I am the only Californian that has never been to Palm Springs. How do I know? Every time I tell people I haven’t been, they raise their eyebrows in disbelief. “You’re from California and you’ve never been to Palm Springs?” they ask. Clearly this is because it is the most amazing place on Earth (Earth being California, obviously). To remedy this situation, I put Palm Springs at the top of my Southern California travel itinerary.
Well, more like Visit California puts it at the top my California travel itinerary. They have invited me down to SoCal for a week of fun and sun, and since no trip to my home state is complete without a stop in Palm Springs, they make sure I start my journey there.
I arrive in Palm Springs on a sunny Saturday morning, excited to see what the legendary celebrity hotspot in the desert has to offer. The main street in town is overflowing with shops, restaurants, and cafes, and a larger-than-life statue of Marilyn Monroe in her signature skirt-stifling pose greets me. Behind her the mountains rise dramatically out of the flat, palm-studded earth, juxtaposing the manmade with the natural.
Soon I arrive at my accommodation, the brand new Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs, and settle into a room overlooking the pool. But rather than swim, I have tennis on the agenda.
Out at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, a tour and clinic have been set up. I get a sneak peek at the brand new stadium that will open in March in time for the annual BNP Paribas Open, then spend an hour on the court trying in vain to tease out my childhood tennis skills.
Later I search my brain again as I embark on The Modern Tour of Palm Springs as a taster for Modernism Week in February. The city is famous for its Mid-Century Modern architecture, and I studied a number of the houses there in a class aptly named Modern Architecture in college.
As we drive around various neighborhoods, our expert guide, author Michael Stern, points out everything from celebrity houses in Palm Springs (think William Holden, Suzanne Somers, and Bob Hope) to celebrity architect houses in Palm Springs (think William Krisel, Donald Wexler, and Richard Neutra).
The highlight of the tour is getting to see the interiors of two houses, one of which is the only Mid-Century Modern house listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Steel Development House Number 2—as it is creatively called—is a small house with clever interior architecture that makes it feel a lot bigger. The decor is straight out of the modern period, with Mies van der Rohe’s famous Barcelona Chairs and vintage rotary phones throughout.
But the interiors of the homes in Palm Springs aren’t the only behind-the-scenes sights I see. The annual Palm Springs International Film Festival is going on while I’m in town, and I have the opportunity to look into the cinematic world as well. On my first night in town, I attend the Cine Latino Gala at the hip Ace Hotel, and on the second I attend a screening British film Le Week-End followed by the festival’s closing reception at the Hyatt Palm Springs.
By the time I leave, I can understand why I’m the only Californian that has never been to Palm Springs. The beautiful weather, desert landscapes, and variety of things to see and experience make it the perfect travel destination for pretty much anyone. And to ease the pain of leaving, the huge Desert Hills Premium Outlets on the road to Los Angeles distracts me with a little shopping. Life is good in California.