In August, 2014, we ventured to California spending a couple days in Disneyland then a week in the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage. As you may suspect, Rancho Mirage (or Palm Springs, Palm Desert, all in the same vicinity) was HOT!! Over a 100 degrees each day, since you're basically in a desert. Yes, it's a "dry" heat, but it's still hot! A general recommendation is that if you are going to be doing anything outside (other than swimming), get there early! The weather is tolerable at 8 a.m., but by 10 a.m., it is starting to get really hot. And by noon, forget it -- you want to be in either water or air conditioning. And the evenings don't cool down that much. You don't have sunlight anymore, but the air is still really hot. (This was unlike our trip to Arizona where you could do activities outside in the early morning and evening.) This is their "off" season, so check the dates and times that attractions are open. For example, “Wet and Wild” was only open Fridays through Sundays while we were here and stores on El Paseo (their version of Rodeo Drive) closed at 5 or 6 p.m.. Here were some highlights and tips from our trip:
Las Casuelas Nuevas. Our Sheraton newsletter, received a few months before our trip, had a list of the top restaurants in the Palm Springs area, so I printed it out and took it along. One of the restaurants recommended was Las Casuelas Nuevas in Rancho Mirage. My family loves Mexican food, so we thought we would give it a try. Long story short, we loved it! Las Casuelas Nuevas is a family owned and operated authentic Mexican restaurant. It has great food, good prices, and a charming atmosphere. Greeted by a water fountain in the parking lot, the restaurant has a big outdoor patio with statues and fountains as well as a beautiful indoor area (where we sat since it was HOT!) We spent the first few minutes after being seated just looking around. It was really lovely. The food was your basic Mexican fare, with very reasonable prices and a good kids' menu. My daughter had a Tostada salad ($14), my son a kids' taco meal ($7), my husband a chicken platter and myself a combination taco/enchilada platter ($14). Great margaritas, free chips and salsa, constant drink refills and a very friendly wait staff completed the lovely evening. Definitely two thumbs up!
Andreas Canyon Trail: Because the Palm Springs area is surrounded by two mountain ranges, hiking is definitely a good family activity. I did some reading on-line to try and find where a good, easy, path might be. What I read was frankly scary. From my reading, it was recommended that we carry a lot of supplies in case we get lost overnight, share our hiking location with friends or family before proceeding, and stay on the trail to avoid rattlesnakes. Not exactly encouraging reading! We decided to give it a try anyway and took what appeared to be an easy and family-friendly option, the Andreas Canyon Trail. This trail is actually part of the Indian Canyons and is located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. In the summer months, it is only open on weekends. As you enter the area, you pass through a tollgate where you pay an admission fee ($18 for 2 adults, 14 year old, and 12 year old) and receive a map of the area. There are really only two places to park and visit. One is the Andreas and Murray Canyon Parking. I knew from my research that Murray Canyon was a more difficult and lengthy hike, so we chose to do the Andreas Canyon Loop. The research on-line said it would take us 1-2 hours and was over a mile. The sign at the Andreas trail said it was .5 miles and it took us about an hour. The path was well-marked and went right along a nice stream surrounded by palm trees. About half of the trial was somewhat shaded, the other was not. This was not a flat path, it climbed up, you cross over the river, and then come back down the other side. There are a fair amount of rocks to go around or over, so it is not a super-easy hike. Definitely not for toddlers (unless they're riding on you), and probably not for the under 7 crowd. The scenery was great. You got up close to the mountains and the stream was lovely. From the parking lot you also had a beautiful view of Palm Springs in the valley. When we were done our hike, we then drove to the parking lot for Palm Canyon. This parking lot is even further up the mountains so your view is even better. Next to the parking lot are picnic benches, a store, snacks and beverages, as well as hummingbird feeders. Port-a-potties are available at both parking lots. From here you can access another hike that takes you into Palm Canyon. At this point, the kids were wiped out -- overheated and tired. So, we did not attempt that hike. Overall, a nice little side trip that would be even better in cooler weather. If you go during the summer months, be sure to take plenty of water! We took 8 bottles with us and used 6.
Palm Springs Air Museum. This was a wonderful museum that was a great, cool, place to spend a couple hours. The museum has an impressive collection of airplanes, many from World War II. Most are inside the museum and a couple are outside. What we found super delightful were the volunteers who clearly loved working there, many were veterans and took the time to tell you about the planes and share their experiences. The upstairs portion of the museum had flight simulator games running on computers.