A Hip, Hot Block Party

As Palm Springs’ “it” destination, the mod-obsessed Uptown District draws lovers of great design and afterhours action

Jill boutique.

Jules Moore

It began with a bang of bright color and a burst of inspiration. Shaped by a collective vision and created with purposeful panache, Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District supersized the city’s groovy vibe with a mile-long stretch of funky boutiques, urban-esque eateries, and home and fashion design emporiums.

Uptown is best experienced on foot. Brighten your mood in a blaze of orange, invite a blessing from a century-old prayer god, settle into an Eames chair, enjoy cocktails at twilight, and delight in delicious dishes served from morning to late night.

Over the past decade, Uptown has become the desert’s “it” place. Designer Trina Turk, credited with helping revive the area, opened her flagship store in 2002 in the then-depressed section of Palm Canyon Drive between Alejo Road and Tachevah Drive. Turk chose an Albert Frey-designed building to showcase her untamed fabrics and bold lines — a decision that portended the street’s midcentury attitude. Across the street, Tchotchkes pioneered in retro and related retail. Other early Uptown staples included MacMillan’s Resort Wear and restaurants Thai Smile and Copley’s on Palm Canyon.

Today, the area swells with carefully curated pop-up shops in Raymond | Lawrence, Asian treasures at Dwight Polen Fine Chinese Antiques, and modernist design at RoomService, Boulevard, and a La MOD. Home accessory and knick-knack collectors appreciate the eclectic wares of Just Modern, Dazzles, Retro etcetera, Insolito Home, Trend House, Jill (in The Corridor), and others. Art enthusiasts satiate their creative sensibilities at Stephen Archdeacon Gallery, SHAG the store, Flow Modern Design, and Michael H. Lord Gallery — the latter housed in the architecturally significant former El Mirador Hotel garage.

Just Fabulous anchors The Corridor at the corner of Alejo Road and Palm Canyon Drive — where Uptown and Downtown Palm Springs meet — and offers exquisite books by renowned publishers Assouline, Rizzoli, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, as well as merchandise by Jonathan Adler.

“This is the most vibrant, exciting part of the desert,” says Just Fabulous owner Stephen Monkarsh, who compares Uptown Palm Springs to L.A.’s Melrose Avenue. “We should be screaming it from the mountaintop.”

Fashion also plays in integral part in Uptown’s enticing aura. Trina Turk and MacMillan’s paved the way for other stores, from Déjà Vu Vintage Finery to the bright new designs of Wil Stiles.

Foodies and revelers exult in the district’s mélange of great restaurants and lounges. Satisfy any craving, from the comfort food and community hub of Trio Restaurant to the industrial-designed, ultra-modern energy at Workshop Kitchen + Bar to the delicious diversity at Jake’s Palm Springs. Tantalize your taste buds with the spicy, hot (or not) goodness of Thai food or indulge in the culinary ménage à trois of Jiao, Birba, and Cheeky’s — all three restaurants owned by one enterprising restaurateur.

“Uptown owes its vitality to the restaurateurs and retailers that have brought the district to life and made it a destination,” says Palm Springs resident Harriet Baron.

So, stroll through Uptown and experience the exciting pulse of the hip, mod-obsesses side of Palm Springs.

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