Palm Springs 2 Ways: For High Rollers and Penny Pinchers

by  Alex Schechter | Oct 3, 2013
Aerial view of Palm Springs, California
Aerial view of Palm Springs, California / TraceRouda/iStock

Palm Springs has long been on southern Californians' radar as a quick, hassle-free getaway, with well-documented visits from Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Audrey Hepburn in the 50s and 60s lending the place a splashy, old Hollywood allure. Even now, its appeal remains intact, with a recent outcrop of new hotels catering to fun-loving crowds from LA, New York, and other party capitals.

What we most love about Palm Springs, however, isn't its scenery or its cool-kid status, but the way it manages to appeal to such a wide range of travelers. Whether you're showing up to play golf, go to a pool party, browse contemporary art, tour mid-century modernist houses, ride the aerial tram, or just sit by the pool and doze, Palm Springs is ready to receive you with open arms.

Living the High Life

We first turn our attention to the biggest news to hit town all year: the opening of Hard Rock Palm Springs. At $199 a night, it's by no means the most affordable place to stay in town; then again, your reservation includes access to cushy amenities like the Rock Spa (opening in November), Body Rock fitness centers, outdoor pool, and even the option of having a DJ sound system brought up to your room. Not to mention, the hotel recently partnered up with Goldenvoice, the creator of Coachella Music Festival, so guests will be treated to exclusive poolside performances, a new performance series titled "Edge," and access to the festival each spring.

Meanwhile, at the Parker Palm Springs, you'll feel like Alice In Wonderland, meandering around the dazzling gardens, admiring the mismatched decor (a knight's armor suit stands across from a circular white firepit in the lobby), and dining on gourmet food at the iconic Norma's restaurant (artichoke eggs benedict with truffle porcini sauce, $22, dah-ling).

Golf is only part of the appeal at Indian Canyons Golf Resort, a 550-acre expanse of shooting fountains, glassy ponds, and stone footbridges, with the rugged San Jacinto mountains in the distance. You'll choose from two main courses, North and South, and spend the day padding around the resort's secluded grounds – with peak rates at $75, it's no small chunk of change, but considering this place is Frank Sinatra's old stomping ground, what else were you expecting?

If we're talking about the "high life," you can't get much higher than Fantasy Balloon Flights, which leads sky-bound travelers on 1.5-hour-long rides over the Coachella Valley in a 2-10-person hot air balloon. Rates start at $185 per person, with discounts available for groups, though if you'd rather have the view all to yourself (plus your guide), no one's stopping you.

Simple Pleasures

Harking back to Old World Palm Springs is the Movie Colony Hotel, a 16-room boutique hotel built in the 1930s, and located just one block from downtown Palm Springs. Over half of the rooms come with private patios overlooking the mountains, and a heated pool, jaccuzzi, and continental breakfast are included in the rate, which starts at $124.

Over on North Palm Canyon Drive, the recently-renovated Monroe Palm Springs has simple accommodations, housed in a motel-style building, with a small but enticing pool in the back. With rates starting at just $100, the colorful hotel has come a long way from its days as a Super 8 – almost every scrap from the old property has been re-purposed in new and creative ways to decorate the hotel as you see it today.

No Broadway fan should ever pass through Palm Springs without catching a performance of Fabulous Follies, the iconic 23-year-running show that combines outlandish Vegas showgirl-style costumes, knee-tapping showtunes, and laugh-out-loud funny vaudeville acts, all presented by the suave mustachioed Riff Markowitz. Opening November 1, the new season, appropriately dubbed The Last Hurrah!, will be the show's final run (tickets from $29; performances through May 18, 2014).

Though it may not live up to the standards of LA's MOCA or MoMA in New York City, the Palm Springs Art Museum is absolutely worth a visit. The four-level building is home to all sorts of goodies, from Yoshitomo Nara's larger-than-life dog sculpture to a small collection of 30 Native American artworks, and two beautiful sculpture gardens in which to sit and enjoy a quiet moment. Admission is $12,50, though if you show up on the second Sunday of each month you'll get in for free.

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