Blogger Debra Schroeder of Traveling Well for Less found herself captivated by the Albert Frey-designed Monkey Tree Hotel, with its mid-century modern architecture and fun vintage decor.
Author: Brittany Ryan
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown sits the newly renovated Bellevue Oasis, a modern, tech-friendly oasis in Palm Springs. With a streamlined digital procedure for self-check-in, this boutique hotel sets the standard for safe social distancing.
Prior to arriving, you’re provided with a keyless entry code for both the gate and your room. Private travelers will appreciate the ability to quickly and easily check in and out without any lengthy procedure or human interaction.
From the outside, Bellevue Oasis seems rather unassuming, however this boutique hotel surprises its guests right as they hear the joyful chirp of the keyless entry granting you access to the property. Upon stepping through the threshold, guests are greeted with the exotic smell of jasmine from the gardens and sounds of birds singing in the trees. Perfectly manicured lawn and bright white guest rooms surround the focal point of Bellevue Oasis – an Insta-worthy swimming pool (an essential for every chic boutique hotel in Palm Springs)!
The refreshing pool, heated seasonally, is encircled by white lounge chairs. Retro pagoda-style patio umbrellas with alternating turquoise and white panels compliment the pool’s crystal clear blue water. Hidden away under the shade of tropical trees sits a heated whirlpool for guests to relax in. Guests can ask Alexa to play their favorite tunes poolside as they sunbathe and swim.
The ground-level guestrooms at Bellevue Oasis are low-profile to ensure perfect views of the desert mountains from the pool. Each guestroom features a private front patio covered in stylish black and white geometric tiles.
Bellevue Oasis’ recently renovated rooms are contemporary with a touch of Hollywood glam. Despite a low-profile exterior, every room features high-vaulted ceilings to create a more open, sophisticated atmosphere. Special touches like velvet accents, mirrored dressers, and floor to ceiling marble bathrooms create a luxe ambiance.
As a former network TV producer and a BBC World News journalist, Owner Tayfun King has a keen eye for details. It was important to him that Bellevue Oasis capture the essence of Palm Springs.
“I was captivated by the culture and architecture that Palm Springs had to offer,” says Tayfun. “I wanted to preserve the 1950s Palm Springs aesthetic, while incorporating a global perspective and localized style to the hotel.”
Tayfun has curated an aesthetic that many cannot master – Bellevue Oasis blends the best of mid-century modern design elements with the modern luxuries of today. Some of the guestrooms come with a full kitchen and dining area, while every room is outfitted with food and drink options for purchase. Keeping with the tech-friendly theme, all T.V.s at Bellevue Oasis are Roku-enabled and come with Hulu Live.
At first glance, it appears that the room tour ends there, but wait, there’s more! Not only do rooms feature a private front patio, but they also have a private back patio, decorated in the same chic black and white geometric tile. There, guests can enjoy a cocktail or play mini golf in the back of the property, steps outside of the guestroom.
One may think that a mobile self check-in may eliminate the chance for a personal touch at Bellevue Oasis, but that is not the case. Tayfun is renowned for his commitment to excellence and customer service, and these values have been adopted by the Bellevue Oasis staff. Hotel Manager, Adam Ramirez, knows guests by name and is often seen on-property tending to guest needs.
“We want our guests to know that we are there for them,” Adam explains. “If guests ever need anything, like an in-room massage or bike rental, they can just shoot us a text or give us a call. Our guests are the reason why we do what we do!”
As Adam mentions, guests looking to get off property and explore Palm Springs have full access to bike rentals. Bike about 4 minutes west to arrive at the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center, where you can take an out-and-back hike (2 miles total) and be rewarded with beautiful views of a 60-foot waterfall. Or you can ride about 4 minutes south instead to visit the 1-acre, family-owned Moorten Botanical Garden. Chat with the second-generation owner, Mr. Clark Moorten, who lives onsite and shares his knowledge of cacti and desert plants from around the world.
Whether guests want a whole week with full kitchen access or just a relaxing weekend to get away, Bellevue Oasis offers the ideal Palm Springs stay. Experience the luxuries typically found at larger, chain hotels, but in a quiet, intimate setting.
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.
“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.”
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.
Take a video tour of The Monkey Tree Hotel! This classic mid-century modern hotel is a Palm Springs time capsule. Perfectly restored with meticulous attention to detail by owners Kathy and Gary Friedle, who preserved the original architecture and furnishings. Kathy’s background in architecture and design shows in every detail. If you love mid-century design, you will love this tour.
Norma and Ron Van Meeteren didn’t set out to own and operate a hotel, but in October 1999, the couple found themselves embarking on an exciting journey now in its 20th year.
At the time, Norma and Ron had been selling real estate and doing property management in Palm Springs for 16 years. They learned about a property that was going to be converted into a hospice but had fallen out of escrow. Most of the units were like apartments, with living rooms, bedrooms, full kitchens, and private walled garden patios, and since the Van Meeterens were experts in residential income properties and had clients looking for apartment buildings, they arranged a meeting with the seller.
“To make a long story short, ten days later we were the proud new owners,” Norma said. “It’s been quite the journey, but our exceptional staff and happy guests make it all worth it.”
A mid-century boutique inn, A Place in the Sun Garden Hotel was built in 1951 as a retreat for the production crew working on the movie A Place in the Sun, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, and Montgomery Clift.
“We get to meet so many interesting people, from all walks of life.”
The property has 18 units, with standard studios, one-bedroom bungalows with kitchens, living rooms, and private patios, and a 1,300-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow with a large kitchen, fireplace, and private jacuzzi. There is free fast internet, a heated saltwater pool, spa, artificial turf putting green, and a poolside gazebo with misters and heaters.
For Norma, getting to know the people who stay at A Place in the Sun is the best part of owning such a unique property.
“So many come back again and again, year after year, and it’s like welcoming back friends,” she said. “Many have happy memories of coming to A Place in the Sun as a child, and now are grown and bringing children of their own. We get to meet so many interesting people, from all walks of life.”
Wanderlust must be in my DNA. There are times when my innate desire to travel and explore wells up like hot lava that’s about to burst from a volcano, and I have no choice but to hit the road. Traveling via airplane fills the need, too, but there’s something about being on the open road that feels the most liberating—plus, I can pack as many pairs of shoes and hats as I want without paying extra baggage fees.
Orbit In to the Palm Springs modern vibe and leave your worries behind as you lounge in luxurious mid-century style. Breathtaking mountain views, cruiser bikes, and cocktails, all served up at a small boutique hotel where vintage modernism meets the 21st century. Click here to read more about this fabulous property.
By Susan Montgomery
My daughter (who is 40-something) is a busy surgeon in San Diego. I love to travel with her, but she does not have much time to get away. The challenge is: Where can we enjoy a weekend getaway that is not too far away and still feels like a real retreat? Fortunately, we have a lot in common when it comes to our travel preferences. We both love nice hotels with all the amenities (including a fabulous pool of course), wonderful restaurants and cocktails, unique shopping, and lovely weather in the great outdoors.
We have taken a few trips to Palm Springs together and found everything we want in a getaway, including beautiful weather almost any time of year. This article highlights a few of our wonderful experiences on several trips. If you would like to visit Palm Springs with your daughter (or your mother or your sister or your best friend), you might like to stop at some of these spots too.
Stay at The Weekend
We love staying at the small boutique hotels in Palm Springs where we find privacy and serenity in lush settings. While we’ve had relaxing stays at several delightful hotels, I think The Weekend Palm Springs is an ideal choice for a mother/daughter getaway because it offers stylishly furnished two-bedroom suites. My daughter and I prefer our own rooms so this works well for us. At The Weekend, we can stay together but have our own separate rooms for sleeping. (I’ve heard that I snore, but that can’t possibly be true.)
A classic example of mid-century modern architecture, this sleek, luxurious hotel in the lovely Old Las Palmas neighborhood was once a retreat for many of the “rat pack” Hollywood celebrities. The structure has recently undergone a stunning, multi-million dollar renovation but still retains its historical character. These suites surround a beautiful, inviting pool with lounge chairs and benches. (I can just imagine Marilyn Monroe languidly lounging by the pool.) The Weekend is a peaceful getaway but still within easy walking distance of hip bars, restaurants, and shops. Included with each stay is a delicious, ample continental breakfast delivered right to your room every morning. We both love savoring early morning coffee and really looked forward to the delectable breakfast trays.
Eat and drink
There are so many special spots in Palm Springs for great food and cocktails. Here are just a few suggestions for places my daughter and I love.
Azucar is the restaurant at La Serena Villas and is a perfect stop for lunch or dinner. The setting is modish and open with an upstairs deck overlooking the mountains and the pool. The cocktails are innovative and the food is equally tantalizing. We loved the fish tacos and watermelon salad with feta, but there are many other enticing choices.
Holiday House is another chic restaurant in a small hotel. Its bar focuses on creative cocktails (such as the Aperol Spritz or the Club 55 martini (made with gin, elder flower liqueur, lemon, and rosemary-infused syrup). For lunch, if you are really hungry, you will love the juicy Pantry Cheeseburger or for a healthier option, try the Baby Kale Salad topped with salmon.
Cheeky’s (adjacent to the Alcazar Hotel) is the perfect place for a tasty breakfast or lunch before exploring Palm Springs. We love their cheesy eggs and unique bacon flight accompanied by great coffee or a spicy bloody mary. (Start the day with a zing!)
Wexler’s Deli at another small hotel, Arrive, attracts a lively youngish crowd, but this older babe loved it too. The vibe is rocking and the drinks are refreshing. We tried the savory smoked fish platter that paired well with some unique cocktails, including one that looked just like a snow cone (but was infused with vodka)
For Late Night Fun
When traveling with your daughter, you can’t go to bed too early. After dinner, the night has just begun and there is lots to do in Palm Springs.
My daughter particularly enjoyed the cozy speakeasy, Seymour’s, which is hidden away in the famous steakhouse Mr. Lyons (also an excellent dining choice). Its secret location and dimly lit atmosphere capture the ambiance of prohibition days. Creative cocktails are imaginative and delicious.
The Purple Room in the Trinidad Hotel is an iconic supper club with live entertainment Tuesdays through Sundays and vintage cocktails like Old Blue Eyes, the signature old-fashioned that was evidently Frank’s favorite drink. The dinner menu also offers traditional, nicely prepared steak, fish and pasta options. When we were there most recently, the talented owner, Michael Holmes, was performing a special show with nostalgic rat pack songs that carried us back to a bygone era. I almost expected Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to stroll out on stage to soothe us with their old favorites.
Also harking back to the Hollywood era is the Casablanca Lounge in Melvyn’s Restaurant at the Ingleside Inn. (Melvyn’s is also a romantic spot for classic dishes like Steak Diane and Bananas Foster prepared flambè at your table.) Guests sip cocktails and dance to live music most nights, making this a perfect stop for an after dinner drink.
Besides eating and drinking, there is lots to do in Palm Springs—all activities that appeal to both my daughter and me. Most of the small hotels have bikes for guests and plenty of tours are available from celebrity home bus tours to walking tours around various neighborhoods. We love the entrancing Palm Springs Art Museum. The impressive collections focus on art of the Americas and California, including Native American artifacts and contemporary glass art, highlighted by a stunning Chihuly sculpture. My daughter and I have also really enjoyed the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. In ten minutes, you can ride in a unique tramcar (with a rotating floor) from the Coachella Valley desert up 8,500 feet to a top peak of the San Jacinto Mountains. At the top you can savor the gorgeous views, hike around, and then have lunch. And of course once you are back from your tram ride, you can shop, shop, shop in the many small boutiques with unique items you can’t find anywhere else. We particularly like the shops with mid-century furnishings and décor.
We never get tired of visiting Palm Springs. There is so much to see and do — and eat and drink — and it’s so special to share the experience with your daughter — or your mother. I hope to go back with my daughter for my birthday soon.
Twice a year, Palm Springs celebrates its architectural roots. We don’t go all the way back to colonial times because we don’t have them; back then California was part of Mexico. Europeans began “settling” here in the mid-1800s with the exception of the Spaniards, who’d been stomping all over California and beyond since the days of Montezuma (1500s). And before that? Native Americans lived here for thousands of years.
Back in the mid-1800s, the U.S. government gave land to the Southern Pacific Railroad, which used it to entice people out west with a promise of land — for a price. That money would help them bring the railroad out west. East Coast Europeans started showing up in the mid-1800s, and by 1890 they had a hotel, The Palm Springs Hotel.
It took about 25 years for Palm Springs to become known for its health benefits, including the healing dry air and the hot springs (agua caliente). This was thanks to the arrival of Nellie Coffman in 1909, who made her Desert Inn the place to visit in Palm Springs.
And then came the celebrities. Just a two-hour drive (back then) from the studios in Los Angeles, it was exactly the contractually allowed time and distance actors were allowed from their respective studios. An added bonus? Paparazzi were not paid for trips over 100 miles. And bingo, the sexcapades were in full swing.
Every single decade from then on has stories about celebrities here in Palm Springs. Many of them were buying vacation homes, and architects were starting to sit up and take notice of the desertscapes and what they could accomplish here.
And now we’re at Modernism Week, the celebration of all of those guys who came here and turned Palm Springs into a mid-century modern architectural paradise (along with our other paradise qualities!).
So, here’s what you can expect Oct. 19-22: 50 events! What?? You can make just as hearty of a meal out of all things Modernism in October as you can at the February bonanza. Let’s have a look-see!
It’s my party!
Cocktail parties: There’s two. Sinatra always sells out, I think before it even hits the internet. Okay, that’s not true, but you know what I mean. The second one looks to be fun as well, so book it, Danno!
Preview party: This is the first soiree and the biggest.
Lizzie and the Triggermen: Called “one of the hottest swing bands in L.A.” by Good Day L.A., Lizzy & The Triggermen has been making waves since bursting onto the SoCal scene.
Mixology cocktail clinics: Held at Mr. Lyon’s, one of Palm Springs most iconic fine dining restaurants. Oct. 19, 20, 21, 22, with two time slots at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Mid-Century Moderns is not on the schedule of official MW activities, but absolutely worth the price of the ticket. It’s a very fun jukebox musical, not for the faint of heart. Begins Oct. 6 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with multiple showtimes including a 2 p.m. matinee for after brunch.
Cruising through town
Bus tours — There are a ton of them, and this year they’ve divided them all up by neighborhood. All are a good time, and there is even a twilight tour where certain buildings are beautifully lit to show off their architecture. It’s pretty cool. I am a guide on one of those this fall.
Here are the (other, heh heh) celebrity tour guides:
Charles Phoenix: Mid-century pop culture expert Charles Phoenix is a performer, author, explorer, and collector celebrating classic and kitschy American life and style, who has appeared on Jay Leno’s Garage and Conan and been a judge on Cake Wars Christmas and Nailed It.
He’s known for the Big Retro Trailer Slide Show. Lavishing commentary on the very best images from his massive collection of vintage “flea market found” Kodachrome slides, he shares a wide variety of spectacular scenes, décor, classic cars, festive fashions, potlucks, parties, parades, and picturesque locations.
Bella da Ball: Bella is our ambassador drag queen; she stands 6’4” tall without heels. Heavily involved in Pride, and many other activities, Bella also hosts Drag Queen Bingo & Trivia at the Ace Hotel on Monday nights. She recently resumed her Drag Queen Storytime at Palm Springs Library, and we couldn’t be happier to have her back.
Here are a few places I’ve always wanted to see:
Frey House II — Albert Frey had a unique understanding of function, form, practicality, and love for the desert landscape, all combined to provide us this extraordinary legacy. It includes a free day at the Art Museum, and a ride on a bus up to the property. If you go, tell me about it please!
Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palm Estates — Frank owned a lot of houses here in the desert, but this is the one that used to have his own plane out back, and where he used to hoist a flag to let friends and neighbors know it was cocktail hour. It’s also where he lived and fought with Ava Gardner.
Some of these tickets require deep pockets, but there are also free events you can attend and still feel all mid-mod-y.
Friday, Oct. 20
9 a.m. “Lost, Saved & Endangered: Modernist Architecture in Palm Springs”: Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board president Gary Johns will present his popular slide lecture, “Lost, Saved & Endangered: Modernist Architecture in Palm Springs.” At Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E Baristo Rd., Palm Springs.
11 a.m. The Design of Herbert W. Burns: Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board vice president Steven Keylon will present an entertaining overview of architectural designer Herbert W. Burns’ life and career. At the Palm Springs Cultural Center.
A quick note on the Cultural Center. With everything it offers, it’s gearing up to be a major presence in Palm Springs. It was also built in 1967 as the first cineplex in Palm Springs.
Saturday, Oct. 21
9 a.m. Hot Purple Energy Architectural Bike Ride: Join us as we pedal our way through architecturally significant neighborhoods in South Palm Springs and highlight mid-century homes. Indian Canyons Golf Resort Clubhouse parking lot, 1100 E. Murray Canyon Dr., Palm Springs.
This is a terrific area to explore. The two golf courses are gorgeous, and Lykken Trail is on South Palm Canyon and Murray Drive. The Walt Disney Fountain is here as are some mid-century homes that you can see on one of the bus tours (there used to be an app for $5 with all of the architecturally significant spots in P.S. on them, so do a Google). Make sure to grab breakfast or lunch at the Indian Canyon Clubhouses, and then drive through the Indian Canyons neighborhood.
If you’re a hiker, Lykken Trail dumps onto South Palm Canyon just past Murray Canyon, and if you keep going down South Palm Canyon, you’ll hit one of the greatest hiking spots in Palm Springs: the actual Indian Canyons Reserve.
2 p.m. The Alexanders book signing with author James Harlan: James Harlan will also give a talk about the famous Palm Springs developers. Palm Springs Historical Society, The McCallum Adobe, 221 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs.
The Palm Springs Historical Society is located in the Village Green next to Cornelia White’s home, which was relocated from where it was first built, at The Palm Springs Hotel. It’s also across the street from Lulu, the best people watching spot in town.
4 to 9 p.m. Shag’s October Modernism Print Release Party: Join artist Shag and guest Nancy Sinatra for a book signing and print release party at The Shag Store, featuring complimentary cocktails, live music, and other fun surprises. The Shag Store, 745 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs.
The Shag Store — I’ve never gone in because I’d feel like an imposter; I can’t afford a Shag piece, but it’s a party and everyone’s invited!!
Sunday, Oct. 22
8 a.m. to Noon. Modernism Yard Sale: Brought to you by Chris Bale Homes and hosted by H3K Home+Design, this annual sale has become one of Modernism Week’s most popular FREE events! H3K is high-end, but on the more affordable end. H3K Design+Home parking lot, 501 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs.
Here’s a link to all the rest. Use the sorting function and “category” to help you get just where your little heart desires. And you’re gonna need a place to stay, right? Here’s a list of the nearly 80 boutique hotels in Palm Springs; if you’re looking for something mid-century modern, or even more old-timey, you can use that sorting button to find your perfect stay.
I’ll be waving at you from the top of my bus!