One of our favorite places during our August trip to Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage was of course our hotel pool! It was great to spend time cooling off in the over 100-degree afternoons. However, first thing in the morning we would head out for a little sightseeing before the day's heat became too unbearable. Here were some places we recommend:
Joshua Tree National Park. This unique park is full of desert, rocks, cacti and of course, the Joshua Tree. It has two pretty distinct sections -- the eastern/lower elevation section which is part of the Colorado desert and the higher elevation, western portion which is part of the Mojave Desert. It was about a 1.5 hour drive for us to the southeastern entrance of the park onto Pinto Basin Road where the Cottonwood Visitor Center is located. This is the lower elevation Colorado desert section dominated by cacti. We worked our way north driving on Pinto Basin Road and would get out of the car at spots including the Ocotillo Patch and Cholla Cactus Garden, (large patch of Cacti) and various rock formations. At the intersection of Park Boulevard, we turned left and headed into the upper or Mojave Desert section which has lots of massive rocks for climbing (“Jumbo Rocks” being a favorite place to stop), Joshua Trees and even a scenic vista on top of a mountain (“Keys View”). We exited at the west entrance station of the park and drove about an hour back to our hotel. It made for a long day and by the time we got to the more scenic part on Park Boulevard (the upper or Mojave Desert section), we were all pretty tired, hot and cranky. If we were visiting the park again, I would skip the southern part and focus on the northern part -- it was just more scenic and interesting. If you want to see the entire park (both sections), I would do the opposite route of what we did -- start at the north when you have more energy to appreciate your surroundings and climb the large rocks and then end by driving through the southern section.
Golf! Of course, the Palm Springs area is known for its golf courses. Our resort had one and everywhere we looked, we saw a golf course, golf cart or golf store. We are not serious golfers, but thought while we’re here, we should play! We found a store that rented us golf clubs for a reasonable price which we could keep for a few days. They also gave us recommendations for driving ranges and executive par-3 courses in the vicinity. Executive courses are “real” golf courses (not miniature golf or a chip and putt), but the distance between the tee and the green are smaller, a “par 3” if you’re a good golfer. We chose to play at the Indio Golf Course, which had a lighted driving range that we used at night (I believe the course itself is also lit). Early the next morning, we were ready for the 18-hole course! We had a golf cart and played the entire 18 holes (although our kids sat out a few of the later holes). The course was not super difficult and was pretty wide open -- great for us not-so-experienced golfers. The course was also surprisingly reasonably priced. Of course, it was HOT, so early arrival is highly recommended.
And another favorite restaurant, the Jackalope Ranch BBQ Restaurant, had been recommended by the Sheraton newsletter. It was more expensive than Las Casuelas Nuevas (see the first part of this blog), but had a nice selection of food that was excellent. The atmosphere was upscale ranch. The building had a unique fountain, statues and decorations in front and the back of the restaurant opened onto a lovely patio and lawn with a small bubbling body of water and a waterfall. It looked like this rear outdoor area was used for events and weddings. It was a lovely dinner!