If you have the resources for it, there are few desert hideaways as magical, or as storied, as La Quinta. In 1926, a wealthy young man opened a tiny resort of six self-contained casitas and a restaurant for them, and he set about attracting the cream of Hollywood to vacation there. It caught on in a big way—Greta Garbo had a house connected to the property, and Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, the Eisenhowers, and Katharine Hepburn were all regulars. Ginger Rogers was married beside the waterfall at the heart of the property. Frank Capra stayed here while he was developing It Happened One Night (starring Clark Cable, another regular), and when it turned into a smash, he became superstitious returning here, in the lee of the mountains, to pen his future films including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life. Yes, snowy Bedford Falls was dreamed up on the deserts sands of La Quinta.
La Quinta, as you by now have gathered, has nothing to do with the budget motel chain, and its history could fill a book. (If you're here on a Saturday, don't miss the free historical walking tour that meets at the desk at 10am.) In fact, there are only two cities in the world that are named for a hotel—this one (about 20 minutes' drive east of Palm Springs) and Beverly Hills, named for 1912's Beverly Hills Hotel. The resort, which is now managed by Waldorf-Astoria, is today at a sumptuous, 45-acre desert escape of lush green lawns, riotous flower beds, shade trees, on-point staff, and sublime privacy, with 41 pools to go around (plus more than 50 spa tubs hidden behind the walls of the private casitas, some of which have their own lawns) so that none of its moneyed guests feel pressured into making displays of themselves in the common pool. As a resort comprised of semi-detached units, there are many styles, shapes, and amenity permutations, but at the least, no unit is smaller than 400 square feet, and many have push-button gas fireplaces for those cool desert nights. "Hideaway" casitas (and many of a higher category) have their own yard.
Everything has been renovated to remain fresh. Although the property is so large as to require staff to use Club Cars to get around (you'll be happy walking among the the blossoms), each area has its own pool, so the walk is never far to swim, which has the effect of making all other guests dissolve into nothing; even at capacity, you won't see many other people. This is not a resort where music blares and cocktails flow; the pleasures are discreet, engaged behind hedges or walls, like summer camp for rich people. The children who come here tend to have prior resort experience and are respectfully well-behaved. By evening, as the sun sinks behind the Santa Rosa mountains and the desert palms cast ever-longer shadows across the grass, guests retreat to their units or proceed to the main building, which contains Morgan's in the Desert, one of Palm Springs' best restaurants, where the food places an accent on carefully selected local California produce.