Rent a Mustang convertible and hit the road for a retro-good time. Here are three destinations and suggestions for where to stay, eat, drink and browse.
Retro route: Highway 247 to Interstate 15 (distance from San Diego: 366 miles)
Stay: The Stardust and Sahara are no more, but the Spanish Ranch-style El Cortez is. Built in 1941, the Las Vegas Review-Journal describes it as the citys oldest continuously operating casino. The hotels been gently renovated; that includes mid-century-modern, space-agey suites that go for an affordable $144 a night.
Eat: Hugos Cellar. Salad prepared tableside? Check. Cherries Jubilee for dessert? Check. Waiters in tuxedos, dark-wood tables, dim lighting and an abundance of meat on the menu? Check, check and check.
Drink: The Peppermill Fireside Lounge. Call it swanky (waitresses in gowns) or tacky (they sell J. Roget champagne—referred to as Jacque Roget Champagne on the menu—by the bottle). All that matters is that youll be sitting next to your very own fountain / fire-pit combo.
Go see: Experience a simulated atom-bomb blast in the Ground Zero Theater and learn how to survive a nuclear war. Its all at the National Atomic Testing Museum, which just added the exhibition Area 51: Myth or Reality?
Retro route: Highway 79 (distance from San Diego: 132 miles)
Stay: Each of the nine rooms at the Orbit In—former studio apartments built around a swimming pool—is decorated in a mid-century theme. Theres the Eames Studio, the Atomic Paradise and the Frey Lounge (with views of the Albert Frey house). Its also within walking or biking distance of the Palm Springs Art Museum (see below), and the poolside bar hosts a daily happy hour.
Eat: Shermans Delis been around since 1953 and offers everything youd expect a Jewish deli to have. For a newer throwback, Kings Highway at the Ace Hotel offers tasty eats from breakfast through dessert.
Drink: Melvyns Piano Bar (at the Ingleside Inn) is reportedly where the Rat Pack used to hang. And, back at the Ace Hotel, The Amigo Room features DJs spinning 60s garage tunes, sissy bingo on Monday nights and the occasional live band stopping through on the way to or from L.A.
Go see: The Palm Springs Art Museum is one of Californias best mid-size museums. Through May 27, check out Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography 1945-1982, part of the Getty Foundations Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980 initiative. Opening May 26 is Pop Goes the Humor, an exhibition of pop art from the 50s and 60s. And, you cant go to PS without checking out the architecture. Stop by the Palm Springs Modern Committees kiosk at the Palm Springs Visitors Center (2901 North Palm Canyon Drive) to pick up a map.
Retro route: Take the train.
Stay: Since you took the train, your hotel choices are limited. Pony up some cash (rooms start at $245) and stay at the Standard. Its new, yes, but its decorated all old-school cool like Don Drapers new apartment.
Eat: Traxx Restaurant, with its art-deco-meets-modern decor is located inside Union Station and is a nod back to when train riding was a more elegant affair. Dinner items range from a curried quinoa stew to gorgonzola-crusted, pan-roasted beef tenderloin. If youre looking for something less expensive, walk over to the Grand Central Market (317 South Broadway; open til 6 p.m.) and order a couple of tacos from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas.
Drink: Yeah, the Bonaventure Hotel (404 S. Figueroa St.) was built in the early 70s, but who cares. Its got a lounge-y vibe and a rotating top-floor bar that gives you a 360-degree view of Downtown L.A.
Go see: Head over to the Museum of Contemporary Arts Grand Avenue location for The Painting Factory: Abstraction After Warhol, on view through Aug. 20. Afterward, hit up The Flea Store on Spring Street, which sells everything from vintage syrup jars to Bakelite knives to retro clothes.