At the foot of the San Jacinto mountains, Avalon Palm Springs hotel somehow manages to be well-groomed and relaxed; luxurious and low-key; and attentive and unobtrusive. Bright white neutral rooms are accented with black gingham and kitted out with yellow upholstery and mirrored bureaus. The lovely fruit trees, clipped gardens and fitness and spa facilities round out the healthy and wealthy atmosphere of this bastion of southern California style.
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Two welcome glasses of sparkling wine upon arrival
11am. Check-in: 4pm, but flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from $103.20, excluding tax at 14.53 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $40.08 per room per night on check-out.
Rates exclude an à la carte breakfast of salmon bagels, acai bowls, pancakes, oatmeal and breakfast burritos (starting at US$10).
The hotel has a full roster of fun events for guests – take your pick of live acoustic guitar performances, taco and tequila snow cone weekend menus, morning meditation, free flicks at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
At the hotel
Library, gym with fitness classes including yoga, Pilates and group hikes, loaner bicycles and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV with a CD/DVD player, iPod dock with Bluetooth speakers and minibar,
Our favourite rooms
Premium Studio 106 was a particular favourite of actress Ann Miller. The One-bedroom suites all have a patio or balcony, and either a second bathroom or full kitchen. The beautiful detached villas feature plenty of home comforts, including gorgeous fireplaces, kitchens and a private patio.
Bask beside one of three outdoor pools (including a family pool and an adults-only pool), each in a different courtyard. Take cover in a poolside cabana or bubble in one of two large Jacuzzis. Some spa treatments (manis/pedis, reflexology) can be taken poolside when it's not too hot.
Estrella Spa offers the usual his 'n' hers therapies, massages, facials and couples' treatments.
Check and then double check you've packed your shades and swimsuit for hours by one of the three pools. Sturdy walking shoes and a hat are a good idea for desert excursions.
All public areas and bedrooms are wheelchair accessible.
All ages are welcome. As well as a kids' pool, there are children's bikes, cartoon DVDs and games on offer. Babysitting can be arranged with a trusted-local sitter. The suites and bungalows have sofa-beds which can sleep two.
Babysitting available. As well as a kids' pool, there are children's bikes, cartoon DVDs and games on offer. Most rooms have sofabeds, or you can borrow a pull-out bed ($35 a stay).
Babies and children of all ages accepted.
Most rooms have sofabeds, or you can borrow a pull-out bed ($35 a stay).
There are small bikes to borrow, so you can all cycle to the nearby shops and attractions. The hotel concierge can arrange day trips, nature trails, covered wagon rides, and hot-air ballooning, among other things. Children will love taking the Palm Springs cable car up to the top of Mount San Jacinto; you can get guided mule rides at the top, too.
There are three outdoor heated swimming pools, including a separate children's pool and an adults-only pool.
Is available – organise it through the concierge.
As well as a kids' pool, there are cartoon DVDs and games on offer. Book a babysitter and indulge in some serious spa therapy or golfing action.
Grab a spot on the covered patio, or reserve a private poolside cabana for an intimate romantic dinner.
Relax, you're in the desert.
A dining destination in the desert, Chi Chi is a sparkling poolside restaurant serving Claifornian clean-living cuisine. Breakfast/brunch is a particular delight – while you're in the neighbourhood, don't miss your chance to start the day with a sweet-tooth-pleasing date shake (possibly the most delicious drink on the planet). Or opt for coconut and rum, if you're planning on doing no more than strolling to an adjacent lounger and remaining prone for the rest of the morning. For dinner, with roasted-cauliflower and charred occtopus, followed by Montana pork chops or zucchini noodle pasta, and finish on a (sugar) high with New Orleans-style beignets and crème brûlée. Snag a table poolside, in the shade of the semi-private patio. or in the elegent, dining room syled in black, white and buttery yellow.
Their signature good libations include creative cocktails like the Spicy Cactus with pisco, agave, lime, cucumber and serrano pepper; to suit the bar's mirror-lind walls, try the Smokin' Mirrors which is made with mezcal, cassis, lime and ginger beer. They also offer skinny cocktails – so you won't ruin you bikini-body in the bar – such as the Garden Cooler with gin, cucumber, basil, lime, and Chi Chi Margarita with tequila, Avalon citrus and agave.
7am to 11am for breakfast (some dishes are served all day for slow risers), 11am to 4pm for lunch and dinner is served from 6pm to 10pm.
7am–10pm; after that, it's snacks from your minibar.
The nearest airport is Palm Springs International, a 15-minute drive from the hotel down Ramon Road. Many major airlines including US Airways (www.usairways.com), Delta (www.delta.com) and American (www.aa.com) offer connecting flights from major US cities. Fly from the UK with Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.co.uk), switching flights in Vegas.
The Palm Springs Amtrak station (www.amtrak.com) is just over 10 minutes from the hotel, a straight drive down the North Indian Canyon Drive.
The drive to Los Angeles will take around two and a half hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
Palm Springs has some fantastic modern architecture. If you want to tour the city’s mid-century Jetsonian heritage then pick up the Palm Springs Modern Committee’s map from the Visitor Center on North Palm Canyon Drive. Some of the best examples of Palm Springs Modernist architecture are easy to find; track down Albert Frey’s futuristic City Hall complex, two miles east of Downtown at 3200 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, and E Stewart Williams’ Coachella Valley Savings and Loan Building (Washington Mutual) on South Palm Canyon Drive and Ramon Road. There are more than 100 golf courses in the Greater Palm Springs area, but although the choice is excellent the demand is often high, particularly in winter; make sure you book your tee times in advance. The desert landscape around Palm Springs is also popular with hikers – favourite locations include the Joshua Tree National Park, and the Indian Canyon Trails, about five miles south of the city. If you don’t want to go it alone, you could join a wilderness safari trail offering expeditions for hikers of all levels.
El Mirasol at 140 East Palm Canyon Drive is a great, inexpensive Mexican restaurant – it's always a good sign when you hear that lots of local chefs flock here after their own shifts, to pig out on tasty enchiladas. If you're in the mood for delicious home-made burgers with all the trimmings, saddle up for Tyler’s at 149 South Indian Canyon Drive. A Palm Springs landmark on West Tahquitz Canyon Way, Le Vallauris is a fine French restaurant. Traditional delicacies such as sautéed foie gras and Grand Marnier soufflé are served up in an elegant setting of Louis XV furniture and Flemish tapestries.
‘Are we there yet?’ Mrs Smith asked impatiently. It’d been a while since we set off from a busy, smoggy Los Angeles on our Palm Springs vacation, and the eight-lane highway seemed as endless as the traffic. A couple of minutes later came our turn-off – the Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway. Why don’t we get roads like that back home? I reckon we could do with a Cilla Black Express, or a Lulu Flyover. A couple of rounds of ‘I Got You Babe’ later and we’d arrived at the Avalon Palm Springs resort and spa.
I confess it didn’t look like much at first, its low-level lobby seeping buttery light onto the pavement through a barely lit olive tree and fountain, but once inside – wham! – we were hit with a supersized serving of pure Palm Springs glamour. The crazy crisp-white and yolk-yellow colour theme carries throughout, and we soon discovered that everything, from the towels to the furniture, comes in a shade that inspires a flashback to that super-sweet '80s scent, Giorgio Beverly Hills.
With its fruit-bearing trees, clipped gardens, dazzling sunshine and well-groomed fitness and spa facilities, this Palm Springs boutique resort at the foot of the San Jacinto mountains wears its healthy, wealthy heart on its sleeve. Pure white spaces accented with black-and-white gingham sofas, citrus-bright yellow upholstery and mirrored bureaus made us feel as though we were crossing the set of a particularly modish new theatrical production. Did I mention the whippet statues?
Our abode was a Dorrington Villa, which, despite sounding like a '70s B&B in the north of England, couldn’t have been more Cali-for-ni-ay. Rather than the suites and studios off the main lobby, our sweet little bungalow was located between the two ‘adults only’ pools positioned amid well-manicured, lush gardens. Here, impossibly tall, skinny palm trees populated the lawn like so many extras, their boughs riddled with little lights, illuminating them magnificently against the night sky.
Palm Springs, named after the nearby hot desert water source, is the ancient home of the Agua Caliente band of the Cahuilla Indians, and inside our low-rise lodgings, interior designer Kelly Wearstler had emulated many of the traditional adobe-style features, without scrimping on luxury. Our living room was a blizzard of bleaching, from a quirky Cinderella-style carriage-lamp chandelier to snow-white tiling. The only furniture was a large black-and-white sofa and stunning (if not the most practical) yellow ‘popsicle’ chairs – apparently a signature of Ms Wearstler’s. As for the sleeping quarters, a large white bed was the main feature, along with a curtain with a black geometric pattern running along its hem. ‘Very Versace,’ chirped an impressed Mrs Smith. In addition to our boudoir and en suite, our villa also contained a fully fitted kitchen, a dining room and a secluded patio. No doubt fit for Donatella herself, and all her entertaining desires.
Having spent more time than we’d have liked in the usual Friday-night crawl out of LA, we were too shattered to rustle something up in our gleaming show kitchen, and we were in the mood for something a little more low-key than the offerings of Citron, the Avalon's restaurant. So we decided to get into the spirit of the desert and its Southwestern vibe and we plumped instead for Mirasol, an excellent local Mexican eaterie. Chile verde (a jalapeño-infused pork stew) and several ice-cold margaritas soon put fire in our bellies.
At Smith, we’re not only about great food and seeking out fabulous hotels – we like a bit of culture on our escapes. So, a quick history crammer course over supper: the growth of Los Angeles in the Thirties meant weary Hollywood stars sought a refuge in which to unwind and party, away from the glare of Tinseltown. Luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Ginger Rogers and Humphrey Bogart quickly earned Palm Springs the tagline ‘playground of the stars’, with the likes of Frank Sinatra and President Ford (whose wife Betty’s famous clinic is close by) building homes in Coachella Valley. The development of a mid-century style of architecture suited to the climate and conditions of this terrain resulted in the birth of Desert Modern. As much has remained untouched, my Mrs Smith left the restaurant with her mouth watering for some design-ogling.
Having also heard that Palm Springs has loads of great vintage boutiques, after a long and lazy lie-in, we pestered our helpful receptionist for a list. The Avalon's illustrious (and no doubt demanding) former guests include presidents and movie stars, and the service suggests the staff here has handled more than their fair share of whimsical demands; the receptionist dutifully gave us the VIP treatment and provided us with addresses for all the best places.
After a day of scoping architecture and grazing design shops (for Mrs Smith), and browsing the well-stocked classic American car showrooms (for me), we returned for a well-earned cocktail at the Avalon bar. ‘Welcome back, Mr Smith,’ said the parking valet as he took my keys. ‘Nice touch,’ I thought, and promptly tipped him twice what I was planning to. It’s that kind of a place.
The Avalon is all about the thoughtful touches: totes and shoes were provided in our room to take to the pool; trays of healthy drinks were left out for us to help ourselves to; and the weekend brought with it all-day gourmet barbecues by the pool (and we're not just talking paltry beef patties and a few chewy chicken wings – this was a bountiful bonanza of lobster, shrimp and filet mignon). There are bicycles to borrow free of charge, which come with tiny mobiles set to speed-dial concierge, spa or restaurant – perfect for when you simply can't pedal a metre further without a snack, or need a lift after hitting the boutiques in Palm Springs Village. In high summer, one of the Jacuzzis is chilled to create an ice-cool plunge pool for instant refreshment, and on balmy moonlit nights, you can have a sensual aromatherapy massage under the stars, or recline on a pillow- and blanket-strewn lawn to settle down to a classic noir film. Bliss.
Surprisingly, our dinner at Citron, the Avalon's intimate and dimly lit restaurant, didn’t turn out to be quite as tip-worthy as our valet’s greeting earlier. (I can only assume that head chef Stephen Belie was weary from having catered to a large party of German motoring journalists in town for a convention.) While the food was a little underwhelming and fussy, it was compensated for by some very delicious Californian wine from the menu's exhaustive list.
Back at base camp, Mrs Smith and I grabbed a couple of glasses and another chilled Chardonnay from our fridge and escaped to the secluded heated whirlpool to gaze up at the endless carpet of twinkling lights. And that huge sky at night is breathtaking – especially when taken in from a hot tub. What a nightcap. Desert life doesn’t come much better.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Avalon Palm Springs’s Guestbook below.
The design, the family only pool, and the 'nothing is a problem' approach of the staff. Palm Springs is unique and is one of our favourite places in the US. It has everything; indulge your design passion with a drive around the neighbourhoods of Los Pallas, Indian Canyon and Twin Palms; refuel with a great selection of food at Cheeky's (so good we returned for breakfast tacos!) and then burn some calories and catch the cable car to the top of Mount Jacinto.
Cool summer breezes in August – it was 40 degrees!