THE DESERT, California — I am back from Palm Springs and awed by the landscape, refreshed from the desert heat, and inspired by the pastel colors and retro architecture.
I’m not sure if it was sensory deprivation from a year spent at home, or if it truly was just the magic of this private oasis in the California desert, but I’ve never fallen for a hotel like I've fallen for Casa Cody. History abounds within the walls of the oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs. Founder Harriet Cody first purchased the property in 1916 as a livery stable, renting and boarding horses for the city's earliest visitors — including many of Hollywood’s original movie cowboys. Looking for additional income after her husband’s untimely death in 1924, the pioneer (who happened to be cousin to the infamous outlaw Buffalo Bill) purchased four adjacent cottages and transitioned from horse-keeper to innkeeper. The inn has been operating ever since, playing host to a slew of Hollywood’s earliest icons, including Charlie Chaplin, Lawrence Tibbett, and AnaÏs Nin.
Recently, the hotel has been reinvigorated by the Casetta Group with renovations in the modern Spanish revival style, along with the addition of a marketplace, bar, and thoughtfully curated finishings. Poolside rooms and darling standalone cottages create a relaxing community in this temporary desert home. From Parachute linens to emerald-tiled kitchenettes and coral velvet love seats, each room is a little glowing paradise of its own.
More quaint details: Every morning, house-made granola with orange marmalade awaits guests alongside made-to-order espresso at the community breakfast. Citrus trees throughout the property are ripe with juicy pomelos and bright red blood oranges, which guests are encouraged to pick and enjoy throughout their stay. We used a few to make margaritas that we sipped poolside while watching the sun set behind the San Jacinto Mountains.
Warning: It's going to be hard to pull yourself away from such a scene. It would certainly be a fulfilling and refreshing enough vacation on its own to lounge your day away inside the Casa Cody compound (my fiancé and I said as much to each other more than a few times a day). But there are plenty of gems to discover outside the hotel walls.
Close to the city, the hike up to the waterfall in Tahquitz Canyon, part of land managed by the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians, is lovely. Hikers flock to the glistening pool of cold water to relieve themselves from the heat with a swim around the rock. Andreas Canyon, just south of the city, is another astounding visit – a simple but breathtaking mile-long loop through prehistoric rock formations along a stream and towering palms. And of course, the hour-long drive to Joshua Tree National Park is like visiting another planet. Wherever you go, don’t forget that water, snacks, and sunscreen reign supreme in the desert.
If it’s too hot to trek, a tramway up to San Jacinto Peak offers cooler temps (it averages 30 degrees cooler up here), pine-filled paths, and the views of a lifetime. For a quirky and quick activity, Moorten Botanical Garden is home to over 3,000 varieties of cacti and other desert plants crammed into a one-acre, family-owned plot.
If air-conditioned relief is at a premium, try the Palm Springs Art Museum for its collection of art rooted in modern architecture and design in the region. Shop at Mojave Flea Trading Post, a 10,000-square-foot department store of makers and merchants from Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Coachella Valley, and beyond. Palm Canyon Galleria is a charming little network of excellently curated antiques shops and dealers.
Next door to the galleria, Las Palmas serves a nice selection of local brews and natural wines. Bootlegger Tiki ramps up the vacation vibes with fruity concoctions and fun glassware. For cocktails with a view, Rowan’s High Bar at sunset is the best rooftop in Palm Springs. Sipping a cold drink at sundown in the desert is a moment everyone deserves.
Now for sustenance. Rooster and the Pig serves Vietnamese-American small plates, including outstanding dishes like jasmine tea salad and crispy beef noodles. Locals insist on Sherman’s classic diner experience: sandwiches piled sky high with pastrami and slices of cake that barely fit on the plate.
When the mood strikes to dress up and indulge in the Palm Springs scene, make reservations for Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs. For sushi and Japanese whisky under the stars, go to Sandfish. Eat up the pizza and celebrity sightings at Birba. Order a classic cocktail while taking in the scene at the impeccably decorated Bar Cecil.