The New York Times’s Elaine Glusac writes that Palm Spring’s midcentury modern architecture, which effortlessly blends desert and design, is all the rage. Here’s how she would spend her 36 hours here…


1.       DRIVE-BY TOUR, 1:30 P.M.

Elaine writes that there are few better ways to get acquainted with the wealth of modernist architecture in Palm Springs than to take one of the 3 hour tours ($85 per person) offered by Robert Imber, owner of Palm Springs Modern Tours.  The tours cover about 35 miles of drive-by gaping at structures from the 1946 Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra to modernist banks and the 1952 Palm Springs City Hall. Tours start at the Palm Springs Visitors Center, in a dramatically cantilevered former gas station designed by Albert Frey, and offer acquaintance with the valley’s hero architects of the period like E. Stewart Williams and William F. Cody, as well as contemporary architects such as Lance O’Donnell and Sean Lockyer.


Elaine advises to hit the shop-filled Uptown Design District to indulge in fantasy home-feathering, including Just Modern, offering big-ticket furniture as well as more souvenir-friendly artwork, design books and dishware, the Trina Turk boutique, featuring Ms. Turk’s sunny signature women’s wear collection as well as kicky shopping totes, notecards and swimwear and Bon VivantRetrospect and A La Mod, which offer wonderfully curated collections of vintage housewares.

3.       DINNER AL FRESCO, 7 P.M.

Elaine claims that Palm Springs’ food scene has been conservative compared with its maverick taste in design. But earlier this year, the Italian chef Giacomo Pettinari, who previously earned a Michelin star at Valentino’s in Los Angeles, moved to the desert, attracted by the newly renovated luxury resort L’Horizon with the offer to lead its restaurant, Sopa. Mr. Pettinari’s menu surveys the Mediterranean from Turkish red pepper dip and roasted Spanish octopus starters to squid ink gnocchi and mushroom risotto. All seating is outdoors on a romantic terrace with lights dangling from the trees, ideal for sipping palomas.

4.       RAT PACK SHUFFLE, 9:30 P.M.

For after-dinner drinks and a retro spin on the dance floor, Elaine suggest stopping by Melvyn’s Restaurant. Known as a hangout of Frank Sinatra, the old-school restaurant has a new-school following, especially during the Coachella music festival, when parties frequently buy out the place. In its lounge, a pianist plays American standards and other pop numbers beside the dance floor.


5.       SWING SET, 9 A.M.

Golf and tennis are perennial draws in the area, and the latter has been accented by the expansion of the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens in Indian Wells. Now owned by the Oracle Corporation founder Larry Ellison, who also owns the BNP Paribas Open (to be held this year from March 7 to 20), the tennis facility recently added a second stadium court and 16 more acres. The benefit to visitors is that they can play on many of the 29 courts on the club grounds.

6.       SIFTING FOR THRIFT, 11 A.M.

As in many wealthy enclaves, Elaine notes that thrift shopping in the Coachella Valley is rich. Cathedral City, to the east of Palm Springs, offers top one-stop secondhand shopping, starting at Resale Therapy for vintage and gently worn contemporary apparel in a packed shop featuring Prada sunglasses and racks devoted to recent designs by Trina Turk and Tory Burch. Next door and across the street, two locations of Celebrity Consignments turned up reasonably priced midcentury modern dishware and costume jewelry. Nearby, Victoria’s Attic Antiques offered Red Wing pottery, vintage ice buckets and tiki bar mugs.

7.       DESERT BOUNTY ON TAP, 2:30 P.M.

Elaines suggests quenching your thirst at the two-year-old Coachella Valley Brewing Company, located in a nondescript office park in Thousand Palms. The microbrewery, owned by the brewmaster Chris Anderson, offers a quaffable overview of the area’s agricultural bounty in its tap room, featuring beers made with local honey, citrus, herbs and spices. Up to two dozen selections may include such brews as Monument on Fire, an IPA made with guava, mango, roasted chiles and habaneros.

8.       SKY TOUR, 3:45 P.M.

The San Andreas Fault runs through the eastern valley, marked by thickets of shaggy palms that thrive in the natural springs that surface at the fissure. There are public palm oases, including Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve in Thousand Palms, which travelers can visit free, but Elaine thinks that it’s worth signing up for Desert Adventures’ stargazing Jeep tour to investigate further. The three-hour trip starts on the private 800-acre Metate Ranch in a bird-filled oasis of soaring Washingtonia palms and continues through the slot canyons formed by ancient floods in the fault zone. After sunset, the Jeep pulls up to a particularly dark site where an astronomer leads a guided stargazing session.


Play the Palm Springs field in a walkable progressive dinner (or ride the new trolley, the free Palm Springs Buzz). Start with a luscious rye-and-citrus Ward 8 cocktail ($14) at Workshop Kitchen & Bar, a dramatic renovation of an original movie theater with 27-foot ceilings that won a 2015 James Beard Award for design. Try the shoyu pork belly ($12) or ahi tuna poke ($16) across the street at the eclectic new Eight4Nine, then continue down the street to the hedge-ringed terrace at Birba for an inventive pizza, such as Gorgonzola, brusselssprouts, spicy salami and egg ($16) from the local chef Tara Lazar. Have a mai tai nightcap ($12) at the tiny new Bootlegger Tiki bar, former home of the 1950s Polynesian popularizer Don the Beachcomber bar.


10.   SACRED HIKE, 8 A.M.

In the cool temperatures and warm morning light, Elaine likes the idea of hiking Tahquitz Canyon. Owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the canyon is considered the home of the shaman spiritual guide Tahquitz. The rugged two-mile loop trail leads to Tahquitz Falls, a 50-foot cataract that pools amid the rocks. En route, hikers will pass ancient rock art and rock shelters where artifacts dating over 2,000 years old have been found.

11.   HOT SPRINGS SOAK, 10:30 A.M.

The springs beneath Palm Springs and surrounding communities have formed the basis of a spa culture built on warm soaks. Elaine suggests immersing yourself in the palm-shaded hot pools of Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs, which recently switched entirely to solar power. The spa’s restaurant, Essence, has been refashioned in organic materials, down to a bark-shorn tree trunk as a centerpiece. It serves tuna Niçoise salads ($15) and wagyu burgers ($15) to a damp, robe-clad clientele at lunch.

12.   GARDEN WALK, 1 P.M.

Walter and Leonore Annenberg, owners of the 200-acre Sunnylands Estate in Rancho Mirage, created a destination for world leaders, where Richard Nixon wrote his State of the Union address in 1974 and President Obama recently held a summit meeting with Southeast Asian leaders. In 2012, the property opened to the public, offering tours of the 1966 home designed by A. Quincy Jones. Ninety-minute tours of the 23-bedroom home cost $40, but Elaine notes that the 17,000-square-foot visitors’ center, built in midcentury style, and the gardens are free, and worth the trip to walk the shaded labyrinth and spy an impressive array of cactus.

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