By Greg Aragon
I love Palm Springs because it is not only an exciting, desert resort community; but it also gives a peek into the hip, Hollywood glam days of the 1960’s, where boxy, modern architecture mixed with big name celebrities.
I began a recent getaway to the desert oasis at the 406-roon Riviera Palm Springs, located in the heart of Old Town. Here, at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, I walked through a glitzy lobby, sparkling with chandeliers and mirrored walls, and checked into a beautiful suite that reminded me of an old Hollywood movie.
My room, like all Rivera rooms, was decked in what I call “retro chic.” Highlights include a king bed with giant, white leather headboard; luxurious marble bathroom, with two sinks, walk-in shower and old-fashioned tub in the middle of the floor; large flat screen TV; office desk with wireless Internet; and a secluded balcony, overlooking the mountains and lush pool area.
Once acquainted with my accommodations, I explored the property. Nestled on 24 acres at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, the resort originally opened in 1959 and quickly became a Hollywood retreat, where celebrities such as Rat Packers Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., along with countless other stars, came to relax and play in the desert sun.
And like many old stars, the resort has had some work done to keep things shiny. In 2006, the property became part of the Noble House family and underwent a stunning $70 million facelift, including a new modern spa, two sparkling swimming pools, signature fine dining and entertainment.
The new owners also added acres of lushly-landscaped gardens, intimate courtyards, fire pits, and an array of meeting and event space. But even though the resort features a myriad of fine modern amenities, it manages to keep that distinct late 1950’s charm and allure that brought Hollywood’s biggest names out. In fact, everywhere you look the hotel is peppered with old photographs, saucy lounge areas, glitzy walls and hip decor.
After touring the grounds I decided to try out the hotel’s renowned Spa Terre and sample their signature Balinese massage. I began my rejuvenating journey by relaxing in the Buddha Lounge, an indoor tropical paradise, with palm trees, waterfalls, cabanas and Jacuzzis. I then met my masseuse, who led me to a calming room, where I experienced a soothing and aromatic Balinese rubdown.
After the massage I relaxed in the steam room and then drove to the Palm Springs Air museum (www.palmspringsairmuseum.com), where I encountered one of the nation’s largest collections of real World War II flying aircraft, along with a massive library of 8,500 volumes related to aviation and American military history.
Highlights of my visit included a Grumman F4F Wildcat, which was used aboard carriers for both the US Navy and the British Royal Navy during the start of WWII. Near the Wildcat I also discovered the F-14 Tomcat, a supersonic, twin-engine fighter that became a standard aboard US Navy carriers until it was retired in 2006.
From the air museum I zoomed to Indian Canyons (www.indian-canyons.com), where centuries ago, ancestors of the Agua Caliente Indians settled in the Palm Springs area and developed complex communities in desert canyons. With an abundant water supply, the plants, animals, and Cahuilla Indians thrived. They grew crops of melons, squash, beans, and corn. Today, remains of Cahuilla society like rock art, house pits, foundations, irrigation ditches, dams, reservoirs, trails, and food preparation areas still exist in the canyons.
Back at the Riviera, I had a fabulous dinner at Circa 59, the hotel’s signature restaurant. Here, with Frank Sinatra playing in the background and the pool shimmering a few feet away, I enjoyed a delicious steak dinner and a dry martini on the patio. I concluded the night at the Hotel’s Sidebar.
For more information on visiting Palm Springs, call 800.347.7748 or visit wwwvisitpalmsprings.com. For more info on staying at Riviera Palm Springs, visit: www.psriviera.com.
-Photo by Greg Aragon