Top 12 desert escapes
Soak, sun, relax--do all of this and more on a trip to these top-notch desert destinations
Best time to go: March and November, when moderate temperatures make for supreme hiking weather.
Stay: La Quinta Resort & Club—once a favorite hideaway for Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo—has cozy casitas, 41 pools, and a James Beard award–winning chef at its Morgan’s restaurant. From $249; laquintaresort.com
This town is the capital of midcentury mod style, and the Sunnylands Center & Gardens (pictured) is a mega-shrine to modernism. The former winter home of publisher and diplomat Walter Annenberg and his wife, Leonore, is an architectural vision, with the bonus of a powerhouse art collection, including works by Rodin and Giacometti. Garden and gallery free, house tour $35; sunnylands.org
Best time to go: June, for fewer crowds and killer deals—if you can take the heat.
Stay: The recently renovated Saguaro, complete with large pool and mountain vistas, adds a contemporary pop of color inspired by desert wildflowers. From $105; thesaguaro.com
Best time to go: March, when the average high is a comfy 80°.
Stay: The luxe Hotel Lautner is a splurge, but it’s a hot spot for midcentury modern design—with a saltwater dipping pool. From $270; 2-night min.; hotellautner.com
Best time to go: October, for spectacular star shows and clearest, balmiest weather.
Stay: Borrego Valley Inn has a small, sand-swept courtyard perfect for galaxy gazing. Plus, there are kiva-style fireplaces and a 4 p.m. homemade-cookie hour. From $205; 2-night min.; borregovalleyinn.com