Relaxing at the Ritz

Desert resort is a perfect spot to recharge

Now that the hectic holidays are behind us, it’s time to relax and refresh in the New Year. Fortunately, we are an easy hour-and-a-half drive from the desert playground of Rancho Mirage, with its mountain vistas, stark landscapes, and spectacular sunsets that tinge the sky hot pink. The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage offers a contemporary winter retreat for the holiday-weary, a place to recharge and regroup, and get back in touch with the inner you. The hotel is high atop a hill, just off winding Frank Sinatra Drive. The famous crooner once owned a house with a piano-shaped pool in nearby Palm Springs, where, as legend has it, he raised a Jack Daniels flag each afternoon at five to signal the work day was done (and the party had begun). In homage “to the coolest guy ever,” the Ritz-Carlton’s bartender Tony Blua mixes up barrel-aged Manhattans in the lobby from a special recipe: two ounces of Buffalo Trace bourbon, one ounce of Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and two dashes of bitters.

The hotel is surrounded by the Santa Rosa Mountain range, with panoramic views of Greater Palm Springs. Many of the 244 guest rooms have terraces, balconies, or patios with fire pits to provide warmth on chilly desert nights. Two swimming pools overlook the valley, including an adults-only infinity pool. For the ultimate in service, reserve a private poolside cabana complete with a refrigerator, flat screen TV, Wi-Fi, misters, and your own dedicated attendant. There’s also a new open-air event space for weddings and parties.

Relaxing at the Ritz

Dining options include State Fare Bar & Kitchen, which features an artisanal California menu showcasing purveyors from the Coachella Valley to the Pacific coast, along with wine and craft beers. (Sample the Hass avocado fries with tomatillos salsa and red chili aioli.) The Edge Steakhouse, named for its lofty, cliff-side location, specializes in seafood and premium, dry-aged bone-in meats. At 32 ounces, the Australian Tomahawk rib-eye is definitely one to split. Book a table at sunset for dazzling desert vistas. For more dining options, reserve a guest room with access to the Club Level Lounge, offering continental breakfast, a light lunch, afternoon snacks, and evening appetizers followed by desserts and cordials. Lounge concierge will assist with dining and spa reservations and offer sightseeing suggestions.

Relaxing at the Ritz

The two-story Ritz-Carlton Spa offers the ultimate in pampering in an expansive 25,000-square-foot space, with 15 treatment rooms, sauna and steams rooms, whirlpools and relaxation lounges. Indulge with the “Desert Escape Treat” to revive tired muscles, renew sun-drenched skin, and restore vitality. Choose from a menu of massages, body balancers, and facials.

Included in the resort fee are daily fitness classes that might include “bodyweight sculpt” for building muscle and burning fat, dance fitness, and “barre fusion,” a low impact workout that includes free weights, ballet bar exercises, and Pilates-inspired mat work. “Yoga sculpt” combines free weights to increase strength and cardio to intensify yoga poses.

Relaxing at the Ritz

The hotel also offers guided morning and sunset hikes, and the concierge staff will be happy to arrange a jeep tour, nature walk, or other outdoor activity with an eco-tour company. Popular with hotel guests are excursions to the Joshua Tree National Forest, a vast desert preserve named for the “twisted, spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book,” according to the park’s Jane Rodgers, and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, rotating cars traveling nearly two miles above the cliffs of Chino Canyon to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The ten-minute ride offers fabulous views of the valley floor, ending 8,500 feet up at Mountain Station with restaurants, observation decks, and 50 miles of hiking trails. Finish the day with “Serenity Under the Stars,” an evening yoga class on the Ritz-Carlton’s Vista Lawn.

Also popular is El Paseo, billed as the “Rodeo Drive of the Desert,” with a wealth of high-end shops and restaurants. The Gardens on El Paseo, anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, is an open air shopping and dining venue with such upscale tenants as Louis Vuitton, Tesla, and Tiffany & Company. Restaurants include Tommy Bahama, and Pacifica Seafood Restaurant, owned by Kipp Downing, former owner of Pacifica Del Mar. (The kids’ menu is named after Downing’s daughter, Olivia.) El Paseo is also a treasure trove for bargain hunters. Browse consignment shops that line the avenue for high-end furniture, artwork, and accessories. The Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon boasts 180 designer stores including Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Saint Laurent Paris, Tory Burch, and Tom Ford.

On Saturdays and Sundays, hundreds of merchants, farmers, food vendors and artists gather for the College of the Desert Street Fair. And on Thursday evenings, VillageFest is held year-round on Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, featuring dozens of vendors selling produce, handicrafts, and art. The weekly festival also offers live entertainment. Sip a date shake at the Shields Date Garden, sample dates that you won’t find everywhere, and screen a film that’s become a classic, The Romance & Sex Life of the Date.

Not to be missed is a tour of Sunnylands, the 200-acre mid-century modern estate that once was the winter home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, now used as a retreat for global leaders “to promote world peace and facilitate international agreement.” The estate is also open to the public for guided tours of the grounds and golf course. Advance reservations are required to visit the home itself. Also in demand are tours of the former homes of Hollywood celebrities, including Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate in the historic “Movie Colony” of Palm Springs. Built by E. Stewart Williams in 1947, the “Desert Modern” home doubled as a recording studio. It was here that Sinatra famously entertained his “Rat Pack” friends. After a day of touring and shopping, there’s nothing like retreating to the Ritz-Carlton to sip a classic cocktail in Sinatra’s honor, watching the desert sun slip behind the mountains, streaking the sky in a final flash of color. 760.321.8282, ritzcarlton.com

Relaxing at the Ritz

Photography courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

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