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PostHeaderIcon Travel

PostHeaderIcon Have Your Own Palm Springs Weekend

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Whether you are into shopping, the outdoors, entertainment or just lounging by the pool, Palm Springs is your weekend destination.  A little more than an hour by plane (Alaska Airlines has three daily non-stops from SFO) or about seven hours by car, this desert community has something for everyone.

More than 100 years ago, Palm Springs was a sleepy village situated in what were once hallowed Indian canyons.  By the turn of the 20th Century, it was thought to be a place with restorative powers, due to the natural hot springs.  By the 1920’s, it was discovered by movie makers and the Hollywood elite.  Considered just far enough from Los Angeles to be out of the reach of tyrannical studio heads, movie stars flocked to the area to let down their hair and party like early rock stars.

As the era of Old Hollywood faded, the “Rat Pack,” headed by Frank Sinatra made it their own, building luxurious homes and backing the building of high end resorts and golf courses.  But by the 80s, Palm Springs had become a faded beauty, known for tacky tee-shirt shops and retirees.

Enter Sonny Bono.  The entertainer, restaurant entrepreneur and social activist ran for mayor and to everyone’s surprise, won the seat.  Bono worked hard to bring the charisma back to the area, starting the Palm Springs International Film Festival, helping to restore the city core and bringing media attention back to the desert community. Sadly, he was killed in a tragic ski accident in 1998 .
But his work and dreams live on.  Today, Palm Springs is a happening place, full of fascinating things to do, places to visit and of course that unbeatable weather.

Here’s how you can experience your own Palm Springs Weekend:


3:00 p.m.:  Take the mid-afternoon flight from SFO to PSP.  Check into the Ace Hotel, the newest and hippest hotel in the city.  You may see in its stark white walls and orange doors a faint resemblance to a 60’s Motel 6, which it once was.  The room rate varies by season, so check the website to make reservations.

6:00 p.m.:  Head to Tropicale in downtown PS for cocktails and dinner.  The outside patio is a great place to meet new friends while you enjoy the warm evening air.  The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating.  Serving a Hawaiian Fusion menu, entrees run from about $15 to $25.

10:00 p.m.:  Don’t miss a show of the Palm Springs Follies.  You may have to order tickets ahead of time as this is the most popular show in the city.  60 and 70 year old showgirls sing and dance their way through the music of the 1930s to 1950s.  Las Vegas has nothing on this extravaganza.


9:00 a.m.:  After breakfast at the Kings Highway at the Ace, rent scooters right out front and motor around the fascinating mid-century neighborhoods nearby.  Stop at the top of Palm Canyon Drive, and look south for a dead on view of Bob Hopes house, designed by famed architect John Lautner.

Noon:  Park your scooter in front of LOOK, for lunch.  The lime green and black and white décor makes for a perfect place to experience the ultimate PS vibe.  The food and service are the best with a covered patio to keep you out of the sun.  My favorite, a wrap called Nuts and Clucks runs just under $10.

2:00 p.m.:  Continue your scooter tour through the downtown neighborhoods of Las Palmas, The Movie Colony and Old Tuscany.  Get a map of the celebrity homes just about anywhere downtown so you don’t miss the pad where Elvis spent his honeymoon with Priscilla or the Peter Lawford house, where it’s said Marilyn Monroe secretly met with Bobby Kennedy.

6:00 p.m.:  Cool your tired body with a margarita and dinner at El Mirasol.  This come as you are Mexican restaurant attracts all types, from blue haired grandmas to families to in- the-know gay men.  Get there early, as it gets crowded.  Once you have your table, don’t hurry the meal.  The people-watching is as good as the food.  Their signature margarita is about $8, but the food itself is very inexpensive.

9:00 p.m.:  Stroll along the retro shops of north Palm Canyon.  Window shop, take in an art gallery opening or grab a gelato.


10:00 a.m.:  Right across from the Ace is Koffi, where you can sit by the fountain and enjoy the view of Mt. Jacinto.  Also be sure to check out Koffi downtown, where Sunday morning is an event with the grassy yard filled with morning people and their dogs.  Right next door is Just Fabulous, where you can buy gifts, cards and books on the history and homes of Palm Springs.

1:00 p.m.:  Palm Springs is famous for its consignment stores.  Two of the best are The Estate Sale and J & J Consignments.  Peruse everything from furniture to art to jewelry here.  If you see something you like, buy it.  By tomorrow, it may be gone.

4:00 p.m.:  As your afternoon draws to a close, take time to lounge by the pool.  The Ace pool area is usually rocking with a lively crowd on late Sunday afternoons.

7:00 p.m.:  Palm Springs is loaded with entertainment options.  From the McCallum Theatre to the Annenberg Theater to the many casinos in the area, there is always a great artist in town.  Recent concerts ran the gamut from Reba McIntyre to Earth, Wind and Fire to Adam Lambert.

Sadly, you’ll have to catch that Monday flight home.  But this is one weekend you won’t forget while you make notes of all the things still to do on your next visit.--SEW


Ace Hotel



El Mirasol
140 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
760 323 0721

The Estate Sale

Palm Springs Follies

McCallum Theatre

Annenberg Theater

Last Updated (Saturday, 05 March 2011 17:59)


PostHeaderIcon Ten Things To Do in Napa

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#10 Check out the Napa General Store
On a Saturday or Sunday morning this is the place to be.  In the newly renovated downtown river walk area, the Napa General Store is combination gift shop, café and meeting place for the locals.  It’s the perfect place to spend time wandering around their selection of memorabilia, house wares, books and wines.  We spent some time talking with the owner, who being a local herself, knew all the wineries in town and shared with us the latest gossip.  Best purchase:  A frame ready map of the wine region for $15.

#9 Attend a cooking demonstration at The Culinary Institute of America 
Located at the Greystone castle in the Napa hills, the CIA offers classes in wine, food and fine culinary dining.  Live cooking demonstrations are performed by the renowned chef-instructors on Saturday and Sunday.  The one hour events feature recipes that reflect the seasonal flavors of the wine country.  Tickets are $15 and may be purchased the day of the demonstration.  2555 Main Street St. Helena.  For more information call 707 967 2320 or go to www.ciachef.edu/california

#8  Bike up the Silverado Trail
There is probably nothing more beautiful than the drive from Napa to Calistoga on the Silverado Trail.  The views are awe inspiring and it’s been written up countless times in travel magazines as a “don’t miss” experience.  For the braver of us, try biking the 20 some mile road.  If you can’t bring your own, you can rent at many places in the valley.  There is a wide biking shoulder, but be advised, cars do tend to go fast along the road.  Most of the route is flat, but there are some hills.  There are some major wineries along this stretch including Sinskey, Stags Leap and the Silverado, owned by the Disney family.  They all welcome biking enthusiasts.

#7  Enjoy a Calistoga spa
For over 100 years the spas and natural springs of Calistoga have welcomed those desiring pampering and relaxation.  One of my favorites is Golden Haven Hot Springs, one of the oldest still in operation.  They offer a couples mud bath, as well as hot spring mineral pools and private treatment rooms for massage and hot stone therapy.  Located at 1713 Lake Street, Calistoga, discount coupons and special deals are available.  For more information call 707 942 8000 or go to www.goldenhaven.com.

#6  Have dinner at Celadon
 Although the restaurants of Yountville are more famous, they are often expensive and hard to get into.  Celadon in Napa serves the best comfort food in the area and the setting, in a renovated warehouse, is beautiful.  Their garden room is especially nice on a warm evening with its view of the Napa River.  It’s an easy walk from most of the in town hotels, set on a side street where you can complete your evening with some window shopping.  500 Main Street Suite G, Napa.  For reservations call: 707 254 9690 or go to www.celadonnapa.com

#5  Visit Ceja Vineyards
Pablo and Juanita Ceja moved to the Napa Valley in 1967 and two of their children, Armando and Pedro established and run the the first Hispanic-owned winery in the United States. Company president Amelia Ceja is a master chef, and when not cooking for friends and family she is a guest chef at local restaurants. This is a private winery but they do have a wine club which gets you invitations to parties, dinners and their famous Bocce ball tournaments. Surely one of the most beautiful wineries in the area, our tasting there was so much fun, we didn’t want to leave. For more information, see www.cejavineyards.com.

#4  Shop St. Helena
The town of St. Helena offers the crème de la crème of Napa Valley shopping.  You could spend a whole afternoon taking in the high end stores, galleries and shops. A beautiful tree lined street, the main drag is a busy place on weekends.  To avoid the crowds plan a visit mid week.  In the off season, not only will you have the place to yourself, you may also score some great discounts.  Make sure to look above the store fronts and admire the 19th century facades of the original town stone buildings.

#3  Arrange a limo tour
It can be overwhelming to plan a tour of Napa.  Many of us just don’t know which wineries to stop at.  Arranging a day of touring by limousine may be for you.  Not only are you driven around in style, these companies have arrangements with small and boutique wineries that are not open to the public.  On our last visit, we were treated to meet and greets by the winery owners and a catered lunch right in the middle of the vines.  The real piece de resistance was that our driver owned a small vineyard himself, and regaled us with tales of the ups and downs of the business.  If you are a party of 5 or 6, the cost is very reasonable and an experience you will not forget.

#2 Take in a free event
All summer long there are free events to attend in the area.  Many wineries do concerts.  What better way to end your day than to sit at sunset, listening to a woodwind quartet or an acoustic guitar played by a local musician?   Pick up a local guide, and peruse the events calendar.  I recently counted no fewer than 50 special events coming up this summer, most of them at no or minimal cost.

#1 Do a picnic lunch
Although there is enough in the Napa region to keep you busy for a week, and the wineries are great fun, at some point you just can’t do any more tastings.  When that time comes, take a break and allow yourself to soak up the warm sunshine and summer breezes.  Between the town of Napa and Calistoga there are delis, cafes and markets where you can pick up a sandwich or salad.  Find a spot to sit and linger, make new friends and savor what you have experienced.  One of the best places to do this is the Beringer Vineyards.  The oldest continuously operating winery in the area, it’s the home of the Rhine House, built by Frederick Beringer in the early 1800’s.  The grounds here are expansive, with fountains and flowers.  Their wine shop is one of the best around and there is plenty of parking.   2000 Main Street, St. Helena  707 963 4812

Contributing writer Steve Wallace will be posting a monthly travel blog.  Feel free to contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with suggestions or comments.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 23 November 2010 03:10)

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