As previously published on Canada.com
Palm Springs has found a way to seduce both the older and newer generation of visitors, who romanticize a time when legendary stars like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra could be seen walking down the street.
It’s why my mom and I chose this destination for our vacation together. For her, it was about remembering a time she grew up in – with stars she knew and idolized.
For me, it was about reconnecting with a time that has now become cool and hip again. Retro is in – and Palm Springs has capitalized on it, in every way.
Many of the older hotels and eateries have found a way to become relevant again. The Riviera Palm Springs underwent a transformation after it was purchased by the Noble House Hotels and Resorts in 2006 with the intention of bringing back the glamour and excitement of the 60’s, which was unveiled in 2008.
The hotel which originally opened in 1959, was a hotspot for celebrities and proudly displays it today with pictures of past guests including Connie Stevens, Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra and the legendary “Rat Pack”. Renowned performers such as Desi Arnaz, Raquel Welch and Bob Hope graced the stage in the hotel, as well as Trini Lopez and Sonny and Cher.
With celebrity boasting aside, the hotel’s glitz and glamour can be found in every detail of the property since its $70 million rejuvenation on the 24 acres of property. The hotel has thought of everything, and maintained its 60’s feel throughout its rooms; including its unique wheel shaped designed property, which leads to a central hub gathering area, consisting of a swimming pool, restaurant and lounge.
The hotel’s decadent restaurant “Circa 59”, embraces lavish décor and fine dining the way it used to be done – a place where you can get dressed up and enjoy a culinary delight.
For me, my favourites were the barbeque pulled pork and coleslaw sliders, truffle fries and the warm, sticky caramel pudding, which I was reluctant to share with my mom.
In the StarLite lounge, located at the front of the hotel can be found the gifted resident entertainer, Martin Ross, who wows guests nightly on the piano. As someone who is a classicly trained musician and has performed around the world; his voice is the perfect fit for the hotel, and attracts guests of all ages. But be forewarned men, hang on tight to your ladies, because Ross is the impeccable blend of sophistication and extraordinary talent that can cause a swooning effect.
The family-owned restaurant Las Casuelas Terraza, has been serving authentic Mexican cuisine for the past 35 years, and is located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. The Spanish-Colonial-style restaurant, has been restored and is a landmark not to be missed. Their Enchiladas are unbelievably good, as well as their fresh guacamole. Their traditional classic margaritas will have you up and dancing in no time to the musical stylings of the Hot Rox band, who perform there nightly.
My mom loved the music which highlighted 50’s and 60’s hits, featuring guitarist and lead vocalist Rick Cowling. She was even more impressed when she was introduced to long standing patron and famous musician Trini Lopez, known for hits such as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree”. She couldn’t stop smiling the entire night.
A great way to spend an afternoon is doing the “Rich and Famous” tour with Best of the Best Tours. The open-air jeep tour provides guests with a historical overview of the area, and a fun tour of stars’ homes. I found myself intrigued by homes once inhabited by Elvis, Liberace and Marilyn Monroe.
My mom was fascinated by the home currently inhabited by Kenny Rogers. And one young man on our tour couldn’t stop snapping pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest digs.
After our tour, we stopped off at Lulu’s restaurant, located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. Another great dining experience with unique and inventive creations such as the skewer of peppered filet mignon which featured strips on a caramelized and grilled green apple, served with a Wasabi-mustard sauce.
Another fantastic activity for us was hopping aboard the world’s largest rotating tramcar and taking a breathtaking ride up the cliffs of Chino Canyon. The ride (which is approximately 10 minutes) takes visitors to the mountain station, where we got off to enjoy the view and trails (there are over 50 miles of hiking trails at the top).
Making a big comeback to the area are supper clubs. One in particular, The Purple Room, dates back to 1960 and was once a legendary hangout for Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
After extensive remodeling, the Purple Room now has singers six-night per week, allowing patrons to enjoy a great dinner and an impressive show, reminiscent of yesteryear.
Palm Springs is like no other place I have ever been. Its laid back charm lies not only in the past but also where it is today. It’s a place where you can strike up a conversation on the street with a perfect stranger and feel completely connected. It’s a place where you can see where stars once were, and where they are today.
Palm Springs welcomes the world through their connections to the past, and it’s a place that connects generations like no other.