STAY: ACE HOTEL & SWIM CLUB, PALM SPRINGS
Ready for some much-needed R+R in Palm Springs? Check in to the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, the coolest hotel in the hot, hot desert.
Photography by Tasha James & Christopher Cain
GREETINGS FROM PALM SPRINGS
For my first time in Palm Springs, and California, in general, I was so stoked to stay at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club.
Well, I'm actually infatuated with the Ace Hotel chain, I love that each one is completely different, and each embodies the city that they are in. The Ace in Palm Springs has the quintessential 60s motel vibe, while still having the creature comforts of a traditional hotel, and with personality to spare.
I only ever experience their cool-ass hotels via their social media, so when the time came to visit a city with an Ace, I knew it was where I would want to stay, and experience IRL.
Our stay was a little bumpy at first, but the staff and management were super helpful, and friendly, and went above and beyond to make sure the rest of our time went as smoothly as possible, and it did. I'm definitely happy with our overall experience—and even with the hiccups we had at the beginning, this was one of my favorite hotel stays, ever.
First, let's talk about the views—if you've never been to Palm Springs, prepare yourself for your mind to get bent. No pictures I'd seen truly equipped me for the surreal landscape that I would find myself in.
We drove into Palm Springs from LAX with our friends, so by the time we made it into town, it was dark outside—but the first thing I noticed when we arrived was this large, dark, ominous shape going across the sky, barely lit by the full moon (it was very dramatic), you could tell it was a mountain, but it was also too dark to make out the detail, so my brain had a full-on melt down—I couldn't look at it without feeling anxious.
The next morning, I got up fairly early, went to the courtyard, and literally gasped. I've never felt smaller, in my life, then when I looked up and was greeted by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Sprinkled in my view were also these gigantic palm trees, and I just felt like I was in a concept drawing for a sci-fi movie.
The scale of the mountains, was so intense, not to mention, they look 2-dimensional depending on how the sun hits them, so it really was like being on a movie set. Very surreal, and completely unforgettable. It was so beautiful, and terrifying all at once—but, honestly, it was the highlight for me, I couldn't take enough photos of the scenery.
One of my favorite areas in the hotel, is the lobby-area. It has an eclectic selection of furniture, textiles, and even a beautiful rope art installation. There are other quirky details, and beautiful cacti, and desert plants all over—my inner bohemian was in glorious heaven. I was, and still am obsessing over the beautiful color palette, and attention-to-details in this area.
Other things to note: there is a photo booth in the hallway behind the reception desk that I loved—it takes pictures really quickly, though, so definitely have your poses already worked out, or you'll have three shots where you'll look like a deer in headlights, and one where you're laughing at how incapable you are of using a photo booth—not that I would know from personal experience or anything.
My favorite experience here was heading into the lobby to request something around 1:00 AM to find George, the Night-Manager covered in glitter (from their Full Moon party that I missed—ugh)—when I asked him what other fun things he had up his sleeves, he pulled out two black folded fans from under the desk, and popped them open. I immediatley forgot what I even wanted in the first place.
It was wonderful.
KING'S HIGHWAY DINER
I wish I had more to say about the diner, but I actually didn't eat here, except for breakfast on the last day of our stay.
In general, I usually avoid hotel restaurants, since I like to go out and try local places first. So, food-wise, all I can recommend from here is the iced coffee, and smoked salmon bagel, which was really fucking delicious, by the way (I still have intense cravings for the dill pickle slices it was served with).
I do regret not trying more food here, even if just for the chance to sit and bask in the retro dining room for a bit longer.
It wouldn't be a desert resort without the pool, right? I'm not sure it's even legal to have a hotel in Palm Springs without a pool— I could be wrong though, I'm not a legal expert.
It's easily 100+ degrees in the daytime, and nighttime temps can hover around 90 degrees as well—which means, you're either staying in your room with the AC cranked up, or you're taking a dip in the pool.
The pool area here is pretty nice, there's tons of seating and areas to lounge around in between laps. The pool is a decent size too, lots of people could fit inside. We did come in the off-season for Palm Springs, so, it was relatively empty, and guests had way more room to swim and chill with their friends. You can also take advantage of their hot tub, like I absolutely did.
I actually preferred the pool/hot tub situation at night, which is open until 2AM, by the way. It was so chill, and had the best vibe, in my opinion.
The nights we stayed, the moon was full, so imagine: a slightly breezy, moonlit dip in the hot tub, followed by floating on a giant watermelon pool toy, while the moon is sparkling on the surface of the water, and no one else was in the pool. It was wonderful—and for the record, yes, I am anti-social, and I love having things to myself.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
If you can upgrade your Standard King to a room with a terrace, do it—in addition to all the extra room you'll have inside, you'll also get a private patio space decked out with lots of seating, a fireplace. You could easily fit 10 or more people in this space, if you wanted to.
Even though it was still pretty hot at night, it didn't stop me from turning the fireplace on for a bit—something about an open flame (no matter the external temperature) is just very magical, and soothing.
I would imagine, if you wanted to warm up after a swim in the pool, or make s'mores late at night, this would be the perfect place to do that.
It's also just nice having access to fresh air, without having to talk to anyone else, if you don't want to. The morning is the perfect time to step out here, and just stare in complete awe at the sun rising over the mountains just in the distance. It's incredible.
As a detail-oriented person, the smallest, most minute thing can alter my entire perception of a space. At the Ace in Palm Springs, I looked everywhere and couldn't find one thing I didn't love.
The rooms themselves are tidy, and minimal, but are still full of charm and character. My favorite thing might be the curtains, which make you feel like you're sleeping in a tent—if tents had working plumbing, and electricity. They're just a really cool touch, and make you feel less like you're in a hotel, and more like you're on some cool outdoorsy adventure.
I also really loved that there was a record player, and a stack of randomly selected vinyls that we could listen to. There were artsy magazines sprawled around, and art on the walls that was for purchase, if you want to take a souvenir home with you. There's also a walking stick on the wall, that's available to take for your hikes, if that's your thing.
I was absolutely obsessed with the robes provided in the rooms too—one of them was the traditional-style robe, and the other one was a pull-over tunic, and I wore it for like two days straight, because it was so comfortable—especially at night by the fire pit!
SOME LIKE IT HOT.
Besides a very comfortable bed (check), the only other requirement that I have for my perfect hotel stay is a super hot shower. Everything else is a cherry on top.
If I'm not sweating half-way through my shower, keep it. If there isn't thick steam engulfing everything in the bathroom, keep it. If there isn't steam coming off of my skin after I'm done, keep it. There's nothing I hate more than showering in lukewarm water, maybe except for terrible water pressure (the pressure here is A1, btw)—how do you even get clean when the water isn't nearly scalding? HOW SWAY?
This may not be important for everyone, but for those of us that have been saved, who enjoy an above-average shower experience: I feel very inclined to tell you that this one passes my Khaleesi-walking-through-fire test.
The rest of you? Those who prefer tepid water? I say thank you, actually.
More hot water for me.
The Ace Hotel & Swim Club located in Palm Springs is a great retreat from the typical hotel experience—everything here feels so laid-back and understated that it almost feels like you're just chilling at a friend's house for the weekend, or an adult away-camp, instead of a desert resort.
I wish we had stayed maybe a day longer so that I could experience more of what the hotel had to offer, like the spa, and the fun activities that they coordinate for the guests to meet and mingle (I am still bummed I missed their Full Moon party on the night we drove in). I also would have liked to have taken one of the bikes that they provide as part of your room amenities for a tour of the town, but we had a rental car, and it was blazing hot.
Overall, we had a great time here. The hotel was great, the staff went above and beyond to make sure we had a good time, which meant a lot to us. I definitely hope the next time we're in Palm Springs we can stay again.