Palm Springs – Shutterstock

Winner of the Palm D’awe – Palm Springs



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Find a kinder, softer world in the American oasis of calm – Palm Springs

If desert oasis party towns were fifties icons then Vegas, of course, would be Elvis, and Palm Springs would undoubtedly be Marilyn Monroe.

Palm Springs was one of Marilyn Monroe's favourite places – Allard One / ShutterstockPalm Springs was one of Marilyn Monroe’s favourite places – Allard One / Shutterstock

Curvaceous, unpretentious, hot, steamy, sexy and with boundless allure this glittering watering hole, surrounded by mountains and Big Skies takes you back to a pre-Trump America, pre-Obama, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Nixon … To the days of JFK, when the world still lived in hope; a seemingly softer, more elegant U.S. of A.

With manners and a panache which have survived from those halcyon fifties and sixties days, it feels like a movie set. It’s little wonder that Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Liberace, Frank Sinatra and, of course, Monroe, loved and love it.

Only a few years ago this gorgeous art deco haven was beginning to creak a bit, deserted for cheap and tacky Vegas, the apotheosis of new America, right? But now it could hardly be cooler, as America, drowning in the detritus of White House white trash looks back to the future fondly.

This vision of Americana, which is kind, inclusive and classy will only become more special as the current times roll on tediously.

The city harks back to the peace and prosperity of the fifties and sixties – Shutterstock Palm SpringsThe city harks back to the peace and prosperity of the fifties and sixties – Shutterstock

More than half of the population is gay and more than half over 50, but there’s nothing kitsch or creaking about this vibrant place. It is perhaps more relevant today than ever, following in the footsteps of its iconic mayor Sonny Bono who declared it a place where people could feel safe, whatever their backgrounds.

Though perhaps not as famous as Vegas – or indeed other Californian gay destinations – it’s hard to meet someone who’s visited this incredibly lovely modernist gem, surrounded by the brooding San Bernardino mountains, who does not rate it as one of their all-time top five favourite places in the world. It’s just so ineffably, cheekily, wittily pretty, friendly and chilled. Its sultry charms beguile you and seduce you from the moment you arrive.

Many come for two or three nights but I recommend committing at least a week (hell, a month) here. Book into the drop-dead fabulous and recently refurbished and relaunched Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage – and that will give you enough time to languish soporifically in this resort hotel which will cater to your every whim without feeling guilty that you’re missing out on the naughty delights just down the valley.

Modernist buildings shine under the golden sun and the San Jacinto mountains – Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock Palm SpringsModernist buildings shine under the golden sun and the San Jacinto mountains – Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock

Palm Springs has the largest concentration of mid-century modernist architecture in the world. This might not be a selling point to Brits used to our own versions of this much maligned architectural style featuring bold and uncompromising concrete structures – but what looks grim in Gateshead and shit on the South Bank shines in the desert sun.

Gleaming and glamorous in the day, eerie and evocative by night, every  building here is proud of the incredible cityscape and hell, even the McDonalds and Nando’s look lovely – never mind incredible gems like the Palm Springs Museum of Art; a treat outside and in.

Take a modern celebrity homes tour with the incredibly knowledgeable team at Palm Springs Celebrity Tours and really get to grips with what makes this desert pearl gleam by visiting the homes of Liberace and Elvis and feeling the ghosts of Monroe and Sinatra as you cruise.

A mountain road winds down to Palm Springs at night – ShutterstockA mountain road winds down to Palm Springs at night – Shutterstock

Palm Springs, ridiculously, went out of fashion in the eighties but now it’s been embraced by the hipster crowd led by Leonardo DiCaprio – and you suspect that even they could not crush this Californian treasure with their presence.

In Palm Springs, art and culture are all around you but if you want to visit an art gallery, a good bet is Palm Springs Art and Design Gallery. It features the largest mid-century modern art, culture and furniture collection in the Coachella Valley in a beautiful 7,500 square foot space.

There is always a sense of peace in this city, due to the fact that unlike the rest of America you are not allowed to build higher than two storeys (although some people, sadly, are challenging this) but you will always feel the peace and serenity of nature, with the gorgeous manmade buildings framed by the beautiful mountainscape visible from every corner.

But it’s well worth jumping on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and shooting up to the cool breezes and fresh air of the mountains from where you can see this glistening city while simultaneously escaping it for a moment or three. 

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