Back in the day—Hollywood’s heyday, that is—Palm Springs started its rise from brush to boomtown due to an influx of trendsetting celebs suddenly spending their downtime in the desert.
Seeking solace from the limelight and paparazzi flash, these Golden Age A-listers flocked to the palm-studded oasis for its sunny disposition, as well as a convenient clause in their studio deals. While on contract, stars had to be within two hours of LA, and it just so happened Palm Springs—still a lesser-known hideaway at the time—was perfectly positioned within that radius.
With Frank, Audrey, Paul, and Marilyn making Palm Springs their go-to getaway, the highfalutin lifestyle followed suit. Manicured neighborhoods coined the “Movie Colony” sprung up. Tennis clubs became grand-slam social spots (a 1963 article in Sports Illustrated called tennis “Hollywood’s game”). Chic hotels opened for VIPs and their weekending crews. The poolside cocktail scene ensued. Palm Springs was in full swing.
Viewfinder Tip: Dress the part when you visit the desert! Save room in your suitcase to shop for vintage-style cocktail apparel from local designer Trina Turk.
Cut to the late ‘70s and with a new breed of show biz idols, other destinations became de rigueur. But, before the retro-glam retreat turned to rust, a group of passionate preservationists swooped in to protect its legacy. Over time, the hidden gem was restored.
Today, relics like Frank Sinatra’s home—including its piano-shaped pool—have aged so well, they are time capsules. Same goes for the many other famed institutions that still entertain guests as if it’s 1959.
Golden era stays are no exception. A few notables that dot the desert include The Riviera Palm Springs where Dean Martin lounged poolside and Elvis rehearsed with his band before tours; L’Horizon Resort & Spa, a bungalow estate built for The Lone Ranger and Lassie producer Jack Wrather and his elite friends (think: the Reagans); and the Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn where Albert Einstein stayed and many of today’s upper crust overnight.
For dinner and drinks, don’t miss Melvyn’s Restaurant, an old-timey piano bar and Rat Pack favorite transcending time and newcomer eateries. For farm-to-table fare and a slice of Hollywood history, dine at Copley’s on Palm Canyon located in part of Cary Grant’s former 6,000-square-foot Spanish farmhouse residence. Or, if you’re after poolside dining, secure a spot at Purple Palm restaurant in the historic Colony Palms Hotel, once owned by a mob boss and a go-to for Howard Hughes and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Formerly a small town with big screen dreams, hints of Old Hollywood’s hidden haunts remain on every corner. While there’s no guarantee you’ll be discovered in the destination like Marilyn Monroe, you’re likely to find a vacation lifestyle sprinkled in stardust.
Where do you go to find a stardust-sprinkled vacation?