Palm Springs is not only an exciting desert resort community, but the city also offers a fascinating glimpse into the hip, Hollywood glam days of the 1960s when celebrities came to escape the limelight and relax by the pool in sleek, mid-century modern structures.
A friend and I began a recent getaway to the desert oasis at the 406-room Riviera Palm Springs, located in the heart of Old Town. Here, at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, we walked through a glitzy lobby, sparkling with chandeliers and mirrored walls, and checked into a beautiful suite reminiscent of an old Hollywood movie.
The room, like all Rivera rooms, was cool, “retro chic,” replete with a king bed with giant, white leather headboard, luxurious marble bathroom with two sinks, a walk-in shower and old-fashioned tub in the middle of the floor, a large flat screen TV, an office desk with wireless internet and a secluded patio overlooking a sprawling, green lawn.
Once acquainted with my accommodations, I went swimming and then explored the property. Nestled on 24 acres in the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains, the resort originally opened in 1959 and quickly became a Hollywood retreat, where celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., Desi Arnaz and countless others came to entertain and play under the desert sun.
And like many older 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, which included a new modern spa, two sparkling swimming pools, signature fine dining and entertainment, and the addition of a formal meeting space.
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 1950s 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 visited the hotel’s renowned Spa Terre, where I took in a deep tissue massage. I began my rejuvenating journey by relaxing in the spa’s 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 great 45-minute rubdown.
After the massage, I relaxed in the steam room and then my friend and I drove to the Palm Springs Air museum (www.palmspringsairmuseum.org), 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Navy carriers until it was retired in 2006.
Back at the Riviera, we 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, we enjoyed duck carnitas with cornmeal crepes, chipotle, apple slaw, lobster mac n cheese, a delicious grilled beef tenderloin with carrot purée, wilted spinach, balsamic reduction and pan roasted salmon. We concluded the night at the hotel’s Sidebar with a couple martinis.
For more information on staying at Riviera Palm Springs, visit www.psriviera.com or call (760) 327-8311.
Greg Aragon is a travel writer from Glendale. For the past 12 years he has authored “Greg’s Getaway,” a popular travel column which has taken him to more than a 21 countries in search of exciting destinations, people, food, drink and culture. You can follow more of Greg’s travels at: www.Travelingboy.com