Destination Scouting: Palm Springs

sunnylands palm springs
The grounds at Sunnylands, Palm Springs – Photo courtesy of Sunnylands.org

Recently I made the treacherous trek (2-plus hour drive on the 10 freeway from Los Angeles) to Palm Springs, Calif., to check out potential honeymoon and destination wedding venues. It was a rough couple of days (soaking in my claw-foot bathtub, eating fried squash blossoms, riding around in swanky golf carts) but I endured it – all for you.

If you’ve never been, Palm Springs is a fairly quick drive from Los Angeles, but don’t feel like you have to fly into LAX if you’re not local. Palm Springs International Airport has a surprising amount of flights. Ontario airport is another possibility.

The area is known for its desert landscape, mid-century modern architecture and myriad golf courses. But it’s not all cactus and nine irons — there are also museums, hiking trails, and plenty of shopping and dining options. There’s a reason so many celebrities chose to escape Hollywood by buying second homes here.

It’s important to know that a lot of places close in the summer (when temperatures frequently break 100 degrees Fahrenheit – aka you don’t want any part of it). Peak months are November through March.

the willows palm springs honeymoon
Exterior of The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn – Photo courtesy of The Willows

Where I stayed: The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn
After a couple wrong turns (thanks a lot, Google Maps) I arrived at the unassuming gate for The Willows. The hotel is situated at the end of a road just outside downtown Palm Springs in a residential neighborhood (you can easily walk to shopping and restaurants). It feels like you’re pulling into a rather affluent friend’s house, and that feeling extended throughout my stay.

The hotel is small, only eight rooms, each of which is different. I stayed in the Loft room, up a steep flight of stairs and with windows overlooking the waterfall. It had a cozy but luxurious feel with sloped ceilings and a sizeable claw foot tub.

I also snuck a peek at the Einstein and Marion Davies rooms, which were bright and airy, and my personal favorite, the Library room, which had darker furnishings and (naturally) tons of books.

palm springs honeymoon hotel
The Loft Room in The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn – Photo Courtesy of The Willows
palm springs hotel wedding
The Loft bathroom – Photo by Sarah Carrillo Riswick

Random fact: According to the Willows owners, Paul Thomas Anderson stayed in the Library room while writing “There Will Be Blood.” He didn’t know it at the time, but that was the same room Upton Sinclair had stayed in (back when the hotel was a private home in the 1920s) while writing part of the novel “Oil!” upon which the movie is based. How’s that for historic?

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The Einstein Room – Photo Courtesy of The Willows

Like I said, the rooms are all different, but all the same level of quality so you really can’t go wrong with whatever room you end up in. But the charm of this hotel extended past the rooms. There was also the pool area, with plush lounge chairs and jazz-era music quietly playing. And the living room and balcony area, where I happily worked for a few hours while enjoying the view of the San Jacinto mountains.

palms springs honeymoon hotel
The Marion Davis bathroom – Photo Courtesy of The Willows

The living room is also where the hotel hosts nightly wine and appetizers. My socially-awkward self hates mingling, but it was worth it to chat with the owners and hear their amazing story and the history of the hotel.

The short version: Tracy Conrad and Paul Marut were medical students in Los Angeles. While vacationing in Palm Springs they came upon The Willows, which was then a dilapidated private home for sale, and after finding out the history and that Albert Einstein had once stayed there, decided to buy it, renovate it, and turn it into a hotel.

One last thing, I can’t forget breakfast. The Willows doesn’t consider itself a Bed and Breakfast, but its daily three-course gourmet offering (included in the room rate) is practically reason alone to stay here. One morning I had a delicious lemon muffin, tropical fruit bowl and orange-infused French toast. A-ma-zing.

palm springs destination wedding hotel
The Library Room – Photo Courtesy of The Willows

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