture Hollywood glamour with its retro furnishings, pop art, mirrors and oversized chandeliers. Set on 24 acres, the Riviera’s pools are the main attraction, perfect for sunning, playing and enjoying the poolside bar. At the signature restaurant, Circa 59, executive chef Aaron Burns cooks up delicious regional cuisine, including Coachella Valley produce, quality seafood and premium cuts of meat. Make sure to check out the black and white photography of all the famous stars that have visited the Riviera.

For a quieter vacation, book at stay at the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa (westinmissionhills.com). The Westin Resort recently refreshed its rooms and promises picturesque mountain views, three swimming pools, a 60-foot waterslide, tennis and a 14,000-square foot spa, as well as other amenities. The resort is also a haven for golfers, with two championship golf courses available to guests, including the Pete Dye course adjacent to the resort and the Gary Player Signature Course.

The most colorful accommodations occur at the newly renovated Saguaro, which just reopened in February (thesaguaropalmsprings.com). The hotel can’t be missed on E. Palm Canyon Drive with its bright color scheme inspired by the native flowers of the Colorado Desert.

Dine

For delicious eats and drinks, start your day at Koffi (kofficoffee.com). Enjoy the best coffee around served with great people-watching. Take a seat in the courtyard, and you’re welcome to bring Fido too. If a night out leaves you hungry for a tasty breakfast, Cheeky’s can’t be beat (cheekysps.com). Offering what many consider the best breakfast in town using seasonal and, whenever possible, organic ingredients, Cheeky’s menu changes weekly to showcase the freshest fare. Wash it all down with their fresh-squeezed juice, watermelon aqua fresca, a smoothie or a pomegranate mimosa.

Opened by the same couple as Cheeky’s, the next-door Birba offers wine, beer specialty cocktails and gourmet pizza (birbaps.com).

For lunch, head to the kosher-style Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, named “Best Sandwich in the Valley” by Desert Magazine and home to the Beef’n Latkas, a pastrami sandwich made with potato pancakes instead of bread (shermansdeli.com). Or, get in the Rat Pack vibe at Spencer’s Restaurant for great dining indoors and out, and American cuisine with a French/Pacific Rim influence (spencersrestaurant.com).

King’s Highway is another sure bet for a casual lunch made with fresh California ingredients, including organic goats’ milk cheese from the Springhill Cheese Company (out of Sonoma, Calif.) and thick-cut black pepper bacon from Prime Smokehouse in Oakland (acehotel.com/palmsprings/dining).

With its plethora of offerings and a scenery and ambience that you can’t get anywhere else, Palm Springs is definitely an easy choice for a weekend getaway from Orange County. For more information, visit visitpalmsprings.com and palm-desert.org.

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Yet another reason to visit the Coachella Valley is the many festivals and events year-round. Here are a few on tap for spring:

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival, April 13 – 15 at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio (coachella.com). Better known simply as “Coachella,” this sold-out annual music and arts festival features alternative rock, hip hop and electronic music on a variety of stages, plus large sculptural art.

Palm Springs Restaurant Week, June 1 – 10, throughout the valley (palmspringsrestaurantweek.com). Enjoy three-course menus at fixed prices at restaurants from Palm Springs to Indio.

Palm Springs International ShortFest film festival, June 19 – 25 (psfilmfest.org). Put on by the nonprofit Palm Springs International Film Society, the ShortFest is the counterpart to January’s annual International Film Festival. LBM

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