During the busy holiday season, we took a quick overnight trip to Palm Springs, just at the opening of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. We all had a great time, and I want to share some of the highlights of what we did and where we went in Palm Springs, in case you want to have an easy getaway from the Los Angeles area.
Los Angeles is blessed with plenty of great places for day trips and weekend getaways, and you can see some of our other quick trips here, here, and here. I plan to share more about these local jewels in 2018, and I’m starting today with Palm Springs. Hope you enjoy it!
Palm Springs has been a nearby playground for Southern California’s rich and famous for almost a century, since the birth of the movie industry in Hollywood, mostly because of its wonderfully warm winter weather, hot mineral springs, and clear skies in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. It is only about an easy two-hour freeway drive from Los Angeles, and in recent years the whole area has grown into a place that offers fun for almost everyone.
Today the leisure is not confined just to Palm Springs, but other resort towns have been developed, one next to the other, along Highway 111, a road that runs along the base of a mountain range, with mountain shade in the afternoons. Going east on Highway 111, the towns include Cathedral City, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes, Indio, La Quinta, and Coachella – yes, that Coachella, home of the world-famous annual Coachella Music Festival. A few miles north is the town of Desert Hot Springs, famous for its natural hot springs, and Joshua Tree, a National Park renowned for its starkly beautiful deserts capes and some of the best star-gazing in the world.
What’s there to do for fun in Palm Springs and the other desert resort towns? Golf courses and tennis courts abound everywhere, and so do excellent restaurants and clubs, plenty of fine shopping, good bicycling (it’s a desert, so it’s mostly flat and easy to pedal!), hiking in the canyons, desert, and the close mountains, relaxing in natural hot spring spas, going “off road” in the desert, and much more. There are also several casinos in the area, owned by the local Native American tribes that settled in the area long ago – we don’t really like to gamble, but we feel some of the buffet restaurants in these resorts are excellent, and Red Bear loves the big swimming pools. I just love to walk up and down and check out all the shops and boutiques along Palm Canyon Drive.
Where we stayed： Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs
We travel as a family, with 9-year old Red Bear being an equal part. Choosing a family-friendly hotel in Palm Springs proper requires a little more care than most other towns, because there are so many places to choose from – and some of them are “adult only” or “clothing optional!”
Besides that special issue, my husband and I have very different preferences in hotels. He is only concerned about a clean place to sleep and shower in a convenient area – and without wasting too much money on luxuries! On the other hand, I mostly prefer hotels with a modern or romantic design, great décor, maybe a spa and yoga or workout room, and a little (or a lot) of luxury feel.
For this trip, which was planned almost at the last minute, I selected the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, which is just off the middle of the “Palm Springs Strip” (South Palm Canyon Drive), and super-convenient to where we needed to be.
The staff at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs was very attentive, efficient, and pleasant. The décor was simple but upscale, and I liked it. Red Bear especially liked the rooftop heated swimming pool (there’s another pool lower in the hotel, but we never got to it).
There’s a nice-looking restaurant in the hotel, but we didn’t eat there, so no comment on it.
I liked our room, a standard room with two queen beds and a modern, stylish bathroom, but my husband thought it was a little small compared to others around in the same price range (about $350, including tax and “resort fee” that most hotels in the area charge).
Where we ate:
Dinner at Las Casuelas Terraza:
To tell the truth, we snacked too much during the day, walking around the shops in the heart of town, so we didn’t have a real meal until dinner time.
Now, my husband and Red Bear like to eat at Mexican restaurants, but I normally am not a big fan of Mexican food – never had it as a child in China, and haven’t got used to it.
But my husband changed my mind on this one! He really wanted to dine at Las Casuelas Terraza, a family-run Mexican restaurant just two blocks from our hotel. It has been a popular place in Palm Springs for some decades, and when we walked up to it, it really looked authentic, so I agreed to eat there.
And I am glad we did! I have to say that Las Casuelas Terraza served the best Mexican food I have ever eaten, and I will be sure to return when we are in the area. In fact, we all loved our food.
Red Bear had a “black bean pizza” – don’t know how authentic that is, but he gave it a five stars rating. My husband had his usual veggie tostada, and ate every bite. I tried two dishes – a chicken lettuce wrap, and big grilled shrimp. So yummy! I look forward to returning here – hopefully soon.
Breakfast at Elmer’s
Elmer’s is a pancake house that has been in Palm Springs a long time, and my husband has loved it from when he was a lot younger. This trip, he actually scheduled a business breakfast meeting there, and Red Bear and I decided to go along and try it out, too.
Again, I’m really glad we did! Right now, I rate it “best breakfast in town,” because I had a German pancake with traditional lemon and powdered sugar, and it was so delicious – and I normally do not eat Western-style pancakes, but I loved these.
Shopping and Playing:
For me, wandering in and out of all of the wonderful little shops, boutiques, and galleries along Palm Canyon Drive is entertainment in itself. So colorful, so many neat things to see and taste, it’s a world unto itself. I won’t list all of the places we visited – all by foot from our hotel – but one highlight for Red Bear was the Balboa Candy store, where he loaded up with so many different kinds of candy, freshly-made saltwater taffy in many different flavors. For my sister, we also visited Palm Springs Fudge and Chocolate, where I tasted chocolate fudge for the first time – loved that, too!
The shopping is always changing, as new stores and restaurants come to the growing city. There’s a big new H&M store that will open in a few months, and a West Elm store already there – I could browse in those for hours.
There are several other places in Palm Springs we like to visit, but didn’t have time this trip. My husband and Red Bear really enjoy the Palm Springs Air Museum with its amazing collection of historic aircraft, and Red Bear likes the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, which has very creative and interesting interactive exhibits for children of all ages.
Another spectacular activity about a mile from town is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes you from the desert floor 8,500 feet up a mountain – it can be 100-degrees when you start the ride up, and you might find snow at the top, so great is the change in climate from the ten minute ride. We like to walk around at the top of the tramride and just enjoy the view, forest at the top, overlooking a desert and its developments.
On the drive approaching Palm Springs, there are also some interesting spots to visit, such as a huge collection of factory outlet stores in Cabazon, about a dozen miles before you reach Palm Springs. Right next to it is the Morongo Casino, and next to that is a place Red Bear insisted we visit, called simply Cabazon Dinosaurs .
My husband remembers visiting Cabazon Dinosaurs when he was quite young, when Cabazon just had a gas station and small store. It’s hard to describe Cabazon Dinosaurs, except that it is a wonderful creation of a man with a vision and drive. It is a park to learn about dinosaurs, and it features HUGE structures that look like dinosaurs – and some of them, you can climb into, such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex and perhaps a brontosaurus large enough to have a gift ship inside its body! And there are many more – Red Bear insists we stop there again on our next visit.
Palm Springs is such a fun and colorful place, with palm trees and interesting buildings everywhere, that I wish I can visit them all. The nice thing is that it is like a different world, and so close to Los Angeles. Hope you will visit there soon, and have as much fun as we do! We were not able to see most of them during this quick trip, but I gathered some good articles for your (and my!) next visit — hope you like them, and you are welcome!