Palm Springs hideaway

A clubby, '50s-era desert retreat opens to the public
Sharon Boorstin

The 400-acre cactus- and citrus tree-studded desert sanctuary at Smoke Tree Ranch, tucked at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, has attracted such movie industry elite as Walt Disney for 50 years. But until spring of 2004, the only way to score one of the ranch's 56 guest cottages was to make friends with a homeowner. Today the ranch's updated cottages still evoke the same rustic-but-comfortable vibe that Disney would have known in the 1950s. Guests dine together in the ranch house, where the knotted pine walls sport vintage rodeo photos, and a jackets-for-men dress code in the evenings maintains the private, clubby character. Activities are old-school, including lawn bowling and tennis. And just a five-minute drive from the quiet of the ranch, you'll find the golf courses and boutiques of the new Palm Springs ― the best of both eras.

INFO: Smoke Tree Ranch (open Oct.-Apr.; from $302 per couple, including breakfast; 1850 Smoke Tree Lane, Palm Springs, CA; 800/787-3922)