Palm Springs first gained popularity as a vacation spot for celebrities. // © 2016 stella levi
Feature image (above): The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage is surrounded by the Santa Rosa Mountains. // © 2016 The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage
Located approximately two hours from Los Angeles, the desert towns that make up Greater Palm Springs — Coachella, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells among them — attract a kaleidoscope of travelers, from die-hard music festival goers to midcentury modern devotees. Attention from stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra helped the region’s popularity soar decades ago, and today’s guests have numerous high-end resorts and dining venues to choose from.
Before jumping into the bustling Palm Springs night scene, send clients to Workshop Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant that has impressed foodies since opening in 2012. The menu is seasonally driven and ingredients are sourced from local farms, defying the limitations one might suspect of a desert eatery. A standout on the current menu is foie gras French toast made with shaved purple artichoke, quail egg, blackberry sauce and honeycomb from Temecula Valley. The wintry baby beet salad highlights well-known growers such as Harry’s Berries, Weiser Family Farms and Drake Family Farms. Craft cocktails and a serious brunch menu — think duck egg huevos rancheros and market veggie enchiladas — are other reasons to reserve a table.
The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage sits 650 feet above Coachella Valley, and its cliffside pools, towering palm trees and luxurious accommodations make it the ultimate escape. Native plants color the property — clients might identify a few if they grab a guide to Sonoran desert wildlife from the front desk — and there’s a daily guided hike in the surrounding Santa Rosa Mountains.
Those who would rather stay put can try their hand at a round of bocce ball and oversize Connect Four on the event lawn, or book the on-site spa’s signature Spirit of the Mountains exfoliation and massage treatment, which incorporates desert herbs and mineral salts. For one of the fanciest meals around, walk past the pool to The Edge Steakhouse, known for its dry-aging room, an extensive international wine list and gorgeous desert views.
While the region’s natural beauty is reason enough to visit, anyone with an interest in arts and architecture will want to prioritize the gems that make Greater Palm Springs the heart of midcentury modern design. Local operator The Modern Tour is the official tour guide for Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center; as such, the company offers exclusive access to beloved residences such as Frey House II, built by architect Albert Frey and known for the prominent boulder that protrudes into the living area. Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate, designed by E. Stewart Williams, is another hot stop.
Tours accommodate no more than six guests and begin at $150 per person, or $200 per person if the tour features Frey House II. Private and customized trips can be arranged for an added fee.