Words by Stephanie Theobald
Just when you thought Palm Springs couldn't get any hotter, the hip thermometer shot through the roof. How about sightings of Suki Waterhouse drinking Bloody Marys with squid ink and truffle oil at the new L'Horizon, the most exclusive hotel Palm Springs has ever seen? Or Caitlin Jenner spied tucking into prime rib at the freshly-opened Mr. Lyons Steakhouse, famous for its 19th century English décor dating back to the 1940s?
Even when you think you're just out for a low-key Vietnamese meal at the new Rooster and The Pig, you'll stand a chance, as I did, of getting a table next to Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid giggling with hot male model Lucky Blue Smith. I later found out that the energetic Coachella set have dubbed this funky take on Vietnamese dining (check out the Jasmine tea leaf salad) the eaterie of the moment.
But to see quite how happening Palm Springs has become in only a year, you have to stop off at the Arrive (top), a slick new budget hotel catering to the social media generation. The brain child of Facebook tycoon Ezra Callahan, the Arrive is so laid-back there's no in-room phone, so you text the front desk for room service. The Millennials are still partial to a bit of old school though, and the most popular pool party night is the one with old Hollywood classics screened around the water as revellers float on the blue or make merry around communal fire pits.
Even the celebrity house-hunting has stepped up the pace. A couple of years ago it was Leo DiCaprio and Sia, investing in weekend homes in this pastel-coloured desert oasis, formerly beloved of Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. This year, Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes rented Sinatra's old house for the weekend and the word is that Cary Grant's old home, now up for sale, has been viewed by the likes of Hedi Slimane, who often escapes to Palm Springs for the weekend.
Now the new property gossip is that Mick Jagger will be looking for a Jumping Jack Flash pad when he comes here in October to headline in the big buzz festival of the autumn: Desert Trip. This will take place in the same location as hugely successful Coachella, but this one will comprise three days of classic rock with a line-up stretching from The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan to Neil Young and The Who. Reportedly selling out in three hours, it has been affectionately dubbed 'Old-Chella', and is being billed as a meeting between cool old school (many of the old Warhol entourage are flying in from New York to witness it) and the new jeunesse dorée who want to see what the '60s and '70s vibe was all about.
One of the brilliant things about kitsch-is-cool Palm Springs is the fact that it encourages mash-ups of vintage and modern, old and young, straight and gay. At this spring's big lesbian jamboree, Dinah Shore, Lady Gaga, below, was spotted dancing poolside at the Hilton hotel in support of her friend and VIP DJ, Samantha Ronson, as well as many of the cast of Orange is the New Black. Celebrities Saoirse Ronan, Rooney Mara and Brie Larson walked the red carpet at this year's Palm Springs International film festival and later were spotted in the uptown design district, perusing vintage cocktail shakers and Paco Rabanne space dresses.
The biggest impact all this hipness has had on Palm Springs is in the exciting new swathe of places to stay. Big brands are now realising that Palm Springs is California tourism's new gold rush. Virgin has announced plans to open a hotel here in 2018. What makes this all so exciting is the fact that you will rarely find hotels anywhere in the world that are so laid back. The reason for this is that the intense, dry heat here makes you feel as though you are on Valium. You can't help but slow down, shake the weight of city stress off your back and just relax.
Until now, it was the Ace that held the reputation as the most achingly hip hotel in town. Even if you weren't staying at the hotel, the Ace had the great idea to open the pool and the bar to everyone. You could spend all afternoon in the pool if you wanted to, for the price of a $7 mojito.
The Ace's dazzling new rival, Arrive, is in the uptown design district, the first built-from-scratch hotel that Palm Springs has seen in the past 10 years, and people are encouraged to come and hang out at the 32-room cedar and steel chill palace. Swim in the pool, play ping-pong at the over-sized tables, eat in the airy Reservoir restaurant or have a home-made lavender ice cream in the attached Ice Cream Shoppe.
Nothing so old fashioned as a wardrobe clutters the rooms (Muji-style rails abound instead), mini bar snacks come at sensible prices and the next time you meet the receptionist, he or she may well be doing valet parking. In the new world of social media democracy, nobody is expected to stick at doing just one job.
But what of all the people who have spent £1000 plus for a VIP ticket to Desert Trip? Well, as from this year they have L'Horizon at their disposal, its rooms begin at around £442 a night. Following a $10 million refit, L'Horizon, built in 1952 by mid-century modern icon William Cody, has been likened to the grandiose Georges V in Paris or LA's ritzy Hotel Bel-Air. Just as the Ace now has competition in the Arrive, the Alice-in- Wonderland-style Parker Hotel has, until now, been known as the most classy-cool hotel in town. But it will need to keep an eye on L'Horizon, which has Palm Springs' only Michelin-starred chef, 25 exclusive oak-and walnut-fitted bungalows with private patios, some outdoor bathrooms and a brass plaque above your door with your name engraved on it.
There's a great story about Marilyn Monroe taking a naked outdoor shower on the premises, back in the day. Her room, number 10, retains the original copper fireplace where she supposedly warmed up afterwards. L'Horizon gives you that feeling that things could get naughty at any moment: no children under 17 are allowed, and guests at this Coachella's Calvin Klein #waitwhere party (including Jaden Smith, Zoe Kravitz, David Blaine and Kanye West) were happy to re-imagine the libertine spirit exemplified by Monroe until the early hours.
And if you want a break from all that hip-ness without breaking the bank (and have some more Marilyn Monroe mythology thrown in), then the Monkey Tree, built in Palm Springs' famous 'mid-century modern' style, could be the place for you. This time the Monroe story revolves around a trip made here by the actress and JFK back in 1962. Previous Brooklyn-based owner, Kathy Friedle admits that there's no photo evidence about the actress's stay but the hotel's famous designer, Albert Frey, noted in a journal that she resided one weekend in room 15, which has its own private patio entrance - perfect for body guards to monitor goings-on. The hotel later became a famous 'clothing optional' resort, until Kathy and her husband Gary took it over this year.
A 15-roomed, friendly, blue and yellow-themed oasis, the Monkey Tree is just what you want if you're after more low-key Palm Springs glamour. Your high point may well be the free cocktail hour by the pool where you sit in the most incredible (and flattering) pink light and take the kind of selfies where your instagram friends say things like, 'Where the hell is that? I hate you!' You might also not hate the new Scandinavian spa and plunge pool the Friedles have just had installed.
As the locals admit, there hasn't been an autumn as exciting as this for a long time. 15-year-resident Richard Dupont, an intimate of the Warhol circle in the 1970s who just finished shooting, Billionaire Boy's Club* with Suki Waterhouse, says he can't wait to see all the old faces and the new ones when the Desert Trip circus makes its way to town. 'The Warhol set used to live in New York City- for the glamour. But there's no more glamour back East. Palm Springs is the end of the Yellow Brick Road these days!'
- Billionaire Boy's Club opens in September at the Toronto Film Festival.
L'Horizon: 1050 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs,. +1 760-323-1858
25 rooms, an al fresco spa with private cabins and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Doubles from £446, room only
Monkey Tree Hotel: 2388 E. Racquet Club Road, Palm Springs,
+1 760 322-6059
16 rooms, outdoor Swedish sauna and plunge pool
Doubles from £136, room only
Arrive 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, +1 760.507.1650.
32 rooms, Apple TV in rooms, oversize spa, restaurant, ice cream shop and cafe.
Doubles from £122, room only
Desert Trip festival October 7 – 9th and 14th – 16th
British Airways, flies from London Heathrow to Los Angeles from £497 return.
Onwards to Palm Springs is a two hour drive; Holiday Autos has cars from £90 for three days.