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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

La Quinta Resort & Club, La Quinta

The Coachella Valley is primarily a resort area whose growth, long anchored by Palm Springs, has been steadily expanding eastward to Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and La Quinta. While the city of La Quinta, at the eastern edge of this oasis of country clubs, golf courses, hotels, and spas, seems like the newest burgeoning destination, it is actually one of the desert's oldest resort communities, recently reborn with the renovation of its landmark La Quinta Resort & Club (888-564-1007).
Only a small sign announces the grand resort, almost hidden off of Eisenhower Drive, down a long driveway lined with Cypress trees. La Quinta has plenty of history that engenders a lot of firsts and superlatives.
When it first opened in Christmas 1926, it became a retreat for business moguls like the DuPonts and Vanderbilts.
It had the very first golf course in the Coachella Valley.
Hollywood's early stars rode twenty miles past Palm Springs in their un-air-conditioned town cars to escape the stresses of celebrity. Greta Garbo, whose trademark line was "I want to be alone," and whose image was built on seeking seclusion, sought it at La Quinta; as did stars like Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and more.
In 1934, Frank Capra wrote his script for "It Happened One Night" in one of the hotel's casitas. After the film swept the Academy Awards that year, he superstitiously made La Quinta his regular retreat to write the rest of his most famous film classics.
When Eisenhower left the White House in 1960, he flew to La Quinta for his first holiday as a private citizen.
And in 1982, fifty-six years after the hotel first opened, the town of La Quinta was incorporated becoming the only recorded town in the United States to be named after a resort.
Today the resort has 800 guestrooms, 42 pools, 54 jacuzzis, a 23,000 square foot spa, 23 tennis courts, and 5 championship golf courses.
Most of its rooms are intimate casitas with fireplaces, warm early-California Spanish décor, and either walled private patios or open patios facing a pool area. One of the things that make La Quinta Resort such a wonderful place to visit for families, business groups, or romantic couples is this casita style. In marked opposition to the desert's other more high-rise resorts, La Quinta's casitas are situated in clusters, in little villages with a center courtyard, pool, and spa set in an oasis of palms and lush gardens with glorious mountain backdrops. Rates vary from $89 summer mid-week, increasing to more than $390 for the same room during weekends in high season. And while summer temperatures can exceed 110 degrees, early mornings and late afternoons can be cool year round.
While La Quinta started out as place for Hollywood celebrities to sneak off to and relax in the desert, it soon became famous for recreation with a heritage of sports greatness from tennis to golf. In 1999 they added a grand spa and fitness center. And last year came the final touch that rounded out the property as a world class resort. The restaurant Azur opened making La Quinta a fine dining destination as well.
La Quinta has more golf courses than any resort in the Western United States. But it is the quality as well as diversity of its courses that have attracted golfers from around the world. Conde Nast Traveler, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine have rated La Quinta as one of the premier golf resorts in America and its courses have been frequent hosts of PGA tour competitions as well as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
With a huge variety of courses to play, guests can't get bored playing golf here. They can play the Pete Dye-designed Mountain or Dunes courses, the TPC Stadium Course, the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, or the Greg Norman Course. There's a choice of play on everything from a traditional course, to a Scottish links feel, to a desert design. Green fees range from as low as $40 during the summer to $235 in high season, January through March.
The traditional design of the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course features his trademark tiered fairways, elevated greens, jagged bunkers, and beautiful water features. The Greg Norman course is unique in its desert design with nine water features, indigenous landscaping that dramatically changes color throughout the year, and breathtaking contrasts of white sugar sand bunkers against brown mountains and blue skies. The Pete Dye Stadium Course was designed to challenge the best players in the world. It was built, they say, to "take the wind out of the sails of the tour players." Its 16th hole is called San Andreas Fault, a par five with a 19 foot deep bunker that protects the green. And the 17th hole, called Alcatraz, is an island green in the desert, surrounded by rocks and water - and nothing in between.
You don't play many rounds of golf that you'll remember forever. At La Quinta, you're almost guaranteed to find a memory.
But La Quinta is not just a place for testosterone challenges. Golf for Women Magazine named it one of the top seven golf courses for women in the country. Pete Dye's wife assisted him in laying out the forward women's tees to make it an appropriate challenge for women and less experienced players as well.
With 23 tennis courses, La Quinta is one of the few California resorts that have all three playing surfaces - clay, grass, and hard court. Tennis Magazine consistently lists it as one of the top 25 U.S. tennis resorts.
There's also Camp La Quinta for kids. You can play golf all day and go out for an intimate dinner and know your children are being appropriately entertained.
Spa La Quinta is also world class with a variety of massage treatments and wellness programs. But before you try any of them, step into their "Celestial Shower." For about ten minutes fifteen jets constantly massage you with temperatures changing constantly from one jet to another. It's a marvelously soothing shower massage.
The resort has seven restaurant venues. All are "resort casual." But not to be missed is Azur, La Quinta's fine dining restaurant, featuring the elegant cuisine of its famous partner restaurant, Le Bernardin in New York City.
There's also a two-story area of exclusive boutiques and casual eateries surrounding a plaza of waterfalls, meandering paths, and gardens.
While new hotels seem to be popping up in deserts almost daily, there are some grand old places that have aged gracefully and added to their historical glamour as they continued to expand and modernize for the 21st century traveler. La Quinta Resort, which recently completed a $60,000,000 renovation, is such a place where one can enjoy modern comforts and recreations and yet pillow and stroll in the same places as great historical figures. And while it attracted old time stars, its current amenities attract the newer ones as well. It is a place of breathtaking beauty, sports challenges, comfort, privacy, and superlative service. It is a place filled with legends that invites you to make your own.