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neighbourhood stroll

After a major renovation, downtown Palm Springs is once again in bloom

Construction is coming to an end as stores and a towering hotel spring up in formerly sleepy downtown core

From the vantage point of the rooftop patio of the new Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel, the Coachella Valley stretches out to the horizon in a sea of treetops. Even for a long-time visitor, this is a unique perspective that reveals just how lush this desert really is.

The Rowan is the tallest building in Palm Springs (for now) and the first piece of a half-billion-dollar downtown renovation project puzzle. Gone is the derelict Desert Plaza Fashion Mall that sat abandoned on the site for a decade. In its place is this brand new 153-room hotel that serves as the anchor of a network of new shops and restaurants. There's a fancy-pants Starbucks Reserve – a sort of boutique version of the brand, where you can watch the beans being roasted and choose between "pour over," "siphon brewed" or "clover brewed" cups in addition to the usual iced vanilla lattes. Also present are a West Elm, and soon-to-open H&M and Tommy Bahama locations. Later in the year, a new Whole Foods Market will open and more hotel rooms will come online, thanks to a recently approved six-story Virgin Hotel.

With all of the construction coming to a close, the formerly sleepy downtown core of this desert city is once again blooming.

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Stay

Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel

The Kimpton has a modernist architectural style.

Bringing a fresh, modernist architectural style to a city better known for its mid-century masterpieces, the New Kimpton Rowan hotel offers a look at Palm Springs' steel-and-glass future. Lobby decor alludes to the city's design past with oversized textile art, soft leather furniture and dramatic teak touches, while rooms tend toward a more stripped-down minimalism. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the sun. Rooms boast whimsical touches such as a miniature green camel hidden in each closet, a reference to a law still on the books in the city that makes it illegal to ride a camel down Palm Canyon Drive between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m.

The patio features a long, shallow pool.

At 4 Saints, the hotel's new rooftop restaurant, a leather-and-wood-lined space lit by dozens of delicate woven lamps, chef Stephen Wambach is putting out some of the most innovative food the city has ever seen. Misters, cabanas and a long, shallow pool keep the already cool guests from getting overheated on the stylish patio. Cruiser bikes are available for guests and bike paths are plentiful. 100 W Tahquitz Canyon Way; http://www.rowanpalmsprings.com/; Rates from $300

Eat and Drink

Melvyn's

Melvyn’s has given its vintage menu a refresh.

Old-school doesn't get much more classic around here than Melvyn's. Not only do they still flambé the steak Diane tableside, just as they did when Sinatra was a regular, but the waiters who served it to Frank are probably the same ones doing it tonight. For decades, nothing changed at Melvyn's and that's the way people liked it, but just like many of its glamorous patrons, it underwent a subtle facelift. A refreshed bar area and updated patio give the space a shiny spruce-up while newly installed chef Jennifer Town has rejuvenated the vintage menu with fresh techniques and upgraded suppliers. Thanks to her, for the first time in ages, the food is as much a draw as the crowd. 200 W Ramon Rd.; inglesideinn.com/melvyns-restaurant

Drinks are paired with way-above-average bar food at Truss & Twine. Audrey Ma

Truss & Twine

Approaching its one-year anniversary, the sleek cocktail bar, Truss & Twine, from the owners of the avant garde Workshop Kitchen + Bar, is downtown's best spot for serious cocktail enthusiasts. Drawing inspiration from libations throughout history, prohibition to tiki, it pairs the drinks with way-above-average bar food. Wagyu tartare with celery-root puree and pickled quail egg is a standout. Approach the Hanky Panky (barrel-aged gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca) with caution. It's not for beginners. 800 N Palm Canyon Dr.; trussandtwine.com

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Do

Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum has a diverse, world-class collection.

For years, accessing the museum meant crossing the moribund husk of the abandoned Desert Plaza Fashion Mall. As a result, few made the trek and that's a shame, because the PSAM is one of the valley's underrated treasures. Designed by E. Stewart Williams, the architect behind Frank Sinatra's famous Palm Springs house, the museum started out as a repository for desert-themed art from local artists, but, over the course of its 80-year history, has acquired a world-class collection that ranges from Native American and Mesoamerican art to contemporary American works by Duane Hanson and Robert Motherwell. There is no more cultured place in the desert to get out of the midday heat. 101 Museum Dr.; psmuseum.org

Shop

Mitchell's

While the redevelopment has succeeded in bringing some new big-name fashion chains to the city, Palm Springs remains an oasis for fashionistas with a taste for vintage. Looking for a 1970s Jean Louis Scherrer python-print dress in silver or a gently used Calugi e Giannelli money jacket in cotton? Probably not, but that's the fun of shopping at Mitchell's – downtown Palm Springs's most stylish vintage clothing, furniture and accessories shop – one look at the store's eclectic collection and your wardrobe might just undergo a renovation of its own. 106 S. Indian Canyon Dr.; mitchellsps.co

Local secrets

Parker Palm Springs

The lobby of the Parker Palm Springs.

It might seem counterintuitive for a hotel to have a secret restaurant, but everything about the Parker Palm Springs, from the Instagram-worthy screen wall that shades the front entrance, to the hammocks discreetly slung between palms in the lush gardens, suggests privacy. Guests at Counter Reformation, the hotel's sexy new wine bar, are chaperoned to the space across the lobby, out past the back patio and through the gardens to a hidden door. Inside there's a speakeasy-meets-monastery space where guests are invited to take a glass of champagne into the restaurant's decommissioned Catholic confessional when not popping caviar-covered brioche toast or sharing plates of Iberico ham. The celebration of religious schisms never tasted so good. 4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr.; theparkerpalmsprings.com/food-and-drink

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The writer travelled as a guest of Visit Greater Palm Springs. It did not review or approve this article.

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