My husband and I spend a week of newly-wedded bliss in Southern California
by notso62 on August 8, 2010
On our drive back from Palm Springs to the San Diego airport, I insisted upon stopping at one of my favorite childhood So-Cal attractions; the Wild Animal Park in Escondido. The Wild Animal Park was conveniently located right off the highway that we were traveling to San Diego. We made sure to leave ourselves about four extra hours before we had to be at the airport to explore the park; of course this didn't seem like enough time once we started walking around the zoo and saw all the new attractions that they had to offer.The Escondido Wild Animal Park is a very nice place to explore nature and exotic animals. Many of the animals live in man-made habitats that mimic their previous natural wildlife surroundings. It almost seems at times that the animals are free to wander where they would like; there are no huge cages or noticeable barricades between themselves and their visitors. Of course the animals are restricted in where they are allowed to go, but I liked that the restrictions weren't the first thing you saw when viewing the different species.There is a nice walking loop that takes you through the main attractions of the Wild Animal Park. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to participate in one of the safari attractions that lets you view animals off the walking trail via balloon, zip line, or caravan; but we felt like we had gotten our money's worth by just doing the walking trail anyways. The other safari attractions charged extra on top of the parks ~$30 adult general admission.The walking loop is about 2 to 3 miles long and winds its way past many of the Wild Animal Park's most popular exhibits like lions, meerkats, gorillas, lemurs, and other exotic creatures. My favorite displays included the lemurs and the cheetahs because these animals were tricky to find as they blended in with their surroundings. I also liked looking at the lions as they lounged on defunct "safari" vehicles.The Wild Animal Park is great for people of all ages. They have many attractions that are geared towards small children and families so parents don't have to fear taking their little ones to the park and keeping them entertained. My personal favorite thing when I was little was crawling in the human-sized turtle shells and pretending to be a reptile-- a feat which I repeated during my most recent visit. Maintenance and up-keep are performed well at the Wild Animal Park. Staff keep the park very clean and orderly. Also, the animals seem happy here, an indication that they are being well-cared for by their keepers. I personally love visiting the Wild Animal Park whenever I am in southern California and my husband did too during his first visit to this region. We hope to visit again when we have more time to devote to the organized safaris to see the parts of the park that we missed this time around.
Outside of our resort, my husband and I had some difficulty finding casual dining establishments that were not chain restaurants in Palm Springs. One night, as we were driving around famished after spending a day in the hot sun, we tried to leave it to our GPS to suggest an acceptable place to eat. Unfortunately, our GPS kept suggesting places like the "Ruth Chris Steakhouse" which was a little too nice for our casual duds and not vegetarian-friendly enough for me. After driving around for a half an hour, we spotted a small indoor/outdoor shopping center that looked nice. Our GPS helpfully told us that there was a pizza place inside, so we decided to check it out.Sammy's Woodfired Pizza isn't your typical pizza-dive. Coming from the east coast, most pizza "restaurants" consist of little more than an oven and a counter. Sammy's on the other hand mimics more upscale establishments. There was both indoor and outdoor seating with comfortable booths and prompt and friendly service. We were easily seated on the outdoor patio (our first choice) within minutes of arriving without a reservation at 7pm on a weekday. There were a few other diners on the patio as well at that time, but I wouldn't say it was crowded. Most of the other people there seemed to be dressed in their golf-attire still.The dinner menu at Sammy's had a variety of food available other than pizza. There were tapas (small appetizers meant to be shared), pasta dishes, sandwiches, and of course pizza. There was also a full bar with creative drink suggestions on that part of the menu. I decided to order the "vegetarian" pie which came loaded with vegetables like roasted eggplant and broccoli for my dinner. The pizza crust itself had a nice smokey flavor from the woodfired oven. It was crispy, but not to the point of being impossible to bite. It reminded me a lot of traditional east coast pizzeria pizza, which is conveniently my favorite kind.Unfortunately my husband and I had to cut our dining experience short at Sammy's. After spending the day in the hot sun, I wasn't feeling too well after we ordered so we decided to take our food to go. The waitstaff was more than happy to accommodate our change in plans and delivered our order to our table in to-go boxes instead of on plates. This courtesy was very much appreciated.Prices at Sammy's were very reasonable and seemed typical for most pizza establishments. Most large pizzas were under $20 on the menu and few entrees were over $15. Though we cut our visit short, I would not mind returning to Sammy's and attempting to dine there again some day. The service was friendly and the prices were reasonable. Perhaps next time, I will check out the rest of what the shopping center has to offer and work up an appetite before dining.
by notso62 on July 26, 2010
When I left my husband in charge of planning our honeymoon, I was slightly worried about the type of establishment he might select. When he first told me that he had booked a "La Quinta" hotel, I assumed he meant the chain of discount hotel chains and I was automatically disappointed. Boy, was I in for a surprise.The La Quinta Resort and Club is not a part of the discount hotel chain found in many other places in California. It is actually part of the "Waldorf Astoria" collection of Hilton hotels. "La Quinta" is the name of the town near Palm Springs where it is located and not an indication of the brand. Though it may sound like it would be expensive, the La Quinta resort was quite a good bargain in the off season. Since we were staying there at the end of May (in 100 degree plus heat everyday), we were able to get a deluxe room with private outdoor hot tub for under $150/night. When we first arrived at the property I was impressed by the beautiful landscaping, recreation facilities, and southwestern architecture that is apparent when you first turn into the resort entrance. The person at the check-in desk was warm, friendly and very informative about the amenities the resort had to offer. We happened to mention that we were on our honeymoon to her and during our stay we were surprised by room service with a complimentary bottle of champagne and beautiful chocolate-dipped strawberries.The rooms (or villas) at the La Quinta Resort are beautiful while at the same time being unique. Our room came with a small private yard with a hot tub. The layout made it seem like you were staying in your own private bungalow instead of a resort. The room was perfectly made up with southwestern touches like a miniature bunch of hot peppers and crepe paper flowers that guests are invited to take home with them. The room had a nice plasma TV hung on the wall and a working fireplace for added ambiance. The mini bar had everything you could possibly want in your stay including souvenir snacks (for those who couldn’t make it to the gift shop), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and sun protection. The cleaning staff was very thorough and not the least bit bothersome every day of our stay.Though guests are given the option of getting their own private hot tub or pool attached to their room, the La Quinta Resort has plenty of other shared-guest pools and hot tubs for you to enjoy if you decide to not spend the extra few dollars. There were more than thirty pools on the property, as well as multiple tennis courts and other recreational areas. During our stay, we always had a shared pool to ourselves and a choice of what tennis court we wanted to use. We did not play golf on the resort’s course because it was a bit to hot for us, but I hear from other friends that the course is quite good.The La Quinta Resort has many things to do aside from swim or golf right on the property. There are a few shops and restaurants near the center of the resort that are quite good. The spa is also an excellent option for those looking to relax. It’s about a ten minute drive from downtown Palm Springs, so is convenient to other area attractions as well.My husband and I had a splendid honeymoon at the La Quinta Resort and are looking forward to returning someday in the future. It may be a better bargain to go in the off-season, but I believe we will go during New England’s winter next time to take true advantage of the spectacular weather and surroundings.
by notso62 on January 11, 2009
During our stay at the Resort at La Quinta, my newly wedded husband and I did not have our usual wanderlust to venture out and find restaurants all over the town. Fortunately for us, La Quinta has several very nice restaurants on the resort’s property. The Adobe Grill quickly became one of our favorites for dinner, and we wound up eating two meals there during our short one-week stay. The Adobe Grill serves Mexican food and is open for both lunch and dinner. During heavy tourist season, reservations are required. Since we were visiting at the end of May we ended up making reservations a few hours in advance, but they probably weren’t necessary during this less-busy time of the year. We were given the choice of sitting outside on the spray-cooled veranda or inside both times we ate here, but I would think that patio-seats are harder to come by during busier times. The wait staff at the Adobe Grill was very nice and they and seemed to act as if they were all part of an extended family that was very content with their prized restaurant. They were quick to recommend their favorite restaurant-specialties and make patrons feel welcome in every sense of the word. My only regret is how quickly I agreed with their Grand Margarita suggestions- this margarita ended up being so large that I was definitely quite intoxicated before I finished the entire drink. The next time we ate here, I stuck with the smaller sized margarita. Speaking of margaritas, the Adobe Grill claims to have the best in Palm Springs and I would have to agree with this affirmation from what I sampled. They have a multitude of flavors from mango to raspberry to traditional. They also have many different types of tequila which you can choose as your base. The Grande version might seem a bit pricey at $18, but I assure you this is more like a pitcher of margarita than it is a solitary drink. The food at the Adobe Grill is very good. They have many traditional Mexican dishes with delicate ingredients like Queso Fresca, homemade Guacamole, and amazing mole sauces. A couple of the dishes were vegetarian friendly which made this additionally a good restaurant for vegetarian me and my carnivorous husband. The chips bought to the table before we got our meal with three dipping sauces were very good, but make sure you demonstrate some self-control before you fill-up before dinner arrives (as I did- Oops). Prices at the Adobe Grill are typical for restaurants of similar quality and ambiance. Most entrees were under $30 and our dinner-for-two with drinks came to about $100 both times we dined here. Charging our meal to the room was an added convenience that is offered if you’re staying at the Resort. I would definitely recommend venturing to the Adobe Grill even if you don’t happen to be staying on the La Quinta Resort property. The Mexican food is very good and the ambiance is peaceful and enjoyable; whether you’re honeymooning or with a group.
by notso62 on December 2, 2008
A word to the wise: Palm Springs is not as remote as you might think it is. My newly wedded husband and I flew from our wedding in Vegas to San Diego thinking that it would make our trip to Palm Springs more easily drivable. I learned later that our assumption was wrong. Not only is the drive from Vegas to Palm Spring a mere three hours, but the drive from San Diego to Palm Springs is only an hour less but a lot more difficult to navigate. For some reason when we were arranging our honeymoon, California looked much bigger than it actually is and we thought the only way to get places was to fly. I forgot that Vegas is a weekend trip away from most of southern California. Oops; chalk my poor route-planning up to a west-coast rookie mistake.Mistakes aside, the drive from San Diego to Palm Springs was quite adventurous. It started out calm enough; long stretches of road in the "high desert" terrain of southern California. Interesting rock formations, some scattered ranches, not much plant-life, and various signs confirming town populations below 500 people, all characterized the first hour of our route.Many stretches on our route were marked with "rock slide" warnings and instructions to drive with your headlights on at all times. The road was a bit narrow and had several sharp turns, but for the most part felt easily passable during the daylight hours until we reached the final leg.The last twenty miles before Palm Springs were the most interesting. The rocky desert terrain gave way to rocky mountain formations. Before long we were descending the peaks on a windy road with very little in the way of guard rails. Believe me, this was not an experience for those scared of heights (or their husband’s driving). By the time we got down the mountain I felt physically sick from the dizzy heights and car’s jerky movements.There are a couple nice vista points along the route that are worth stopping at for pictures. My husband hates stopping the car, but the vista points also were good at breaking up our trip and relieving my motion-sickness. A couple of nice shots for the scrapbook and we were on our way again.Once in the valley, the desert seemed to bloom all at once and give way to the well-manicured oasis that is Palm Springs. The gorgeous flowers and inviting palm trees were welcome sights at the end of our mostly barren road trip. Rich fuchsia and bright green are the dominant colors in Palm Springs landscaping designs and are just beautiful against the backdrop of bright blue sky. I knew we had arrived at our lovely honeymoon destination from the instant we crossed the city-limits.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009