Palm Springs She Bops for the Girls

Feb 22, 2013 by

Palm Springs She Bops for the Girls

by Heather Cassell

My Auntie has been talking up Palm Springs for quite some time. It is her next dream destination, so on this girlfriend getaway weekend to get to know why “The Springs” is so good to us girls I was wide-open to soak in all of the wonderfulness of this desert oasis.

Palm Springs is fashionable in the sophisticated easygoing chic way that is reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn or Isabella Rossellini, but the town is also a quirky, fun, colorful and playful with its ode to the 1950s and early 1960s style that echo Cyndi Lauper and Katy Perry.

Within moments of arriving at Palm Spring’s International Airport I was checking into the Hilton Palm Springs, which by spring will be completely new. The hotel has done away with the old and welcomed the new making it an aesthetically pleasing and tech-friendly resort after undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation.

The Hilton is located a heartbeat away from the action whether it’s the upcoming Dinah, the all-girl spring break extravaganza now in its 23rd year that will take over the town with a block party between the host hotels, or the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Modernism Week, and any number of events that happen year-round.

Relaxing in the mineral waters at Spa Resort Casino (Photo: Courtesy of Spa Resort Casino)

Relaxing in the mineral waters at Spa Resort Casino (Photo: Courtesy of Spa Resort Casino)

Desert escape

People have sought out Palm Springs as a healing retreat since the 1800s. The first settler, aside from the ancestors of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla (pronounced Kaw-we-ah) Indians, was Judge John Guthrie McCallum. John escaped San Francisco’s chilly and foggy climate for Palm Spring’s more than 350 days of sun and the natural healing properties in the Coachella Valley to better his son’s health in 1884. His son had tuberculosis.

The Agua Caliente Cahuilla was a hunter and gather tribe that settled in the valley more than 2,000 years ago, according to historians. Today, remnants of the tribe’s peaceful way of living still stand along hiking trails and the tribe’s descendants have capitalized and taken care of the wealth of the land’s natural resources and traveler’s attraction to area.

Palm Springs is nestled at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains that jut up to an elevation of 10,833 feet. The mountains are so high that from December until March a winter wonderland is created 30 minutes up the Aerial Tramway from the desert floor.

Two years after John moved his family to the desert oasis, the Palm Springs Hotel was built by Dr. Welwood Murray and Palm Spring’s life as a resort was born.

Today, Palm Springs has more than 100 hotels from bed and breakfasts to high-end resorts, making the destination affordable meeting nearly every traveler’s budget.

For women seeking women-only accommodations, Palm Springs is home to two boutique hotels: Casitas Laquita Inn and the Queen of Hearts, which cater only to women.

Palm Springs became popular because just beneath the desert floor is a world of hot mineral springs that provide hydrotherapy and relaxation, discovered by the Agua Caliente Cahuilla about two centuries ago.

The desert city offers a unique postage stamp image of American towns as Palm Springs has one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture. It is somewhat stuck in time in a pleasant way that is celebrated by residents and visitors.

Palm Springs loves Marilyn Monroe at its heart. (Photo: Heather Cassell)

Palm Springs loves Marilyn Monroe at its heart. (Photo: Heather Cassell)

Looking out the window of our group’s van, I literally was on a journey through time back to the days of Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Nat King Cole, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie O, Frank Sinatra and so many others who called Palm Springs their personal getaway.

The California desert retreat still calls out to an estimated 1.5 million travelers from nearly every corner of the world every year to experience what the desert oasis has to offer, according to the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism’s website.

Palm Springs has a lot to offer travelers of varying interests.

Girls looking to relax can get blissed out at the Spa Resort Casino’s mineral baths and saunas. I came out of this simple spa completely dazed, relaxed and quite refreshed. The best part is that this unassuming spa is gentle on the purse and girls can hang out all day in the lounges and take their time going through the different stages of the treatment. When I was ready to leave, I was offered to freely use the showers, hairdryers and other amenities to walk out into the sunny world fresh and ready to hit the town.

Not far from Hollywood, it isn’t uncommon for vacationers to have brushes with celebrities. “The Springs” has been a retreat for stars and starlets (Norma Jean who later became Marilyn Monroe was discovered in Palm Springs) along with the wealthy to average traveler alike since the 1920s. Why not?

There are more than 130 golf courses that attract amateur and pro golfers.

Art galleries and the Palm Springs Art Museum among other historic sites, boutiques and interior decorating shops displaying quirky and cheerful post-WWII art line North and South Palm Canyon Dr., the nexus of Palm Springs. The historic Plaza Theatre, now home to the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, has been the site for Hollywood premieres and where Jack Benny occasionally broadcast his radio show during the 1940s.

Giving a nod to Palm Spring’s tie to Hollywood, a larger than life statue of Marilyn Monroe now demarks the heart of the city. Celebrity gazing can be done viewing the number of tributes to the town’s beloved late famous residents, such as Sonny Bono, who was the mayor of Palm Springs, and Lucille Ball, who also owned a home in the resort town.

Stars still flock to “The Springs” as their chosen escape destination, yet it’s still home to an estimated 45,000 people who revel in the historic town’s uniqueness.

I didn’t run into any celebrities during one of my afternoon walks, but I did find interesting shops, one of which was raved about by local girls.

The Springs girls love the Lush Couture, affectionately called the “$16 store.” It’s a fashionista’s dream where most, but not all items from blouses to slacks to shoes and accessories are, you guessed it, $16 bucks.

New stores, such as the funky and fun Just Modern: New Century Modern, are popping up along North Palm Canyon Drive, which has been dubbed Palm Spring’s Uptown Design District.

Shopping in Palm Springs (Photo: Courtesy of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism)

Shopping in Palm Springs (Photo: Courtesy of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism)

Dine around the desert

A renaissance is occurring in Palm Spring’s dining scene with new and interesting restaurants opening up within recent months, such as Casa de Frida, which offers a unique Latin fusion experience.

I was completely surprised by the flavors brought together from Mexico, Spain, Central and South America, Cuba and chef’s family recipes handed down for generations. Each dish was familiar but incomparable to the average Latin fare. One of the chef’s signature dishes is the Barbacoa, a Mexican version of boef bourguignon. The meat was so tender it fell off the bone into the sauce with the touch of the fork and each bite burst with flavor from savory to tangy from the green olives in the sauce.

Yet, the ultimate surprise was the desert. Being the desert girl that I am, I tend to judge restaurants on a scale of adventurous to below average based on their desert menus.  Cada de Frida is adventurous. The chef’s signature marble flan-like, but not flan, with a moist chocolate cake base stands in a world of its own.

The restaurant is quickly becoming a favorite among locals.

Another local favorite is Zin American Bistro. The food is exquisite and they have an award-winning wine list. I enjoyed a bowl of truffle mushroom soup and the special of the night sea bass with lobster that was a delight with a glass of Opolo zinfandel.

Our table was out on the open air patio where we watched locals peruse arts and crafts booths an dlisten to street musicians at the Palm Springs VillageFest, a free event held every Thursday night downtown. The street fair closed down by the time we were done with dinner, but I will definitely check it out the next time I’m in Palm Springs.

During the day, one of the best lunchtime views is from Peaks Restaurant on top of San Jacinto Mountains. I enjoyed grilled salmon along with ahi tuna poke appetizer. It was a perfect filling light lunch.

Pinocchio’s in the Desert is Palm Springs brunch spot, perfect for those mornings after late nights filled with too much dancing and a little bit of drinking.

Palm Canyon in the Indian Canyons of Palm Springs (Photo: Heather Cassell)

Palm Canyon in the Indian Canyons of Palm Springs (Photo: Heather Cassell)

Outdoor adventures

To work off the good food, Palm Springs offers the widest array of outdoor adventures at traveler’s finger tips that I’ve seen to date. A day can consist of an early hike in one of the historic canyons and the other half of the day can be spent cross-country skiing atop San Jacinto Mountains. It is truly amazing.

The area is naturally historic, the Tahquitz Canyon and three other canyons in the southern region are registered on the National Register of Historic Places and Palm Canyon is considered by some to be the world’s largest California Fan Palm Oasis.

Our group hiked along the trails and into the rocks at the Indian Canyon with our guide from Desert Adventures, learning the history of the development of Palm Springs and its natural wonders. It was impressive to see the fan of palm trees along the spring in between the desert rocks.

A girl’s dream getaway

It is no wonder why Dinah Shore, who inspired the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s tournament held at Mission Hills Country Club and ultimately the Dinah Shore Weekend, loved Palm Springs. It loved her back.

While the golf tournament no longer bears her name, the ultimate girl power spring break, The Dinah, honors her in name and for empowering women. The lesbian spring break (Dinah never spoke about lesbians hijacking her name and golfing event), it has grown beyond a weekend of queer girls partying, but into the world’s largest premiere all-girl destination featuring emerging and top shelf female talent.

This year’s event promises to be bigger and better with its traditional line up of comedians and entertainers, but also with the addition of introducing indie musicians and a mini film festival to the estimated 15,000 women who will gather in the desert oasis.

Yet, even without The Dinah, Palm Springs is a great girlfriend getaway destination for women of all ages simply because it offers so much in the palm of our hands.

Step out into the sun in Palm Springs, visit VisitPalmSprings.com.

To purchase reprints, contact editor [@] girlsthatroam [.] com.

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