reviewer Rosie de Belgeonne
Last year, when a certain celebrity died, it reminded me of how important it is to carpe diem. And, what I most wanted to do was to drive an epic US road trip, taking endless photos of the raw, untouched landscape and dazzling scenes of roadside Americana. But I didn’t have a driver’s license and my six-year-old digital camera had seen better days. So during a long, hard New York City winter this past year, I set about learning to drive and gradually equipped myself with some new photography gear.
Finally, a few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I set out on an adventure around the American southwest: Starting in San Francisco, we drove the fresh, winding Pacific Coast Highway and then turned eastwards to the dry, dusty Palm Springs desert. The afternoon heat was scorching as we pulled up at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, an oasis situated in a former Westward Ho motel from the 1960s near downtown Palm Springs. Now, the hotel is a hipsters’ paradise, with cool, light interiors and a do-as-you-please vibe. We felt as if we had stepped into a hip playground for grown-ups, where real life was but a distant memory.
hotel name & website: Ace Hotel and Swim Club Palm Springs
who: Me, boyfriend, and our little yellow VW bug.
why: Part of a road trip extravaganza around the southwest. We stayed in Palm Springs because we wanted to check out Joshua Tree National Park, and we picked the Ace since their restaurant, King’s Highway, is run by the same guys who are behind Five Leaves, our fave local eatery back home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
when: July 2015
stay: Two large salt-water pools lie at the center of the hotel, where an afternoon of lounging to mellow, happy tunes is washed down with excellent cocktails from the Amigo Room bar. Nightly events, such as karaoke and bingo, keep the party vibe going late, but communal fire pits and a stargazing platform lure those seeking a quieter experience.
location: The Ace is perfectly located to explore all that Palm Springs has to offer. Borrow a bike or scooter to scope out vintage shops and mid-century design stores, stopping along the way for refreshments at one of the many shaded cafes and bars. A modernist architecture tour is a must, either guided or with a self-drive tour map from the iconic Palm Springs Visitors Center. The cinematic landscape of Joshua Tree National Park is an easy drive, and Pioneertown, which began in the '40s as a live-in Old West movie set, is a fun detour. Drop by Pappy & Harriet’s for live music acts from surprisingly big names and a side of excellent barbeque.
rooms: 173 stylish rooms are part-cloaked in canvas, decked with art prints, and equipped with luxury Moroccan gowns, vintage vinyl, and toiletries from Rudy’s Barbershop, any of which can be purchased to take home. Pay a little extra for a private patio with fire pit and soak up the mini-bar under the stars or call room service for top-notch treats from King’s Highway. The beds were joyously comfortable and gave us the best night’s sleep we’ve had in awhile.
pool/gym/beach status: Large party pool with giant inflatable pool toys and adjoining hot tub, plus a smaller pool for quieter times. The Feel-Good Spa has an extensive menu (also available in-room). The gym is open 24 hours.
food situation (mini bar, breakfast, restaurant): Decadent mini-bar with full-size bottles and tempting snacks, but no free coffee or water in rooms. Excellent, locally-sourced menu available at King’s Highway (a restyled former Denny’s). Try the ricotta pancakes or sweet corn fritters for breakfast, or mahi mahi fish tacos with a tequila Negroni as the perfect sunset pick-me-up.
bar: The Amigo Room hosts nightly events to an attractive young crowd, has 21 craft beers on tap, and serves up a hard-to-beat artisanal cocktail menu. Pool-side service is on hand to keep you stocked up on frozen piña coladas without leaving your lounger.
data (wifi?): Of course, and accessible throughout.
vibes: Hip, young, friendly, chill. “Boho-desert chic.”
kiddie agreeable: Absolutely. A surprising amount of little ones enjoying the pool, and a special kids’ menu at the restaurant. And, pet-friendly, too (while we’re about it).
specialty: Instills a blissed-out vacation vibe from the moment you check in. Be careful, though, because you may never want to leave.
price scale: For the location and happiness factor, surprisingly affordable.