Palm Springs declared hot in the hip sense (again)

palm-springs-design-district.jpgUptown design district in Palm Springs. LA Observed photo.

When I visited Palm Springs in April, just ahead of the Coachella festival hordes, even I could detect the desert city has taken on a fresher vibe than the previous mix of sun-baked retirees, gay and lesbian desert rats and tourists from the snow belt. I hadn't seen the expanded design district before at the north end of town, or observed firsthand the arrival of hipper places to stay like the Ace Hotel. Now the New York Times' Fashion and Style section deems the shift to more hipness an actual trend, and pegs the story to Leo DiCaprio recently buying the old Dinah Shore estate.


A man in flared orange slacks as vivid as safety cones added: “If someone as private as Leo is buys, it’s a good sign. It means more like him can.”

Whatever it means, Mr. DiCaprio’s presence jibes with something of a Palm Springs renaissance. According to a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, Anne Hathaway is rumored to be house hunting there, and Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes were recently seen furniture shopping in the Uptown Design District.

New hotels, restaurants, clubs and galleries are shaking up droopy Palm Canyon Drive. And the sight of snowy-haired Cadillac drivers is giving way to that of millennials cruising the streets on vintage bikes. (The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival drew some 200,000 Gen Xers and Yers — including Mr. DiCaprio — to the area this year.)

The city has even gone bicoastal. In 2012, Virgin America began offering nonstop flights from Kennedy Airport to the two-runway Wexler-designed Palm Springs International Airport.

“Every few years, there’s a magazine article: ‘Palm Springs is back’; ‘It’s hot again,’ ha, ha,” said Brad Dunning, an interior designer who began visiting the resort from Los Angeles in the early 1990s and moved there full time last year. “But now it actually feels like it is.”

The story also notes that "the bearded and tattooed have been partying at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, a former Howard Johnson motel that seems to thrive inside a pair of giant, invisible quotation marks. There is a diner with rock walls and brown leather booths, a cavelike dive bar and a decorative trailer out by the pool. On a recent evening, a D.J. spun electro-lounge anthems outside, where a party of glassy-eyed 20-somethings kicked off a treasure hunt (sample checklist item: “Anyone who knew Frank Sinatra or Bob Hope”)."

The city was packed in April. You know, wouldn't convenient weekend train service from LA to Palm Springs make a lot of sense?

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