There’s a scene that takes place every weekend at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs. Trendy, 20- and 30-somethings descend from LA and SD to take over the retro-chic property in search of sun and poolside cocktails. Ask any bronzed beauty what they do for a living and chances are you’ll find yourself mingling with a fashion photographer, a young Hollywood starlet, or an aspiring screenwriter taking a break from the hectic city life.
The weekend we stumbled upon this crowd, the pool was packed with tattooed men and women donning ‘50s and ‘60s-style swimwear. A hairstylist convention was in town, and as we people watched, we slowly grew more and more aware that to visit the Ace is to take a step back in time. Guests come to retreat to a simpler time when “swiping right” wasn’t a regularly-used term and capturing your favorite moments wasn’t done by the tap of your thumb.
The thing is, the Ace isn’t a Four Seasons. It doesn’t have Ritz-Carlton-style digs. And it is definitely not a property for those who seek five-star accommodations, white-gloved service and butlers tending to your every need. Ace is for the cool kids; a destination that attracts affluent Millennials who shrug off in-your-face luxury and prefer sense-of-place to Michelin-starred dining.
But before the Ace was the happening destination it is today, it was a 1960s Howard Johnson motel with an in-house diner: Denny’s. Of course, this is what makes the hotel all the more intriguing. Pulling into the 176- room property, you might not expect much. From the outside, the hotel is unassuming, a small habitat sitting along a luxury-hotel-lined street.
Inside, stone walls and display cases donning desert plants and taxidermy animals welcome you into the lobby. With its vintage pieces, music magazines scattered across bookshelves, desert-chic décor, and old-school prints sprinkled throughout the space, it’s a bohemian vision that begs to be explored.
The property is home to two bars, the Short Bus and the Amigo Room; the Feel Good spa; two pools; a clubhouse; gym; and an on-site diner (not Denny’s). Designed with a Woodstock-esque vibe, guestrooms are meant to mimic the interior of tents and come with unique furnishings such as wooden chests, hand-printed canvas bed throws and vinyl players.
The largest of the accommodations, The Ace Suite, features a king bed, living room area with vintage furniture, bathroom with shower and tub combo, a record player, and a private patio with fireplace and lounge area. The outdoor space is outfitted with a large, L-shaped couch, picnic bench and an overhead shade covering. It’s a great little corner for popping open a cold one and discussing LA’s emerging street artists (“You’ve heard of RETNA, right?”).
But the real party begins at the swim club pool. On the weekends, the pool resembles scenes from Boogie Nights, with chic locals and vacationing sunseekers gathering on loungers and sunbeds. As DJs spin the beats all afternoon long, larger-than-life swan floaties make their way back and forth across the water. If you’re a guest of the hotel, access is complimentary. Otherwise, your invited guests have a $20 cover. The property also holds evening events for the 21+ sect and include everything from spinning DJs to live music, movies, R-rated Bingo and comedy shows.
When you’re ready to hit the town, downtown Palm Springs is only about a 10- to 15-minute car ride away. Guests can also jump on one of the hotel’s bikes to make the short trek into the city. During the summer, the desert locale is filled with plenty to keep you busy including activities and events for visitors of any age. This August, Splash House takes over the pool scene at three rotating hotels with its own music festival taking place during the day and nighttime hours.
From August 25-27, Comic Con Palm Springs rolls into town. This year’s slated special guest is American comic-book royalty Stan Lee (Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, X-Men) along with the original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter. For outdoor adventures, destinations such as Joshua Tree, the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain are close by and can easily be explored as day trips.
Of course, we wouldn’t blame you if you never chose to leave the hotel. When the cocktails are flowing, the sun is out and the beats are playing, this voguish, Millennial playground is THE place to see and be seen.