Let the Sun Shine In

Uptown Palm Springs embodies the spirit of a modernist village.

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Take a step back in time while glimpsing the future along the hippest, most mod half-mile strip in the desert. Spend the day — and evening — in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District savoring great food, fashion, art, and design.

Start with a healthy, locally grown breakfast. Meander slowly up and down Palm Canyon Drive — from Alejo Road to Tachevah Drive. See cool stuff and take in the art and antiques. Embrace this Technicolor nook of town, divine your inner designer, and kick ecru to the curb. Think SoHo with palm trees and a mountain backdrop.

“Uptown reminds me of New York City,” says Palm Springs local Heather Warshaw. “You walked and picked up tea at the tea shop, cheese at the cheese shop, newspaper at the newsstand, and special treasures at your neighborhood stores.”

In Uptown, you might take home an Eames instead of Earl Grey; and rather than cheese, you find SHAG (artist Josh Agle), whose bold atomic prints feature groovy men and women at play.

In Uptown Palm Springs, you’ll find new visions in fashion from the revered Wil Stiles and Trina Turk boutiques and recent addition to the area, Déjà Vu Vintage Finery. Other area stores — Tchotchkes, Dwight Polen Fine Chinese Antiques, Christopher Anthony, LTD, and others — offer class, sass, and their own brand of distinctive treasures.

Uptown is a great spot to have something different,” says Cooper Anderson, owner of design and lifestyle store Insolito Home, located in the modern mixed-use complex Prescott Place.

Anderson opened Insolito Home a year ago on a whim, inspired by the architecture, and he’s since doubled his space and exceeded sales goals. “I saw this building and thought, ‘This is a fabulous space for a store.’” Stylish handbags, scented candles, and rows of exotic fragrances accent the wildly expressive mélange of hand-crafted furnishings “There’s something for everyone,” he says.

On a nearby side street, pop-up-store-turned-permanent NotNeutral stands out with its bright products and distinctive aesthetic. Sales Director Edward Figlewicz says they hit the ground running with their colorful patterned rugs, lanterns, table wear, and other home décor items.

At the north end of the district, Michael H. Lord Gallery offers impressive contemporary art. This month, concurrent with Modernism Week, the gallery will exhibit photography by Michael Childers and a group show of minimalist and abstract geometric paintings, works on paper, and sculpture by artists such as Bart Exposito, Charles Fresquez, Betty Gold, and Constance DeJong.

Gallery Director Sam Heaton credits the gallery’s success to the city’s amiable nature. “It’s clear people enjoy coming here,” he says. “Customers are remarkably friendly. It’s just a friendly town.”

Trio, Heaton says, was the game changer for Uptown. The restaurant’s vivid orange presence, comfort-food menu, and focus on giving back to the community have won hearts, stomachs, and minds. But co-owner Tony Marchese defers to the collective spirit of the merchants, restaurants, and businesses as the true hero of Uptown. “It’s a community neighborhood,” he says, adding that he routinely sends people to sample other area restaurants. “We all help each other out.”

Thai Smile, Copley’s on Palm Canyon, Jake’s, Cheeky’s, Birba, and John’s join Trio in providing excellent dining options in the district.  

In March, Uptown welcomes Workshop Kitchen + Bar, which will bring a sleek, industrial dining experience to Palm Canyon Drive. “Uptown draws a clientele that is savvy, international, and excited about desert cool,” says owner and chef Michael Beckman. “Smack in the middle of Old Las Palmas and the Movie Colony neighborhoods, we couldn’t ask for a better location.”  

The Corridor anchors Uptown’s southern tip at Alejo Road and features boutiques, restaurants, coffee and tea emporiums, and businesses that ring a grassy courtyard popular with people and their pups. For a variety of retail and lifestyle flavors, turn to Just Fabulous, Pawz Palm Springs, Koffi, Café Europa, Café Chocolat, Brien O’Brien Salon, and others.

“Uptown is a fabulous blend that mixes pedestrian-friendly business with pleasure in nicely scaled storefronts, historic buildings, and appropriate new architecture,” says Robert Imber of Palm Springs Modern Tours. “It embodies everything that is great about Palm Springs.”     

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