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Desert Oasis

Vancouver Magazine’s style + travel editor Amanda Ross’ picks for her favourite Palm Springs places.

STAY

The re-opening of the Parker Hotel in 2004 helped kick-start a design renaissance in Palm Springs—and, amazingly, the circa-1959 144-room resort has managed to stay supreme a decade later. Its original Jonathan Adler overhaul, in all its irreverence, still feels like the nexus of Palm Springs cool: ’70s shag mixes with mid-century glamour. It’s not cheap (double espressos alone are a whopping $10), but the expansive grounds and design cred all make for a signature Palm Springs experience.

Korakia Pensione captures everything I love about Palm Springs: it’s welcoming and relaxed with dynamite design. This ridiculously romantic Moroccan villa, built in 1924 by Scottish painter Gordon Coutts, was inspired by the artist’s time in Tangier. The hideaway rocks its bohemian roots by doing away with TVs and phones while, come night, lanterns flicker throughout the one and a half acres and classic movies are projected alfresco on a wall flanked by daybeds and floor pillows. Room rates include full breakfasts (served in the lovely outdoor courtyard), outdoor yoga classes, afternoon tea service and the loan of bicycles for tootling around town.

I confess I would love the Ace Hotel—if only I were in my 20s. At times the bikinis-and-stilettos crowd can smack of hipster effort, so I prefer the Horizon Hotel just up the street. Built in 1952 by William F. Cody, one of the founding fathers of Palm Springs’s modern style, the 22-room boutique hotel captures note-perfect mid-century architecture with pool-facing glass-walled rooms for indoor/outdoor living.

We have two children, so our first choice is always to rent a house wherever we go to get a local vibe and to make eating and sleeping easier. (For us, not them!) We first decided to buy a place in Palm Springs after we rented a mid-century modern home for a week and promptly fell in love. We now rent our own house out through a local company and have friends and designers who routinely stay here. ps4rent.com

EAT

Palm Springs nails mid-century and the atomic age ruled here, but until Workshop Kitchen and Bar came along with its concrete zen and leather-clad booths there was nothing that did 2014 modern. The self-serve punch presented in a massive bowl at your table, replete with cups and a ladle, is dangerously fun.

Once a mobster’s hangout and then a manor hotel run by the owner of Seabiscuit, the Colony Palms Hotel is Spanish Colonial glamour at a glance. The Purple Palm, painted in all its eggplant glory, evokes its supper club roots with its hanger steaks and seafood platters; we head here for poolside lunches of charcuterie plates and fried avocado.

Palm Springs has always had great restaurants, but they’ve leaned heavily on old-school white-glove service and steak Diane. Marco Rossetti and Palm Springs native Tara Lazar upended that when they first opened their brunch mecca, Cheeky’s, in 2008; Birba, an outdoor Italian pizzeria next to their boutique hotel Alcazar, and their newest Asian street food offering, Jiao, round out the couple’s restaurant tasty trifecta. Cheeky’s is worth standing in line for fresh and organic fare like duck confit hash with potato, Tillamook cheddar, mushrooms and poached eggs (for a respectable $14).

Trina Turk's Palm Springs Boutique
Trina Turk’s Palm Springs Boutique

PLAY

Trina Turk’s eponymous boutique (located in a restored Albert Frey building) is still the place to go for SoCal fashion. You’ll find it in the Uptown design district’s four-block stretch, which is a mid-century modern design mecca, but you won’t find deals anymore in this part of Palm Canyon. Head to Perez Road for resale heaven instead.

You can go two ways with an architectural tour: take a professional one like those offered by Palm Springs Modern Tours or just hop on Google and source the addresses yourself. Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House is on Vista Chino; type in Albert Frey and you’ll get a long list of buildings; hit Sunrise, Sunmor and Vista Las Palmas for all the great Alexander homes.

You’re here at least in part to get outside, and while the 45-minute trek to Joshua Tree National Park is well worth it, there are also amazing hikes right in town. My fave starts right behind the Art Museum and goes straight up the mountain. It’s like a desert Grouse Grind—hard, but worth the effort for the amazing views of town.

The Palm Springs Art Museum is also amazing. Sure there are some desert landscapes that aren’t my scene, but there are also Antony Gormley sculptures, Anselm Kiefer canvasses and some great architectural renderings. The very definition of what a small gallery should be.

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