The second half of our huge labor day weekend road trip!
And another HUGE post. I’ll try to be more succinct next time I write a recommendations post 😉
After we left Sequoia National Park, we made the six hour drive to Palm Springs.
Our trip there was entirely motivated by my desire to (1) repeat some favorite things from a trip with my parents and a couple friends when I was 18; and (2) see the new-to-me parts of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree that I knew I’d appreciate more as an Instagram-and-style-loving adult 😉
We wanted to camp in Joshua Tree for one night, but after the peak season it’s entirely first-come-first-serve, and we didn’t want to play that game. But by the time we got there on Monday, it was EMPTY and we wouldn’t have had any trouble. Bummer.
I picked The Saguaro for us to stay at 50% based on photos, 20% based on reviews, and 30% based on the fact that all the other hotels I was interested in were way out of our price range.
And really, I’m very happy we stayed there. The colors alone sold me.
BUT, much like my Sequoia comments, the whole SUPER CROWDED HOLIDAY WEEKEND thing threw some wrenches in what we’d hoped for. When we pulled up to the hotel, tired from a 6 hour drive and ready to relax in the room and chill by the pool for awhile, we were so not happy to get out of the car to hear insane thumping music coming from the pool. (I told you in my last post about this trip that I’m turning into a crotchety old lady.) There was a full-on INSANE pool party going on all day on the Sunday before Labor Day. There were sooooooo many drunk fools by the pool, and loud thudding fairly awful music. It’s not my scene at all, and not what I hoped for when we got out of the car. But it’s sooooooo not Preston’s scene to the degree that we just had to get the hell away from it. He was not at all happy.
The party was supposed to end at 6, so we headed back a little after that and it was definitely calmer but not over. The music stopped at 7. But the drunken fools lasted all night. We mostly avoided the hotel Sunday. (*and LA friends we saw later in the trip told us that Palm Springs is turning into the next Vegas – i.e. really crowded place for LA weekenders to drink drink drink.)
Monday, however, was lots better. We were gone most of the day and got to the pool maybe around 2? I don’t even remember. Another (much better) DJ, loud music, but a calmer, smaller, and more sober crowd.
As for the hotel itself, the decor is awesome, the restaurant was pretty good, pool drinks were great, and it was really fun (when the crowd was more our style.) Plus there’s a super colorful hammock garden. What else can you ask for in a vacay hotel?
Is it weird if our food experiences in a national park were better than in Palm Springs? We still had pretty good food, but nothing I’d completely rave about.
There was a grocery store and large strip mall near our hotel, but all the restaurants were closed all day Sunday except Subway. Which was fine, since we wanted healthy and cheap.
Koffi: An Uber driver recommendation for local coffee. We just shared a large iced coffee, and it was really good! But that’s all I have to share about that 😉
Peabody’s Cafe & Bar: During our escape from the loud hotel that had us walking downtown in the heat, we passed a sign for the best bloody mary ever. Preston was still a bit cranky about the hotel, so when he happily turned to me and said “I could go for a bloody mary,” I didn’t hesitate to wander into the bar at 3-4ish on a Sunday afternoon 😉 It was empty but the bartender was really nice, chatted with us, was patient with my indecision about drinks, and we actually had a great time. The bloody mary was the best one Preston had ever had and the only one I’ve ever enjoyed tasting. I decided on a vodka soda with PEAR Absolut and it was fantastic (and a big thanks to the super patient bartender for helping me find a drink – I have been SO uninspired ordering drinks lately!)
El Jefe: The restaurant in our hotel. It was good. Overpriced, but good. They charge a surprising amount for chips, salsa, and guac. Obnoxious. I didn’t feel like drinking, so just ordered a horchata which was excellent. I had a seared tuna burger for my meal, which was really good. Preston said it didn’t have enough flavor, but that man has burned his tastebuds off with sriracha so he’s not super trustworthy. It could have been more flavorful, but was a cool idea and really filling. Preston ordered tacos that were teeny but good.
The Peaks: Yup, same name as the restaurant we went to in Sequoia. The seared tuna appetizer was AMAZING. Preston got some kind of salad that he really liked. But my entree was super disappointing. It was supposed to be pasta in a wine sauce, but they left out of the description “wine and loads of super unripe nasty tomatoes” on mushy overcooked pasta. Boo. But the location of our meal was totally worth it (pictures below in the sights section!) And we actually ordered a slice of cheesecake that was CRAZY good, and I’m not much of a cheesecake fan.
Giuseppe’s Pizza: A pizza place right across from our hotel. I’ll level with you though: I was really drunk when we visited this place. (So drunk from two drinks by our pool that we seriously talked about whether and when someone may have slipped something into one of my drinks. The food and loads of water didn’t help at all, it was not good. Luckily, Preston was by my side the whole time and I woke up feeling totally normal…Freaky.) My memory of the place is a bit hazy. We had calamari that I remember being GREAT and deep dish pizza that was good, though super saucy and with onions crunchier than I prefer. It made for decent breakfast the next morning.
Ristretto: A coffee shop we stopped at on the way out of town. It was fantastic and apparently won best coffee in town last year. So we chose pretty well 😉
Downtown Palm Springs: I honestly don’t know if there are many “sightseeing” places in Palm Springs because that just wasn’t the point of out trip. We wandered the streets of the cute downtown area, stopping to peek into shops, got coffee, ice cream, and drinks and called it a day. It was lovely, even in the heat.
Joshua Tree National Park: We drove just an hour to the farthest corner of Joshua Tree (to Indian Grove Campground) to relive an old memory of climbing boulders in this spot maaany years ago. Naturally, I was nervous it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as I remembered it. But it SO was. Naturally, it was MUCH harder at 30 than it was at 18. But it was SO worth it. We didn’t spend too much time here because it was so tiring. Since it was going to be a hot day, we went early in the morning which was a great call. The weather was perfect, but after a couple hours of climbing rocks while the sun climbed into the sky, it was plenty hot.
Palm Springs Aerial Tram: Another repeat of a great memory. This spectacular tramway takes you 2.5 miles up from the desert floor onto the top of a mountain. The temperature drops about 40 degrees (so it’s perfect for a hot summer and GORGEOUS in a cool winter when it’s snowy at the top – it was last time I went on this) on the journey to the top. There’s a deck, a nice restaurant (The Peaks), a little deli, gift shop, visitor center, and over FIFTY miles of hiking trails at the top. We checked out the views, had lunch, and did a short 1.5 mile loop on the trails. I’ll bet the rest of the trails are incredible, and one day I might like to go back and do more. But beware: 8500 foot elevation hiking is tough!
That was all we did for Palm Springs! We chilled by the pool the rest of the time, and had a lot of fun when it wasn’t insane.
The last leg of our trip, we drove to San Diego by way of Temecula and met up with some of my friends for wine tasting.
I don’t have much to say about the wine tasting – it was fine. I’m spoiled with our NorCal options and found Temecula super overpriced for not such great wine.
But I still enjoyed our tastings, loved getting a chance to visit with friends, and am totally happy that we chose to break up our last leg of the drive with something fun since we were driving so much this weekend!
Stone Brewing Co:
A bonus part of the trip! I had planned (or thought about) stopping at the Stone tap room in San Diego near the airport for dinner before I flew home. (The point of the trip is that Preston had to be in San Diego during the week for a continuing education conference, so we ended there. He stayed for his conference and I flew home.) But our friends told us that the brewery in Encinitas was really cool, and it was the perfect stop between Temecula and San Diego. So we stopped there. We were STUFFED from leftover pizza, coffee, wine, and a HUGE lunch in Temecula. Even sipping on a small beer over the course of probably well over an hour was plenty for me. But the outdoor area here? It. Was. AWESOME. Such gorgeous grounds! Our friends’ description was “it’s way more zen than you would expect.” I couldn’t say it better. Their yard is honestly 100% what I want my backyard to feel like. Calm, gorgeous paradise. And of course, the beer was great.
San Diego: We did basically zilch in San Diego. By this point in the trip, we were exhausted. Preston’s coworkers were arriving at the hotel where their conference was happening and he was antsy to get there. I was getting more and more anxious over work nonsense and it was weighing on me. We didn’t want to eat, drink, or spend money on anything. I don’t mean to make it sound like we were unhappy… just exhausted from all the driving and since we both had work/work-related things to do early the next morning, we could have used some down time. But we picked a random street to park on just a couple minutes from the airport and walked around, found the water right away and just strolled. We’d walk a block or two, find somewhere to sit and stare at the water for a few minutes, and then keep on walking. The perfect chill end to our trip.