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An Insider’s Guid to Palm Springs, California’s Desert Revival



ELIZABETH TAYLOR AND ELVIS PRESLEY had more in common than bouffant hairdos. They both owned getaway houses in Palm Springs, Calif.—and not solely for the winter sunshine. “Studios had a rule that stars couldn’t travel more than 120 miles from L.A. while they were filming, but it was more than that,” said Michael Stern, who co-owns the Modern Tour company, which offers a behind-closed-doors look at the city’s midcentury architecture ( “Paparazzi weren’t allowed to take pictures in Palm Springs without consent—that’s why everyone had a house here. They turned it into a party town.”

The party died down in ensuing decades, but it seems to be regaining some rowdiness. Tucked between those low-slung buildings—most homes must be single-story to preserve the views of the San Jacinto Mountains—are new and soon-to-open hotels and sceney restaurants. We asked a few longtime locals and regulars to share their favorite diversions in and around Palm Springs, from the best shops for indulging a mania for the 1960s to where to play your bongo drums poolside.

Chef at Sparrows Lodge and Holiday House

NIGHT OWL // Seymour’s. This tiny, speakeasy-like bar opened last year, hidden off the side of Mr. Lyons restaurant. They have great cocktails; I like the earthy Little Owl, with house-made IPA syrup. 233 E Palm Canyon Dr.,

WESTERN FRONT // Pappy & Harriet’s. Pioneertown was built by Roy Rogers and Gene Autry [among others], for shooting westerns; now it houses this small music venue and barbecue restaurant in the middle of the mountains. 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown,

TACO UPGRADE // Justin Eat & Drink. A chef-friend recently opened this place and is doing cool stuff like chicken confit tacos with mole. 68784 E Palm Canyon Dr., Cathedral City, 760-904-4093

POOL PERKS // Sam’s Family Spa. It’s not luxurious, but it has nice mineral pools (hot and cool) and you can bring in whatever you want: food, drinks, bongo drums. 70875 Dillon Rd., Desert Hot Springs;

Potter, author and design mind behind the recently revamped Parker Palm Springs

JOY RIDE // Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It’s touristy, but the view at the end is worth it. As much as one talks about color and pattern, the true story of Palm Springs is the desert landscape. One Tram Way,

FAUX SHORE // Parker Palm Springs. The one thing missing in Palm Springs is water, so we built a fake yacht club in the hotel’s spa. I’m not just recommending it because I designed it (twice!). It’s glamorous and a little louche. 4200 E Palm Canyon Dr.,

TOP TREE // Joshua Tree National Park.Some places on the planet are truly mind-expanding, and this is one of them.

GLASS HOUSE // Bon Vivant. Among the great vintage shops on the main drag, this is my favorite. Their collection of midcentury glass and ceramics is not to be missed—you walk in and want to redo your whole house. 766 N. Palm Canyon Dr.,

Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands

MY WAY // Melvyn’s Restaurant. This place famously sent away Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw when they showed up in jeans. Frank Sinatra was a regular. The staff still delivers old school service—like Steak Diane made right at the table. 200 W Ramon Rd.,

ART FORAGER // Palm Springs Art Museum. The chief curator has been in residence since the 1970s and assembled an amazing contemporary art collection foraging through the L.A. galleries and studios. 101 N. Museum Dr.,

FIRST DATE // Windmill Market. Just outside town, it sells what they call the “original” Coachella Valley date shake, made with local dates. 17080 N. Indian Canyon Dr., 760-251-4489

FUR FIND // The Estate Sale Co. This consignment shop sources everything from patio suites to jewelry from large estates. I bought a vintage fox fur jacket there. 4185 E. Palm Canyon Dr.,

Actress and author of the new book ’Two’s Company’ (Penguin Random House)

STEP BY STEP // Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. It offers miles of great hiking trails with waterfalls and dramatic sunrises and sunsets. We eat lunch on a giant flat rock in the middle of the stream, take a nap and hike down as the sun is setting.

FRENCH TOAST // Le Vallauris. I’ve been going to this French restaurant for 40 years. I sit at the bar with a tequila, then eat dinner in the garden under a giant ficus tree. 385 W Tahquitz Canyon Way,

FRIEND OR PHO // The Tropicale. Our friends own this cool restaurant, with dishes influenced by their travels around the world, live jazz and a moonlit patio. 330 E Amado Rd.,

BIRD BATH // Salton Sea State Recreation Area. In the ‘50s and ‘60s this large inland body of water offered great fishing and boating; now it hosts a huge bird sanctuary.

Plus Don’t Miss… Holiday House Palm Springs. At this new adults-only, 28-room inn, amenities include shuffleboard, loaner bikes, a pool, art by David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein but no TVs. From $229 a night, // Peninsula Pastries. For this bakery in an unassuming strip mall, a French expat couple import flour from Beauce, France. 611 S Palm Canyon Dr., 760-832-6486 // Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. To see a traditional kish hut freshly built each year from palm fronds and arrowweed, head to the leafy patio of this museum dedicated to the area’s indigenous tribe. 219 South Palm Canyon Dr.; // The Frippery. At this trove of vintage apparel, look for caftans, Pucci dresses and Italian and French sunglasses from the ‘50s-’70s. 664 N Palm Canyon Dr., . // Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway. Elvis leased this 5,000-square-foot house in 1966 and 1967, and holed up with Priscilla there after their Las Vegas wedding. Tours run twice daily. 1350 ladera circle,

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