Palm Springs: The perfect desert getaway for Coloradans
Ryan Summerlin November 4, 2012
Classy, adventurous, affordable desert vacations do still exist without having to cross the border. Do yourself a huge favor and forgo the trip to Vegas, and book a trip to Palm Springs, Calif., and the Coachella Valley for some shoulder season fun.Relive the good old days of Hollywood’s Rat Pack by the pool, play some of the best golf of your life, take a tram up the highest-vertical-foot gain in the country and hike the San Jacinto Mountains, climb in Joshua Tree National Park, soak in natural hot springs, learn about desert ecosystems, shop with one of the trendiest crowds in the country, and the list goes on. Heck, you can even ski at Big Bear, Calif., less than two hours away. And while the area isn’t exactly renowned for its gambling, there are seven casinos in the Greater Palm Springs area. Lying poolside is really only the beginning of any trip to a desert oasis. And Palm Springs virtually defines the term. Begin by booking your accommodations based on your traveling style. For the younger set, stay in town at one of the numerous mid-century modern retro boutique hotels. There’s something for every budget ranging from the Travelodge to the Ace, the Saguaro or the Viceroy. Each is unique, updated, walking distance to downtown, hip and dog friendly (as is most of the area). Many more old-school motor lodges, RV parks, and upscale resorts are also available near downtown. For the extreme golf enthusiast and families, consider a stay in the Greater Palm Springs area at one of the many luxurious resorts scattered about the valley, often boasting multiple golf courses and of course pools, spas and restaurants on site. For a destination wedding, it would be difficult to beat the Indian Wells Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa. Guests will find everything on site, from banquet halls to a full service beauty salon, replete with private cabins included in the package for the bride and groom. For the upscale traveler, take the time to experience the LaQuinta Resort & Club, an escape for the Hollywood elite since the 1920s, gorgeously renovated, pet friendly, and boasting some of the best views, best links, dining and shopping in the area.Voted the Top North American Golf Destination by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) this year, the Coachella Valley has earned its distinction as “Golf Capital of the World,” boasting more than 2,000 holes in the nine towns comprising the Greater Palm Springs oasis. Yep, that’s about 115 golf courses, more than 600 tennis courts, 350 days of sunshine and less than five inches of rain per year, all adding up to one of the most predictable and beautiful spots in the world for outdoor recreation. Golfers delight to discover many of the sport’s top names, including Pete Dye, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Ted Robinson, have designed courses in the valley, and many famous golfers and other celebrities own personal residences here. Arnold Palmer even has his exclusive namesake restaurant (www.arnoldpalmersrestaurant.com) in La Quinta.The Greater Palm Springs golf industry drives hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the local economy and supports many charitable organizations as pros and celebrities tee off at annual tournaments including the Humana Challenge (formerly The Bob Hope Classic, www.humanachallenge.com), Frank Sinatra Starkey Hearing Foundation Celebrity Invitational and the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden (www.iwtg.net), where visitors and locals can play alongside pros, is a desert favorite, home to the BNP Paribas Open, one of the most prestigious men’s and women’s tennis events in the world.When it comes to celebrities, Palm Springs is literally one of the last vestiges where the rich and famous stroll the streets, dine out, and even hang out in their yards and their kids sell lemonade to tourists, without being bothered. All this changed about ten years ago when paparazzi stole a shot of Bob Hope asleep in his wheelchair through his front hedges, destroying much of the quaint hideaway charm, but it remains a popular getaway for Hollywood types of all rankings. Sonny Bono will stand forever as one of the town’s great heroes, as will Marilyn Monroe, Liberace, Hope, the Kennedy’s, and Francis Sinatra. It all began in 1927 at the El Mirador hotel, where Hollywood radio stars would sit around the Olympic sized pool and swap stories sipping cocktails between broadcasts. The Rat Pack-Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford-called the area home-away-from-home, and set the stage for decades of celebrities to follow. They frequented Palm Springs’ motor lodges of the 1920s and ’30s to escape the Hollywood tabloids: the Estrella (now the famously lush, Kelly Wearstler-designed Viceroy), La Quinta, El Mirador, and the Palm Springs Racquet Club, founded in 1932 by Charlie Farrell and Ralph Bellamy.One last can’t-miss stop to the area is an alleged hideout of Al Capone and home of one of the world’s purest water sources, the Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa. Whether you stay the night and enjoy tennis, hiking and dining, or just make a day trip, soaking in The Grotto hot springs will rejuvenate mind and body after all of your desert activities. And remember, 9,000-foot mountains are literally right there, accessible by tram, bike or by foot, if you need a momentary breath of cool mountain air to remind you of home on your visit to legendary Palm Springs. Aaron Bible is a freelance travel and outdoors writer based in Frisco. See more of his work at www.ahbmedia.com.