The oasis of the Coachella Valley has been a longstanding tribute to yesteryear. Thestreet signs suggest the city's history, with names like Gene Autry Trail, Ginger RogersRoad, and Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope Drive. But no city can survive in the past.
Palm Springs (800-967-3767; www.palmspringsusa.com) has beenreinventing itself, recognizing its follyto ignore the young, especially theboomers, who tend to spend theirmoney on vacations with an abandonthat makes those who remember theDepression shudder.
Indian Wells (www.indianwells.org), 1 of the more upscale locales ofthe 8 communities making up thissprawling desert complex, has beenparticularly busy upgrading facilities.The $80-million Tennis Garden, builtessentially for the Pacific Life Opentournament that takes place eachMarch, has become, in 3 years, thesixth largest tennis tournament inthe world. It's second in size only toArthur Ashe Stadium in FlushingMeadows, NY, and was host to213,000 visitors in 2002. The formertennis destination in the desert,Hyatt Grand Champions, isn't worriedthough. It has just opened a30,000-square-foot spa in a $65-million expansion.
The biggest transformation inIndian Wells, however, is across theroad at the glorious conversion ofthe former Polynesian hotel to whatis now the luxurious Miramonte Resort(www.miramonte-resort.com).There, bougainvillea cascade overterra-cotta walls; the rooms, scatteredamong 14 Tuscany villas, aredecorated with Mediterranean-stylefurnishings; and a perfect Italianrestaurant, Brissago, overlooks 2pools. But if you're in town withkids, the only pool they'll want tovisit is the huge pool at the RenaissanceEsmeralda (www.renaissanceesmeralda.com), with its beachlikeshallow end made of real beachsand. The Esmeralda likewise has asuperb restaurant, Sirocco.
The other choice in town is thedelightful new Andalusian Court, abeautifully built, luxury countryinn located a mere 2 blocks fromthe popular shopping and diningchoices on the main drag in PalmSprings proper. Its Web site maybe the appetizer (www.andalusiancourt.com), but its hearty breakfastsurely is the frosting.
The Andalusian Court is a greatplace to lodge if you plan on walkingto the historic Plaza Theatre to dothat peculiarly Palm Springs thingâ€”ogling a bunch of grandmothers andold guys at the Fabulous PalmSprings Follies, now in its 12th season,and getting better every year.The entertainment it offers hasworked for a century: high-qualityvaudeville acts, beautiful women ingorgeous costumes (like Vegas showgirls,except they're ages 55 to 85),and Riff Markowitz, the impresariokeeping the show together withbenevolent zingers for the mostlyolder audience. "Commonest pickupline in our bars," he tells them, "isâ€˜Do I come here often?'"
This year's headliners:
Istanbul; No, Not Much; Standin'on the Corner
Moments to Remember
The FourLads, whose hits of the 1950s(; and )still go over well with thecrowd. And if you're wondering if thebest restaurant in town is convenientfor a pretheater dinner, worry nomore. Le Vallauris is only a coupleof blocks over on Tahquitz Canyon.There are also many family restaurantsclose by. Napoli's is handy for aquick lunch next to Starbucks at thenew mall, The River. Chapelli's isalso proving a draw for dinner, eventhough it's tucked away in la Quinta'sshopping center.
Palm Springs now offers more forfamilies. Kids can enjoy the newIMAX theater, surely an easy-to-findlandmark just off Cathedral Canyonwith its 60-foot, 6-story-high screen.Nearby, on Gene Autry Trail, Knott'shas built the area's only waterpark,Soak City, USA. Next door hasarisen, literally, America's only outdoorrock-climbing center, Uprising.
Palm Springs changes for ournew century. As though a voicefrom the past knew something, thegrave marker at the Desert MemorialPark Cemetery has inscribedabove Francis AlbertSinatra's name his encouragingwords, "The best is yet to come."