If you can take some heat, this California city is a great place to get a room right now.
STAY HERE There are two schools of thought on travel accom-modation. There is the group who say: a bed is a bed and all I need is somewhere clean to lay my head because I don’t plan to spend time in my room anyway; and there is the other group who feel that where they stay should be memorable in the way it looks or contributes to the place’s overall experience.
I understand both these points of view and have fallen into one or the other of these groups depending on the occasion. But I do love design—and the idea of regionality where hotels are concerned—so I’m always on the lookout for accommodation with what I call original spin, hotels that “have a look” and feel local. Oh yes, and I want them to give great service AND be reasonably priced.
If you can take some heat, Palm Springs is a great place to get a room right now. While the high days of summer can tap out at a killer 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, May days run in the mid-90s, and June can be in the low 100s.
Because the Coachella Valley has been particularly hard hit by the recession this past year, stunning accommodation is going for a fraction of the cost it would in a better economy. Hotel managers I spoke to for this story likened Palm Springs room rates to those in Las Vegas, where the prices fluctuate by the nanosecond. When I visited the city in mid-March, you could get knockout rooms at the most chichi places—the Parker Palm Springs, the Viceroy, the Colony Palms—for $99 a night. People I spoke with this week were quoting higher prices for May (June rates always do a cliff dive), but the prices I report below could be lower when you call, and it is definitely worth asking about the whens and wherefores of any rock bottom offers.
My picks for the cheapest chicest places to stay in Palm Springs.
All rates are for weekday accommodation, which means Sunday through Thursday night. Check out the special deal for Frugalbits readers.
Viceroy Palm Springs
It’s hard to believe this boutique hotel was redesigned nine years ago. Done up by L.A.’s Kelly Wearstler, a darling of décor mags, this luxury hotel and spa has the Hollywood Regency look for which Wearstler is famous—a look with legitimate roots in the desert’s original glamour era of the 1950s and early 1960s.
The Room: Regency King, with all of its requisite amenities.
The Rates: For May the posted website best available rate is $150 (when I called reservations, I was quoted considerably less than $120). For June, posted rates are $110 but could go lower.
The Place: Viceroy Palm Springs, 415 South Belardo Road, 760-320-4117
The Horizon Hotel
With just 22 rooms dotted in auto-court fashion throughout 2.5 open and pristinely manicured acres, this quiet hotel, designed in 1952 by architect William Cody as a retreat for a Hollywood producer and his pals, is that rare thing in Palm Springs, an iconic mid-century modern hotel with a look that isn’t frozen in the 1950s. This place feels fresh and modern in a current way.
The Room: A queen standard includes typical luxuries such as Italian linens—and atypical ones like alfresco showers. An awesome continental breakfast personally delivered to your room or poolside is an added bonus.
The Rates: September through May the rate for a standard queen is $159, but the management has agreed to take 10 percent off that price for Frugalbits readers who call and request the discount. In June (through August), the rates drop to $109 a night.
The Place: The Horizon Hotel, 1050 East Palm Canyon Drive, 760-323-1858
Colony Palms Hotel
On the Conde Nast Traveller Hot List for two years running, the 52-room California-Spanish/Moroccan-themed Colony Palms feels both unpretentious and exclusive (like old money with zero need to impress). Contributing to the relaxed atmosphere is a lush, informally planted internal garden and an easy-going poolside scene that includes a chic bar and restaurant opening onto the pool deck.
The Room: Colony King, with all of the requisite amenities.
The Rates: For May, you can expect to pay $129 a night; in June, that rate drops to $99. Before booking be sure to ask for any special promotions and check to see whether the quoted rates are in fact the lowest available. Prices are extremely competitive here.
The Place: Colony Palms Hotel, 572 North Indian Canyon Drive, 760-969-1800
Ace Hotel & Swim Club
Keepin’ it cheap and keepin’ it fun, Ace hotels are “The Place” to bunk right now if you’re a trendy thirtysomething—or any other age and looking for good-time, high-energy scene. Ace management loves doing things in their own way, and in Palm Springs that translates into resort activities at the 180-room establishment: DJs on the pool deck, family arts and crafts weekends, a rolling taco bar available for you and your entourage—plus plenty of other ways to entertain yourself without leaving the property.
The Room: The Simple room is done up in what management describes as “industrial luxury” style. All rooms have king-size (organic rubber) beds, flat-screen TVs, large bathrooms with rain-head showers, and record players. After that, the décor in each is different.
The Rates: Summer’s come early to the Ace, with May through August rates at $79 a night (through Travelzoo).
The Place: Ace Hotel & Swim Club, 701 East Palm Canyon Drive, 760-325-9900
Photo: Courtesy of The Colony Palms