While oceanfront oases may have their appeal, newlyweds looking for a stylish idyll as well as striking scenery should consider a walk on the dry side. In Palm Springs, the rugged mountain ranges of Southern California provide inspiring backdrops in every direction, while a bevy of new and newly restored hotels offer chic cocoons. The vast trove of well-preserved mid-century modern architecture means it’s also easy to walk in the steps of celebrity couples, like Elvis and Priscilla Presley, who honeymooned in a Palm Spring developer’s house in 1967. Exactly nine months later, daughter Lisa Marie was born — just one proof that the desert is fertile ground for honeymoons.
What better spot for romance than an adults-only inn? Built in 1947 as a Hollywood hideaway, the beautifully restored, quirkily decorated Villa Royale lies at the southern end of Palm Springs. The 38 rooms — tucked amid lush landscaping and three pools — feature bold graphic designs and large oil paintings of stars from Clark Gable to Debbie Harry, as well as high-end bed linens and plush robes. Some villas come with fireplaces and patios; everyone’s welcomed with a free drink from the bar at the front desk. From $175. 1620 Indian Trail, Palm Springs. (760) 327-2314.
Those looking to be a little closer to the dining and shopping action of downtown Palm Springs will gravitate to the Rowan, a Kimpton hotel that opened in late 2017. The tallest building in Palm Springs, at seven stories, it should be hard to miss, yet its public spaces somehow still convey discretion. That’s in part because the bar at its rooftop pool (the only one in town) doesn’t open to the public till 5 p.m., while guests can soak in the valley-wide views by the pool or indulge at High Bar starting at 10 a.m. Clever nods to midcentury modernism include a giant macramé owl above the front desk and living-room-inspired furniture by the lobby’s Window Bar. The 153 rooms and suites, though, showcase timeless sophistication with a soothing white, neutral and Moroccan blue palette. From $375. 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. (760) 904-5015.
Once upon a time, restaurateurs catered to the early-bird crowd and a fairly pedestrian palate. Palm Springs’ continuing renaissance, led by gay tastemakers and Los Angeles émigrés, has created a host of options for intimate dinners and culinary adventures. At Villa Royale, the jewel box of a restaurant Del Rey serves elegantly presented Mediterranean tapas and larger plates (and like the hotel, is adults-only.) At the Rowan, the rooftop 4 Saints also emphasizes shareable, seasonal food, with more wide-ranging inspiration — California, Japan, Italy and more — plus sweeping vistas over downtown leading to distant mountains. One of the city’s newest restaurants, Roly China Fusion (1107 North Palm Canyon Dr.) continues the shared-plates theme with vibrant modern takes on Chinese and other Asian fare, such as the California roll piled with popcorn rock shrimp or the artfully arranged wok fried snapper with crispy garlic. Don’t miss its dim sum brunch, either.
The city’s love affair with mid-century modernism — highlighted by the popular Modernism Week festival of tours, talks, parties and other special events every February — is infectious. See where the Presleys honeymooned by taking one of the twice-daily tours ($35) of the “House of Tomorrow,” built by Robert Alexander at 1350 Ladera Circle. Several tour companies specialize in bus and van tours of Palm Springs’ iconic architecture; Celebrity Tours also has a 2.5-hour tour ($54) focusing on its celebrity occupants, including retro couples such as Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Steve and Eydie Gormé, Sonny and Cher, Liberace and … his mom.
History buffs, political junkies and art aficionados will want to book well in advance one of the coveted spots on an interior tour ($48) of Sunnylands, the former estate of U.S. ambassadors and philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg. A short drive from Palm Springs proper, their 25,000-square-foot winter home and various cottages on 200 acres debuted in 1966 and later hosted Queen Elizabeth, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and numerous other heads of state and Hollywood royalty. The tour sells out the same day tickets are released for the following month; the first-come, first-serve outdoor shuttle tour ($21) circumnavigates the 9-hole golf course and natural areas while including glimpses of the distinctively pink-roofed main house. It’s free to all to enjoy the gardens and café at the sleek visitors center.
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This article originally appeared on marinmagazine.com.
Jeanne Cooper, former San Francisco Chronicle Travel editor, writes frequently about the Wine Country for Marin Magazine and other publications. She is particularly fond of wines from the Alexander and Dry Creek valleys. She supports ongoing work of Ecumenical Hunger Project in East Palo Alto and the disaster response efforts of World Central Kitchen and San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.