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Spring for hot Palm Springs

January 13, 2013 12:10 am

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Escape winter. One popular Palm Springs, Calif., hotel option, The Ace Hotel & Swim Club, boasts two pools and mountain views.

BY GEORGE HOBICA

Airfarewatchdog.com

More sophisticated than Vegas, more laid back than Los Angeles--and in winter, more reliably sunny and warm than either--Palm Springs looks awfully good to an awful lot of people at this time of year.

Not that the weather is its only calling card. This vintage resort town has been sashaying its way back into the spotlight of late.

Here's why to go now.

HIKING

From a multi-day adventure on the terrific and challenging Cactus to Clouds trail, to the relative walk-in-the-park vibe at Palm Canyons Preserve, Palm Springs is an outdoor enthusiast's dream during cooler months.

Cheats can ride the famed Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which ascends two and a half miles up Mount San Jacinto, stopping at 8,516 feet above sea level to let visitors see the sometimes heavy snows that cover the peak at this time of year (pstramway.com). A short drive away, Joshua Tree National Park offers other scenic hiking, although many visitors are content to explore by car.

EXPLORE UPTOWN

Smart breakfasts at Cheeky's, classic cocktails at the very butch Workshop Kitchen & Bar, pizza and people watching on the patio at Birba's, the sweet little Alcazar boutique hotel located next door--Palm Springs' once-moribund Uptown neighborhood is giving visitors piles of great reasons to stick around.

The neighborhood, officially known as Uptown Design District, contains design and vintage shops in atmospheric courtyard shopping complexes; Raymond Lawrence is a fashionable new concept store (palmspringsup towndesigndistrict.com). One of my favorites is Just Modern (justmoderndecor.com), one of dozens along North Palm Canyon Drive catering to midcentury.

MID-CENTURY HAVEN

Palm Springs and Mid-Century Modernism fit together like a glove--a fitted, very fashionable vintage glove, purchased from a high-end consignment shop.

Each February (this year, it's the 14th through the 24th), the city celebrates its style with Palm Springs Modernism Week, which means house tours, walking tours, parties, exhibits, lectures--did we mention parties? Check out modernismweek.com. If you're not visiting then, take a fascinating tour of the city's midcentury treasures with PSModernTours (psmodern tours.com). A 150-minute exploration is $75 per person and for many is a trip highlight. Reserve well in advance. Palm Springs Historical Society offers weekly walking tours (pshistoricalsoci ety.com) of downtown.

GRAB SOME WHEELS, GO

The city's spacious streets are perfect for exploring on two wheels; Bike Palm Springs rents everything from easy-does-it Townie fixies to Fuji mountain bikes; they've even got stylish tandems, perfect for a winter afternoon saunter down Palm Canyon (bikepsrentals.com).

THE PALM SPRINGS FOLLIES

It's amazing to see performers in their 70s and 80s kicking their heels up on stage, and if you haven't taken the time to witness this you haven't been to Palm Springs. Now in its 22nd season, the Follies features famous guest stars and international variety acts along with more "seasoned" performers, most of whom have had long histories on Broadway and film.

IN HOT WATER

Mildew-scented hot tubs, nudists who ought to have the sense to cover up, dated and depressing decor--there's still plenty of that in Desert Hot Springs, the take-the-waters enclave just a few minutes from the action in Palm Springs proper.

But there are a growing number of re-imagined, intimate hot springs resorts that have guests raving. The seven-room Sagewater Spa (our current top pick) has fully equipped kitchens in each sleek, updated room. Book a watsu treatment in the mineral water pool (sagewaterspa.com).

Not that you have to go to Desert Hot Springs; The Saguaro has a cool little setup, offering locally themed treatments such as a date shake wrap (jdvho tels.com), while out on the other side of town, full-service resorts like the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage offer the type of spa you could gear a weekend around (westinmissionhills .com).

Truthfully, this is just scratching the surface of all there is to do, see, and savor . For more information and a planning guide, visit palmspringsoasis .com.





Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.