In the dead of winter, we can't help but dream of the desert. It's only natural, right? Drawn to dry weather, bright skies, and the warm shade of palm trees, we took a quick snow-scape to Palm Springs--one of our favorite weekend destinations--to check in at five of the desert's hottest hotels.
Our conclusion? Each hotspot has enough desert distraction in the form of chic restaurants, cool pool scenes, and designy guestrooms that will keep you coming back for more.
The Saguaro Palm Springs
Stop in at The Saguaro Palm Springs and it feels like you've landed at the bottom of a rainbow. Pops of color punctuate the 245-room property, channeling an aesthetic hovering somewhere between desert modern and Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory (without the chocolate river, sadly). Centered around a rectangular pool lined with sky-high palms, yellow chaises, and purple Solair chairs, it's the perfect spot to soak up the desert sun. At dusk, stay put to sip margaritas and sample Mexican small plates -- we loved the esquites with sweet corn, queso fresco, chipotle, and tortilla chips -- at El Jefe, the hotel's hip saloon and premium tequila bar. If a sit-down meal is more your speed, make a reservation at Tinto, the signature restaurant and wine bar serving tapas inspired by Northern Spain's Basque region. Foodies take note: both restaurants are masterminded by Iron Chef Jose Garces.
Insider Tip: Don't miss El Jefe's Taco Tuesdays featuring $2 tacos and $5 margaritas.
Alcazar Palm Springs
What happens when Palm Springs' hippest restaurateurs (behind desert institutions Cheeky's, Birba, and Jiao) open a hotel right beside their trio of dinettes? Well, aside from the fact that you'll become well versed in the art of gastronomy, there's this: sleeping in a restored collection of 1950s haciendas, and swimming off the calories. The Alcazar doesn't stop here; at night the blazing white buildings and tree-studded courtyard bask in the warmth of a glowing fire and hundreds of twinkling lights hanging overhead.
Insider Tip: This adult-oriented hotel serves up fresh Cheeky's pastries and Intelligentsia coffee (as well as Nespresso) every morning.
Ace Hotel Palm Springs
LA and NY's high-flying hipsters have made the Ace Hotel's desert outpost their weekend go-to since it was face-lifted from a tired HoJo (Howard Johnson) four years ago. Equally a hangout and a hotel, the Ace is a 24/7 scene, which even accounts for guests' four-footed friends including its very own dog park. Oh yah, it's cool to bring your pooch poolside. Along with an up-cycled aesthetic, spiked snow cones served poolside, a roadside diner, and a retro lounge, you won't want to leave this triple-threat hotel. Ever.
Insider Tip: The Ace books up fast on weekends with loyal Ace'ers who know the hotel from premier pool seating to snow cone flavor du jour. To learn the Ace's ropes sans crowds, start with a mid-week stay.
Parker Palm Springs
Known for celebs clad in wide-brimmed hats and Jackie O sunglasses hiding in every corner, the Parker makes you look. High on scene, you wonder if every passerby is famous; and they think the same about you. Sporting a retro-fabulous Jonathan Adler design, the hotel is more than just buzz, it has substance too. Anchored by the desert's hottest spa, the Palm Springs Yacht Club, an all-day breakfast restaurant, a posh evening eatery, and a lounge -- complete with dangling wicker chairs -- you wonder if the Parker was once Don Draper's hideaway. Out at the pool, the party starts early when attendants pass out hot chocolate or coffee in the morning, fresh berries in the afternoon, and vodka-cranberry-lemon cocktails at happy hour (we'll take two!).
Insider Tip: if you call the front desk for wake-up call the night before, your alarm comes in the form of a silver carafe of coffee poured in gold-rimmed china cups. Good morning, indeed.
Colony Palms Hotel
Last, but certainly not least, this hotel hotspot has a rich history that dates back 80 years. Built by mob kingpin Al Wertheimer as a fancy clubhouse used for debaucherous pursuits, the Colony Palms later changed ownership and was catapulted to it-spot-status welcoming the likes of Sinatra and Taylor. Wertheimer was a member of the infamous Purple Gang (think Boardwalk Empire but in Detroit), which inspired the name of the hotel's restaurant Purple Palm. Doing the near-impossible, the inn has maintained its A-list status and in 2007 underwent a design refresh by Million Dollar Decorators star Martyn Lawrence Bullard who kept its Spanish Colonial bones, and added little Moroccan touches everywhere, from the guest room pillows to the intimate spa.
-- Trish Friesen, Parker Palm Springs photo courtesy of Trish Friesen