Seeing how much I live for all things Saratoga Springs, with its small-town feel and world-class appeal, I decided to lean into a few similar, smallish cities that attract the foodie and hospitality globetrotters who are most definitely in the know: Palm Springs, Malibu and Aspen. Ready for the journey?
Palm Springs, CA has had as many are-they-hot-or-not? moments the past few decades as any resort town outside of South Beach has. And why not? Even metaphysics and psychics love this desert Mecca for its converging apex points of energy, deep underground springs, fault lines and ties to a fascinating history. I love it because the sky, the air and the openness just feel healing. Yet, Palm Springs has always been a place of indulgence. Resorts and restaurants have always brought ultra-chic design here, and many have raised the bar for decadence.
Let’s start with the Parker Palm Springs. It’s the epitome of a Leading Hotels Of The World destination and one of my all-time favorite resorts anywhere on the planet. The hotel’s own Mr. Parker’s is also one of my go-to speakeasies/restaurants. It’s just naughty enough, with consistently great food and service. At every turn, the expansive, single-story hotel’s Jonathan Adler design is cheeky-chic, very playful and quite elegant—where frivolous fun meets decadent elegance. The rooms, too, are terrific. And the Parker’s Palm Springs Yacht Club, or “PSYC” for short, is a place I never want to leave. Blissful. Perfection. The resort’s indoor pool is sublime, as is a steam prior to indulging in one of its signature (and world famous) vodka “lemonades” under the always-scorching sun.
Similar in modern/luxe feel with a decidedly adult executive vibe is Kimpton’s The Rowan, Palm Springs, with rooms and views that are equally spectacular. All the dining venues are stellar, too. Definitely try the rooftop’s 4 Saints for outsized drinks, unforgettable mountain views and elevated small plates meant for sharing. For dinner, try Copley’s On Palm Canyon. How does roasted Scottish salmon or lobster pot pie sound? (I know, right?) Le Vallauris is extravagant and always superb, with plates such as wild boar pâté or Maine lobster ravioli. A five-star menu with service to match, this French eatery delivers all the finery.
So, we always hear about Malibu, CA’s “PCH” or Pacific Coast Highway. Having lived in Hollywood and Beverly Hills for several years, I can say that even visitors feel right at home in Malibu, about a 40-minute ride (in moderate traffic) from Beverly Hills. Is Malibu expensive? Yes, undeniably. But the oceanside town is also genuinely down to earth and sporty—although you might feel more “local” renting a 911 Porsche Carrera 4S Cabrio. NOBU, the fabled sushi hotspot that opened its celeb-filled Malibu outpost years ago, used to be a good enough reason many Angelenos made the trek to Malibu. And it still is…with the NOBU Ryokan Hotel. With 16 one-of-a-kind rooms on coveted Carbon Beach, it might be one of the most memorable Zen stays of your life. Saratogians, get ready for some frigid water temperatures if the beach is what you desire. Also located on what’s known as “Billionaire’s Beach” is Malibu Beach Inn. Once owned and redesigned by Hollywood mogul David Geffen, you’ll be comforted to know everything is just right. Aside from spectacular dining and even yoga on the sand, its spa is operated by the acclaimed Veronica Skin & Body Center. If you want to be above it all in Malibu, then, technically, you’ll want to head towards the Santa Monica Mountains, or across PCH to the Surfrider. A fun, massively upgraded motel beach house, it’s infused with local art that will impress with its well-thought-out amenities and excursions—including a locally grown food and beverage program on its rooftop bar. Surfrider also has beach access and surf supplies and umbrellas, plus sales and rentals of surf boards and wet suits. Pre-book your free Mini Cooper, folks! Staying close by for dinner, you’ll feel super comfortable at Geoffrey’s, with its long-standing sexy ambiance and oceanside dining. Try the Maine lobster and tuna tartar or the see-and-be-seen eggs Benedict for brunch. Exquisite. Need a little beachy-chic, after-dinner hipster cocktail? Aside from a full menu, Moonshadows offers a great casual cocktail patio at the sea, mixed among elegant booth dining. Rustic and chic—and very, very Malibu indeed.
Something you might actually hear over sunset cocktails in Malibu? Let’s fly to Aspen, CO for dinner! That type of person is probably a regular at The Little Nell, what’s known as the “Aspen of Aspens” and easily one of the most luxe “destination” experiences in the country. With enough Five-Star and Five-Diamond accreditations to put every other resort in town to shame, The Little Nell is the only ski-in, ski-out hotel in Aspen (a rarity anywhere), where at every turn, everywhere you look, you see only perfection. The cuisine is legendary, while the service and concierges are as well-trained and affable as any I’ve encountered. With more than 20,000 bottles of fine wine in the hotel’s abundant wine cellar, The Little Nell can get you just about any vintage you desire. This historic resort is bustling year round, but really comes to life when the cold settles in for the season.
Everyone needs a spa—on that we all can agree. Flying in to Aspen, just for the Remède Spa experience wouldn’t be out of the question. Considered the absolute best spa in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine, Remède is the real (age-rewind wellness) deal and it makes its home in yet another out-of-this-world iconic hotel, the St. Regis Aspen Resort. Famous for making its lobby bars the center of attention, and painted as an enormous canvas of stupendous art, The St. Regis makes many other luxury destination hotels seem ordinary in comparison, with perfectly appointed rooms boasting over-the-top fireplaces and jaw-dropping bathroom suites. The Velvet Buck serves exquisite local ingredients all day and night while the Mountain Social Bar & Lounge is the ultimate in après ski glitz. It’s. All. Here.
Aspen is one place where fine dining is taken very seriously, as one amazing restaurant rolls into another. Yet, Matsuhisa ranks high as not only one of the best, but also has, hands down, the freshest sushi, even though its location—a basement—was a surprise, to say the least. Chair 9 at Little Nell, whose name is derived from the fact that Aspen Mountain has a total of eight chair lifts, is considered heavenly and as tony as it gets. Think all-out food orgy. French Alpine Bistro gets a lot of attention for first-class comfort fare, featuring seared foie gras and mouth-watering escargots in an (OMG!) oven-fresh brioche.
Once you start researching Palm Springs, Malibu and Aspen, you’ll definitely be hard at work planning your next luxe destination trip. I know I already have some ideas for my next adventure. Maybe I’ll see you there!