Kathy and Gary Friedle left the hustle and bustle of New York City for the laid-back ambiance of Palm Springs, and never looked back.

Kathy is an architect and worked as a studio director at Gensler, while Gary was the chief operating officer at a private wealth management firm on Wall Street, but when their older son announced he wanted to go to college on the west coast, it got them thinking about their family’s future and the possibility of a move and a dramatic change.

“We lived on the east coast our entire lives, but it was starting to wear us down,” Kathy said. “We could have kept chugging along, but we kept thinking, ‘Let’s try something different.’ We had always dreamed about owning a little B&B when we retired, but an opportunity came up earlier than we expected and once the seed was planted, we started to actively look for a hotel to buy on the west coast and decided to give new careers a try.”

They liked the idea of moving to Palm Springs, which is already a tourist destination, and were both fans of mid-century modern architecture. In 2015, the Monkey Tree Hotel property became available for purchase, and the Friedles jumped at the opportunity to reinvigorate the historic, 1960 Albert Frey-designed hotel.

They refreshed the 16 rooms and suites, purchased vintage decor from local Palm Springs sources, and installed the desert’s first Scandinavian spa with a sauna, hot tub, and cold plunge. Gary is also now in charge of the breakfast served every morning to guests, and he has come up with a delicious rotating menu that incorporates some suggestions from diners while also using the freshest local ingredients.

“It’s a true 1960s time capsule,” Kathy said. “We haven’t made a lot of changes to it, intentionally. We want it to remain true to that period.”

What makes Palm Springs the perfect getaway? The year-round activities — hiking, golfing, cultural experiences — and world-class dining top the list, but the boutique hotels are the city’s crown jewel. Members of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association recently discovered just how phenomenal hotels like Los Arboles, the Santiago Resort, and The Westcott are, and how they stand out in the desert.

Neil Mehta was impressed as soon as he walked onto the grounds of the Hotel California.

The Hotel California is consistently voted as one of the top hotels in not just Palm Springs, but the entire country. That’s just one of the reasons why Neil purchased the 14-room hotel in January 2019.

“It has a really nice intimacy to it,” Neil says. “There are a lot of different areas where you can get away and be by yourself. If you want to have a cup of coffee and stare at the mountains, you can do it in two or three different spots upstairs. But if you want to be surrounded by other guests, you can go to the pool.”

Originally built in 1942, the Hotel California is decorated with Spanish charm. It has a private courtyard, heated pool, spa, poolside cooling misters, fire pits, barbecue patio, and secluded outdoor cigar lounge.

At the same time Neil bought the Hotel California, he also purchased the Desert Riviera Hotel. As it turns out, both hotels once had the same owner.

“That great customer service culture was implemented at the Hotel California and Desert Riviera by the same owner long ago, and they’ve done a great job upholding that standard of service,” he says.

The Hotel California has a loyal following, with guests coming back year after year. Neil is looking forward to interacting with visitors, and is “extremely excited about the prospect of not only continuing the legacy of the prior owners, but also trying to find areas where we can improve and make guests feel even more like family,”

Neil has spent the last 10 years doing real estate development, and also owns a residential real estate company in Orange County. In 2014, he bought his first hotel in Newport Beach, and fell in love with the hospitality industry. Neil feels “lucky and blessed” to now own both the Hotel California and Desert Riviera, and is looking forward to getting settled in town.

“I am a big fan of the city of Palm Springs and of the culture that has always embraced diversity,” he says. “I’m excited to be part of it, to grow our business, and to provide positive experiences for guests.”

At the Avanti Hotel, the guest experience is of utmost importance. Owner Jim Rutledge ensures that he knows where visitors are traveling from and what they enjoy doing, in order to offer recommendations and keep the hotel safe and secure.

Owner Jim Rutledge loves dogs, and goes out of his way to make their stay comfortable — at check in, they receive a bag with a pool towel, sheet for the bed, water bowl, and snacks.

“We very much enjoy having them,” Jim said, adding that hundreds of dogs have stayed at the hotel since its opening. These special guests can be spotted on the Instagram page Dogs of Avanti.

Of course, their owners are also treated well at the Avanti, a 10-room mid-century modern hotel that was built in 1954. There are no resort fees, and guests can take complimentary cruisers for a spin and relax at happy hour and an extended continental breakfast. Because it’s such an intimate hotel, Jim gets to know all of his guests, and he estimates that nearly 50 percent of his patrons are repeats.

“We like to get to know our guests, and where they’re from and what they like to do,” he said. “We get to meet people from all around the world who come here.”

Jim and his brother-in-law purchased the property in the early 2010s, after both took buy outs from their corporate jobs. They started from scratch, even coming up with a new name, and Jim, originally from Seattle, was excited to be in a town he was already familiar with.

“I’ve loved Palm Springs and had been coming here for years,” he said.

For guests who enjoy meeting new people, the pool is a natural gathering place, but there are also hideaways for those who want to have some solo time.

“The rooms have private patios, and you can hang out there and read a book,” Jim said.

One of the Avanti’s biggest draws is its security. There is a locked gate, and Jim has a video doorbell, so he can see who is coming and going and he doesn’t have to let people in who don’t belong.

“I know who is in my hotel,” he said. “We have repeat guests, and single women, who know about the safety factor and they love it. They know that when they come in, the door is locked behind them and no one can come in. I know all of the guests, and people who stay here for two or more nights get to know the other guests, and they all recognize each other.”

The spirit of optimism is alive and well in Palm Springs. 

“While the sunshine, heated pools, and stellar attractions make the city a destination for people looking for relaxation and adventure alike, the pandemic has changed Palm Springs’ visitor profile considerably,” Michael Green, chair of the Desert Gay Tourism Guild and Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, said. “Visitors from Europe are not coming as frequently as in previous years, and Canadians, who typically help boost the Coachella Valley’s economy, didn’t start returning until November.”

That said, the number of visitors overall exceed those of pre-covid days, and since June 2020, the vast majority of travelers have been domestic. Let’s dive into the reasons why.

Beautiful flowers in bloom. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Feeling Safe on the Road

With the pandemic ongoing, many people feel safer planning a road trip with their family instead of getting on an airplane or cruise ship. San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are no more than a 3.5-hour road trip away from Palm Springs, and even people from the San Francisco Bay Area can drive here within a day. For those in the northwest, they can turn Palm Springs into a road trip destination, making leisurely stops to see sights along the way. Road trippers not only pack their comfort items, but pets are welcome in Palm Springs, so Fifi and Brutus can come along for the ride, too.

Art at the Palm Springs International Airport. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Direct Flights to Palm Springs

For travelers who do choose to fly, the Palm Springs International Airport is easy to navigate, just five minutes from downtown Palm Springs, and welcomes direct flights from many U.S. cities. Major airlines are always adding direct routes to Palm Springs, and new carriers are building the city into their business plans. According to Daniel Meier, Palm Springs International Airport’s deputy director of aviation, marketing, and air service, arrivals are up nearly 25 percent at the airport. 

Professional Mobility

When people first couldn’t go into the office to work, they came up with innovative ways to get their jobs done. Zoom allowed them to connect with colleagues and customers from anywhere with WiFi, and Palm Springs became a choice workcation destination. “With the ability to work remotely, we noticed a trend that people were taking advantage of the opportunity to stay longer,” Joyce Kiehl, director of communications for Visit Greater Palm Springs, said.

A Change of Residence

Palm Springs was one of the epicenters of the 2021 summer real estate boom, as harsh northeastern winters and being stuck inside brought to mind visions of sitting under a palm tree near the pool, conducting business meetings on Zoom. Robert Hunt, manager of Alcazar Palm Springs, said he has noticed that “many of our guests are staying here while looking for property.” Bob Deck, an agent with Town Real Estate, has found that people interested in buying homes in Palm Springs are “tired of the traffic in the bigger cities. They are looking for ways to take their commute time and turn it into family time.” 

A couple explores Palm Springs by bike. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

What Does the Data Show?

Things are looking up in Palm Springs, with hoteliers and retailers seeing a 23 to 25 percent increase in business in November, compared to the same month a year earlier. Jeff Witthuhn, owner of downtown gift shop Peepa’s, said he’s seeing “many more customers are coming from the East Coast,” while Kim Galland, owner of the women’s accessory store Kimbals, attributes her growth to previous customers who are delighted to be out in the world shopping.

In October, the city reported that transit occupancy tax collection increased almost 45 percent over 2020. Randy Garner, marketing manager for the Palm Springs Board of Tourism, noted that most events and conferences were canceled in the fall and winter of 2020, and the recent success of the 2021 Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade illustrates people are ready to get out there and enjoy the many aspects of our welcoming community, including new public art and restaurants.

Inside Gigi’s Restaurant. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Thriving is a word that best describes Palm Springs. Remodeling of stores, the upgrading and restoration of our hotels, and additional direct flights are making our ever-changing desert community a destination that encourages visitors to come back again and again. What are you waiting for? Make a reservation through Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels to see this fabulous city for yourself.

The Triangle Inn pool

The Triangle Inn is like a charming man with a cheeky wit and a very sexy smile. Who wouldn’t want a second date?

Let’s start with a few fun facts, rated Hollywood-style.

The Triangle Inn spans the corners of San Lorenzo (très exotique, non?) and Random Road, a flirty wink from the street naming committee.

Rating: R for randy randomness

When it was built, the hotel was called The Impala Lodge. The year was 1958, and the architect was notable mid-century modernist Hugh Kaptur. 

Kaptur apprenticed for mid-mod darlings Harrison and Wexler, and Wexler apprenticed under the man they called the Desert Maverick, William Cody. In a 1958 Desert Sun article, Kaptur described the architectural design of the Lodge as the highly non-PC “Indian Modern.”

Rating: Winner, best documentary

Then, like the rest of us, the lodge went through some changes. From lodge to apartment building and into disrepair, the modernist gem was badly in need of an image overhaul.

Rating: Elizabeth Berkley

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, Matthew Robinson and Kevin Rice purchased the property, restored the original architecture, remodeled the rooms, and when the flag finally flew it was a rainbow flag, waving high above the newly named Triangle Inn, an eight-suite, men’s clothing optional resort. 

Rating: Kal Penn

The Triangle Inn’s entrance. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn

In 2000, Robinson and Rice were looking for someone to love the inn as much as they did, and ran into some wicked good luck. Two frequent Palm Springers from Atlanta (let’s call them Michael and Stephen because those are their names) decided they wanted to live in paradise and purchased the classy little mid-century revival gem.

Its massive glass-paned walls let the sunshine in and provide an endless view of our gorgeous mountains. Angular steel beams and the slanted roof are punctuated by lush tropical foliage; there are fruit trees all over the property —  mango, lemon, blood orange — making it feel as remote and as exotic as Gilligan’s Island without Ginger, Marianne, or the Howells (they’re so pretentious), but with way better amenities. 

But it’s not remote; it’s intimate. The hotel is actually only five minutes from downtown Palm Springs. That’s five by car, 15 if you’re biking. Drinking and biking renders various results, but generally longer durations and is not recommended.

Rating: A Star is Born

The living room in one of The Triangle Inn’s suites. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn

Consistently garnering five-star ratings and rave reviews, it shouldn’t surprise you that The Triangle Inn has a very long history of repeat guests. There are many reasons for this — the lovely suites, the fine amenities — but also because there is zero judgment. They’re very light on the rules, and then there’s that southern hospitality: warm as the sun and cool as the night air. 

Breakfast offers an assortment of breads, fruit, yogurt, and cereals, as well as coffee and tea — all gratis — on the covered patio by the pool. If you’d like a White Claw (again, no judgments, you’re on vacation) they’re $3 and you can drink them poolside. It’s all very chill.

The suites echo the style of the exterior, all in the mid-mod aesthetic, dressed in earthy tans and browns; light, sky blues; and rich sunset oranges. Even the Tarocco bath amenities are in burnt orange. 

The bathroom in one of The Triangle Inn’s suites. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn

The bed linens are crisp 500-count cotton, and all the accommodations have either a kitchen/dining room or a kitchenette depending on room size. Instead of a dishwasher in each of the suites, the houseman takes care of the dishes when he tidies your room.

Of all the places you can choose to stay in Palm Springs, The Triangle Inn is, perhaps, the most social. The intimate setting provides an opportunity for guests to become lifelong friends, not just with Michael and Stephen, but with each other, flying in from all over the world to meet up for a repeat performance.

Yet, because the rooms are all down the corridor, away from the outdoor activities, festivities, and laughter, guests can work from their suites before they go out to play. Some book for a month at a time, several times a year. It’s their home away from home. And because Michael and Stephen live on property, guests experience family-style hospitality that’s all rom-com and zero drama. 

Rating: All the stars

P.S. The Triangle Inn welcomes friendly canines. Inquire within.

The pool at night. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn

It’s the property that launched the solo career of one of Palm Springs’ most influential and innovative architects.

The Del Marcos Hotel was designed by the famed William F. Cody in 1947, his first independent commission in Palm Springs. This 17-room hotel boasts cutting-edge architecture from the height of the mid-century modern movement, using native stone and redwood. The Del Marcos became an official historic landmark in 2012, decades after it earned Cody a design award from the American Institute of Architects.

The hotel retains the spirit of the 1950s and 1960s, with retro furnishings and decor welcoming guests as they enter the lobby. The restored rooms with remodeled showers are clean and spacious, surrounding the property’s inviting saltwater pool and fire pits. It is an adults only hotel, with complimentary breakfast, beach cruisers, and happy hour. Dogs are allowed in some of the rooms, and pets are treated to bones and toys upon check in.

Palm Springs, California, is a tourist destination, welcoming millions of visitors every year from around the world. There are dozens of boutique hotels catering to all types of travelers — architectural aficionados, party animals, wellness-minded yogis — but what really stands out are the hoteliers. 

Boutiquely Palm Springs - Alcazar

An Art District uptown favorite, The Alcazar Palm Springs is ideally located in walking distance to just about everything fabulous!  Enjoy this video tour with founder Tara Lazar Alcazar and General manager, Robert Hunt.