Avacation might hold more appeal than traveling does this time of year. Knowing the difference will lead discerning O.C. residents to Palm Springs, a spot that provides an escape from the routine at home without transit hassles. The city revels in its famed history while keeping up with fresh trends. Luxurious lodging options, a diverse dining scene, and plenty of entertainment provide all you need for a weekend filled with the thrill of discovery or a romantic trip with permission to do virtually nothing.
For authentic Mexican food with fresh guacamole ($8.25), try Las Casuelas Original. The restaurant has been family owned and run since 1958. If you prefer live music with your margaritas and chips, head south a few blocks to the Las Casuelas Terraza location, a Palm Springs staple for outdoor enjoyment.
Pass through the gate at The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn to transport to another era, when you might have rubbed elbows with Albert Einstein, Carole Lombard, and Clark Gable, who all spent time here. Meander through the lovingly restored property and marvel at the decorative tile, exposed beams, and a 50-foot waterfall outside the dining room. With eight unique rooms in the main house and nine in the neighboring Bishop House ($425 and up), the inn provides the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the nightly wine hour as well as a three-course breakfast next to the original fireplace. Though just a block off the main drag, The Willows provides touches such as fireplaces, clawfoot tubs, and exquisite writing desks that beckon for you to curl up in your room and unwind.
SWING LIKE THE PACK
To get a taste of the Rat Pack era, head to Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. hung out. The supper club offers terrific entertainment six nights a week to go with entrees such as braised short ribs with celery root puree ($28). Every Sunday, owner Holmes does a parody of the Judy Garland TV show, when guests might include Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Carol Channing, who interact with the audience in a lively performance.
With a great selection of cigars, Fame Wine and Cigar Lounge is the ideal spot to meet other patrons as there’s an attractive and intimate outside area to smoke and have a glass of wine or port. Relax with your vice of choice and see what interesting conversations might arise.
Head to Lulu California Bistro for breakfast of a Parisian scramble with ham, basil, and Boursin cheese ($14) or a chocolate hazelnut crepe ($8). There’s always a lively atmosphere, especially on the patio, where you can watch tourists saunter by.
Step into a sleek and sexy vibe that’s heavy on midcentury modern design at The Rowan Hotel. A rooftop pool and adjacent High Bar provide an inviting spot to relax and take in the views. Suites and specialty guest rooms ($180 and up) offer floor-to-ceiling windows to gaze at the San Jacinto Mountains or downtown.
Spend a few hours at the Palm Springs Art Museum ($11 or $14) to peruse the Art of the West in the Americas collection, featuring Native American textiles and pottery, plus more than 2,000 pieces from North American artists. The “Brave New Worlds: Exploration of Space” exhibit runs through Dec. 15 and highlights sculpture, painting, and video from five contemporary female artists.
DINNER AS AN EVENT
For an elegant, old-school evening, there’s no better place than Le Vallauris. Tuxedo-clad waitstaff cater to your culinary desires while guests might check fur coats before heading to an intimate table by the fireplace or outside to the patio, where the lights provide a magical feel. The food is heavy on classics such as lamb, beef, veal, fish, and lobster. Try the prix fixe option for $68 or degustation menu for $95 and the many French wines.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Dec. 20: The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Rocks! tour will get you into the spirit as the guitarist plays holiday tunes with his 19-piece orchestra as well as some of his original hits at the McCallum Theatre. mccallumtheatre.com
TIP FROM A LOCAL
“This is a vibrant year-round community. We have a wonderful new Chinese restaurant, Roly China Fusion. The food is delicious. And three professional theater companies do really challenging work. Check out Dezart Performs, Coyote StageWorks, and CV Rep.”
—Jeff Norman, Coachella Valley resident