The Best Of Palm Springs

A Palm Springs Insider Reveals The Secrets—And Surprises—Of This Desert Paradise

Michael Crawford

Maître d’, Mister Parker’s At Parker Palm Springs

It is probably safe to wager that few staff members at Parker Palm Springs meet as many hotel guests as Michael Crawford, the maître d’ and manager of Mister Parker’s, the property’s popular and stylish bistro. His role is key: ensure diners have a superb evening—enjoy a delicious meal and attentive service—that leaves them wanting more. Originally from Texas, Michael’s career has encompassed horticulture—he still keeps a vegetable garden—and hospitality. Michael appreciates fine dining and the Palm Springs’s food scene but confesses a love for Southern fried chicken and fried pork chops.

Michael Crawford, Maître d’, Mister Parker’s At Parker Palm Springs

Local Recommendations

Discover Palm Springs with Maître d’, Michael Crawford

Palm Springs is known as a center of Modernist architecture and for the fabled residences of Hollywood stars, but also as a desert resort of wide-ranging leisure—exceptional golfing, horseback riding, and hiking. Because of its increasing popularity with sophisticated travelers, the city attracts visitors year-round, even in summer. Michael appreciates warm desert nights. Above all, he is passionate about Palm Springs, its distinctive lifestyle, and is keen to share his favorite local hangouts with new visitors.

At The Parker

Creature Comforts On Property

Because the resort spreads over extensive grounds and offers seemingly countless experiences, Michael suggests the following shortlist for guests. First stop: idle time at one of two outdoor pools. Convenient to both is Lemonade Stand, just the place for a refreshing citron pressé. Pampering at the Palm Springs Yacht Club, the spa at Parker Palm Springs, where there are custom treatments for women and men—and an indoor pool—comes next. For those seeking something more active, a fully equipped gym is open 24/7. Tennis players up to a challenge may head to the Parker’s two clay courts. Elsewhere on the grounds, there is pétanque, a croquet lawn, and a putting green. Back inside and tucked away is Counter Reformation, the perfect spot for a late afternoon glass of wine, Super Tuscan to champagne, and tempting appetizers. For dinner? Michael is unequivocal: a table at Mister Parker’s.

Inside Palm Springs Yacht Club, the spa at the Parker Palm Springs.

The Great Outdoors

Putting Greens And Desert Views

Guests are both surprised and impressed by the varied desert landscape, in particular, the magnitude of surrounding mountains, their changing colors, especially at sunrise and sunset. With more than 350 sunny days a year, the destination is a golfers’ paradise. It may surprise many to learn that there are more courses—about 125 in the Coachella Valley, which includes Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, in addition to Palm Springs—than any other area in California. One of the most handsome and highly-rated public courses is Escena Golf Club (1100 Clubhouse View Drive; +1-760-778-2737). Its lounge and grill offer exceptional fare—a salmon niçoise or prosciutto-wrapped scallops—and stunning mountain vistas. Hiking reveals another dimension of Palm Springs and, given the area’s the proximity to the mountains, trails are plentiful. Michael recommends Indian Canyons (38500 S. Palm Canyon Drive; +1-760-323-6018)—with easy hikes for novices—and Tahquitz Canyon (500 W. Mesquite Ave.; +1-760-416-7044) for a guided nature trek to a 60-foot waterfall. The canyons are on the Aqua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indian Reservation, known for a remarkable grove of fan palms. A sign at the art museum marks the trailhead of another popular hike: the Palm Springs Museum Trail, a two-mile walk that leads to views of the city and Coachella Valley.

Escena Golf Club in Palm Springs. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs.

Designing Ways

Architectural Treasure

Palm Springs is celebrated as a pre-eminent destination for mid-twentieth century Modern architecture and design. Buildings include glamorous residences—of Hollywood film stars and moguls—and commercial and public structures, such as the former bank made over as the Architecture and Design Center em>(300 S. Palm Canyon Drive; +1-760-423-5260), part of the Palm Springs Art Museum, or the Tramway Gas station, which today serves as the city’s visitor information center. Architect E. Stewart Williams’s 1961 building for Coachella Savings & Loan, today a Chase Bank, endures as a gleaming example of mid-century design.

For a guided visit to luxury residences, including their interiors and grounds, Michael suggests the Modern Tour led by Michael Stern (moderntour.com), author of Julius Shulman: Palm Springs. Walking tours are also popular and cover various itineraries, depending on participant interests. Michael recommends P.S. Walk with Me (+1-855-955-9255) and Palm Springs Historical Society Walking Tours (221 S. Palm Canyon Drive; +1-760-323-8297). For a different variety of aesthetics, the Palm Springs Art Museum (101 Museum Drive; +1-760-322-4800) collections embrace modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, Native American and Western art, and contemporary glass, in addition to architecture and design.

Inside the Palm Springs Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs.

Culinary Bounty

Romantic Settings And Hip Haunts

As a destination that is many things to many visitors, Palm Springs offers commensurately varied dining. While it may be difficult to leave the grounds of the hotel and give up brunch at Norma’s, there may be no more classic lunch spot in Palm Springs than Melvyn’s Restaurant (200 W. Ramon Rd.; +1-800-772-6655), located within the historic Ingleside Inn, whose guests have included Salvador Dalí and Elizabeth Taylor. For Michael, it exudes “that rat-pack feel.” The menu has quintessential dishes such as crab and shrimp louie salad and chicken piccata. At dinner, Steak Diane and veal Oscar are alluring items for first-time guests or mainstays for habitués. There’s a wine list, but this is the place for a dry martini.

Ficus trees shelter diners in the atmospheric garden patio at Le Vallauris (385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way; +1-760-325-5059), with traditional French food offered à la carte or on a prix-fixe menu. The extensive carte ranges from spicy tuna tartar with ginger, sesame, and soy dressing to grilled lamb in a mustard crust. Exuding the contemporary is Workshop Kitchen And Bar (800 N. Palm Canyon Drive; +1-760-459-3451), a farm-to-fork restaurant retrofitted within a former movie theater, in the Uptown Design District. Workshop’s New American fare balances mesquite-grilled pork chops and wood-fired pizzas with small plates of roasted brussel sprouts and pulled pork belly tostaditas. For a casual meal, Michael recommends fish tacos at Shanghai Reds (235 S. Indian Canyon Drive; +1-760-322-9293).

At the bar inside Melvyn's Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs.

Shopping In Palm Springs

Where To Shop Till You Drop

Like other aspects of Palm Springs, shopping here is a source of novelty. The Uptown Design District, along Palm Canyon Drive, is a hub for mid-century Modern and contemporary furniture and furnishings, including lighting, along with stylish spots for lunch and coffee. Michael recommends the Shops at Thirteen Forty-Five (1345 N. Palm Canyon Drive; theshopsat1345.com), an eclectic collection of apparel, décor, and art—much of it only available in Palm Springs—housed in an architectural landmark. Shoppers find women’s resort wear at Candice Held; jewelry inspired by nature and made by hand at Respect the Chief. Soukie Modern has vintage Moroccan rugs, dazzling wedding blankets, and kilim pillows. Elsewhere, there are boutiques featuring European housewares and stores with Chinese antiques. For the perfect mid-century souvenir—from Iittala glassware to Bitossi ceramics—head to A la Mod (866 N. Palm Canyon Drive; +1-760-327-0707). California fashion designer Trina Turk opened her first shop of women’s ready-to-wear clothing, swimwear, and accessories—apparel known for vibrant colors, bold patterns, and gauzy fabrics—on North Palm Canyon Drive (891 N. Palm Canyon Drive; +1-760-416-2856). An epitome of Palm Springs style, Turk has expanded to include clothing and sportswear for men, Mr. Turk, and boutiques throughout the United States. Perhaps not surprisingly, consignment stores are big in the Coachella Valley. Inventories range from vintage clothing to furniture, house décor, and jewelry. One of the largest, Estate Sale (4185 E. Palm Canyon Drive; +1-760-321-7628), is located conveniently across from the Parker Palm Springs.

The Uptown Design District, along Palm Canyon Drive, is a hub for mid-century Modern and contemporary furniture and furnishings. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs.
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