As I rolled into Palm Springs on a recent visit, I had a fantasy about being part of its glory days as a playground for Old Hollywood royalty. Hope, Sinatra, Monroe and me, sipping martinis around Frank's pool — that would be the life. That daydream evaporated as I drove into the city center: Construction sites have overshadowed shops and restaurants and, in many spots, have obscured the palm trees and mountain backdrop I love.
Palm Springs is in transition: The downtown mall has been knocked down, with a hotel, upscale shops and more slated to take its place. Ignore the disarray: You can still stroll down iconic Palm Canyon Drive and have a good time. My husband and I visited in August to decompress; the desert heat is an instant tranquilizer and perfect for unwinding. The tab: We spent $460 for two nights at the Arrive hotel (there's a two-night minimum on weekends) and about $220 for food and drinks.
Arrive (1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive;  507-1650,), in the town's north end, appeared on the scene early this year. The 32-room boutique hotel has stylized mid-century modern touches and a classic butterfly roof. The rustic-chic rooms have high clerestory windows that let in natural light. Amenities include Apple TV, free wi-fi, rain shower and bath accessories from Malin + Goetz. Arrive has no front desk; room check-in is at the bar and if you have a request, you send a text from your cellphone. Life revolves around the pool; there are lounge chairs, cabanas, a hot tub, bocce ball and ping-pong. Locals are welcome to use the pool, and it can get crowded, especially on weekends. We left before the Sunday pool party got cranking, but the bartender who checked us out said, "It's pretty mellow, not like Vegas."
Our first meal was at the hotel's restaurant, Reservoir. We had classic cocktails and delicious guacamole at the bar, then grabbed a patio table for mediocre chicken and carne asada tacos. Customs Coffee, the hotel's small coffee house, features organic roasts from Joshua Tree Coffee Co., and Arrive's Ice Cream & Shop(pe) has great homemade ice cream. (A new hotel restaurant, Draughtsman, is scheduled to open in December.) For a hearty breakfast, we headed to Rick's Restaurant (1973 N. Palm Canyon Drive;  416-0090), a local favorite with all the usual suspects: pancakes, French toast, omelets, biscuits with gravy. Downtown, Lulu California Bistro (200 S. Palm Canyon Drive;  327-5858,) draws a festive crowd with an extensive menu, large patio and an airy interior with a high cuteness factor. If you have a craving for wiener schnitzel, you are in luck: Johannes (196 S. Indian Canyon Drive;  778-0017), also downtown, has a Schnitzel Lover's Menu as well an eclectic mix of continental dishes.
You must do some sleuthing to find the Backstreet Art District (2600 S. Cherokee Road) It's behind a car dealer in an industrial strip on the south side of town and easy to miss. This small but impressive arts district hosts a dozen artist-owned galleries and working studios featuring an eclectic selection of paintings, ceramics, sculpture and more. We dropped into a few studios, chatted with the artist-owners and viewed works in progress as well as finished art.
All of the rooms at Arrive have king-sized beds; there is no other option. It doesn't do rollaways; if you have hatchlings in tow, this probably is not the place for you.