Downtown Palm Springs (roughly defined as from the north end of Alejo Rd. and south to Ramon Rd.) offers visitors a vibrant combination of the old and the new. The sidewalks are wide, the mid-century and Spanish-style storefronts are charming, and the lovely palm trees sway in soft breezes. This is all enhanced by the weather, which is beautiful, no matter what time of year you visit.

Mary Jo Ginther, Director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, says, “The City’s goal, along with the business owners and residents, is to retain the character and ambiance of Palm Springs for visitors and locals alike, while providing new development to keep everything up to date. We are all very proud of the way our City has developed over the last 20 years.”

So much has happened in the last two decades. The old-fashioned plaza mall, which had been closed for 15 years, has been revitalized and the area is highlighted by outstanding restaurants and enticing shopping.

A variety of small boutique hotels in the downtown area offer visitors enchanting options for personalized accommodations in lushly landscaped settings. Many of these hotels were favorite getaways for the rat pack during Hollywood’s heyday in Palm Springs and they still exude the charm of that magical era. Some of these beautifully designed retreats, all members of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels association, include Casa Cody Country Inn, Andalusian Court, Ingleside Inn, Holiday House, La Serena Villas, La Maison, and Alcazar Palm Springs.. Several of these hotels include wonderful restaurants such as The Pantry at Holiday House, Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn, Acuzar at La Serena Villas, and Birba and Cheekys at Alcazar.

Plans for future expansion and renovation of the downtown area are underway. Discussions include renovating the historic Town and Country Center to much of its original mid-century modern condition. These plans are important because this area connects Palm Canyon Drive to Indian Canyon Drive, which is becoming two-way instead of one-way. This will improve the area for pedestrian traffic.

The city is expanding eastward toward the airport. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which has been very involved in the economic development of Palm Springs, is developing an exciting new campus with a cultural museum, bath house and spa, and an expanded casino. Construction is also just starting for a spacious 10,000-seat arena.

The Tahquitz Corridor going from downtown to the airport has been preserved. For example, an historical building designed by celebrated architect Hugh Kaptur has been restored to its original mid-century modern design rather than replaced by a high rise that had been contemplated by some developers. The once almost-empty building is now flourishing with retailers, a coffee bar, a wine bar, and offices.

Since the areas being developed are owned by both the city and the Agua Caliente tribe (in a checkerboard pattern), some plots of land are controlled by the city and some by the tribe, but they have worked well together over the years to develop the area. There is also a very healthy preservationist community that is involved in many of these plans and residents are active in decision-making with great value placed on buildings that are unique to the mid-century heritage of Palm Springs. These renovations have brought back visitors who value the historical significance of the area.

Much credit for development goes to the businesses putting their resources back into the city. Ten years ago, there was no real food scene in Palm Springs and now many wonderful restaurants are thriving. Tours have also exploded, with biking tours, mid-century modern tours, hiking tours, and celebrity bus tours. There is even a foodie’s Desert Tasty Tour and the Palm Springs Historical Society has tours every Saturday morning with a focus on the town’s unique history.

Downtown Palm Springs is perfect for walkers. You can walk from many of the small boutique hotels and explore the shops, restaurants, and architecture. People are friendly and the town is safe. The vibe is relaxing with something for everyone.

The city’s slogan — “Like No Place Else” — is so true. And the city’s planners intend to maintain and continue to develop its special character.

Palm Springs is known for being a haven for mid-century enthusiasts, but there are so many different architectural styles scattered around the city.

The Del Marcos Hotel was designed by famed architect William F. Cody, his first independent commission in Palm Springs. This modernist hotel launched his career in the desert, and received an award from the Southern California chapter of the AIA for its cutting edge design. The Del Marcos Hotel, 225 W. Baristo Road, Palm Springs. 800-676-1214

The Korakia Pensione describes itself as blending the “silhouette of Tangier with a whisper of the Mediterranean.” A pensione is a type of guest or boarding house, with the term typically used in areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and continental Europe. The hotel has Moroccan touches everywhere, from the courtyard and daybeds to tea service every afternoon and lanterns lit up at night. Korakia Pensione, 257 S. Patencio Road, Palm Springs. 760-864-6411

The Andalusian Court, a Spanish Revival inn, feels like it’s out of another place and another time. The old world charm is evident while walking through the inn’s Spanish courtyard and villas — turn a corner and you’ll stumble upon colorful tile and fountains, then make a right and you’ll find fountains, lush greenery, and a well. This hotel has a distinctive 1920s vibe. The Andalusian Court, 458 W. Arenas Road, Palm Springs. 760-323-9980

The Mediterranean-style Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn was once the hideaway of a Los Angeles millionaire, and now is a small, luxury boutique hotel that draws people looking for privacy and relaxation. The Willows, built into the bedrock of a mountain, was designed by William J. Dodd, and completed in 1925. It features terraces, where guests can soak in the surrounding vistas, and complex ironwork and hand-chiseled limestone. It’s no wonder Albert Einstein used to enjoy coming here. The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, 412 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 800-966-9597

This mid-century modern hotel has everything you need for a fabulous vacation.

At the beloved Desert Riviera, guests become family. This mid-century modern hotel has a loyal — and even international — fanbase, with some guests coming to stay multiple times a year.

The Desert Riviera has everything you need for a fun, carefree getaway.

Poolside firepit at the Desert Riviera

Built in 1951 and designed by Herbert W. Burns, this mid-century modern hotel is now under new ownership, but nothing will change for guests. The Desert Riviera still offers fantastic complimentary amenities, including use of retro bikes, continental breakfast, and concierge services to help with everything from restaurant reservations to golf tee times.

“We’re all about the customer service and community,” general manager Misty Roland says.

The Desert Riviera has a loyal fanbase, with repeat guests coming back annually — and in some cases, multiple times a year. They love that the pool is heated to 93 degrees in the winter, and parties are held throughout the year to mark special occasions — on Valentine’s Day, guests might find a chocolate fountain set up outside, and on the Super Bowl, the big game will be on, with a big spread of snacks.

“Guests like that we’re a boutique property, where the pool is open 24 hours,” Misty says. “There’s an open layout, and they enjoy that we have a lot of greenery and sunshine, instead of a concrete pool area.”

The Desert Riviera attracts guests from around the world — China, Russia, Kenya, England — who love the Palm Springs experience.

“Sometimes, we don’t even have anyone here from the United States,” Misty says. “It’s about understanding one another, and we’ll all sit around the fire pit and talk and play card games.”

Did you know that Palm Springs is internationally famous? Well, it is. Since 2006, people from all over the planet have been coming to Palm Springs during the month of February for the banging party we call Modernism Week. It’s like the United Nations all up in here.  

Before the big event, Modernism Week holds a four-day preview in October called Modernism Fall Preview (a.k.a. Mini-Mod Week), running from October 14 through 17. It’s jam-packed with loads to do — over 50 events!  

Modernism Week and Mini-Mod Week are so popular the best events sell out the same day they go on sale. So unless some fabulous bit of wizardry transpires (it might, Palm Springs is magical), forget about Sunnylands and Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate Tour. There’s plenty left to see though, from significant mid-century modern home tours to architectural double decker bus tours. 

You can dress as you like, but a lot of people choose to pull out their pedal pushers and fedoras — whatever it takes to achieve that retro look. During Mini-Mod Week, the town takes on that old-timey feel of the ’50s and ’60s.

There are some cool cocktail-style events, but those sell out pretty fast. One of my very favorite supper clubs, PS Underground, has a brand new show for this year called Beatnik. Hurry and book, their shows are always outstanding. 

Even if you miss out on your favorite events, there’s still the main event at the Palm Springs Convention Center where you can browse everything mid-century modern, including art, furniture, and lighting. You can find a list of exhibitors here. 

If you’re the curious type like me, or a little iffy on modernism, this article breaks down mid-century modern art for you. The same with architecture here. 

Friday night is the big opening night party for the Modernism Show and Sale. Tickets are $75 in advance and $85 at the door. A purchase to the opening night party gives you access to the show on Saturday and Sunday. 

Skipping the party? (You’re gonna say “no” to a party?!) You can still buy a ticket for Saturday and Sunday that will cost you one Jackson (soon to be Tubman!) and gets you in both days so you can shop ‘til you bop later on that evening. 

Whether you do or don’t plan on going to the Modernism Week preview, but love the vibe of the mid-mod experience, we have mid-century modern hotels for the complete experience. There are 25 of them, all with great amenities — learn more about these fabulous spots here. 


The Purple Room, a Rat Pack-inspired supper club, has some of the finest entertainment in town. Here are the weekend shows during Modernism Preview:  

October 14: Sharon Sills (every Thursday) 

October 15: Branden and James — vocals and cello performing the Lady Gaga songbook 

October 16: Branden and James  — vocals and cello performing the Lady Gaga songbook 

October 17: The Judy Show (my favorite show in town! Every Sunday.) 

Also, check out V Wine Lounge, where the vibe is so retro you’ll squee. 

By the way, the bus tours are hella fun. I am a tour guide assistant and even from my view (I sit in the bottom of the bus, you’ll be on top — bring sunscreen and hold onto your hats!) it’s a fun and informative 2-and-a-half hour ride. 

Hope to see you there, and let’s go retro! 

Mathew Westcott grew up in the hospitality business, and now with The Westcott Hotel, he’s making his mark in Palm Springs.

“Palm Springs has been a favorite vacation spot for me for many years and the city has continued to grow and develop — I wanted to be part of that journey,” he says.

Mathew purchased POSH Palm Springs Inn in June 2017, and changed its name to The Westcott in honor of his family. Mathew left behind a corporate career in London and New York to open The Westcott — while it’s his first hotel, his family has been operating hotels in the UK for decades, and he’s learned a lot along the way.

“It’s an industry which I’m passionate about and has always been in my blood,” he says.

Built in the 1930s, The Westcott is in the Uptown Design District, and “from the outside, its simple Art Deco lines are unassuming, but walk through the doors and it feels completely different,” Mathew says. “It’s great to see the way people react each time they enter for the first time.”

Rooms at The Westcott feature luxurious bedding and amenities, flatscreen televisions, and Keurig coffee makers. A complimentary breakfast is served in the morning, and a daily cocktail hour is held in the evening around the large freshwater pool.

“Being a hotel owner is all about creating a unique and memorable guest experience — looking at every detail from arrival to departure and ensuring we exceed expectations,” Mathew says. “In our first few months of being open we have been blown away by the great reviews we have received.”

Mathew says he takes to heart the feedback he hears, and “we’ve continued to tweak our service and hotel as we listen to what our guests say.” They often rave about General Manager Michael Barge, who is “every bit as focused on building The Westcott as I am,” Mathew says.

With The Westcott, Mathew is able to bring together his passion for hospitality and interior design and love of the Art Deco era.

“My goal was to create a unique and timeless property that enabled you to walk through the door and get that 1930s Hollywood golden age glamor combined with modern hotel amenities to make a very special experience,” he says. “We are excited to see the hotel grow and to meet more new guests in our first year.”

Amin Casa embodies the quiet sophistication of Palm Springs, with a twist of old Hollywood glamour.

Once the residence of actress Gloria Swanson, Amin Casa made its debut in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood in November 2016, following several months of major renovations both inside and out. “Amin” means “ours” in Tagalog, while “casa” is Spanish for “home,” and owners Ramon Bautista and Nelson Cooley want it to feel like “your home away from home.” 

“On property, guests will find the relaxing, club-like ambiance and genuine, heartfelt hospitality they have come to treasure,” Ramon said. 

The compound dates back to the 1920s, and when fully occupied, the property only accommodates 14 guests, adults only. The bungalows come with living rooms, kitchens complete with microwaves, coffeemakers, blenders, and dishes, eco-friendly toiletries, and bathrobes and slippers, plus the Swanson residence with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace, and the property’s largest kitchen. There are stunning gardens, fountains, a swimming pool, cabanas, and an outdoor dining area with a grilling station.

Above all else, Ramon and Nelson, who have experience at some of the finest hotels in the world, strive to give the patrons of Amin Casa one thing: “Intuitive, gracious service provided by a staff passionate about pleasing our guests.”

Gorgeous rooms? Check. Relaxing spa with a variety of services? Check. A sparkling pool? Check. Restaurant with rooftop lounge and intriguing cocktails? Check.

Everything you need for the perfect Palm Springs stay is at La Serena Villas. Originally built in 1933 as a 26-unit hotel, this resort in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood was redeveloped as a luxury hotel in 2016 by architect May Sung. The 18 secluded villas each have a private patio with a clawfoot tub, fire pit, and built-in benches, with Avenue Interior Design behind every room’s furniture, finishes, and materials.

Whispers Spa offers facials, massages, and body treatments, while Azucar restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy dining in the restaurant or sipping cocktails at Sugar High, the rooftop lounge. The hotel, owned by Lars Viklund, has a Spanish colonial feel, and is next door to one of his other properties, the Del Marcos Hotel, and across from his latest acquisition, The Three Fifty Hotel.

Sparrows Lodge pool

We’re back with the next feature in our series on Instagram-able small hotels in Palm Springs, featuring the rustic chic Sparrows Lodge.

Originally built in 1952 as Castle’s Red Barn by MGM actor Don Castle, the property was a popular getaway for Hollywood stars, and rumor has it that actress Elizabeth Montgomery (best known as Samantha in the original “Bewitched” television series) was married there.

After passing through various ownerships and doing stints as Catalina Palms and El Rancho Lodge, the property was again purchased and a major renovation was completed in 2013, resulting in a beautiful property that combines luxury with summer camp vibes and lots of Instagram-friendly photo ops.

The 20-room property, located in south Palm Springs, features the ‘50s original barn, now renovated to house a bar and lounge seating. Exposed redwood beams, concrete floors with hand-inlaid pebbles and functional wood window shutters lend a cabin-y vibe to both the exterior and interiors. Rooms are outfitted with custom-made redwood beds featuring plush mattresses topped by Swiss Army blankets, as well as metal footlockers and leather butterfly chairs.

A rock wall acts as a divider for the bathroom area, which includes enameled horse troughs for bathtubs and an open shower made of concrete and inlaid pebbles.

Most guest rooms have private patios, and two larger suites offer a little extra space and luxury: the Owner’s Suite, with a large sitting area and a sunken bedroom area with a functional fireplace, and the Cabin, with a kitchen and dining area separate from the bedroom.

Outdoor amenities at Sparrows Lodge include a saltwater pool and spa, a fire pit and horseshoes, and guests can enjoy spa services in the Massage Tent. There are hammocks throughout the property, as well as bikes available for guests to use their stay.

Daytime dining is available in the Barn Kitchen, along with outdoor seating surrounded by fruit trees. Chef Gabriel Woo also preparestwo special family-style dinners each week: a chicken dinner on Wednesday evenings and a steak dinner on Saturdays.

The property is very pet-friendly, so you can bring your furry friends along for some fun in the sun!

If you’re heading to Sparrows Lodge, just look for the nameless sign bearing two small birds and you’ll know you’ve reached this laid-back and inspiring retreat.

Stay tuned for our next installment as we explore the most Instagram-able Palm Springs small hotels!

 

Images via Instagram, Jaime Kowal and Camron Carrier.

The Orbit In embraces its mid-century modern roots, wowing guests with its retro furnishings, lively pool area, and — of course — those irresistible Orbitinis, served every night during happy hour.

During their second stay at the Orbit In, husband and wife Kevin Miller and Jinny Park had the place all to themselves, and as they sat outside, looking up at the sky, they started talking about their dream of selling everything in order to buy and run the hotel.

Orbit In owners, Kevin Miller and Jinny Park

“Right then, a huge shooting star went across, and we made a wish,” Kevin said. “Three years later, we bought it. We are guests who ended up buying the hotel, and we try to run it from a guest perspective.”

The Orbit In is a mid-century modern hotel built in 1957, purchased by Kevin and Jinny in October 2007. Guests spend their days gathering around the Boomerang Bar, beating the heat in the pool and under the misters, enjoying Orbitinis during happy hour, and taking advantage of cruisers they can take around the neighborhood.

“It kind of feels like a hotel, but it also feels like you’re coming to someone’s house,” Kevin said. “It splits the difference there. We see a lot of repeat guests, and that’s just terrific.”

Although he is always improving the hotel, Kevin listens to his guests who like the retro vibe and want things to stay exactly the way they are.

“They always say, ‘Don’t change anything,'” he said. “They love it the way it is. They really like the staff. Everyone is personable and knows them by name, and they feel at home here.”

Walk of the Inns

The holidays have come to Palm Springs. Just because the weather is warm (and beautiful) doesn’t mean that you can’t find the holiday spirit. One way to do that is to go on the Walk of the Inns on December 12, where you can enjoy a festive holiday vibe while going on an exclusive tour of many of the area’s lovely small boutique hotels. This self-guided tour is free and runs from 6 to 9 p.m.

Amin Casa for Walk of the Inns

The charm of these small hotels, many of them historic, creates the warm ambiance of the holidays with their twinkling lights and other decorations. The mid-century modern, Spanish, and Mediterranean architecture of many of these hotels enhances their appeal.  You can just imagine how Hollywood celebrities in the 1940s and 50s savored the holiday season in these magical retreats away from the buzz of Sunset Boulevard.

Palm Springs Museum interiorIf you want to participate, you can begin your walk at the Palm Springs Art Museum or the Palm Springs Women’s Club, where you will receive a map of participating hotels, enjoy live entertainment, and pick up a flashlight to illuminate your walk. At these two locations, you can also drop off gifts and toys for the annual fundraiser, Well in the Desert, which donates gifts to those in need in the Greater Palm Springs area. What better way to get in the holiday spirit than by giving to others.

Casa Cody poolOne of the oldest inns participating in the walk is Casa Cody, which includes lovely villas and cottages that were originally built to house athletes during the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Other enchanting boutique hotels will be featuring a cheerful holiday atmosphere during the walk.

Village Fest Palm SpringsWhile you are walking around, you can also enjoy Palm Springs’ Thursday Night Village Fest for enticing food, entertainment, and shopping for the holidays.  There’s no better way to launch the holiday season in Palm Springs.