Headed to Coachella? Looking for a Valentine's/Presidents' Day weekend getaway? The desert is calling. A two-hour drive from Los Angeles takes you to a place where shaggy palms trees meet midcentury modern architecture and where Old Hollywood types, singles, lovers, Boystown and the retired all call their playground. Plan your escape with our guide to where to eat, drink and sleep in Palm Springs.
Where to stay: Follow the cool kids to Ace Hotel. The converted motel rocks all-day music, weekend DJs and pretty young things, making quite the pool party in sleepy Palm Springs. There's also a retro diner, bar, spa and weekly events (bingo Mondays or karaoke Tuesdays, anyone?) to keep you well entertained. But if R&R is what you're after, head to Sparrows Lodge. The restored barn offers quiet dressed in rustic chic.
Breakfast: Ask any weekend veteran or local where to brunch, and they'll point you to Cheeky's. The casual indoor-outdoor spot serves all day breakfast plates with an upmarket twist: chilaquiles ($10) with house-made chorizo, and French toast ($11) done up with sourdough slices, homemade ricotta, Bartlett pears and sweet pecans.
If there's a line at the perpetually packed weekend institution, head up the block to Workshop Kitchen + Bar, where groups gather alfresco on the sunny patio for duck-egg huevos rancheros ($13), Jidori chicken and waffles ($16) and a gloriously over-the-top lobster breakfast burrito ($17).
Interior of Kings Highway Diner and a cocktail at Bootlegger Tiki | Photos: Courtesy of Ace Hotel and Bootlegger Tiki
Coffee and a Snack: Get your caffeine fix at Ernest Coffee. This resident favorite uses Stumptown beans for its espresso ($2.50) and iced coffee ($3 small, $3.25 large). And if you're feeling like a tipple, there are wine, beer and bubbly options, too.
Peninsula Pastries earns its Paris street cred with an Île-de-France-trained baker/owner and a secret ingredient in its baguettes and viennoiserie: imported Foricher flour. Try the powdered sugar-dusted almond croissants ($5) or the Danish ($3 to $5) in seasonal flavors such as apricot and raspberry.
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Lunch: Tyler's Burgers serves its namesake dish a dozen ways, including turkey, bacon, bacon and cheese, no bun, veggie, mini (slider) and more ($3.25 to $9.50, cash only). But there are no fancy tricks to the tasty burgers here—just thick patties topped with iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, grilled onions and a toasted bun. Order yours with a side of creamy chive-studded potato salad ($4.50).
The desert resort town may be landlocked, but you'll find top-notch fish tacos ($5) at Shanghai Reds. The perfected plate—beer battered and fried fresh cod simply dressed with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage and crema on a corn tortilla—has got us bait, hook and reel.
Dinner: Bill's Pizza is the only stop in town for pizza. And this nondescript storefront has everything a pizza joint should: checkered tablecloths, a brick oven and pizzas by the slice. White pie groupies should opt for the Elton John ($11 for a 10-inch, $23 for an 18-inch pie)—a garlicky bite with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, spinach and five cheeses on chewy, crusty sourdough.
For a night out on the town, break out the dinner jacket and cocktail dress for a fancy dinner at Melvyn's. Think old-school fine dining: steak Diane and bananas flambé cooked tableside, oysters Rockefeller and escargots en croute in a fabulously chandeliered dining room.
Cocktails: Hit Bootlegger Tiki to engage in the great desert tradition of tiki. In the former Don the Beachcomber space, this island-themed speakeasy has fun kitsch but also serious cocktails. Sip the umbrella-topped Moorea Fizz ($10)—spiked with gin, orange blossom, egg white, cream, lemon juice and passion fruit liqueur—or the Pod Thai ($10) flavored with cardamom-lemongrass syrup, Thai basil and coconut cream.
Ice Cream: Great Shakes (and floats) is exactly what you'll find at this downtown ice cream shop. The decor is 50s retro diner (bright bubble gum blue walls, old-school candies for sale), but the frozen offerings are nouvelle: Think blueberry, lemon and lavender, or fresh local dates with crushed walnuts and whipped cream ($5.50 small, $6.50 medium, $7.50 large). Purists can try the tart key lime pie made with real key limes and a homemade crust, blended with Alta Dena vanilla ice cream and topped with homemade whipped cream and a mini donut.