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ACE HOTEL AND SWIM CLUB, PALM SPRINGS
Rather than the usual Rat Pack retro or duffer chic, this hip oasis in Palm Springs is a slightly rugged desert escape. The Sahara-circa-1950s decor features walls covered in tent canvas (and matching bedspreads), steamer trunks (which store extra pillows), striped Berberesque robes, magazine racks stuffed with vintage National Geographics, and a clock/MP3 player that appears to be World War II surplus. Bathrooms could be bigger, and the water takes a while to get hot, but that just adds to the illusion of being far, far away. The grounds of this onetime Howard Johnson motor lodge have been transformed into a garden of mature palms and olive trees, with outdoor fireplaces. The King's Highway restaurant, a former Denny's, now serves Middle Eastern cuisine with a California edge. Despite its petite size, the spa offers an awesome array of treatments, while the sprawling pool is framed by royal palms, rocky outcrops, and snowcapped peaks. David Hockney, eat your heart out.
When to go: Early January's Palm Springs Film Festival is the best time for star gazing (extraterrestrial and otherwise).
Which room to book: Rooms in the "100" block face the pool and the mountains beyond.
Ace Hotel and Swim Club
Tel: 760 325 9900