Palm Springs Thrives Anew, Arts and Cultural Events Drive a Desert Renaissance
Don’t worry, if you miss this week’s festival, there’s another one next week, or so it seems in Palm Springs these days.
Music, Theater, Cinema, Photography and other Fine Arts are being celebrated in new, innovative and elaborate ways in this history-rich “small town”, 90 minutes east of Los Angeles. Here are just a few examples, starting with the star-studded Palm Springs International Film Festival in January. MC Mary Hart accurately said from the stage, “Well, nobody is in Hollywood tonight!” The audience included Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey, Bono and his U2 bandmates and producers, directors galore. Streep, Roberts and McConaughey all gave moving tributes to cinema and to a reinvigorated Palm Springs as a cultural destination.
Add in the wildly successful Coachella Valley Music Festival, followed by the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, the nearby Indian Wells Art Festival, the Palm Springs Photo Festival and the weekly music events both in central Palm Springs and adjacent venues, well, you get the idea. Palm Springs is reinventing itself!
Recognizing Palm Springs’ rebirth are some savvy business people, some who showed up a few years ago, such as The Ace Hotel, Saguaro and the terrifically popular Tropicale. Other forward-looking hospitality entrepreneurs like the Kimpton Hotels are partnering with developers to continue the revitalization of a slowly re-awakening downtown shopping district. The long-dormant downtown mall is being rebuilt, anchored by a Kimpton property, and unique shops that will hopefully eschew the cookie-cutter, mind-numbing sameness of the stores-we-see-everywhere.
Speaking of savvy moves, the Noble House group bought the old Riviera Resort in 2006, closed it down and remodeled and refreshed the place without losing the character of this old Rat Pack headquarters. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and the rest would preview their Las Vegas shows for the locals in the Riviera’s Grand Ballroom. Bob Hope held many a fundraiser in the same vast venue. Now, with the fine-tuning of innovative General Manager Marco Perry, the Riviera Resort and Spa is attracting families, hipsters and weekend couples to the 3-pool and easy-going property. The Riviera is also on the vanguard of bringing corporate gatherings back to Palm Springs, taking advantage of the great air service into Palm Springs International Airport and, like other smart Palm Springs hoteliers, working with
Coachella Valley’s spas are often extraordinary, and the Riviera Spa Terre is at the top of the list. Spa Terre is a full service spa, including a hair and nail salon (great for bridal events). It offers one of the most instantly appealing spa areas you are likely to find. It is centered on the harmony of the Buddha Lounge, adjacent to the facial and massage areas. Plan some extra time before or after your treatment just to relax in this dreamy oasis with the sounds of waterfalls and lovely tubs — you will emerge serene and renewed (we loved Sylvia’s massage work).
In addition to the hospitality entrepreneurs, artists have been moving back to Palm Springs again, and where there are artists there are galleries to help them promote their work. Some of the gallery owners like Brian Marki Fine Art and Framing, are artists themselves. An Oakland College of Arts and Crafts graduate, Marki has focused on watercolors in his own work, but chose a career representing regional and international artists and framing their work. His new gallery in the El Paseo blocks downtown, is a great example of the area’s new direction. He represents the new breed of business people who live in town and are putting down committed roots.
While the side trips still abound, such as the 8400-foot elevation Palm Springs Tram, the Joshua Tree National Monument and the popular Indian Canyons trail hikes, central Palm Springs has grown into a great “base of operations” for visitors. With the ongoing revitalizations mentioned above, and the existing shopping and great dining, it’s all here. Fly in, drive in, bike in and have some great desert experiences relaxing in Palm Springs.
By Lucinda Anderson and Frank DiMarco