Locals Jim Gilroy, left, and Rocky Laudadio dine at John's in Palm… (Christina House / For the…)
PALM SPRINGS — The Rat Pack lives again -- or at least Palm Springs, once the party pad of Sinatra and the boys, does.
The Coachella Valley city, which had devolved into a caricature of a Hollywood playground, has reinvented itself: Its retro-chic look, striking scenery and hip hotels and restaurants are drawing a new generation of visitors.
And, of course, there's always the weather, a tourist attraction on its own (in winter, anyway).
The city prides itself on having 350 days of sunshine a year, a siren song that plays loudly and clearly in Canada and other frosty North America realms in the depths of winter. That's why snowbirds swarm here during the pricey high season (January through April). Besides spending wads of cash, they double the city's size to about 100,000.
But that shouldn't deter Angelenos, especially those who realize how many good deals await. We know this because we slept and ate our way through the city recently, ferreting out chic boutique hotels and friendly cafes that are delightful and delightfully inexpensive.
We traveled the length and breadth of the city, visiting historic districts that once were the home of frolicking celebrities -- the Movie Colony District and the historic Tennis Club District, for instance -- and newer neighborhoods -- the Design District, known for Midcentury Modern decor. We found a city catering to hipsters, retirees, couples -- gay and straight -- and dog lovers. And we found some great deals. Our list includes:
Seven hotels (three new) where you can get a room for less than $150 a night -- some as low as $79 -- in high season.
Eight restaurants where you'll find tasty entrees for less than $10.
Ten fun free things to do, including hiking in the hills and plenty of first-class window shopping.
1. Alcazar Palm Springs
This Palm Springs newcomer (it opened in October) sits behind the city's Design District and has taken the location to heart. Attractive and sexy, the Alcazar offers a winning combination for guests. Its 34 rooms boast flat-screen TVs, fluffy white duvets, mini-fridges and other amenities that don't usually come in this price range. The grounds are similarly attractive, with a saltwater pool and several areas for lounging. Pets allowed in some rooms ($50 fee).
622 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (866) 877-8733 or (760) 318-9850, www.alcazarpalmsprings.com.
High-season doubles from $79 (weekends $129); off-season rates from $84.
2. Casa Cody Inn
Built in the 1920s, Casa Cody qualifies as the oldest operating small hotel in Palm Springs; it also has among the lowest prices on our list. The Southwestern-style complex, once owned by Buffalo Bill Cody's niece Harriet, includes studios and one- and two-bedroom suites; many come with kitchens, and some have fireplaces. Furnishings are Santa Fe-style with splashes of color. There are two courtyards, each with a swimming pool. Free continental breakfast; kids and pets allowed (pet fee $15).
175 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs; (800) 231-2639, (760) 320-9346, www.casacody.com.
High-season rates for doubles from $99-$189, no additional charge on weekends; off-season rates start at $79.
3. The Chase
Walk into the lobby of the Chase and you'll notice the pluses right away: home-baked chocolate chip cookies at the front desk, '50s decor worthy of HGTV, and an eye-catching landscaped courtyard and pool just outside. This retro two-story hotel, in the historic Tennis Club District of Palm Springs, has spacious rooms and is polished in a Sinatra/Rat Pack sort of way. Free continental breakfast. Kids and pets allowed (pet fee $10).
200 W. Arenas Road, Palm Springs; (888) 320-8867 or (760) 320-8866, www.chasehotelpalmsprings.com.
High-season doubles from $119 ($139 with kitchen), no additional charge for weekends; off-season doubles from $79.
4. Del Marcos Hotel
Retro fans will love the Del Marcos Hotel, where the Midcentury Modern design features vintage furniture, not knockoffs. Designed in 1947 by desert architect William F. Cody, Del Marcos Hotel has a long list of amenities, including continental breakfast, complimentary bicycles and poolside cabanas with TV. No kids, but pets allowed in some rooms (pet fee $25.)
225 W. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; (800) 676-1214 or (760) 325-6902, www.delmarcoshotel.com.
Winter rates for doubles from $139, weekends $149; off-season doubles from $79.
5. Desert Riviera
Desert Riviera's attractively landscaped courtyard looks as though it could have been the subject of Sunset magazine's cover story, circa 1965. The boutique hotel's lowest rate, $149, barely makes our survey, but its fun style and many extras add value. Going shopping? Call the stretch limo for a free ride. Want to dine in? Prepare dinner in your kitchenette. A bike ride, perhaps? Check out the tandem cruiser. No children or pets.
610 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (866) 270-8322 or (760) 327-5314, www.desertrivierahotel.com.