It happens every few years in Palm Springs. A couple new resorts and restaurants open in the desert outside Los Angeles, and it’s as if Frank Sinatra himself returned to clink cocktails on Palm Canyon Drive. This year, the claim that Palm Springs is “back again” actually deserves some of the hype. Here’s why.
1. Downtown Palm Springs was Literally Rebuilt from Scratch.
After years of debate and legal hand-wringing, the $400 million renovation of downtown is (nearly) complete, and the changes are mega. Gone is the dowdy old Desert Plaza Fashion Mall, and in its place is a 900,000-square-foot cluster of hotels, shops and courtyards. It’s like walking into an architectural rendering of a palm-enshrouded future.
The head-turner is the new seven-story Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs hotel, a 153-room steel-and-glass skyscraper (by Palm Springs standards, anyway) with a rooftop pool and bar and a swank Modernist-meets-Millennial vibe. The tallest building in town has panorama views of the Coachella Valley, particularly from the pool and top-floor 4 Saints restaurant. The 2,500-square-foot Arlo Suite, with wraparound balconies and a soaking tub facing the San Jacinto Mountains and Downtown, has a retro pool table and record player with vintage vinyl. Word is that Steven Spielberg already booked his Kimpton room for The Palm Springs International Film Festival next month. Like all Kimptons, the Rowan is exceptionally pet friendly, down to greeting your dog by name and fluffing up Fluffy’s dog bed upon arrival.
The Kimpton is the anchor of a network of new shops and restaurants, including a Starbucks Roastery, West Elm and soon-to-open H&M and Tommy Bahama locations. On the slate for 2018 and beyond: A new Whole Foods Market and a recently approved six-story Virgin Hotel.
2. An Iconic Hangout is Reborn
For decades, Ingleside Inn, with its cockeyed photos of Dinah Shore, Liza and Gerald Ford, stood out as a timeworn throwback to a Rat Packier era. The martinis were exceptional at Melyvn’s Restaurant & Bar but you sorta needed one to overlook the frayed edges and design wrinkles. When Ingleside owner Mel Haber died last year at age 80, San Francisco’s PlumpJack Group (along with real estate investor Meriwether Companies) swooped in with $7.2 million and some additional cash to strip off the grime and restore the 30 rooms and public areas to ring-a-ding-ding glory. As someone who loved the old Melvyn’s, I was thrilled to see how brilliantly the overhaul cleaned up the place without killing the magic.
The plastic lawn furniture and creaky wooden beds are gone, and you no longer need to check twice behind the shower curtain (the new bathrooms are gorgeous, actually). There’s a saltwater pool with chic Italian chaises and a fire pit for cool evenings, and even Melvyn’s got a facelift. The color scheme on the bar in recent years was somewhere between beige and blah, but after a deep scrub the original pink-as-punch hue came back. Imagine the Chairman of the Board after a makeover by the Kardashians.