Palm Springs' Riviera Resort Where Retro is Hip
Elvis rehearsed here. Marilyn kicked up her heels poolside. Sammy, Frank, and Dean serenaded a select few during intimate private gigs. Sonny escorted Cher and Phyllis Diller told a joke or two. Echoes of the past float around this desert gem, once the playground of the Rat Pack and company in the heyday of the 1960s. Today, all spruced up with a 70-million renovation, the Riviera Resort still speaks to the mid-century mentality with a festive patina of the new.
Set on 24 acres on the edge of bustling downtown, the resort was purchased by Noble House in 2006 with the goal to “preserve the original structure and pay tribute to its colorful past.” The original façade and layout remain intact but a wild kaleidoscope of colors and flashy design now dazzles the eye. Warhol-style, glittering pictures made of Guatemalan silver coins honor past desert denizens like Marilyn Monroe, Ole’ Blue Eyes, and Bob Hope who smile at guests as they stroll through the main promenade. Over-sized crystal chandeliers hang from above, dangling like Cher’s earrings. Shag rugs meet pop art in this whimsical yet provocative space.
All 406 rooms were revamped and re-fashioned with cutting-edge technology, lavish linens, sunken marble tubs, flat screens, and lamps that turn on and off with the slightest touch. The 44 spacious suites have additional lovely luxuries like wet bars, sunning patios, or private hot tubs. Bold splashes of color (think lemon yellow, chartreuse or Kelly green) enliven each room without overwhelming guests as they sink into the comforts of their king bed and enjoy views of the gardens or San Jacinto Mountains.
The resort’s epicenter, a stunning pool area, is worth the trip alone as its oversized lounge chairs, day beds, flat-screened tricked-out cabanas, and flickering fire pits make it as cozy and luxe as a Four Seasons but with a hipper flair. Sunbathers, swimmers, and sippers enjoy scenic views and discreet people watching. Guests can belly up to the Bikini Bar, a study in white, while sampling tasty libations pool-side.
Another oasis (yes, put your camel to bed…) can be found in the Spa Terre, an Asian-inspired haven with more well-appointed design and sybaritic fun. Giant cracked-glass globes hang from the ceilings; black-and-white pictures of Buddha act as a serene backdrop. The coed “Buddha lounge” with its white mosaic tiles, white lounge chairs and Mosque-like feel exudes purity and holiness, apropos for the spa sanctuary. The chocolate browns of the treatment room make for cozy cocoons for de-stressing therapies like the Balinese massage which begins with a choice of redolent oils scented with Mandarin orange or jasmine. Flower petals and a colorful sarong grace the table. Bodywork combining acupressure and rolling motions allows the physique to decompress and lures the mind into a blissful alpha state.
Circa 59, with its sexy red chandeliers, features chef Adam Votaw’s creative cuisine. Imagine a flash steakhouse vibe with a menu that favors elements of the sea on iced platters like oysters and lump crab, or gourmet comforts like lobster pot pie and Kobe flat iron steak with Roquefort-mustard butter and creamed spinach.
Riviera proves to be a series of elegant one-of-a-kind settings where hyper design meets luxury that’s chic and comfortable. Whether it’s a romantic fling or a family weekend, fantasy and fun will be had at this futuristic retro resort. Palm Springs loves mid-century and Riviera stands nobly at the intersection of past and present, trascending time.
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