Do as Frank Sinatra would shoo-bee-do-bee-do & escape the winter blues for a playful break in the palmy, balmy desert mecca of Palm Springs.

Indian Wells Golf Resort courtesy Greater PS

Winter is the most wonderful time of year to visit Greater Palm Springs when rest, relaxation, and clear blue skies are what you’re after. It’s the perfect season for golf or tennis at any of the Coachella Valley’s many prime resorts, or horseback riding and hiking through the canyons without breaking a sweat. And since Palm Springs and its sister cities – Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, and Coachella — cover lots of ground, there’s lots to do.

Nighttime at the zoo is magic, especially at Palm Desert’s unique The Living Desert for its annual “WildLights at The Living Desert” event from 6 – 9 pm nightly through New Year’s Eve. It’s a lovely winter wonderland with colorful, twinkling holiday lights virtually everywhere, plus bonfires for s’mores, music, the Holiday Express Train, and displays including a giant Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Avalon cabana view best

The newly rebranded Avalon Palm Springs (formerly The Viceroy) hosts two special New Year’s Eve events: an $85 four-course Pre Fixe dinner at the poolside Chi Chi restaurant, featuring live music, champagne toast, and an optional wine pairing; and the $75 Cocktail Party Under the Stars with libations, nibbles, and dancing until 1 a.m., and a balloon drop and champagne toast at the stroke of 12. Holiday rates start at $200, making it my top boutique choice in Palm Springs. (I love the poolside cabanas and Kelly Wearstler’s shabby chic interior touches.) Best of all, you get 20% off your Avalon dining and bar tab when you book a 60-minute spa treatment at the new, organic Estrella Spa. For a perfect New Year’s Day recovery regimen, opt for a 105-minute “Waxing Moon Phase Ritual” Moon Magic Treatment to cleanse, detoxify and reset with a full body exfoliation, warm oil scalp treatment, and deep-cleansing facial to remineralize stressed skin. Double down with a fresh green juice from Chi Chi, a nap in a hammock, and a dip in one of Avalon’s five pools, and you’re ready to take on 2016.


While the adults play, the kids can have fun, too, at the New Year with Camp Hyatt at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa. From 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Hyatt’s $80 Glow in the Dark Pajama Party includes hosted games, family movies, party favors and – for little ones still awake – a midnight countdown.

The morning after, take the whole family for an uplifting New Year’s Day ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway from the sunny desert floor to the snowy pine forest of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Didn’t pack your sled? No problem, they have plenty at the top. To make things extra easy, there’s also an all-day Ride ‘n’ Dine package ($36 for adults, $23.50 for kids) that includes a carved turkey, ham or veggie lasagna dinner at Pines Café, 8,500 feet above sea level. The holiday menu includes a spinach salad with a choice of dressings; a choice of carved turkey, honey glazed ham or vegetable lasagna.

Ritz_RanchoMirage night vista

You’ll feel on top of the world at the mountaintop Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, hands down the best above-it-all luxury getaway in Greater Palm Springs. Start the New Year off right with an eye-popping view from your bluff-top room, then a restorative visit to the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage Spa for a seasonal special: 50 minutes Chocolate Truffle Body Wrap and 50 minutes Chocolate Truffle Facial. No need to lick your face because the decadent $300 treatment includes a chocolate truffle and a glass of champagne. Book ahead for an unforgettable New Year’s Day dinner at The Edge Steakhouse, Palm Springs’ newest and finest special occasion restaurant for prime, dry-aged meats and creative small plates such as Chioggia and Bull’s Blood Beets, Confit Rabbit Terrine, and The Edge Caesar with grana Padano and white anchovies.

Edge Steakhouse vista

Back down the hill in downtown Palm Springs, the 27th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will be held January 1-11, so don’t be surprised if you run into Rooney Mara by the pool, or Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott sipping martinis in Frank Sinatra’s fave booth at Melvyn’s, the best surviving watering hole from the town’s swinging mid-century heyday. They’re just three of the stars attending this year’s PSIFF, one of the most prestigious film festivals in North America. Highlights include Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” with Will Smith and Charlie Kaufman, the swanky Black Tie Awards Gala, and awards events honoring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Bryan Cranston. Oh, and lots and lots of movies.

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for PSIFF

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for PSIFF

Vicki Arkoff

About Vicki Arkoff

Vicki Arkoff’s magazine work includes MAD, Daily Variety and Entertainment Weekly. She is the author of authorised biographies on Paul McCartney and Frank Sinatra.