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Hotels and restos are wisely working to entice the young and the beautiful (and plenty of celebs) from nearby LA. There’s an extra influx during festivals like Coachella in April.
This 245-room former Holiday Inn has been given a chic face-lift with rainbow accents and cool architectural details to mimic the neighbouring mountains and desert flora. It’s family-friendly (more so than hipster magnet Ace just down the road) and offers competitive rates, but know that the courtyard pool deck gives over to DJs and a daytime party crowd on weekends. Excellent food from Iron Chef Jose Garces at Tinto restaurant (it’s a trip to Basque country: pintxos, shellfish, and lots of cured pork) and from tequila bar El Jefe (late-night carnitas tacos will save you after too many poolside margaritas). GM David Curell once ran Vancouver’s Opus Hotel. Rooms from US$89. 1800 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-323-1711. Thesaguaro.com
A design-savvy crowd of 35-and-ups drifts through 13 acres of lush garden—these are folks uninterested in show. This is the only hotel designed by the home-décor giant Jonathan Adler, and his trademark whimsy is found throughout. You’ll find bocce ball and croquet courts, plus a giant chess set. The tone is elegant yet relaxed (meaning nobody balks if a woman takes her top off). Book a villa—each comes with an enclosed patio. Feeling flush? The magnificent and private Gene Autry house (starting at $5,000 per night) awaits. Rooms from US$325. 4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-770-5000. Theparkerpalmsprings.com
New to the downtown drag, this bright, flashy room (chandeliers, white leather) sets a celebratory tone. The menu has a substantial vegetarian and gluten-free section, and set prices (US$17 for three courses) are hard to beat. 200 South Palm Canyon Dr., 760-327-5858. Lulupalmsprings.com
Settle in for a longer stay (airfares out of Bellingham are significantly cheaper if you fly midweek) and take in what makes Palm Springs an utterly original retreat.
Embrace your inner hippie. Drive 50 minutes northeast of Palm Springs, past fields of wind turbines and dusty, cracked, forgotten towns and you’ll arrive at the Integratron, a “tabernacle and energy machine” built in the 1950s and sited on a geomagnetic vortex in the middle of the Mohave Desert. The deal is you lie on a yoga mat and a healer plays “singing bowls” by rubbing quartz crystal vessels to produce resonant noise. Because of the dome’s perfect acoustics, sound fills the building to the point where you can’t tell if the hum is coming from inside or outside of your head. Then: enlightenment. Too kooky? Joshua Tree National Park offers an equally out-of-this-world experience without the Roswell-esque vibe.
A sexy 11-day celebration of design, architecture, and culture (Feb. 14-24, 2013. Modernismweek.com) includes architectural tours, films, lectures, and parties in glorious, midcentury-modern structures. These residences were often second homes, filled with brave, giddy furniture choices, and many of these collections are being redistributed today, at bargain prices, in a dozen vintage shops in the uptown district. Design your own modernist tour and be sure to visit:
Frey House II Small and brilliant, Albert Frey’s cliffside home features boulders literally breaking through into the house’s interior. You won’t easily beat the view of town from the intimate pool deck.
Kaufmann House This paradigmatic International Style residence is a Richard Neutra masterpiece, a five-bedroom beauty with sliding glass walls that sits perfectly in its desert landscape.
Steel Houses The great Donald Wexler’s prefab steel houses are gems of modernist design. Rising steel prices, though, meant that only seven were ever built. Try to spot which one belongs to the editor of GQ.
It’s no accident that Fashion Week cronies and several magazines choose The Viceroy‘s hotel for their photo shoots. The Kelly Wearstler design is clean and minimalist, yet utterly at ease. A $30 day fee gets you access to the gym and poolside cabanas where you can nibble on cookies or order from the lauded Citron Restaurant. 415 S. Belardo Rd., 866-891-0948, Viceroypalmsprings.com
Travelling with a group? There’s no shortage of just-so modernist homes to camp out in. There’s often a few-night minimum, but for the price of a suite at the Parker you could have a three-bedroom mini-manse to call your own. There are two routes: VRBO, which is affordable but a bit of a crapshoot; or one of the big companies that bring a hotel-like efficiency to the homestay. We’ve had good luck with McLean’s Rentals, which runs the gamut from two-bedroom condos to Dinah Shore’s old residence. Generally bank on spending $100 per bedroom per night, with rates rising during Christmas, spring break, and Coachella. 800-777-4606. Ps4rent.com