I love the diversity of Palm Springs. This magical Mecca of sun and fun, golf and glitter, art and architecture summons a glorious cavalcade of humanity. There are few ways to better witness this than a stroll down Palm Canyon Drive on a Thursday evening enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of VillageFest—a dizzying array of musicians, artisans, purveyors of food and flowers, hawkers of the political and philanthropic.
Every Thursday evening, downtown Palm Springs turns into the Palm Springs VillageFest, also known as the Palm Springs Street Fair. Streets are cordoned off, businesses stay open late and Palm Canyon Drive becomes a showcase for every manner of artist, artisan, entertainer, and booths spilling out fresh produce, blooming flowers, handcrafted jewelry, snacks and other delights. Throw in the wonderful shops, restaurants, nightspots and entertainment venues located along world famous Palm Canyon Drive, and you have a winning destination for your Thursday night.
Located in the heart of the Palm Springs village off Palm Canyon Drive and encompassing roughly three blocks, VillageFest is open June through September, Thursday evenings from 7pm to 10pm (October through May from 6pm to 10p). There is ample parking (both street and lot) in the surrounding area. VillageFest is also dog friendly, so feel free to bring a leashed and well-behaved Rover along.
All this walking, shopping and people watching makes a girl rather hungry, so after my VillageFest adventure, I enjoyed dinner pool-side at Citron at The Viceroy Palm Springs (415 South Belardo Road—now Chi Chi Restaurant at the Avalon Hotel). My table faced manicured trees lining a geometric azure pond of a pool, lined with yellow-striped chaise lounges, shuttered white umbrellas aligned like off-duty sentries. White lights and bougainvillea stud manicured shrubbery, sculptural black cages dangle from tree limbs, stairs lead away like portals to grottoes only guessed at. It is storybook, magical by design—Hollywood via Hollywood Regency. Marilyn and Frank would have felt quite at home.
After dinner, I dance the night away at The Casablanca Lounge at Melyvn’s Restaurant at the Ingleside Inn (200 W Ramon Rd). If you haven’t yet experienced the old Hollywood glamour of this fantastically fun spot—vintage people watching at its best, great ambience and terrific martinis—move it to the top of your list!
The Casablanca Lounge is an intimate piano bar lounge with entertainment (usually a skilled pianist playing popular standards and the like) and dancing nightly beginning at 8pm. This is old school swank at its finest. From the red accents to the mirrored walls to the chandeliers and tuxedoed waiters to the fabulous print, “Dining at Melvyn’s” (photo at left; see how many celebrities you can spot) by Xavier Cugat, the ’30’s Spanish-born Cuban band leader and artist known as the “Rumba King” (featuring all the rat pack regulars and displayed, of all places, in the men’s room), Melvyn’s an essential stop on any tour of classic Palm Springs. Grab a suitably mid-century elixir (think Manhattans and Mad Men-style cocktails) at the long backlit bar and then join your friends (or make new ones) on the parquet dance floor while paintings of Marilyn, Frank, James and Elvis smile down. They’d have felt at home here too.