Weekend Getaways


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Who says upscale doesn't mix with a little funky fun? Come see how we power pedal in Palm Springs, rock the trails in Boulder, Colorado, and revel in the splendors of Berkeley.


Palm Springs

Downtown offers unexpected pleasures.

By RON DONOHO

I’VE LEARNED TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED on Palm Canyon Drive. Palm Springs’ main drag is alive with women this April Fool’s Day weekend. There are myriad groups of gals eating at Happy Sushi. Other ladies are devouring Einstein Bros. bagels and downing Starbucks lattes. At breakfast, I’m surrounded by the fairer sex at More Than a Mouthful Café. San Diego foodies can imagine More Than a Mouthful by picturing Hash House A Go Go (and its heaping portions) morphing with Lips (gay, straight, it’s all great). Want milk for your coffee at More Than a Mouthful? The milk container on my table is a baby bottle—complete with nipple.

So I get up and pay the tab. As I’m innocently considering the aesthetic advantage of having so many members of the opposite gender in town, I glance at a flyer set at the café’s entrance: DINAH SHORE WEEKEND. Reading on, the flyer claims this is the premier lesbian party weekend of the year. So three things of national note are in convergence in Palm Springs: April Fool’s Day, world-class lesbian revelry and, rounding out the trifecta, resumption of Daylight Savings Time. Kind of a pity the year’s top lesbian bash is going to lose an hour Saturday night.

I’M BOOKED INTO THE VICEROY PALM SPRINGS. Formerly named Estrella, it’s in the heart of downtown, one block off teeming Palm Canyon. It’s part of the distinctly funky Kor Hotel Group. Kor has a sister Viceroy in Santa Monica, not to mention two in southern Florida. Like most Kor properties, Viceroy Palm Springs is anything but cookie-cutter.

I’m stowed in a Dorrington villa. It’s a one-bedroom detached home with a full kitchen and enclosed backyard patio. The bedroom is all white, with king-size bed, hanging lantern lighting and a very cool iHome radio, which lets me plug in and play my iPod. There are floor-to-ceiling shades in the bedroom. Imagine my surprise to find no windows behind the shades—just white wall. Even stylistically, I’m learning to expect the unexpected.

The villa’s avant-garde-duels-with-retro styling can take you aback. The bathroom (with seated vanity) and living room are standard enough. But there is a dining room off the kitchen that will make you feel dizzy if you stare too long at the black-and-white floral patterned wallpaper. It would have been easy to rest and recreate in my villa— room-serviced by the hotel’s chic Citron restaurant. But it was time to go see what fun all the Dinah Shore Weekenders were having.

HARDLY ANYBODY WAS AT THE CASINO during the day. The recently renovated Spa Resort Casino Palm Springs is impressive, if only in comparison to its former self. Gaming shares the floor with five restaurants, including an upscale steakhouse. I enjoyed losing my money at a poker table sandwiched between The Corner Deli and the Agua Bar & Grill.

My next idea for fun should have been better planned. Viceroy loans out bicycles. I decide to pedal to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. I’m informed it’s a 3-mile trip. Yeah, right, just like Gilligan took a three-hour tour. It’s 3 miles to the visitor information center. It’s another 4 miles up—straight up—to the tram station. I bike back to Viceroy and drive back to the tram entrance.

I’m glad I did. The tram—with a floor that gently rotates as you rise——travels up the side of Mount San Jacinto via overhead cable. The station at the top is at an elevation of 8,516 feet. A pleasant surprise up here is the Lookout Lounge. The bartender talks about kids who bring or buy sleds and use them at the Wilderness Area. There are snow-covered hiking trails and campgrounds here, too.

Back down in the desert, the craving is for sushi. Eschewing Happy Sushi, I follow the best tip all weekend and go to a place called Margaritaville. Huh? For sushi? It’s a mile from the main drag. But the former Otani Japanese Garden Restaurant is worth the walk. It’s now one-third Mexican eatery, hence the new name, one-third pasta bar and one-third sushi bar. I couldn’t have received better service if the waitress had mistaken me for Billy Bob Thornton. Which she did. (As if. Though in her defense, I was wearing a Robb Report hat, and hadn’t shaved.)

But since I expect the unexpected now, I kind of expected that.

IF YOU GO
The Dorrington villas at Viceroy (415 South Belardo Road, 760-320-4117) go for $569 a night. More Than a Mouthful Café is at 134 East Tahquitz Canyon Way. Margaritaville is blocks away at 1000 East Tahquitz Canyon Way. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (1 Tramway Road, 760-325-1391) costs $21.50 per person. The separate casino portion of the Spa Resort Casino (888-999-1995) is at 401 East Amado Road.

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