During its midcentury heyday, Palm Springs was home to some of Hollywood’s biggest names — Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore. The desert oasis was the playground of those stars of the silver screen. But Palm Springs was also a convenient escape, fitting neatly into the big movie studios’ contract provisions that required that actors remain within a 100-mile radius, in case they needed to be called back at a moment’s notice.
Thanks to a renewed fervor in all things midcentury, from architecture and design to lifestyle, Palm Springs may be even more popular now.
Every February, folks flock here to soak in the mod era’s vibe during Modernism Week, an 11-day extravaganza filled with home tours, film premieres and parties galore. Many events on the Feb. 15-25 schedule have already sold out, but you can still get tickets for some of the most popular and irresistible offerings.
From a Rat Pack-worthy bash to a Modern Moroccan showcase, double-decker architectural tours and Frank Sinatra peeks, here’s what to see at this year’s Palm Springs Modernism Week.
- After Dark Party Modernism Week kicks off with a Sinatra-worthy shindig that runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 15 ($175). Don your best vintage ’50s and ’60s cocktail couture and walk the red carpet into this swanky opening night affair. The venue is the Canyon Country Club, designed in 1962 by architects Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison, and a favorite midcentury haunt of Dean Martin, Johnny Carson and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.
- Moroccan Modern Showcase Home. This exotic showcase home is part of Palm Springs’ 2018 Modernism Week festivities. (Courtesyof Mary Orlin) Modernism meets Marrakech in this 1975 Hal Lacy-designed home in the Indian Canyons neighborhood. The airy abode opens up to an enclosed backyard, complete with outdoor kitchen, fire pit, pool and mountain views. Vibrant colors, distinctive architectural details and decor transport you to an exotic oasis. Be sure to check out the sunken bar and private guest wing, too. Tours ($40) run every half hour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 16.
- Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tour. Many of Palm Springs’ architectural gems are hidden behind tall walls and hedges, but your vantage point on the double-decker’s upper deck lets you peek into homes once owned by Elizabeth Taylor, Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn, Kirk Douglas and Dean Martin. You’ll see Leonardo DiCaprio’s home (the former Dinah Shore estate) and stop at the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, too. A double-decker bus offers bird’s-eye views of Palm Springs’ distinctive architecture. (Courtesy David A. Lee) Along the way you’ll learn midcentury modern architectural terms and view several Class 1 Historic Sites — designated for preservation — such as the Kaufmann Desert House, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 and later owned by Barry Manilow. Some of these 2½-hour tours ($95) are sold out, but availability remains for Feb. 21-25.
- Modernism Week Vintage Car Show. If you’re a classic car buff, don’t miss seeing more than 50 restored vintage cars from the 1940s to the 1970s at this free event on Feb. 19. You’ll wonder why we ever gave up those sleek, finned beauties.
- Palm Springs Modernism Show. Bring a vintage piece of Palm Springs design home with you from this grand showcase, where 85 exhibitors offer home furnishings, art, retro clothes and Bakelite jewelry Feb. 16-18. One $20 ticket gets you into the sales showcase at both the PS Modernism Show and the new Modern Design Expo.
- Film premieres. Silver-screen buffs take note: In addition to the new Architecture and Design Film Series, which features 26 films, documentaries and shorts, two movies will make their world premiere here during Modernism Week. Catch “Sinatra in Palm Springs: The Place He Called Home,” which documents Sinatra’s nearly 50-year love affair with the city, when it premieres on Feb. 20; tickets are $25-$150.
- And “Frey: Part 1 – The Architectural Envoy” explores the architect’s life, influences and Palm Springs impact via interviews and rare photos and video. The documentary debuts Feb. 18; tickets are $25-$125.
- Vintage Trailer Show Weekend. Wrap up Modernism Week at this vintage RV display. Owners and restorers of these retro trailers, campers and mobile homes will be on hand to talk about the history and roads traveled. Feb. 24-25; tickets are $25.