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Downtown Palm Springs is a Great Destination with Kids

Downtown Palm Springs is a Great Destination with Kids

*Our visit to Palm Springs was hosted in part by the Hyatt Palm Springs, and our views expressed here are, as usual, our own.

I’ve been visiting Palm Springs since I was 14 years old. Believe me – that spans many years, tons of good times and a LOT of visits. Now continuing those fun adventures with my own family, we’ve stayed in many different parts of the Coachella Valley. We are convinced that Downtown Palm Springs is a great destination with kids.

After a gazillion visits since the girls were babies, we’ve instilled this same love for Palm Springs in Sophia and Ava. They beg to drive over from San Diego for the hot desert sun, cool swimming pools, date shakes and warm nights outdoors. One of the big draws for them is the downtown Palm Springs area, because there is so much to do, see, eat and explore. Everything is located in an area we can easily walk (or drive when we’d rather ride in air-conditioned luxury).

Hyatt Palm Springs

The Hyatt Palm Springs is located smack dab in the middle of all the action of downtown Palm Springs.

We recently had the opportunity to stay at the Hyatt Palm Springs, right downtown on East Palm Canyon Drive in the heart of Palm Springs. Our experience was awesome because we were right in the middle of it all.

Downtown Palm Springs is a Great Destination with Kids

With so many activities, great restaurants and shopping right outside the front door of our hotel room at the Hyatt Palm Springs, we could easily have parked the car for the weekend and never seen it until time to go home.

Here’s a sampling of why our family thinks Downtown Palm Springs is a great destination with kids.

Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs interior view with colorful art

Three levels of dining at Lulu California Bistro allow for plenty of colorful people watching!

Downtown Palm Springs Offers Great Restaurant Choices

Downtown Palm Springs is so walkable, we never had to get in the car to head out for a meal. This is a huge plus especially for families with stroller-age kids. Though our girls are much older now, we can still remember the packing up, buckling into carseats and folding strollers into the back of the car. Here, we were able to walk outside and choose from any number of restaurants within a five minute walk.

 Steamed Pork Belly Bun at Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

The steamed pork belly buns at Watercress were out of this world, or as they are properly known, Bánh Bao Thit Heo Kho. (The cocktails there were darn tasty as well).

We particularly enjoyed our meals at Lulu California Bistro, The Tropicale Restaurant, and Watercress Vietnamese Bistro. All were delicious in their own ways, kid friendly, and a short walk from the Hyatt.

The Tropicale Restaurant in Palm Springs

Toasting another fun visit to Palm Springs at The Tropicale Restaurant.

Palm Canyon Drive is a Shopping Mecca

For decades, East Palm Canyon Drive was the center of it all. Teeming with shops and restaurants, the area has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the last several years. Now it’s is a vibrant and exciting area for strolling and shopping again. Fashion, art, gifts and mementos can all be perused within a several long and interesting blocks. The sidewalks are even decorating with stars that honor famous people who have lived in Palm Springs.

Adding color and fun, the mid-century modern architectural movement is highly celebrated in Palm Springs. There are several galleries and shops downtown that feature decor from that era, now popular again and selling better than ever. Here’s a handy shopping map of Palm Springs to guide you.

Some of our favorite shops are Trina Turk/Mr. Turk, Greetings cards and novelty gift shop, and Modern Way mid-century furnishings.

Palm Springs Art Museum

Right behind the Hyatt is the new location of the Palm Springs Art Museum. This new building contains a surprisingly great collection of pieces, full of color and story. During our recent visit, the museum was hosting an Andy Warhol exhibit with some of his finest and most famous works.

On regular display is a collection of works by such masters as Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Robert Rauschenberg and Ansel Adams.

Bike Accessible for All Ages

If the kids have mastered the art of riding a bike, downtown Palm Springs is a safe and easy place for a cruise. Bike rentals can be reserved at several places, and the Hyatt even had a collection for free use by guests. Our family has always loved riding along the flat streets in back neighborhoods, in the areas behind the Hyatt against the mountains.

Palm Springs home of Leonardo DiCaprio

Celebrity homes abound in Palm Springs, like this one belonging to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Many Hollywood celebrities have owned homes in these areas. Today, bike routes can be planned to ride past the current Palm Springs home of Leonardo DiCaprio. Other celebrity homes easily seen from a bike include the former homes of Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and many more.

And if you are uninterested in riding a bike (like one of my kids) you can take an air-conditioned tour of movie star homes with Palm Springs Celebrity Tours. They take you to all the hot spots, and even fill you in on the scandals and stories behind the homes. Plus you get to stop for a date shake, which is a Palm Springs specialty. If you haven’t had one, you must!

The King of all the Starbucks

This story is not complete without a shout-out to the gorgeous new Starbucks in downtown Palm Springs. We’ve been in a few Starbucks locations in our travels, and this one takes the prize. The architectural design is significant in its own right, and it appears that many sustainable elements were used in construction. Fronting on a public plaza, this Starbucks has plenty of seating inside and out. We enjoyed an ice coffee drink outside under the shade of date palms, while watching the world go by.

Starbucks Downtown Palm Springs

The Starbucks in downtown Palm Springs has got to be the most beautiful one we’ve ever visited.

Swim in the Pool

With kids, sometimes these little forays into civilization need to be balanced with pool time. The beauty of staying at a hotel like the Hyatt Palm Springs is that you are steps away from the pool. Several times during our stay, we returned back from shopping or a meal to take a dip. After all, there is nothing like floating on your back in a Palm Springs pool. With the hot sun on your body and the view of purple mountains rising nearby, there is something magic about this place.

Pool view at Hyatt Palm Springs

The pool at Hyatt Palm Springs beckons us on a hot day.

 

We’re already counting the days until our next visit!

 

 


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HOTEL REVIEW: VICEROY CENTRAL PARK NEW YORK

HOTEL REVIEW: VICEROY CENTRAL PARK NEW YORK

Viceroy is considered one of the cool kids in the hotel industry, with hip luxury properties in such far flung places as Snowmass, Saint Lucia and Riviera Maya. Their spot in Manhattan is a great location, right on 57th between 6th and 7th – perfect for my recent business trip.

At first glance, the Viceroy New York could be overlooked. The front entrance/awning is understated, the lobby non-descript and the front desk pretty compact. As with all things in New York City, space is at a premium and they make the most of smaller quarters. This is true of the Viceroy as well, but they ovecome it. Like the Schrager hotels such as Royalton, Hudson and that gang, what the Viceroy lacks in space it makes up for in style.

Not grand by any standards, the unassuming lobby at the Viceroy kept the paparazzi from hoarding around us.(photo courtesy of Viceroy Hotel)

Great Style

Furnishings are low and sleek, lots of warm brown leather, bold art and mirrors – and it works. There’s a pretty great rooftop bar, aptly called The Roof, which was surprisingly spacious and uncrowded for drinks with the after-work crowd on a Tuesday evening. The views of Midtown skyrises and Central Park are awesome. Impressive selection of brown liquors for us scotch drinkers, so I was happy.

Compact As a Design Feature

My room was compact (again typical New York City size) but it all somehow worked. There is no closet which was weird, and instead they custom crafted built-in cabinets around the bed. If there had been two of us in the room with more than a couple days of stuff, it would have been ugly fighting for space inside that teeny “clothes hanging area”. Or a woman with a few outfit changes? Yikes. I think more room was given to the frig and coffee machine.

The rooms at the Viceroy NYC are compact but really sleek and well designed. (photo courtesy of Viceroy Hotel)

Another oddity of space planning was the sink in the hallway, separate from the toilet and shower area. “How very European!” I can hear the designers exclaiming to ownership during the renovation process. ‘How very odd” said I.

Yet, this room worked for me. The bed was really comfortable, and the little desk area served its purpose when I needed to get some work done.

Great Service

Big plus: the staff was awesome – really outstanding. From the moment I checked in until I left, they impressed me with their comfortable service, grace and humor. The concierge, front desk, doormen and housekeeping were all authentically friendly and accommodating.

The restaurant, called Kingside, is also pretty good as hotel restaurants go, and the bar is run by Rande Gerber’s group so you know that will be reliable. Again, the staff and servers were outstanding and the food was tasty.

I would definitely go back (with a smaller suitcase of clothes to hang in that tiny closet).

Times Square is always packed, but the energy is something you have to witness live. (photo courtesy of my girl Dez Garcia)

 


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San Francisco’s Clift Hotel: Luster Lost

San Francisco’s Clift Hotel: Luster Lost

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew the City’s grand hotels by name: The St. Francis; The Mark Hopkins; The Fairmont; and The Clift, which was built near Union Square in 1913 and much beloved through the decades.

When the venerable Clift Hotel was purchased by Morgans Hotel Group in 1996 and reimagined as a hip and trendy place to be, I was excited to see it. And exciting it was – for quite some time. I loved staying there when back in the City for work or play.

This lobby lounge was a nice (and clean) place to hang out. This lobby lounge was a nice (and clean) place to hang out.

But now, oh dear jeebus. Time has taken its toll, and although management has kept up the lobby and ever-cool Philippe Starck refurbished Redwood Room, the guest rooms have not gotten the same love. At least not my room.

For your viewing pleasure, I snapped a photo of the nasty shower stall with cracked tiles and dirty crevices:

Clift shower Eek.

But the worst was the black mold growing on the soap dish. Shame on me for not noticing it until AFTER I had taken a shower. Ugh:

Yuck! Yuck!

After that horrifying discovery, I thought a little fresh air might do me well. As I approached the window, I was greeted by these filthy venetian blinds (clearly also from 1996):

Ick. Ick.

All I can say is that I am glad I didn’t bring the kids. I would have been so freaked if they had used that shower. (Probably would have made them rinse in rubbing alcohol.)

Time for another renovation, historic Clift Hotel. You are not ready for your close up.


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Review: Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel NYC

Review: Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel NYC

Wait, New York City with NO KIDS?!?! Well it was a business conference after all, but luckily the organizers chose a kick ass hotel. So, off to the Big Apple without needing to plan any family activities.

And I’m no slouch, but a trip to NYC always means you’ve got to bring your GAME. And this hotel is like living inside an Instagram filter named “Hipper”, because you just look better and life seems just a bit shinier when you stumble into some good lighting at the Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel. Maybe it was all the other hip guests staying there too – I’m positive some rubbed off on me in the rooftop bar.

The lobby is chic, the roof bar and pool is a happening spot for locals and guests, and even the restaurant does a good job. I really liked my room, which was large and in charge with plenty of space for sitting, working, sleeping and the whatevers. Plus it was facing 29th Street, where I could spy on the roof bar across the street (Tavern 29) and catch various ongoing shenanigans on display.

Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue... Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue…

Located on the East Side at the corner of Park Avenue and 29th in NoMad, the Gansevoort is convenient to many famous sights. I was able to walk easily to Madison Park, Union Square, The Flatiron Building, Eataly, Empire State Building and more. It was a quick cab ride to the cool new digs of The Whitney Museum of Art and the adjacent Highline. Plus being on the East Side means it is so very much easier to get to and from JFK, without having that hideous cross town traffic.

The air! Times Square! The air! Times Square!

I will definitely go back, especially when I’m due for an uptick in my hip quotient. And I would even consider bringing the family here. Triton would appreciate the design aesthetic, and Sophia and Ava would love the actor/waiter/model parade from the lobby to the roof and back. Especially at 1 a.m.


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A Zen Weekend at Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa

A Zen Weekend at Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa

I had reached that breaking point – you know the one. Crispy around the edges, a little too sharp with my responses to the kids’ and coworkers’ demands, generally being a bitch. Yes, daddies get there too.

Luckily I have an amazing family, who understood my need for some “me time”. So it was off to the Palm Springs area for some R&R and a whole lot of quiet at Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa. The reputation of this renowned destination is legendary, but it had been many years since my last visit and I wasn’t sure if the modern-day version would live up to its heyday years. But it did – in spades.

Still a bit granola-crunchy in a hippie chic kind of way, Two Bunch is not for everybody. This is not the Four Seasons, where they practically wipe your ass for you with warmed towels on a silver tray (not that I think that’s a bad thing). Two Bunch still fits within the parameters of luxury, but more in a lululemon kind of way rather than Gucci. The cars in the parking lot said it all – Range Rovers, Volvos and Audis were well represented, and so were Acuras and VWs with a smattering of Suburus thrown in for good measure. Many had tell-tale little handprints on smudgy windows, and a few had made half-assed attempts to conceal their childseats. Yep, my peoples.

I was the only (gay) guy alone in this crowd, which was just fine and dandy with me. I wasn’t looking for comraderie or conversation – I wanted silence.

The grounds are peaceful and serene. For a moment I panicked when I saw a lone bench perched by the lake under a shade tree, worrying I had admitted myself to a nut farm. Yet, later in the trip I found myself sitting on that same bench, feeling far less nutty than I had when I arrived.

Lazing by the pond at Two Bunch Palms Lazing by the pond at Two Bunch Palms

What makes Two Bunch so special is the water. Seriously. The resort sits atop a natural hot spring, pumping 700-degree water from deep within the Earth up into cooling tanks. Then it cascades into a Grotto Pool surrounding by towering palm trees, where crazy fucks like me can soak out our poisons. It was never empty of guests. Signs by the Grotto instructed us not to speak above a whisper, but of course there is always that one lady…

From the Grotto to the Spa, I trudged my sorry ass into a treatment room. I hear the resort owners are planning an entire new spa building, and I say it’s none too soon. The current building is very charming in an old-school way, and the tile mosaics somebody’s grandma made in 1987 are holding up pretty well. Still, the modern aesthetic calls for something a bit more, well, modern. BUT, with capital letters you notice, the treatments are superb – really top notch – so I cared little about the interior design as long as it is clean (it was). I had a facial that left me all dewy and fresh, ready to tackle a delicious meal in the resort’s restaurant.

After more soaking the next day (the Two Bunch staff calls it “taking the waters”, which sounds so charmingly turn-of-the-century) I enjoyed a spectacular massage of epic proportions. This was not one of those butterflies-landing-on-your-back episodes where you can barely feel the masseuse’s hands fluttering against your disappointed skin. This was hardcore, deep tissue realness that drains the evil toxins from your body by literally pushing it out of your muscles and bones, reaching all the way into your DNA to purge even the leftover hatred of that girl in fifth grade who made you miserable on the playground. Remember her? Yep, gone.

I also had a weirdish body treatment called a salt scrub, where they laid me on a table and poured the hot springs water over me out of a garden hose while rubbing my skin with coarse rock salt. Sounds like torture, but it was actually pretty nice in a hurts-so-good kind of way. Since my theme for this weekend was to sand my rough edges, this was a great way to apply the finishing touches. Like a restored antique table, I felt solid, sturdy and useful again.

Along with a daily schedule of yoga, tai chi, hikes in the desert, wine tasting, drumming with a shaman and a bunch of other cool activity choices, Two Bunch Palms can be a transformative experience – if you let it. And I let it, with great inner peace and restored serenity.

After all, everybody needs a little namaste in their life once in awhile, amiright?

 


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I Love Not Camping

I Love Not Camping

Growing up, I think we went camping once. I was little and remember hardly anything except the campfire. When I was 5, we embarked on a 10 year-long annual tradition attending a family camp in “cabins” made of wood with tent roofs called Lair of the Bear. Although there were actual cots where we stretched out our sleeping bags, the communal bathrooms and showers were still a long, dusty walk away.

I was scarred for life, and realized that camping sucks.

As an adult I quickly realized that camping is not for me – I’m far more comfortable in a comfy feather bed with Frette linens, room service just a quick buzz away. I like little bottles of shampoo and clean, white towels served up in the privacy of my very own bathroom. I like hotels.

Like this for example - the lovely and historic Claremont Hotel, a Fairmont Hotel in the Berkeley Hills. My kind of camping. Like this for example – the lovely and historic Claremont Hotel, a Fairmont Hotel in the Berkeley Hills. My kind of camping.

Not even the glamorous draw of the over-hyped “glamping” trend can lure me – it’s still camping, and camping sucks, remember? I don’t care how well designed that tent may be, the shared bathroom and shower are still down a dusty path that has been trodden by strangers’ feet. A chandelier, a bearskin rug, and some swagged curtains blowing in the wind can make a great Instagram post, but that doesn’t change their location out in the woods with no indoor plumbing. Nope.

Perhaps to experience the great outdoors, next time I’m in a hotel I’ll spice things up and sleep with the window open.