Places to eat in Palm Springs

Locals Jim Gilroy, left, and Rocky Laudadio dine at John's in Palm Springs. You'll find lots of heart-stopping dishes on the menu, including the "Heartstopper Burger," a high-cholesterol cheeseburger that includes two sausage patties, bacon and an egg. (Christina House / For the Times)

The Rat Pack lives again — or at least Palm Springs, once the party pad of Sinatra and the boys, does.

The Coachella Valley city, which had devolved into a down-at-the-heels caricature of a Hollywood playground, has reinvented itself: Its retro-chic look, striking scenery and hip hotels and restaurants are drawing a new generation of visitors.

And, of course, there's always the weather, a tourist attraction on its own (in winter, anyway).

The city prides itself on having 350 days of sunshine a year, a siren song that plays loudly and clearly in Canada and other frosty North America realms in the depths of winter. That's why snowbirds swarm here during the pricey high season (January through April). Besides spending wads of cash, they double the city's size to about 100,000.

But that shouldn't deter Angelenos, especially those who realize how many good deals await. We know this because we slept and ate our way through the city recently, ferreting out chic little boutique hotels and friendly cafes that are delightful and delightfully inexpensive.

We traveled the length and breadth of the city, visiting historic districts that once were the home of frolicking celebrities — the Movie Colony District and the historic Tennis Club District, for instance — and newer neighborhoods — the Design District, known for Midcentury Modern décor. We found a city catering to hipsters, retirees, couples — gay or straight — and dog lovers. And we found some great deals.

Our list includes:

—Seven hotels (three new) where you can get a room for less than $150 a night — some as low as $79 — in high season.

—Eight restaurants where you'll find plenty of tasty entrees for less than $10.

—Ten fun free things to do, including gallery tours, museum hopping, hiking in the hills and plenty of first-class window shopping.


1. Alcazar Palm Springs

This Palm Spring newcomer (it opened in October) sits behind the city's Design District and has taken the location to heart. Attractive and sexy, the Alcazar offers a winning combination for guests. Its 34 rooms are eye-catchingly designed and boast flat-screen TVs, fluffy white duvets, mini fridges and other amenities that don't usually come in this price range. The grounds are similarly attractive, with soaring palms, a stunning view of the mountains, a saltwater pool and several areas for lounging, snacking or sunning. Pets allowed in some rooms ($50 fee).

622 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (866) 877-8733 or (760) 318-9850,

High-season doubles from $79 (weekends $129); off-season rates from $84.

2. Casa Cody Inn

Built in the 1920s, Casa Cody qualifies as the oldest operating small hotel in Palm Springs; it also has among the lowest prices on our list. The Southwestern-style complex, once owned by Buffalo Bill Cody's niece Harriet, includes studios and one- and two-bedroom suites; many come with kitchens, and some have fireplaces. Furnishings are Santa Fe-style with splashes of color. There are two courtyards, each with swimming pool. The large grounds feature lawns, fruit trees and bougainvillea. Free continental breakfast is served by the pool. Kids and pets allowed (pet fee $15).

175 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs; (800) 231-2639, (760) 320-9346,

High-season rates for doubles from $99-$189, no additional charge on weekends; off-season rates start at $79.