09/03/2014 01:07 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2014

On the Culture Front: Tennis Without Humidity (and Other Wonders in Palm Springs)

As the US Open rages on through insane humidity, I'm reminded of a weekend I spend last year at the BNP Paribas Open, in lovely (and dry) Palm Springs.

The weekend had some truly heart pounding matches, including a face off between Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, which ended decisively in the latter's favor. Thomas Berdych went up against Rafael Nadal to no avail while del Potro beat powerhouse and formerly ranked number one player in the world, Novak Djokovic, only to later loose to Nadal in the final round. On the female side, Maria Sharapova, who lets out a deceptively cute battle cry purr every time she serves, handily beat another Maria (Kirilenko) and Caroline Wozniacki to claim the trophy.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden, named for the town it's in, is a particularly intimate space that affords a more intimate view than the more famous Arthur Ashe here in New York. March also proved a perfect time to be in the California desert, when the breezes can still be cool in the shade. I found myself loving the area, which is dotted by well-preserved mid-century architecture, more than I had expected.

There's a feeling of the bygone Hollywood age of Marilyn Monroe and William Holden, both former residents, that's particularly palpable on Michael Stern's The Modern Tour. Stern is chock full of information that he's eager to share such as the city building code which limits houses to a single floor in order to prevent blocking mountain views (Palm Springs sits in a spectacular sliver of a valley surrounded by mountains) and people from gazing into their neighbors backyards. Pools are almost mandatory in Palm Springs, so this built in privacy is a nice perk. Stern also notes that the area didn't become a refuge for celebrities completely by accident. In the 1920s, studios had actors on a 120-mile leash, and the unassuming nature of the place made it desirable.

There's also a seamless combination of modern convenience and untouched nature. It's not uncommon for a well-developed community with manicured lawns or stone gardens (grass isn't particularly common in the desert) to be a short drive from mountainous hiking trails. A short ride with Desert Adventures Jeep Tour one day found us on a particularly scenic trail near the San Andreas fault line - a great place to test off-road capabilities.

As easily as you can find yourself in the middle of the vast, greenery-doted desert (plants sprout up all over due to an underground aquifer), you can be back in civilization, dining quite well. Cheeky's serves a breakfast on par with Sarabeth's at a fraction of the cost while Michael's provide a shaded outdoor area to knock back a few Lagunitas and pretty great burgers to sop up the alcohol.

I really didn't want this weekend to end but it helped that it ended as it started, on a Virgin America flight. Their dim cabin light soothes me as much as the fluorescent hue of other airlines grates at my soul. Being able to order craft beers from 21st Amendment brewery (and all kinds of food) on touch screens, makes the time fly a little faster. As does the generous legroom in their main cabin select. If you time your flight right, you can even fly direct. Though a stopover in San Francisco can have its charms as well.