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HOTEL REVIEW: PARKER, PALM SPRINGS

Parker is a legendary Palm Springs hotel. Set within the famous desert resort, just two hours’ drive from LA, this place is sold as an “it-crowd” hangout with all of the associated tricks and kicks. So, for my first (and so far only) trip to Palm Springs I decided to see what all the fuss was about.   

You might want to prepare yourselves guys. It’s all going to get a bit grumpy old man up in here. And not because I’m writing this on a Monday morning. Rather, because the Parker Hotel really wasn’t all that. Read my review to get the full and unabridged Parker lowdown…

When to visit Palm Springs…

Palm Springs; desert oasis and mid-century modern paradise. I loved it and can’t wait to go back and see more of it.

In terms of when to visit, dodging Coachella seems to be a good shout. The music festival, which made the city even more famous than it already was, annually overcrowds the place, which can’t make for the most relaxing visit.  

Temps of 40 Celsius is pretty normal around here so you never get to forget that you’re in a bona fide desert. I visited in the offseason but it was still blazing. Sun fiends will love it. But shade bathers might find themselves getting a little hot under the collar.

First Impressions

I pulled up at the patterned concrete frontage of the hotel, top down on the car, feeling pretty damn pleased with myself. Who wouldn’t?

Parker was made over by designer, Jonathan Adler, in 2003. And the hotel (kind of like Adler’s unofficial showroom) looks amazing. Both within the hotel and its grounds there are iconic, retro-modern works of art to be discovered. And lots of playful touches to enjoy.

All of this beautiful design. Towering palms. A view of mountains in the background. Parker can feel wonderfully surreal. And it certainly makes an impact as you walk through that door.

The Room, Take 1

There are 144 rooms at Parker Palm Springs. Upon arrival, I checked in, got my key and went up to mine. This tiny space with a teensy sand plot garden surrounded by concrete walls looked very different from the pictures online.

So, off I trotted down to reception. Had to speak to the manager. Waited an hour. Got shown to another room in one of the hotel’s other buildings. And found a room that resembled what I had actually booked and paid for.

The Room, Take 2

As you can see from the pictures below, this room was a good size and had lots of great design quirks. But it still wasn’t quite right.

The bathroom was in need of a lick of paint and some TLC. And the noise of people walking back and forth in the room above was pretty loud and pretty goddam annoying. All of which wasn’t really what I expected from a five star hotel with a hefty price tag.

Things just weren’t clicking for Parker and me. But I held out hope that the rest of the hotel would win me over.  

The Grounds

OK, I can stop being a grumpy old man for a bit. The Parker grounds are incredible and a real hub for the hotel. This massive plot is big enough to be a park, with the hotel buildings scattered out within it.

Play tennis, croquet or pétanque. Swing the afternoon away on a hammock. Warm yourself by the fire pit on cool desert nights. And keep on discovering Jonathan Adler wonders like his iconic half peeled banana.

The gardens are beautifully kept and I loved my little walk every day through the grounds to reach the main building or the swimming pool. Parker get 10/10 for their great outdoors. It’s a truly unique and special place.

But watch out for Instagrammers…

So you get the gist. Parker is astoundingly photogenic. But when there’s a scene that’s gonna look just killer sitting within a square frame, you know what comes next.  

Instagrammers. Everywhere. All the time. The hotel lobby looked like a photo studio. And although a security guard was supposed to keep the snap-happy away from guest areas of the hotel, that just didn’t seem to work.

So Parker lacked privacy (and security) and some of that exclusivity it’s tried to make into a USP.  

Don’t get me started on the breakfast…

A new day. A new grumble. Norma’s is an in-house, open air restaurant serving an all-day breakfast. Continuing a theme, the place looked amazing. Colourful, almost-pop-art design. Beautiful canopies overhead.

And the breakfast was delicious. I had huge, oversized, typically American pancakes with blueberries and fell in love at first bite.

Indigestion quickly set in, however, when the bill arrived. The damage? $100 for a breakfast for two. Pancakes, coffee and juice. Needless to say, that was the first and last Parker dining experience.  

Knowing that Palm Springs has so much to offer in the way of cafés and restaurants, I felt I could spend my dosh a little more wisely.

But I got to chill out at the swimming pool, right?

After breakfast, next stop swimming pool. There are actually two outdoor pools at Parker (there’s also a salty indoor one at the spa).

One is hugged by an L-shaped building full of hotel rooms. And the other is closer to the spa. Both are tiny when you consider how big the hotel is. You wouldn’t be surprised to find them in the garden of a local Airbnb.

So things got pretty busy pretty quickly. There were kids in the adults-only pool. Grabbing a sun lounger felt like a competitive sport.

And because it was full and noisy and crowded, personal space went out the window. Unless your body confidence is through the roof, a Parker pool is definitely not the place to strut your stuff in budgie smugglers.

And the spa?

The so-called Palm Springs Yacht Club is the Parker Hotel spa. Nautical themed décor fits with the name and the interior is again to-die-for.

Spa treatments including facials, wraps and massages are all on offer. But, as became a tedious trend at the Parker, it’s probably only genuine yacht club members who can afford them. And if you’ve not booked a treatment you can’t access the rest of the spa facilities.

Another disappointment.

The Verdict

As you might have gathered, I had mixed feelings about Parker Palm Springs. It was stylish. But it just didn’t have the substance to match.

If you really want to experience the hotel, I’d recommend booking in for just one night. That way you get to see the design and the gardens first-hand before moving onto pastures new.

And, with more and more amazing hotels popping up in Palm Springs, finding another option is no hard task. There’s no need to settle for somewhere that doesn’t do the best for its guests.

Here’s hoping I can be less of a grouch when it comes to reviewing my next Palm Springs trip.

In a few words…

Iconic design. Beautiful grounds. But a bit too big for its boots.

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