Beyond LA in Palm Springs

Explore quiet cul-de-sacs and admire the low-slung steel-glass-and-concrete homes owned by movie stars and the Hollywood elite.

Adapted from a Kia Ora magazine article by Alice Galletly.

Desert Star

Don your leopard print dress, slip on your highly impractical Jimmy Choos, sling a Louis Vuitton over your shoulder and get ready to experience a kooky urban desert utopia. Palm Springs is the original A-list escape, where Frank Sinatra, Lucille ball and Cary Grant would hold fabulous parties for glittering crowds of beautiful people. These days Palm Springs has never-ending sunshine, golfing retirees, a thriving LGBT community and a wealth of retro-chic modernist architecture.

Luxury modernist architecture

In the 1950s and 60s, the Rat Pack discovered Palm Springs and the city sprang up quickly around them. It was shaped by famous architects, such as Donald Wexler and Albert Frey, inspiring an architectural style known as mid-century-modern, but with a desert twist. When you're visiting Palm Springs, it's interesting to drive or walk down the quiet cul-de-sacs to admire low-slung steel-glass-and-concrete homes owned by movie stars and the Hollywood elite. Their parched landscapes of cactus and artfully displayed rocks deserve Instagram attention.

You can also take a tour of luxurious neighbourhoods that were once occupied by Hollywood A-list stars of yesteryear. Dean Martin, Elvis and Priscilla Presley, and Joan Crawford lived here. It's even possible to stay in some of Palm Springs' most iconic homes. For instance, Leonardo DiCaprio's home costs about NZD $5,800 per night, although if you need a budget option you could consider Frank Sinatra's former home - it's only NZD $3,700 a night.

Coachella Valley views

Iconic swaying palm trees adorn the wide boulevards that lead you out of town. Once you leave the city, you'll find dry dusty desert peppered with scrawny Joshua Trees - scenes just begging for a sunset hike. A formidable rugged mountain dominates the landscape - San Jacinto Peak. It's 3,000m tall and provides a formidable hiking challenge.

If you're less inclined to use your legs, simply take the Aerial Tramway up - 13 minutes of thrills as the car swings its way up the mountain. The views at the top are stupendous, sweeping across Palm Springs and through to the arid Coachella Valley, home of the Coachella music festival. In April this area explodes with famous musicians and young sparkly people and the area thrums with a high-energy buzz. If you journey up San Jacinto Peak at night the darkness of the desert makes the stars sparkle, outshining the glittering city beyond.

Cuisine scene at Palm Springs

Palm Springs is all about a hedonistic lifestyle and the food culture reflects that. The restaurants are fabulous, with every whim and fancy catered for. Mr Lyon's Steakhouse oozes old Hollywood glamour; you'll dine in deep emerald velvet booths encased in rich wooden panelling. And eating out at Melvyn's at Ingleside Inn is like taking a food trip into the past. Steak Diane, Melvyn's chicken pot pie and Oysters Rockefeller are served by penguin-suited staff. The restaurant opened in 1974; it was popular with the Rat Pack and the vibe hasn't changed since.

Vintage shopping

For the retro vintage shopper, Palm Springs is paradise. The Frippery has a range of casual boho outfits, perfect for lounging around in before taking your giant inflatable swan for a lap around the pool. The Fine Art of Design has more formal attire, selling items on consignment - who knows who you might end up buying clothes from?

VillageFest on Thursday evenings is a section of Palm Canyon Drive that is closed to traffic, but open for quirky shopping. Buy a head-to-toe sequinned dress or get your fortune told by a very convincing fortune teller. Who knows what the future holds - maybe another holiday in Palm Springs? As they say here, what you need is a three-month holiday, four times a year.

Keep exploring Los Angeles