Palm Springs Desert Modernism Tour Review – Day One – Historic Inns, Carriages, and Cocktails

Welcome to Palm Springs sign at the Palm Springs airport

What do you get when you combine the aura of old Hollywood glamour and the aesthetics of mid-century modernism set against the backdrop of a palm-lined desert oasis with 350 days of sunshine? Okay, I guess that question was a bit too easy. But answer this, why in all of my unmentionable years in Los Angeles County have I not ventured beyond the Riverside County border to experience in the delight that is Palm Springs? Utter non-sense!  I  am on day one of my Palm Springs Media Fam tour, which happens to be taking place smack dab in the middle of the yearly Modernism Week ( February 12-21, 2010) and I already do not want to leave. During my four day stay, I will be lodging at the Hyatt Regency Suites Palm Springs which has completed a $15 million renovation as a part of the 2010 marketing campaign “Better, Bolder, Beautiful” hotel and convention center collection.   Part of this strategy will aid in the ability to showcase the best of the best in this desert city and make you think, just as I thought, why haven’t I been or why haven’t I made Palm Springs my top get-away spot!

View of the living area (l) and separate bedroom (r) at the Hyatt

Upon arrival at the Hyatt, I was greeted by friendly staff who informed me that the hotels renovations included a new lobby area, pool deck, restaurant and lounge, and fitness center that I could partake in during my stay. My suite at the hotel, sleek, sophisticated, and dare I say modern, adorned dark and neutral tones that were punched with bright pops of orange in the sitting area and separate bedroom. The streamlines of the furniture would be reminiscent of the décor I would be treated to see during my tour of the desert’s historical inns.  To guide our group of 8 writers that hailed from places as far as Sidney, Australia, was Hillary Angel, Public Relations Manager for the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, Roxy the tour guide from Palm Springs Carriages, and Rosie the bodacious Belgian horse that lugged our carriage through the downtown area.

TV in the living area of Hyatt hotel room

Palm Springs Carriages came to pick up our group

Del Marco Hotel

Our first stop was the Del Marcos Hotel that sat nestled against the San Jacinto Mountains. Designed in 1947 by William F. Cody, this classic mid-century modern hotel with its slanted flat rooftops and manicured green lawns will make you feel as though you stepped back into an era when everything was just groovy. 17 rooms make this the ideal hotel to rent out to full capacity for events such as weddings, retirement parties, or family reunions. We were treated for a tour of two of the rooms – one being a poolside suite boasting a full kitchen, living room, and bedroom for an affordable $149 per night. But it isn’t just affordability and nostalgia that you are getting when lodging at Del Marcos. You are treated to a host of complimentary services (i.e., bicycles, parking, Internet), an uber friendly staff, and a sense of family.

Lounge chairs line the patio pool

Retro furnishings make the interior of the hotel stand out

As we toured, children played blissfully by the pool as their parents relaxed on the green and white striped chaise lounges. The manager of the Del Marco states that about 9 years ago, Eric Mellem and Lars Viklund, took over the property and brought it back to its 1947 style and design, “The property went through a transition where it looked like a retreat in Carmel,” states current manager Janice. “Years later, Eric decided to relinquish the property and after deciding he couldn’t let it go, Lars became the solo and current owner.”

Classic artwork of Hollywood icons

Child playing on stairs near the hotel pool (l) and classice Del Marco sculpture (r)

Next, it was back on the carriage to have Rosie trot us down quaint streets where we were able to view properties occupied by some of Hollywood’s most noted actor and actresses and designed by the world’s most notable architects. Designers such as Albert Frye, whom made his architectural mark on the springs in 1934, William Krisel, Donald Wexler, and E. Stewart Williams. Historical Inns of Palm Springs can’t be built over 35 feet in height and most of the buildings incorporate natural rocks and slates to blend with the desert landscape and make it aesthetically pleasing.

Orbit In

Another one of these “under 35 feet” historical inns is the Orbit In and the Orbit In’s Hideaway. Built by Herb Burns, the first designer/builder to introduce Palm Springs to the "ultra modern motor court inn," which featured large studio style rooms with sitting areas and kitchenettes, surrounding the pool; Orbit In lures guest and passer-bys to its poolside with penetrating beats of a live band, array of complimentary cocktails, and a bevy of snacks. Mingle, listen to the music, or marvel at the prominently displayed art work sprinkled throughout the property; regardless of what you choose to do at the Orbit, you are sure to have a great time. Young and hip or old and zany, you will love your stay at either of Orbit’s properties.

Inside the lobby at the Orbit In (l) and view of the outdoor fireplace (r)

Cocktails and snacks are offered to the guests

One of the draws to some of the inns is the fine dining experiences.  Two that are managing to please the palates of tourists and locals are Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn, and The Purple Palm at Colony Palms Hotel. Our group stopped by both to savor some of the noted house specialties.

Entrance to the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's

Front entrance to Melvyn's

When you step into Melvyn’s, you are stepping into a classic “Hollywood” martini lounge with a menu that is as decadent as the day is long. Pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra are proudly displayed opposite the bar, which is dimly lit and mirrored from floor to ceiling.  The venue plays live music every night and houses an ambience of timeless glamour that can’t be duplicated even if you tried.  You could almost feel spirits of the rat pack looming through the establishment, not to make you feel eerie, but rather to make you feel like you belong…like you are part of a secret society.  Beyond Melvyn’s Restaurant, Ingleside Inn has 30 Suites, Mini-Suites, and Villas that go from $125 to $600 per night. With a well seasoned staff, most being with the establishment for over 20 years, the inn has hosted some of the most recognizable names in entertainment, business, and politics. Although our group didn’t gain the opportunity to meet Melvyn Haber, who has owned the establishment since 1975, he is said to be a regular fixture around the restaurant and inn. In one article, Haber is quoted as saying, “But I truly think Palm Springs is the greatest place in the world.” I think he might be right.

Outdoor pool area and view of the Purple Palm

Before heading in for the night, we made a final and oh so necessary stop at The Purple Palm Restaurant at the Spanish-style Colony Palms Hotel. Lydia Kremer, Public Relations Guru for Modernism Week, met us at the restaurant which oozed major sex-appeal and romance. Sitting poolside, the restaurant features a fare of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine that will leave you somewhere in between satisfaction and longing. Okay, think cabanas, plush lounges, twinkling lights, and hypnotic melodies. Are you there? Now, add the aroma of perfectly seared Tandori Lamb, decadent Crab & Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, and massive roasted Dates stuffed with Machego Cheese and wrapped in crisp bacon. You have arrived to a place that is culinary and sensory heaven.

The Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel

The hotel itself was originally built in 1936 by Purple Gang mobster Al Wertheimer. By 1951, the property sold to Robert Howard, grandson of the owner of champion thoroughbred Sea Biscuit, and renamed Howard Manor.  During the late 1970’s the property under went new ownership and became what we know today, Colony Palms. The 56-room hotel includes: 8 casitas with private patios and outdoor bathtubs, 41 rooms, 5 junior suites with private entrances, and 2 Presidential suites. Guest rooms start at $209 and go up to $299 per night, while casitas and suites range from $359 to $1099 per night.  But that is a small price to pay to marvel at the designs of Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, a renowned Los Angeles-based designer.   Lawrence-Bullard has taken the Spanish-style hotel to new heights with rich influences of exotic locals and 1940’s glamour. Critically acclaimed by the likes of Conde Nast Traveler, Los Angeles Magazine, and Architectural Digest, Colony Palms Hotel and its Purple Palm Restaurant are a must see!

View of a room at the Colony Palms Hotel

Well, that is the end of day one. For information related to any of the above destination hot spots, please check the following Websites:

The Hyatt Regency Suites –
Del Marcos Hotel –
Orbit In Hotel and Hideaway –
Colony Palms Hotel –
Palm Springs Carriages –
Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism –

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