An October 2004 trip
to Palm Springs by SFPhotocraft
Quote: Palm Springs always has a diverse group of visitors. Each year over Columbus Day, motorcycle clubs and gay dads converge on the desert at the same time. It makes for an interesting weekend!
At times the juxtaposition of some of these groups is interesting. For instance, over Spring Break you get the typical college party animal sharing a wait for a table with your average, white-haired retired AARP member. Every year the massive gay circuit party called the White Party descends on Palm Springs around Easter, which sometimes falls around the same time as Passover. You will see the decked out white party boys sharing the sidewalk with an Orthodox Jewish family walking to temple. Last year the Mrs. America pageant took place during the same week the professional strippers had their convention (yes, strippers hold a convention!). It was hard to tell these two groups apart at times! Another one of these unusual pairings happens every Columbus Day when thousand of motorcycle clubs hit the streets of Palm Springs for Desert Heat, the same weekend when hundreds of gay dads and kids come to the desert for Dads in the Desert!
Actually the two groups exist side by side very well. Most bikers are really middle-aged accountants who love to slip on a pair of chaps and sit on a Harley over the weekend. It's a pretty good group, and this year, as in the past, there was not one single arrest.
The kids love looking at all the bikes on the street. I have to admit that I like seeing them, but hearing them is another story. During this weekend there is a constant roar of engines EVERYWHERE! You can be by the pool or eating outside on the patio and all you hear are the motorcycles. It really does break up the peace and quiet of the desert.
Weather-wise, Columbus Day weekend may be one of the most perfect times in the desert. The skies are usually clear and sunny and the temperature hits a dry 90˚ mark; it feels just right. It's a great time to come if you can put up with the motorcycle noise, but book early, as this is a very popular weekend!
If you arrive in the summer, the temperatures often hit 115˚F. As cliché as this sounds, it is a dry heat. I have been here several times for the 115˚, and it's great to spend the day in the pool and have a lovely meal outside in the evening with the misters going full blast. The deluxe hotels offer some outstanding summer discounts. You can find a room that cost in March for in August.
However if the 115˚F temps are just too extreme, come in October. The weather is perfect and the big flocks of snow birds have not yet arrived. This is shoulder season, and you may not dig up .00 rooms at major resorts, but you will find some very attractive shoulder season rates - and the weather is some of the best Palm Springs has to offer!
Most people feel they need a car. Although the valley does have a lot of taxis and some people who stay in a five-star resort never feel the need to leave it!
Palm Springs has a major airport and most major airlines fly into Palm Springs (PSP). However, the fares are often expensive as discount carriers do not offer service here. If you find outrageous fares into Palm Springs, look into flying into Ontario (ONT). It's less than one hour away. Ontario offers a lot of competition, like Southwest and JetBlue. Often fares into Ontario are far less than those into Palm Springs. We have even found the rental cars to be cheaper in Ontario.
Palm Springs International Airport
Ontario International Airport
Hotel | "Villa Royale Inn"
My sister-in-law Martha Jane chose to have her 60th birthday bash in sunny Palm Springs, and she picked the charming Villa Royale as her ground zero.
Villa Royale is a small, 31-room, or villa, hotel that is located near downtown. The hotel was opened in 1947 and is rich in history. It's a magical little oasis with red bouganvillea covering the patios and the smell of fresh jasmine in the air and the mountains as a backdrop. The hotel has two pools and a romantic hidden Jacuzzi. No two rooms or suites are the same. No cookie-cutter rooms here; many have fireplaces and kitchens. Martha Jane's suite had a kitchen, dining area, living room, and bedroom. Each room comes with a hot breakfast and a morning newspaper.
The hotel looks small from the outside, but it's actually a lot larger when you enter. Little courtyards are tucked away, and you find yourself in a maze of patios and walkways. You are often fooled by thinking you have come to the end of the road, when suddenly, around the next turn, you discover another patio with a bubbling fountain. It's a great hotel to walk around and explore.
The game plan for the birthday night was to have the pre-dinner birthday cocktail party around the main pool. The birthday dinner was at Europa, the villa's outstanding continental restaurant. However, our record rains forced a quick change in plans. Martha Jane had her cocktail party in her suite. The staff rushed to set up a cocktail party for us in-room. It all worked out. The suite was large enough to comfortably host eleven guests. We made a cozy fire in the fireplace, and it was the perfect space for a small party.
All during the stay, the staff was great. The weekend was a tough one, as all it did was pour rain. However, they looked after the guests and turned what could have been a miserable situation into one that was tolerable. They bent over backwards to make sure all the guests were comfortable and happy. The staff makes this feel more like a B&B, knowing everyone's name and always having a warm greeting as you walk in or go out.
I love the Villa Royale. I can understand why Sunset magazine picked this as one of their favorite small hotels. If you are looking for a romantic getaway spot, look no further... this is it!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 23, 2005
The Villa Royale Inn
1620 INDIAN TRAIL
Palm Springs, California 92264
Restaurant | "La Casita"
Caliente Tropics is ground zero for Dads in the Desert. One of our pool days we decided to stay here for lunch and try this La Casita. The restaurant is fun. It's average sized and has a definite Mexican theme to the place. We were given a prime table by the window and were all hungry for some good Mexican food.
One of the problems in the desert is the places that stay open year round often have to cut back staffing to the bare bones during the summer and rehire more people in the winter. This must have been the case here, as the entire place only had three employees working the floor. The three employees all doubled as wait staff, bartender, busboy, and hostess. There was a sense of rushing and chaos in the air. Our drink orders were taken right away, but to get a food order in, it took some effort on our part to flag down one of the employees. Then it took a very long time to arrive, and when it finally did arrive, we were short one meal. Our daughter had to wait a very long time for a second burrito to show up, and the rest of the table was done by the time it was delivered.
I felt sorry for the employees. They could not have been working any harder; they just needed a lot more help. Even with this mad rush, they kept their smiles on and remained cheerful.
Dads in the Desert happens each year during this weekend at this hotel and then to throw in 5,000 motorcycle lovers - you would think the owner would figure out he needs to staff the place for this very busy weekend!
However the food was excellent. I had a combination plate of an enchilada and a chile rellino; both were as good as it gets. The kids had the simple bean and cheese burritos, and when they both finally came, everyone was happy.
I give really low marks for the service here, although it was due to staffing and not attitude. I would guess that, on a less busy day, you could expect great service here. The food and the decor were both great, and I am willing to give La Casita another try. Hopefully it will be less busy or on a day when they are better staffed!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 22, 2004
411 East Palm Canyone Drive
Palm Springs, California 92264
Restaurant | "Kaiser Grill"
It seems that no matter what time of year, or what time of day you pass by, they have a fairly full patio deck. Perhaps it's because this is the best spot in town, and if you are a people-watcher, there is no better spot in Palm Springs. The Kaiser Grill is located smack in the middle of town and the patio hugs South Palm Canyon Drive; everybody strolls by here sooner or later.
However, it's not just the location that draws both tourists and locals to Kaiser Grill. The food also is a draw.
Kaiser Grill is considered a steak house, and without question, there are a lot of steaks on the menu; that is what most people come here for. However, on our last visit, I strayed off the meat list and tried their seared rare Ahi tuna. It was every bit as good as the steak here. Others had the prime rib, which is one of their specialities. One of my all time favorite dishes here is the meatloaf! It's better than mom makes it. With a combination of veal, pork, and beef, it's never dry and always moist.
The wait staff is friendly, and we have never had bad service here. This is Palm Springs so they also have an Early Bird Menu with some deals. If you are into Early Bird specials, give them a call for their times and offerings.
Kaiser Grill also owns the several other downtown restaurants, including The Deck and The Chophouse. I am not a big fan of The Deck (see other review), but the Kaiser Grill is one that they got right. So if you are looking for good hearty food, good service, and the best people-watching spot in town, then I suggest Kaiser Grill.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 25, 2004
205 South Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92262
+1 760 323 1003
Palm Springs has several teppanyaki restaurants. One of the most popular is located on Palm Canyon Drive and is called Ichiban (which means "number one" in Japanese). A faux Japanese front is attached to a white wooden building and big yellow and blue sign hails motorists on busy Palm Canyon Drive.
This may well be fusion at it's best. The last time we ate here I did not see one Japanese person anywhere in sight. The teppanyaki chefs were all Latino and the waitresses all were California blondes dressed in flowing kimonos. Then I looked at the owner's name-Gloria Salem-not the most Japanese of names! I noted that the other Ichibans in the chain were in Reno, Minneapolis, and Winnipeg, which seemed like an odd grouping of cities.
The service was good, but a little casual. The hot towels are tossed at you and you request to toss them back to the waitress who tries to catch them in a basket. The chefs were fun. They may not have been the best teppanyaki chefs I have ever encountered, but they tried hard and enjoyed performing. Our chef's best trick was tossing shrimps into the kids' mouths from the opposite end of the table. The kids loved it!
We started out with the sake flight, which is a tasting of four sakes. It was very good and also very powerful! We all ordered the Imprerial Dinner, which is a combination of filet mignon, lobster, and teriyaki chicken. It comes with miso soup and a shrimp appetizer. It was all cooked perfect by our on stage chef. The quality of the meat seemed excellent.
The kids loved Ichiban. It was less formal than some teppanyaki restaurants we frequent, but in a very fun way. They also have a full sushi bar. I noticed they offer early bird specials from Sunday to Friday nights from 5pm to 6pm.
If you are looking for a true Japanese expierence, this may not be the right place. However, if you are looking for a fun night out with friends and family with a good atmosphere, fun service, and good food, you have found the right place!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 25, 2004
1201 East Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92264
Restaurant | "Citron (at the Viceroy Hotel)"
So when Kor Hotels
built their latest fab Viceroy Hotel in Palm Springs, all the buzz was this was the place to be and the place to be seen! It took no time for the beautiful people to flock here in mass!
The restaurant is named Citron, and as its name would suggest, it's all done in bright lemon yellow. The restaurant has a nice flow around the three pools, and it's hard to tell where the restaurant ends and the pool decks begin. Citron flows in and around the pools and the gardens in the center courtyard.
When we entered the group was straight out of central casting. Everyone was standing around the bar looking oh so glamourous. The wardrobes were the kind of things you see in a magazine and ask "Who would really wear that?" This is this week's "IN" watering hole.
We were given what the host described as one of the best tables in the house. It was a table in a small balcony that was surronded on oneside by a hedge. We had six grown men, and the table would have been comfortable for just four of us. It was very crowded.
We all ordered cocktails and our hip waiter made some dinner suggestions. The menu is very limited with only six entrees on it. I started with the potato risotto, which had a dab of caviar on top. It was delicious and the part of the meal I remember the most. Most everyone had the steak, but I ordered the sole.
By the time our food arrived at the table, we had been here for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The food was very good, but not exceptional.
We had wine with the meal; the wine started at $65.00 a bottle and went up from there. I knew some of the wines and often by the same wines in San Francisco for around $28 a bottle.
I have to admit that the decor was fun, and it fun to see all the hipsters trying make the scene. The consensus at the table was the food was good, but this same meal could have been eaten in a number of Palm Springs restaurants for about half the cost.
If you feel a real need to be part of the hip scene in Palm Springs, you have found your spot. Of course, by the time you read this, that group will have moved on to the next "way too cool" spot.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 25, 2004
Palm Springs, California 92262
Mykonos is a small, family-owned business. The inside is very small and a bit dark. However, the outside patio is huge and surrounded by lush vegetation. After all, this is the desert, and people eat outside far more than they do indoors. This is a lovely spot on a warm, sunny afternoon. I highly suggest you eat outdoors here, unless the weather does not permit it.
The service is family-friendly, with the kind of Greek hospitality that makes one feel like a welcomed guest, not just another customer.
The menu has all the good, typical Greek dishes you would hope to find. I have had the pastitsio here, and it's always fresh and delicious. I am also a fan of their Greek salads, which are loaded with feta cheese and black olives. I can also recommend the gyro.
This is a place most tourists miss, as it's just a few steps off the main drag. However, they are missing a lot, as this is a real find. I can't tell you how often I have enjoyed sitting in the garden patio, enjoying a wonderful Greek Salad and just feeling relaxed and pampered with friendly service. Just a few feet away, lines are forming for restaurants with far less atmosphere and food that is not as good as what you’ll get at Mykonos.
If you are hoping to find a good meal and enjoy our year-round good weather at a family-friendly place, I highly recommend Mykonos. You will be happy you found it!
139 East Andreas Road
Palm Springs, California 92262
Attraction | "The Palm Springs Aerial Tram"
The tram is an engineering marvel. Don't just take my word for it; it has actually been designated as an historical civil engineering landmark. The tram was opened in 1963 and still is a wonder. The tram takes a two-and-a-half mile ride up the canyon cliffs, which are steep and cover some very rugged terrain. When you ride up, you will be amazed and ask yourself, "How was this ever built?"
The location is just outside Palm Springs’s center, off Palm Canyon Drive (also known as Hwy 111). There is plenty of free parking and a large tram station. The cost is $21 for adults and $14 for kids. You can also do the Ride and Dine, which includes a tram ride and dinner at the top of the tram, after 3pm for $30 for adults and $19 for kids. The tram departs every half hour from the base of the mountain. The base building has a gift shop, snack bar, and a little history of the tram.
The ride up is breathtaking. There are little bumps when you pass each tower, and this gives way to a few gasps. The cars themselves rotate, so you have full views from every side.
On top, the mountain lodge has a bar, snack bar, and full sit-down restaurant. There is an adventure center that is open in the winter, where you can rent snow tubes, cross-country skis, and snowshoes. There are 54 miles of great hiking trails and even free nature hikes that are given by rangers. You can even camp in one of the camp sites on the top of the mountain.
This is one "must do" thing for your visit to Palm Springs. It's perfect for all ages. Those who want to relax can sit and have a beer on the top and marvel at the view, or those who wish to hike can find trails for all levels. The tram has something for everyone.
One Word of Caution - It can often be 100 degrees on the desert floor and 60 degrees at the top of the tram. Dress accordingly--bring a jacket, even if it's hot at the base!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 26, 2004
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
1 Tramway Road
Palm Springs, California 92262
Attraction | "The Fabulous Follies"
The gimmick here is that all the performers range in age from 58 to 87 years old. These ladies (and gents) can kick, dance, sing, and hoof just as well as dancers half their age. It's an inspiration to us all.
The show runs only during the winter season (November thru May) in the Plaza Theater in downtown Palm Springs. The show itself is three hours long, and trust me, you will tire just watching these seniors tap and kick. The costumes, sets, and lighting are all first- rate and similar to those at Radio City Music Hall or any top-rated Las Vegas show.
Each year, the show has a theme; in 2004/05, the theme is "Give Em What They Want". Besides the dancing, the show also has some vaudeville acts and comics. I had never seen a true vaudeville act and can't tell you how funny I thought the acts were. You really understand what an art form vaudeville was, and you will wonder why it ever died. The Fabulous Follies also have big-name seniors show up from time to time. They get names like Kay Ballard and Buddy Greco to play certain weeks each winter. You can check their web page to find who and when they are playing.
The Follies play in the Spanish-style Plaza Theater in downtown Palm Springs. The theater opened in 1936 and hosted the premier of Camille with Greta Garbo. Since then, many major stars have played here. The theater went through a major renovation to house The Follies. I can’t help but think that many of these women were born before this theater was even opened in 1936!
The ticket prices range from $39 to $89, depending on whether the show is a matinee or evening show, the seating location, and the show dates. The matinees run at 1:30pm, and the evening shows run at 7pm. The seniors take their rests on Mondays and Tuesdays.
I can't tell you how much fun this show was, and how inspired you will be to see women in their 70s and 80s dancing up a storm. Check out their web page for lots of photos and more information about tickets and showtimes:
The Fabulous Follies
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 27, 2004
Fabulous Palm Springs Follies
128 South Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92262
+1 760 327 0225
Attraction | "Dinny and Rex"
You can not drive by these two monsters on the interstate and not take notice. Folks have been pulling off the road here for years to take photos and get an up-close and personal look at these two pieces of roadside art that are now a part of the fabric of Americana. Anytime we are not on a deadline, I can't help pulling off the freeway to say hello to my old friends.
The pair was built by Claude Bell, an artist who designed Knotts Berry Farm. He had bought a diner on I-10 called the Wheel Inn and wanted to build a draw for hungry motorists. So, in 1964, he began the building of Dinny behind his truck stop. It took 11 years to complete, and then he began working on Rex in 1981 at 88 years old. He had plans to build a whole park of prehistoric creatures, but died in his 90s with just Dinny, Rex, a prehistoric turtle, and a rather odd-looking snake completed. The rest of the menagerie was never built.
The dinosaur pair became recognizable as they appeared in numerous ads and commercials. Their big claim to fame was when they had a very prominent role in PeeWee's Big Adventure.
Inside Dinny's belly was a gift shop and a small museum about the dinosaur period. This was a great place for young paleontologists to find books and literature on fossils, dinosaurs, and the time before man. You could also enter Rex and slide down his tail!
After Mr. Bell's death, the attraction fell into disrepair. The Wheel Inn closed and a gas station and a Burger King were built in its place. Weather and neglect started to take their toll on the dinosaurs.
The next part of the dinosaur evolution came when a fundamentalist church bought them. Rex remains closed, but Dinny has now become an anti-evolution and anti-science museum. Homemade signs of why there was no evolution and why fossil dating is a myth now fill the belly. The signs claim dinosaurs became extinct when they could not fit into Noah's Ark and were all drowned in the great flood!
Hopefully, Dinny and Rex will survive this latest attack. Claude Bell must be turning over in his grave. All the education material is gone from the gift shop, and it now sells junk items to fund the anti-evolution teachings of this fringe group.
It's worth a trip to take your picture with Dinny and Rex. They are part of the drive into Palm Springs and should not be missed. A quick visit and a good snapshot are free. We can only hope that sometime in the future they are recognized as part of the art of Americana and are protected and preserved!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 28, 2005
World's Biggest Dinosaurs Gift Store
50800 Seminole Dr.
Palm Springs, California 92230
Attraction | "Hadley's"
No trip into Palm Springs is complete without a quick stop into Hadley's for some local trail mix, nuts, or some of the large variety of dates.
Hadley's did not invent trail mix, but they sure were part of the process of introducing it into the American culture. For generations, Angelinos knew about the wonderful mixes that were made at Hadley's. Today, you still can stop and sample one of the largest variety of trail mixes on the planet.
Then there are the dates. I didn't know much about dates, but at Hadley's they have all types of dates. I quickly learned that Medjools are the best and also the most expensive type of date, and Hadley's has some of the best. Again, you can sample all the variety of dates and get them stuffed with nuts or dipped in chocolate.
We can never pass up the food coolers to look at the large emu and ostrich eggs for sale. People actually buy these large eggs for omelets and scramble eggs. I was told that one emu egg makes the same size omelet a dozen chicken eggs make. We have never bought one, but we sure take a look at them every time we go into Hadley's.
Don't miss the snack shop at Hadley's. Date shakes have long been a part of the Palm Springs culture. Everywhere in Palm Springs used to sell date shakes, but today, fewer and fewer places are selling this delicious desert treat. Hadley's still makes an awesome date shake and sells it here at the snack shop. They also serve buffalo and ostrich burgers! It's a great place to stop for lunch on your way in or out of Palm Springs.
I know it's the age of the Internet and you can order any of the great trail mixes or dates treats from your home computer. However, there is nothing like a trip into Hadley's for a tasting of all the wonderful products they produce here. Hadley's hasn't changed much since 1931, and it's nice to have something that stays the same. This is one institution that I hope continues for generations.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 28, 2005
Hadley's Fruit Orchards
48980 Seminole Dr
Palm Springs, California 92230