I had the best Spring Break of all time.
Like, an ultra glam, super-grown-up Spring Break. In the old-people capitol of California.
Palm Springs is an oasis away from shitty Coors Light fueled college spring breaks happening in Pacific Beach. It is close enough to drive to for a quick getaway from San Diego, OC or LA. It’s far enough away that you can pretend to be unreachable and unique enough that you feel like you’re in another world.
Seriously, it’s like a time warp. With all the mid-century-modern architecture, the perfectly manicured landscaping and spotless streets, you feel like you’re in an episode of Mad Men. Like, I was surprised Don Draper wasn’t riding in the passenger seat of my car, smoking a dart.
Okay… so, back to business. I want to tell you about the three most-talked about hotels in Palm Springs.
Being a Cancer, having a home-base is super important to me. So the first thing I want to do when I’m on vacation is check into my hotel, unpack, get refreshed, and THEN grab a cocktail. I need to feel comfortable before I can get adventurous.
And I’m a boutique hotel whore. If I’m going to stay somewhere new, I don’t want it to look like a hotel room I could find in any major city- so I’m always checking out the hipster hotel scene in any city I stay at.
I did a bit of sleuthing on the web before picking my hotel, but when I was there, I went to my top three choices to see if I made the right decision. Here are my impressions of The Ace, The Parker & The Avalon.
First Up, The Ace.
So this is probably the most hipster of the three hotels I visited. Like, if this hotel were a person, it would have a waxed/curled mustache, be 15 pounds underweight, wear tight skinny jeans and an ironic t-shirt.
In comparison to the other two hotels, The Ace was the most underwhelming, unwelcoming and monochrome. Like, I get it- we’re in the desert- but honestly, it was just a wash of browns, tans and dirt. Everything felt muted. For the hype I’ve heard, I was let down. Less like an oasis in the desert, more like a reminder that California is experiencing a major drought.
The staff was not pleasant or welcoming. While I was checking things out, I was being eyed myself by a security guard manning the pool entrance. He looked pissed and was probably dehydrated. Speaking of the pool, the pool area didn’t look welcoming at all.
The landscaping was sparse, emphasizing the huge amount of concrete. From the sunshades to the loungers, the whole place was drab and left much to be desired.
On the lot is a diner, Kings Highway, which looks like a Denny’s. The parking lot and location of the hotel right off the main road feels reminiscent of checking into a dingy motel. The plastic bench seats in the diner booths in that type of heat makes me think of sweaty butts. So, no thanks.
The grounds themselves are just under 2 miles from “The Main Drag” of East Palm Canyon, a bit closer than the next hotel on my list, The Parker.
If The Ace was bland, The Parker is like the best color explosion acid trip of your life. The interiors were done by design god, Jonathan Adler, and are clever, unexpected, beautiful and smart.
The decor is a m a z e b a l l s. The use of color and texture were mindblowing. Everything just WORKED. The attention to detail is exactly what makes you want to stay and continue to explore every nook and cranny of this hotel… like how cute are the knights in shining armor that guard the bathrooms? Upon closer inspection, to me, this one looks like he has to go pee… I just love it. Everything about it, I love it.
We had cocktails in the “Jewelry Box Bar” which is a grandmother’s dream of mint-green marble and top shelf liquor. This mini, ultra-intimate area features super low ceilings, seats just six, and has perfectly regulated (cool) temperature. I hear the Manhattan is well made and as always, I got a glass of champagne… you can never go wrong with bubbles.
Walking through the main lobby you pass a lounge area with groupings of mis-matched seating surrounding a huge fireplace feature. It was adorable, but it was hot as hell in there. Like, it’s already 95 degrees outside, is a fire feature that runs all day really the best idea? Jonathan Adler, explain yourself.
Insider’s Tip: The bartender told us The Parker is undergoing a re-deisgn in November this year (2015.) So get there soon to check it out in it’s current iteration!
Outside, there is this maze of pathways that take you past a magical shaded hammock situation, campfire chairs surrounding a bon-fire (above) and bocce ball courts. When you find The Lemonade Stand, you know you found magic. The huge shell full of lemons, the craft cocktail menu, the decor, the fact that it’s called The Lemonade Stand and they have vodka… it’s just all the best thing ever.
I actually went back on my own on my last day to check out The Parker again, and ended up chatting with a few of the bartenders at The Lemonade Stand who were hilarious, great conversationalists and so kind. Even the valet boys were cute and flirted just the right amount. It’s the people who matter most, and clearly, The Parker has got hiring down pat. Next time I’m in the desert, this is where I’ll stay.
However, my hotel of choice on this trip was nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it was one of the most amazing hotel experiences I’ve ever had.
The Avalon, formerly known as The Viceroy, Palm Springs
The Parker was great… but The Avalon is on a different level. Just the week before I visited, The Avalon Hotel group took over The Viceroy and rebranded. The entrance from the street is understated, as the whole hotel is hidden behind some tall bushes on the street side, which insulates the hotel, making it feel more resort style.
You’ll be greeted by their cute valet team in Uniqulo outfits, and then ushered through the front gate past a koi pond, an Avalon branded bike that’s begging for an adventure, a tree wrapped in twinkly lights and an awe inspiring foyer. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll be granted an early check in with ease, and then treated to a Paloma at the bar. Customer service is on point.
The place has major charm- which I think is the main component lacking from The Ace. Punches of yellow punctuate the property, which architecturally, is a mix between Spanish hacienda style and mid-century modern. Don’t ask questions… it just works. There are plenty of open spaces, but enough cozy nooks and areas to explore that you can find yourself alone at any place on the property.
Their landscaping is really where its at. Seriously, big ups to the grounds crew. The lawn is pristine and so welcoming to scorched feet. The pool and cabanas are lush, gorgeous and inviting. Bougainvillea everywhere, topiaries that make you think you’re Alice in Wonderland… obsessed is not enough to cover it.
verything is thriving, even the staff, who were peppy and accommodating. Poolside service in 95 degree heat is no easy task, but my hostess was pleasant and adorable.
Location wise, it’s perfect. East Palm Canyon Drive is walkable, just a block away. But most importantly, the hotel grounds back up to the mountains, making it peaceful, private and seriously magical. Check this out.
The room was fine. It wasn’t lush, but it was clean, it was decorated well and it had everything I needed. It was fine. I find that in these hipster boutique-y hotels, it feels like the rooms are trying their best to cover up their dingy motel past, but you can still kinda feel it. It’s like a girl from Long Island trying to fit into Nobu at Malibu. She’s nice and she might look the part, but when you hear her “tawlk” about her new “khar” being a “Beehmah” you know something is not quite right. And then you look closer and notice her pony tail is pulled too tight. Such is the experience of a room at a boutique hotel.
Never have I come back from such a short trip feeling more revitalized, happy and peaceful. There is something in the air in the desert, some sort of grounding, alkaline energy. The whole place puts off good energy. I am wondering if I should even be sharing these tidbits as I kind of want to keep Palm Springs as my own personal private oasis… but I’m feeling generous, so I guess it’s okay to share.
Have you ever been to Palm Springs or any of these hotels before? What did you think? Where else do I need to go?
PS: All of these photos were taken on my iPhone4s & edited in Photoshop athankyaverymuch!