The choice weekend getaway for wealthy investment bankers and Hollywood starlets through the '40s. '50s, and '60s-all with seemingly unlimited money to build and furnish vacation houses-Palm Springs has developed a form of California design uniquely its own.
A 10-minute stroll downtown yields at Least a dozen mid-century modern furniture stores, doors open, Eames rockers beckoning. Each place is overflowing : caramel wood credenzas, steel tanker desks, Alvar Aalto ceramics, and lithographs inked in Pepto pink, avocado and umber. Start with J.P. Antiks or Hedge.
It's the architecture, though, that tends to steal the show. Architects including Richard Neutra, Albert Fray and A. Quincy Jones all completed commissions here. The city of Palm Springs offers guided tours of some of the more famous houses at visitpalmsprings.com.
Bob Hope Home. Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.
If you prefer to explore independently, include these spots on your list:
The Annen berg family estate was designed by mid-century architect, A. Quincy Jones, and recently opened for public tours (by advance appointment). Book your tour early because slots fill up quickly. If you fail to snatch a coveted entrance, don't abandon the visit- the Sunnylands Center and Gardens are open to the public. Bring a picnic and explore the 1.25 acres of native foliage from agave to palo verde trees.
PALM SPRINGS ART MUSEUM
Besides its spectacular collection of contemporary art, the building itself is worth noting: It was designed in 1971 by Stewart Williams. A museum annex dedicated entirely to design and architecture is slated to open shortly downtown in the former Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building (1961).
This concentrated historic neighborhood of old Hollywood homes (including Cary Grant's Las Palomas) is a visual feast—tucked behind bougainvillea vines and cacti 10 feet tall, you 'll also find the glamorous (but budget-friendly) Movie Colony Hotel here.
Because of its tendency toward astronomical temperatures, Palm Springs caters to a brunch crowd-though brunch style entirely depends on the restaurant's whim.
While the King's Highway serves sloppy chilaquiles and crowd-pleasing tofu scrambles, The Parker's "diner," Norma's, offers a Seared Rock Lobster and Asparagus Omelet ($25), along with something called the "Zillion Dollar Lobster Fritatta" accompanied by Sevruga caviar (price upon request).
Cheeky's. Photo by Melissa Kaseman.
If you have a penchant for a strong Bloody Mary, though, your first stop should be Cheeky's. And yes, it's worth waiting in the long line. Once seated, you'll find the blood-red concoction that, until now, you've only dreamed of, served in a glass boot and studded with chunks of fresh garlic. It's the type of no-holdsbarred breakfast drink that leads the sweet-faced server to offer a warning: "Everything in the drink is infused with vodka. So, the onions are infused. The celery, too. Even the olive." Faint of heart? Go for the fresh white peaches and Prosecco Bellini. Either way, you know you're not in Utah anymore.
Cheeky's menu, locally sourced and updated weekly, is quite good, too, with a noticeable sense of humor. The "bacon flight" - a comparison tasting of several rashersmakes for excellent breakfast conversation - especially if it includes an apricot - or Thai sweet chili-flavored slice. The buttermilk and fresh corn pancakes, meanwhile, might just leave you speechless.