A little something amazing happened once I started regularly punching the clock a few years ago. I found vacation. This concept hadn’t really entered my brain prior to meeting the 40+ hour work week. But once I saddled up into the American workforce – oh, Lord, did I find it fast.
And Palm Springs/Joshua Tree? For my kind of West Coaster? Is a total vacation dream. Here are the bullet points:
- it’s hot
- it’s gay friendly (that’s important if you’re me or my girlfriend)
- the landscape is breathtaking
- it’s deserted unless you go for a huge festival
- it doesn’t take a mortgage payment or 24-hour mess to get there
What Palm Springs mildly lacks; however, is a killer food/drink scene. I understand they’re in the desert so eating ‘locally’ doesn’t work so much (except, of course when you’re sucking down a date shake! Yummm). It also doesn’t help when you’ve been surrounded by some of the most impressive foodie cultures in the country (i.e. Portland and San Francisco). BUT, with that said – there’s still the super finds; of which I’m about to go on and on about for your convenience.
1) The Ace – King’s Highway – The Amigo Room
If you’re of any sub-hipster set, you know about the Ace. I’d go so far to say they coined the term ’boutique’ when they’re first hotel opened in Seattle. And in Palm Springs, they’re a young-fun oasis amidst the upper-class old money. They have Stumptown Coffee, a bar that has alcoholic slushies served poolside. Honestly, how can that NOT be pretty close to heaven? Yeah; it is. The bar makes decent drinks of all fancy varieties (also served poolside) and The King’s Highway has a great all-pleasing menu. They’ve good sandwiches, decent tacos, good fries, unique salads and it’s all above average. My one complaint about the Ace overall is they’re almost perfect. What does that mean? The food, in general, is fairly bland (tastes like it was prepped days ago), sometimes it takes an hour for your drink to come out (despite it being slow), and they may have forgotten to send your best friend’s wedding present (oops!) … Anyway, nit-picking aside, they still have two lovely pools, herbaceous smelling soap, outdoor fireplaces that lite up with a touch of a button and the most comfortable mattresses I’ve ever slept on in my life.
2) The Windmills
It's Like Watching an Aquarium
These hypnotic windmills are everywhere. It’s so a favorite thing about the Palm Desert valley. There are official ‘tours’ but they cost $50+ last we checked. Just drive out there and get as close as you can.
3) Native Foods Cafe
This place is in a strip mall but don’t be deterred. It’s lovely, high-quality vegetarian fare. Think rice-bowls with lots of sauce and complicated salads with soy ingredients. Despite the snail’s-pace service, this place was a gem.
4) Parker – Norma’s
Something you realize after being in Palm Springs for a bit, is that the buzz is often behind a wall. Or hedge. Or, in the case of Parker Hotel – many of both. If one were to be on drugs, at night, at the Parker, it would be totally understandable that you’d get lost on the way back to your room. It’s a giant maze! We have yet to stay the night at the Parker, but we did dine there for brunch at Norma’s – aka – the ‘casual’ restaurant (Mister Parker’s being the fancier version). Our fare again – sounded so exciting on the menu, but just was fairly average flavors. Wouldn’t get the waffle again. The eggs were fine. The space is what brings you there.
5) Natural Sisters Cafe
Kombucha on tap? Homemade gluten-free baked things? Organic coffee and ice cream? In the middle of no where? I’M SO IN HEAVEN! I couldn’t stand being sane in this place. I was so excited by all these things colliding at once. I’m also in awe they’re still in business – I can’t imagine they actually make money, but who knows.
Other shout-outs include Koffi, Spin & Margie’s, Joshua Tree National Park, and the very loved, Pappy & Harriets.