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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Get Lost in the Desert in Palm Springs


5. Oddball Day

Sunnylands has hosted presidents, politicians, diplomats, and Supreme Court Justices.  

Spend a day getting in touch with Palm Springs’ star-studded past. Grab coffee at Starbucks (corner of Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon) before strolling in either direction along the Palm Springs Walk of Stars to get acquainted with the area’s famous residents. At 10 a.m. get picked up by guide Michael Stern, whose Modern Tour ($150) takes small groups inside landmark Modernist vacation homes and points out those built for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor in the fifties and sixties. Stern, who’s an architecture buff and author of Julius Shulman: Palm Springs, provides commentary about high-desert mid-century style and its accompanying cocktail culture over the course of two and a half hours. Drive for brunch at the Jonathan Adler-designed Parker Palm Springs, where you can grab a Bertoia chair on the tent-covered patio at comfort-food spot Norma’s, home of the $1,000 Sevruga Caviar omelet. Afterward, drive fifteen minutes south to ritzy Rancho Mirage to explore Sunnylands ($35 tour, reservation required), the 200-acre former estate of Ambassador Walter and Leonore Annenberg, opened to the public for the first time this month. Tour the pink-roofed, sixties home where the Annenbergs often entertained dignitaries, including their friends the Reagans, and note the high-quality reproductions of Monet and other impressionists throughout (the originals were donated to the Met). Don’t miss the interactive exhibit about the estate’s $5 million eco-sensitive restoration in the new visitor center and then take a 1.4-mile walk around its desert garden. Next, head to Carey Grant’s former estate, now Copley’s restaurant, for a gin martini ($10) around the fire pit on the newly expanded patio. Then move inside for a retro movie-star meal: wedge salad ($11) and beef tenderloin over corn and lobster risotto ($34). After dinner, make your way to 35-year-old piano lounge Melvyn’s, plastered with framed photos of the owner with Cher, John Travolta, and other stars. Sip a Melvyn’s coffee (with Baileys, Frangelico and fresh whipped cream; $8.25) from a curvy booth in the dark, carpeted bar, but make sure you’re close enough to see who’s on the dance floor, and keep an eye out for the impeccably turned-out Haber.

Published on Mar 16, 2012 as a web exclusive.

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