A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I travel out to the desert every so often for work. Last November, I had another chance to turn one of these trips into a short but sweet little getaway. I drove out the night before, and stayed at the Del Marcos Hotel on my own dime, to avoid the 5 AM wakeup call that would have been required otherwise.
The Del Marcos is an architectural landmark, the first project designed by well known local architect William Cody, built in 1947. It's very modern in its design and decor, and must have been really cutting age at that time. Arranged around a small swimming pool, it appears to have been originally designed as an apartment building. Overall the effect is charming and comfortable, and the staff are friendly. It's not as luxurious as some other places you might find, but it was perfect for my purposes. The rate was only $109. - and they have cheaper rooms, I splurged. This room had a full kitchen in addition to the area you see below, with a bar and outdoor patio. Free wifi and loaner bikes too.
The landscaping and decor is perfectly in tune with the climate and the architectural style of the hotel. The salt water pool (which I didn't photograph because I didn't want to invade the privacy of those around it!) was small but cozy and very warm. I planned to go in, but just didn't get around to it. For dinner I ordered takeout from Thai Smile, on Palm Canyon drive, and swung by the liquor store for a beer to go with (which made me feel like a bit of a derelict.) The panang curry and green papaya salad were just ok - next time I might try Peppers Thai instead.
After my work obligation was completed, I decided to take the long way back to Palm Springs from Indio, down Highway 111 (aka Palm Canyon Drive). It took a little longer than I'd anticipated (almost an hour) so I don't know if I'd do it again, but it was an interesting experience. It takes you from Indio all the way through all the desert cities, back to Palm Springs, and eventually to the 10 Freeway.
About five minutes in, I saw Shield's Date Garden coming up on the left. It's kind of hard to miss with the giant knight sign. I'd heard "date shakes" are a local specialty out there, and that Shield's is the place to get one, so I was already considering stopping when I saw this...
I didn't actually sit through the movie, but I hear it's quite a hoot. This place is straight out of the 1950s from top to bottom, including the movie from what I hear. They're planning a re-do, and I'd recommend getting there before then if you can, to enjoy the considerable retro charm. I headed straight for the soda fountain counter and ordered myself one of those shakes, and recommend you do the same. Sadly I couldn't drink much of it because some recent dental work has left one of my teeth ridiculously cold sensitive, but what I had was tasty. They make them with their signature "date crystals" which they also sell in their little retail shop. I picked up some dates and other treats to bring home. If you pick up their brochure - complete with recipes - you'll learn more about dates than you ever wanted to know. They sell about five different varieties, including the most desirable "Medjools" in various styles and sizes of containers. They've also developed a "blonde" and a "brunette" date that are only available there at the farm.
Further down the road, as I was turning off of South Palm Canyon Drive to go to Koffi, I spotted some hipsters sitting in the window of what looked like a sit-down coffee shop across the street. Seriously - it was the hair and glasses that gave them away. A closer look revealed it was the King's Highway restaurant at the Ace Hotel.
The Ace Hotels are a newish mini-chain of budget friendly hotels catering to the design-happy crowd with whimsical decor and amenities like vinyl record players and scooter rentals. So far they're located in Portland, Seattle, Palm Springs and NYC
The Ace is a re-do on an old Howard Johnson's motel, and when the coffee shop was renovated - they left the original layout and structure in place. They replaced the furniture with a mixture of modern and natural wood, and left the floor rough. It's a great look.
I took a seat at a booth and ordered the Lobster BLT sandwich and iced tea. In my experience, lobster salad sandwiches usually sound better on a menu than they taste, but my optimism was rewarded this time.
The service was friendly and prompt, the menu was interesting and affordable (with lots of vegetarian options), and the sandwich was delicious. After lunch I walked over to the lounge area and peeked at the pool. Both were pretty darned cool looking. Factor in the fact that Koffi is right across the street and there are a number of good thrift shops within spitting distance, and you've got yourself quite a combination in my book. If you like your hotels a little quieter, and want to be a little closer to downtown Palm Springs, the Del Marcos might be a better spot. Either way, I'm happy to report, it's hard to go wrong.
Shields Date Gardens
80225 Highway 111
Indio, CA 92247
The Ace Hotel and Swim Club
701 E Palm Canyon Dr
Palm Springs, CA 92264
I recommend eating here even if you don't stay.
The Del Marcos Hotel
225 West Baristo Road
Palm Springs, CA 92262