After many tedious weeks of quarantining and sheltering at home, our country is starting to open up again. But it will be, as they say, “a new normal.” For those older or at-risk people who have been strictly following the quarantine protocols (such as my husband and me), moving back into the real world may be a bit frightening – especially as we embark again on our much-missed world of travel.

Do we really want to hop on a plane?  Or do we want to go out to eat or stay in hotels?  And how can we make this transition back to the real world without causing ourselves undue anxiety and stress? We know we are vulnerable, but we also want to live our lives to the fullest. We refuse to live in fear, but we want to be cautious.

For those of us who live in Southern California, we have a wonderful, safe, and nearby option as we venture out again—Palm Springs.  If you live in Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego or Riverside counties, you can drive to Palm Springs in two hours or even less.  So there is no need to worry about a nerve-racking plane flight.

And when you arrive in Palm Springs, a small boutique hotel is your ideal destination. There are more than 70 hotels in the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels group and it looks like most of them will be re-opening by June 12, 2020. These small hotels are already set up for comfortable social distancing. Almost all of them have private exterior entries from courtyards and do not have long hallways like the “big box” hotels. They do not have large lobbies where lots of people congregate.  Because they have small numbers of rooms, they will also have fewer guests. Most of them have courtyards around gorgeous pools where you can relax without being crammed next to other guests.

And the PSPSH hotels have collectively established a baseline of safety standards to insure guest comfort and safety.  For instance, hotels that serve breakfasts will generally serve them in individually wrapped containers rather than offering buffets. Fewer lounge chairs will be placed around swimming pools. Hand sanitizers will be readily available and hotel staff will be continually sanitizing surfaces. Some procedures may vary but each hotel will provide guests with their COVID-19 specific guidelines.

The City of Palm Springs requires that everyone wear a mask covering their mouths and noses while in public and that everyone practice social distancing. The hotels, of course, support these guidelines. No one with COVID symptoms will be allowed on PSPSH properties.

In the past, we have stayed at several of the PSPSH hotels and we can’t wait to go back. Our first trip out of our quarantined home will be to Palm Springs. I can just imagine lounging around the pristine pool at Alcazar or relaxing around a glowing fire pit at La Maison. Or perhaps we’ll soak up the rays at La Serena Villas or The Weekend Palm Springs.  And although some restaurants in Palm Springs will be open soon, we’ll be able to order our meals (and even cocktails) to be delivered directly to our room. And many of the hotels will also let us bring our dog (who, like us, is ready to be out and about.)  It’s also wonderful to know that these hotels have friendly staff members dedicated to making their guests feel welcomed and comfortable.

You can safely quarantine at these hotels in luxury and in utmost seclusion. After many weeks of isolating at home, a change of scene is so appealing.  I envision a day of sleeping late and then sipping coffee on our own private patio. Then we might play scrabble and have lunch and a cocktail delivered around the pool. Then perhaps we’ll take an afternoon nap on a comfy bed with a good book. At some of the hotels, we could grill out our own dinner and enjoy a good bottle of wine. Or we could venture out and dine at one of the Palm Springs restaurants that has safely opened. But I think we may just order a delicious dinner from a nearby restaurant. The hotels will be able to tell you where you can order food to be delivered.

To see your many enticing hotel options, go to the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels website.

Hope to see you soon in Palm Springs!

With its amazing weather year-round, Palm Springs is the place to host corporate, creative, and wellness retreats, and everything in between

PALM SPRINGS, California (April 5, 2018) — Like real estate, planning a retreat is all about location, location, location.

Whether it’s a yoga, writing, or intimate corporate retreat, if it’s not held in the right place, it won’t yield results. That’s what makes Palm Springs the perfect spot for a retreat — it’s easy to get to by car and airplane, the weather is ideal year round and because the town has such a laid-back vibe, it’s easy to eliminate distractions. And with so many boutique hotels, retreat planners can readily find one that offers the perfect retreat experience for their audience.

Kathy Friedle of The Monkey Tree Hotel regularly works with facilitators who host retreats at her mid-century property in Palm Springs.Friedle says that when planning a retreat, it’s important to share with the hotel all the basics: the number of attendees; the types of space desired, the equipment needed (for example: a television, podium, microphone), and activities planned. Also, openly discuss how meals will be handled. A sample itinerary goes a long way towards helping hoteliers meet a group’s needs.

By matching the size of the retreat to the hotel property, retreat hosts gain efficiencies in pricing and support. Atmosphere is essential as it helps drive interest and engagement—two critical factors for fitness and creative retreat facilitators who generate revenue from attendance.

When choosing a place for a retreat, keep in mind the size of the group, size of the property, and the atmosphere the group is looking for. Friedle says The Monkey Tree Hotel feels like “a 16-bedroom home environment with plenty of breathing room and a giant pool are as our outdoor living room. We’ve had people say that our property feels like you are both at a resort and at someone’s home. You can have a large meeting here and also have plenty of smaller-size breakaway spaces.”

“It’s a great opportunity to get some fresh air and work in a different environment to get the creative juices flowing,” Friedle says.

At the 10-room Three Fifty Hotel, the pool is the perfect place to set out yoga mats and take in the views of the looming San Jacinto Mountains. Manager Laura Slipak says because of its size and apartment-style rooms, the hotel could also easily be rented out for a corporate leadership retreat or just a private weekend.

“We’re in the Historic Tennis Club District, just a block away from the heart of Palm Springs,” she added. “To be able to fully focus on a retreat, you need to have peace and tranquility and that’s what makes the Three Fifty Hotel a little gem in the desert.”

About Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels

Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels was established in 2016 through a series of town hall meetings by local small hotel owners and managers, in partnership with the City of Palm Springs. The purpose of PSPSH is to serve as an economic driver and to create awareness of the uniqueness of Palm Springs Small Hotels, which are an essential part of this desert resort town’s unique culture and economy.

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Mother and daughter getway to Palm Springs

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.

Cocktails at Azucar in La Serena Villas

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.

To do:

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.

By Susan Montgomery

La Maison, a thirteen-room boutique hotel, offers guests a lushly landscaped oasis in the heart of Palm Springs. It is owned by Cornelia Schuster and Richard Slosky who opened their doors in February, 2012, although the property had been the site of a small resort since the 1950s. I had the good fortune to stay at La Maison a few weeks ago and savored every relaxing moment.

I learned that the owners moved here from Canada where they had owned a four-room bed and breakfast on lovely rural Salt Spring Island. They enjoyed this experience but eventually realized they needed a more viable hotel business without such a short season and more rooms. They had visited Palm Springs many times and loved the area so it was only logical that is where they looked for another inn to own and manage.  After more than a year of searching, they found the perfect property, which they named La Maison.

This property seemed ideal for them even though it needed some renovation. They liked the layout with the rooms on two sides of the lovely pool and the outdoor breakfast nook. They added a wall on one side and lots of greenery, including ficus. They renovated every room with unique consignment pieces, mostly found in the Palm Springs area, that have helped create what Cornelia describes as a simplified twist on a Country French style.

When I first arrived at La Maison, all I saw was a secluded black door in a wall, but when I opened the door I was greeted by an enchanting patio with welcoming comfortable furniture, outdoor fireplaces, tinkling fountains, verdant landscaping, and a glistening pristine pool. The ambiance is all-enveloping, making La Maison a heavenly retreat from the hubbub of daily life.  Cornelia says many of their guests have told them what a wonderful getaway the property is.  Some have even made life-changing decisions while contemplating their lives in this peaceful setting.

The luxurious rooms offer every comfort and amenity. My room was a deluxe king with warm terracotta floors, charming vintage furnishings, and so many other nice touches such as high quality linens on the beds, along with a little lavender sachet.  Later in the afternoon, guests can enjoy wine around the pool and a cooler is always full of iced water, beer and soda for guests.  La Maison also offers guests bicycles and a fully equipped outdoor barbecue grill.

Each morning a bountiful breakfast is served with such treats as pastries, croissants, fruit, yogurt and juice, plus each breakfast features a special item. When I was there, Cornelia made her famous rosemary, grapefruit cake, which I savored.  Cornelia explained that serving “serious coffee” is important to them so they have a professional coffee machine, which can produce exceptional cappuccino, lattes, and espressos.

Three years ago Marsha and Stephen Ferguson joined the staff at La Maison as the on-site innkeepers. This arrangement has worked out beautifully as far as Cornelia is concerned although she and her husband are also very hands-on. Richard is a handyman who can fix almost anything around the property and who also makes early morning coffee for guests. Besides baking wonderful breakfast items, Cornelia works on the books, inventory, and social media. The couple, who have three daughters (one still living at home), have really enjoyed this venture together in their lives.

Cornelia and Richard like focusing on offering their guests special attention and personalized service. They both love getting to know their guests and, in many cases, making new friends who come back again and again. Guests come to La Maison from all over the world. Europeans especially love the old-world ambiance and all guests enjoy the intimate serenity the hotel offers.

Cornelia says that as owners their greatest satisfaction is knowing their guests are happy and feel rejuvenated when they depart. She believes that small boutique hotels, like La Maison, can offer guests a personalized experience that is hard to find in large resorts.

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.

Lizzie Sherman, Creative Director at The Spa Insider, recently interviewed Alyssa McDonald, Director of Spa Operations, to gain an insider’s perspective about what makes a visit to L’Horizon Resort & Spa the perfect choice for a relaxing Palm Springs getaway.  Hint: Prepare to relax just reading about it.