It's located in one of America's top foreclosure counties, and as you drive down the streets of Palm Springs, you see that not everything is bright lights and tinsel.
A shuttered mega-mall still stands at the city center, now lined with mom-and-pop boutiques, a lonely outpost of CPK and a Hamburger Hamlet long since gone to heaven. The main theater still advertises January's Palm Springs Film Festival, opposite a Starbucks (SBUX) , with a line often out the door and a defunct Jamba Juice no longer juicing.
However, the town is still unveiling new hotel offerings that include a nearby Ritz Carlton, an outpost of Portland's Ace Hotel and the newly renovated Riviera Resort.
(SBUX) What to expect: There are two ways to arrive in Palm Springs, by air and by car. The latter leads you down a zippy stretch of Highway 111 in the shade of the snowcapped San Jacinto Mountains and arid landscape abruptly interrupted by bright-green sod grass and endless strip malls that have seen better and busier days.
The Riviera Resort is located in North Palm Springs in an area still waving in the banners of new homebuilders and half-built mega-developments. It's one of the town's most famous resorts, rooted in the grandeur of the late '50s and '60s Hollywood, when architect Irwin Schuman aimed to recreate the magic of hotel hotspots like The Sands, The Flamingo and The Stardust.
The first impression: A semi-circular motor court is busy with valeting Rovers and rented Malibus arriving to a glass-enclosed atrium. What on first sight appears to be a two-person concierge or valet desk is actually the main check-in reception, operated by two overwhelmed attendants dealing with checkout overcharges and women inquiring about booking a room in April.
Dark hand-carved wood floors are laid in a herringbone pattern with pretty circular banquettes surrounded by baggage and no bellman to be found. The front lobby is home to a cocktail bar overlooking the front valet with a stylish collection of L.A. weekenders in oversize black sunglasses and designer cargo shorts.
Finding your room: Once you've endured check-in, the best of the Riviera is yet to come. The center resort area is connected by a long hallway lined in tufted sofas, leather lounge chairs and rococo-mirrored pool tables with no balls or cue sticks in sight.
Not much has been done to the exterior of the resort. It maintains its funky 1959 design with a fresh coat of paint and fledgling landscaping still in its brown infancy. Rooms are accessed though dark corridors in rich red wall fabrics leading to dark wood doors.
Bathrooms and details: As with most Palm Springs hotel remodels, the owners could have simply resigned themselves to new tile and granite countertops. Instead, the hotel embarked on an impressive overhaul that resulted in some of the best bathrooms in town. Sand-colored marble floors offer a main-room vanity with a countertop holding two sink bowls and wall-mounted fixtures with Spa Terra brand toiletries and ultra-fluffy white linens.
Additionally, several upgraded suites surround the main pool, enclosed in walls of glass with private Jacuzzis, furnished lounges and even gas fireplaces that make for perfect weekend soirees, not to mention prime poolside people watching.
Located on the outer edge of the main resort pool, the spa is divided between men's and women's lounge areas with individual treatment rooms offering massage, facials and body soaks. A large fitness area is well-equipped with four treadmills, multiple elliptical machines and stationary bikes with personal LCD monitors. The resort fee of $19 leveraged on all rooms includes free access to the gym as well as the in-house spa facility.
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