The thermometer on my dashboard read 108 degrees as we rolled into Palm Springs. Most people head to the beach for July 4th, but my girlfriend and I opted for a weekend at a hot springs resort in the desert. We assumed the place would be a ghost town, given the summer temps, and were surprised to see how many people had the same idea.
Palm Springs is obviously more popular among Angelenos during the winter months, but despite the holiday weekend, we still scored a great deal at Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs, CA. We stayed in one of their standard rooms, which was very simple, but we had a private patio, a refrigerator for our water and working air conditioning, so I was a happy camper.
The grounds were beautiful and manicured. The shaded grotto featured two hot spring pools and there was a standard swimming pool located elsewhere on the premises. In addition to massages and spa treatments, there were various activities scheduled throughout the day, as well as on site dining options. We received excellent service and would definitely stay there again. My favorite part was all of the small wooden signs that reminded guests to please whisper because relaxation was in progress. I could get used to that.
After checking in, we got right back in the car and drove south into Palm Springs. We parked near Palm Canyon Drive, where a large number of restaurants and shops are located. There was a street fair going on that day, so after an enjoyable meal at Alicante, we wandered up and down the street, checking out all of the vendors and occasionally stopping to cool off under one of the misting systems that many restaurants have installed to make outdoor dining more comfortable. Dessert that night was provided by our good friends Ben and Jerry.
Friday morning, we got up early and headed over to The Living Desert for a few hours of sun-baked fun. I am generally very wary of zoos, but this particular facility is very focused on conservation and animal welfare. The staff was fantastic and we got to see many unusual desert plants and animals native to North America and Africa.
After walking around in the heat and humidity (the locals kept saying how unusually muggy it was), we grabbed a quick lunch at Bobby’s Cafe and Grill and then drove back to the resort for showers and siestas. Dinner that night was at Rio Azul, followed by fireworks.
Saturday morning, we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. I thought the $24 ticket price was a bit steep, but the spectacular views, awesome hiking and 30 degree drop in temperature more than made up for it. If you have the time, I would recommend spending a full day here and taking advantage of one of the longer trails. Be sure to wear layered clothing and appropriate footwear.
Out of all the meals I had in Palm Springs, lunch at Tyler’s Burgers was definitely my favorite. It’s a tiny place and although most of the seating is on the back patio, we snagged two seats inside at the counter and enjoyed the AC while we watched the staff do their thing. It really is a marvel of efficiency. They pump a ton of food out of a very small kitchen. The burgers were fantastic and we also tried their famous potato salad, which is very deserving of its celebrity status. Do not pass this place by. It’s amazing.
After lunch, while Donna indulged in a massage back at the resort, I made a pilgrimage to Sky Valley, made famous by stoner rock legends Kyuss. Sadly, the original sign that graces the album cover has been replaced, but it was still worth the trip. If you are a music nerd like me, you will understand that this is the metalhead’s equivalent of getting your picture taken at Abbey Road. The sign was pretty easy to find and I was thrilled to check off one more item on my rock and roll bucket list.
My next order of business was the Palm Springs Air Museum. This collection focuses on WWII aircraft and boasts some really impressive planes, including a B-17 Flying Fortress and a P-51 Mustang. Aircraft enthusiasts will appreciate the quality of the collection, as well as the lack of ropes or barricades around the planes. The museum also does “open cockpit” days when attendees can get their picture taken while sitting in one featured aircraft.
For our last dinner in Palm Springs, we chose Gyoro-Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise for sushi and yakitori. I’m a tough grader when it comes to Japanese food and this place was aces. After dinner and a few laps around Palm Canyon Drive, we stopped in at Great Shakes for some great shakes. I went for the large Salted Caramel. Homemade salted caramel on top of homemade salted caramel with a glazed mini-donut wrapped around the straw? Oh. My. God. The sugar high and subsequent crash was epic. I love this place.
Sunday morning, we drove over to Le Parker Meridien and had breakfast at Norma’s. Most of Palm Springs didn’t really look like what I had pictured in my head, but when we pulled up to this hotel, I knew we had finally arrived. Valets in all white were running back and forth, fetching BMWs and Mercedes and Land Rovers for very stylish guests. The lobby and restaurant looked like something out of a modern day Frank Sinatra film. The service at Norma’s was great and things were off to a good start with the delicious, complimentary smoothie shots, but my hopes were quickly dashed when my Very Berry Brioche French Toast arrived as one heaping, soggy mess. I was crushed.
After breakfast, we made a beeline for the highway and began the journey back to Los Angeles. Once we cleared the acres and acres of wind turbines, we decided to pull over for a photo op at the Cabazon Dinosaurs. This place has “tourist trap” written all over it, but if you are a fan of roadside attractions, this is a must see. The giant dinosaurs in the parking lot are the big draw, but be sure to venture in to see the “Robotic Dinosaurs and Museum.” It costs about $7 and will take all of 15 minutes, but it’s worth it. Of particular note is the giant brontosaurus. You can enter the structure near the tail. Climb the stairs and check out the Creationist(!) gift shop inside! The propaganda is subtle, but it’s there, along with plenty of non-Creationist junk to buy for your kids — or your inner kid.