Tourist destinations are somewhat likeLos Angeles restaurants: They have tokeep reinventing themselves, or they getleft behind in the race to please the ficklepublic. That's not completely true for California'sPalm Springs, comprised of nine desert cities strungalong Highway 111 in California's Coachella Valley.
It's a Wonderful Life
Change in Palm Springs, the one-time hideaway inthe desert so beloved by Hollywood celebrities,may not be completely welcomed by those who havecome to enjoy this place of legends. At La Quinta Resort& Club (800-598-3828; www.laquintaresort.com),guests can wander its spacious grounds and over to thewaterfall where Ginger Rogers stood for her wedding,past the casita where Frank Capra wrote many of hisscreenplays, including , and closeto Greta Garbo's casita, where she told the world shewanted "to be alone." Publicists swoon over stories ofthe stars as much as visitors, who enjoy staying in ahotel that has heart.
La Quinta Resort & Club combines an exclusiveclub ambiance with all the convenience of an elegantmotel. It also has a bonus typical of Palm Springs desertresorts—upscale, long-established restaurants. Dinestylishly at Azur, the French restaurant developed byNew York's Le Bernadine, or less formally at Morgan's,surrounded by photographs of show business greats.Irving Berlin wrote while a guest atthe hotel. Other celebrity guests of La Quinta Resort &Club include Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn,Katherine Hepburn, and Shirley Temple.
James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and Sinatrastare down at you from the walls of Melvyn's restaurantat the Ingleside Inn (800-772-6655; www.inglesideinn.com). Patrons can relax at the piano bar onSundays or dance with Carl Vasta at the piano in thishaven for movie personalities and music lovers.
At the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies the fans lineup to experience the fun of the 1940s (760-327-0225;www.psfollies.com). The show has reinvented burlesque—all the performers, including showgirls, areover age 55. In his 14th season, impresario RiffMarkowitz still gives visitors another good reason forcoming to town. Two blocks from the Historic PlazaTheatre on West Tahquitz Canyon sits another famouslandmark in the heart of Old Palm Springs. At LeVallauris, dining under the stars cannot get any better(760-325-5059; www.levallauris.com). Past patronsinclude Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, and President andMrs. Gerald Ford.
The food is less fancy if you take the cool Ride 'n'Dine on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (888-515-TRAM; www.pstramway.com). Eighty passengersstand in the world's largest enclosed rotating gondolasto restaurants and activities 8516 feet high. The 2.5-mile, 10-minute spin ends at the gateway to the MountSan Jacinto State Park and Wilderness area.Remember to dress warmly.
If you think an aerial trip to the gateway of theSanta Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains NationalMonument seems tame, you can go for a drive in thefamous red jeeps of the award-winning DesertAdventures (888-440-5337; www.red-jeep.com). Ifyou decide on the San Andreas Fault "Earthquake" Adventure, your guide will take you on a 3.5-hourtour through desert and canyons, where you can bike,hike, or simply stand with one foot on each side of thefault itself. Founded in 1988, Desert Adventures nowfeatures six eco-tours.
Then there's what this town is really famous for: theshopping. The comfortable Hilton Garden Inn (877-STAY HGI; www.hiltongardeninn.com) is right besideThe River, the busy new mall in up-market RanchoMirage. Perched on top of Frank Sinatra Drive is thefashionable Lodge at Rancho Mirage (877-770-ROCK; www.ranchomirage.rockresorts.com), a formerRitz-Carlton that is conveniently near shopping atThe River also. The new hotel in town is Le ParkerMeridian (760-770-5000; www.theparkerpalmsprings.com). Formerly Merv Griffin's GivenchyResort, this avant garde hotel was redesigned byJonathan Adler. Le Parker Meridian is fun because itdoes not take itself too seriously. But then again, thesame is true for Palm Springs.