Girls' Desert Getaway

Girls just wanna have fun, and there’s no better place to do that than Palm Springs, CA. A onetime haven for hipster Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, this sunny desert town is now both an entertainment oasis and a prime spot for a relaxing ladies’ getaway in the sun.

Just a quick flight from the Bay Area, Palm Springs has ideal weather year-round. Winter and spring temps hover in the 70s and 80s. The thermometer can heat up to 100-plus in summer—perfect for hanging out in the pool or in the air-conditioned shops, galleries and casinos of this sizzling city (this is also the time to get the best deals).

A host of hotels, from boutique retreats to posh spa resorts, welcome all-girl groups with packages for parties of every size. The charming Calla Lily Inn has a Girls R&R Package (from $658), a two-person ticket including two nights’ hotel accommodations for two, a $50 gift certificate toward dinner at one of three nearby restaurants, two one-hour in-room massages, two tickets to explore the Indian Canyons area and an evening cordial of cognac and chocolates.

Meanwhile, a gaggle of up to six gals can sleep in style at the luxe boutique resort Viceroy Palm Springs. The Spa Rendezvous package ($2,010), available Sunday to Thursday, includes three premium rooms for two nights, champagne on arrival, six 50-minute spa treatments at the lavish Estrella Spa, discounts on additional treatments and retail items, a poolside lunch for six and unlimited DVD rentals.

a woman wearing a mud mask Another option is to round up the pals and head to the Parker Palm Springs for Camp PSYC (a.k.a. Palm Springs Yacht Club), a spa camp for adults. This four-day, four-night package ($2,150 per person double occupancy, $2,350 single) is a chance to unwind to your heart’s content, meanwhile participating in traditional camp activities like horseback riding, hiking and croquet. Get healthy with yoga and award-winning cuisine; feed your naughtier side with a spin through the extensive cocktail menu or an exotic dance class. End the day gathered around the fire pit in your PJs, singing camp songs and eating s’mores.

While champagne and poolside pampering are compelling draws, be sure to venture away from the resorts, because Palm Springs is a mecca for shopping, art and more. Pocketbooks of any size can meet their match in the city’s vast retail districts. Palm Canyon Drive, within walking distance of most resorts, is a mecca of boutique shops, restaurants and art galleries well worth a leisurely afternoon stroll; it’s also a treasure trove of midcentury modern resale stores that carry cool 1950s and ’60s vintage clothing, original furniture and household goods.

In nearby Palm Desert, El Paseo, “the Rodeo Drive of the desert,” has more than 300 shops, boutiques, galleries, jewelers and restaurants to explore. The flower-filled walkway hosts outdoor art installations, making it a charming and picturesque place to browse. For bargain hunters, the outlet mall in Cabazon offers discount shopping galore.

palm trees in the dimming sky Natural attractions also abound. For a bird’s-eye look at the desert, hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which will fly you 6,000 feet up to the top of San Jacinto Mountain. Enjoy a drink at the mountaintop cocktail lounge while you take in the view. Or explore the 15-mile desert paradise of Indian Canyons via kayak, hike or horseback ride. While there, visit the Trading Post for Indian art and artifacts, books, jewelry, pottery, baskets, weavings and other crafts.

Leave time to take a drive through Palm Springs’ residential neighborhoods. The town has the country’s highest concentration of midcentury modern architecture, most of it dating to Hollywood’s golden age when Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Howard Hughes, Dean Martin and others built vacation homes there. Check out the Las Palmas and Movie Colony neighborhoods for a glimpse of some of the stars’ former abodes.

And don’t miss out on the town’s signature hot-steppin’, one-of-a-kind show: the Palm Springs Follies at the Plaza Theatre movie house. This celebration of the music, dance and comedy of the 1930s and ’40s is presented by a cast of 55- to 80-plus-year-olds who make retirement look anything but sedate.

From sybaritic spa-ing to shop-till-you-drop, Palm Springs clearly has something for everyone. So whether you’re looking to vacation with a best friend or reunite the whole gang, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable girls’ time out.