A Surprisingly Fun, Family-Friendly Vacation Destination for All Ages
Great golf? Check. Sublime spa experiences? Without question. But family-friendly accommodation, activities and recreation for all ages from (in our case age 6 to adult)? Surprising, but happily true.
Palm Desert is perhaps best known for its world-class links and resort spa experiences. So it might not be at the top your list when considering family-friendly vacation destinations, but that would be a huge miss.
Our stay at the La Quinta Resort & Club proved to be among the most memorable – and enjoyable – weekend getaways upon which our family of four has embarked.
Situated in the heart of Coachella Valley and shouldered by the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains , this iconic landmark originally opened in 1926 and boasts a storied Hollywood past serving as the quintessential desert oasis offering personal refuge for celebrities and world travelers alike.
This four-diamond property (which recently debuted a multi-million dollar restoration befitting a legendary classic) is quite simply a 45-acre playground defined by luxury accommodation, fine and family dining, a stately 23,000-square-foot signature spa, five championship golf courses, 23 tennis courts and 41 – yes, that’s right 41!
– showcase swimming pools.
We stayed in one of La Quinta’s 620 elegantly-appointed casitas and suites (there are also 98 villas). For returning guests, each accommodation offers a fresh, contemporary look while remaining in keeping with the original glamour and authentic architectural elements for which the resort is renowned. The casitas are clustered around the family-friendly swimming pools, each surrounded by a small grouping of accommodations so the kids got in plenty of water play in their “private” pool and spa just steps away from the room.
Drawing inspiration from the colorful desert environs, the casitas feature custom tile work, rich maple furnishings, stylized Palomino textured leather bed benches, luxurious Wingback-style headboards and contemporary Victorian chairs. Starlight Casita patios with stunning mountain views include plush couches and tables perfect for dining al fresco.
The grounds are breathtakingly beautiful, with panoramic mountain views, vibrantly colored gardens and pathways with bougainvillea, roses, citrus trees and lush
vegetation everywhere you look.
Family-Friendly & Fine Dining
Although there is no shortage of dining destinations in Palm Desert, with a trio of excellent restaurants on property, there was no reason to ever leave.
For the first of our two-night stay, we opted for dinner at the Adobe Grill: a colorful, festive restaurant featuring authentic regional Mexican cuisine where the lively music and patio seating were particularly conducive to a family dining experience, where the kids could be kids without worry of interrupting another guests’ dining experience.
For starters, we went with the recommended signature guacamole that our server made tableside. This dish more than delivered on its promise with just the right amount of avocado, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and just a touch of jalapenos for a little kick.
Entree specialties range from the Carne Asada which arrives with a fantastically flavored grilled, marinated skirt steak, cheese enchilada and frijoles borrachos to the Adobe Grill’s Fajitas made with your choice of grilled chicken, beef or shrimp served sizzling on a cast iron skillet with onions, Pasilla peppers and housemade corn or flour tortillas. Another popular pick is their award-winning house-made tamales (Chicken Machaca, Beef Machaca, Carnitas or Rajas with Manchengo Cheese) served with Teresita rice and frijoles.
For an adult dining experience, Morgans in the Desert is long on ambiance, stellar service and a mouthwatering menu of dishes made from the “freshest source of ingredients on the planet.” Also located on property, Morgan’s serves up Contemporary American cuisine, boutique wines and handcrafted spirits. We enjoyed an appetizer of Artisan Cheeses (Cowgirl double cream, purple haze goat morbier and valdeon blue accompanied by honey-drizzled mixed toasted nuts and black walnut toast, along with a glass of wine on the romantic, fire-lit courtyard before moving into the hacienda dining room for the main course.
Three-time James Beard award-winning chef and pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, Jimmy Schmidt draws inspiration from the bounty of the Coachella Valley to produce contemporary American cuisine. My husband, who knows his way around a good steak, raved about the prime, all-natural tenderloin filet while my coriander-crusted Alaskan halibut was flaky and flavorful enhanced by a Beluga lentil and roasted cauliflower saffron emulsion.
Aside from playing in the pool several times each day, the kids (and their parents) enjoyed the idyllic winter clime, pedaling around the property and coasting along the scenic neighborhood streets of the adjacent La Quinta residential communities on bicycles available to rent in the fitness center.
In terms of offerings, it seems they’ve thought of every possible iteration of cycling enthusiast – from infants along for the ride in a baby seat or enclosed in a trailer, youngsters who require training wheels, to two-wheeled cycles for all ages, and even a couple of tandem bikes designed for an adult up front and a child cyclist pedaling behind. I selected a two-wheeler, while my husband and 6-year-old daughter – whom we knew would tire of pedaling within twenty minutes – chose the tandem. While it took some convincing and a few false starts to get our 7-year-old son going on a bike without training wheels, within thirty minutes he was riding like a pro, proudly proclaiming to anyone who would listen the rest of the day that he rode a two-wheeler “without any help or even a boost from Mommy!”
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens • livingdesert.org
In coordinating our itinerary for our upcoming trip to Palm Desert, I spent some time surfing the Net in search of family-friendly attractions and activities near La Quinta. I’ve been to the region several times over the years, but never knew there was a zoo here – especially one situated a mere 20 minutes away from the resort. A visit to The Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens turned out to be a great way to spend a few afternoon hours in a setting that is fun and educational for the entire family.
We wandered along paved and unpaved walkways, winding our way through indoor and outdoor exhibits dedicated to preserving desert and animal life – the landscape is wonderfully displayed and interpreted for the visitor. We journeyed through ten different desert ecosystems and the kids were beyond excited to get up close and just the right amount of personal with a golden eagle, Mexican gray wolves, jaguars, a swift fox, mountain lions and a whole host of other creatures big and small.
From start to finish, our experience at La Quinta was nothing short of superb. But best of all, family memories and even a milestone or two were made here and for that, La Quinta Resort & Spa ranks right up there at the top of our list of favorite weekend family vacation destinations.
Find out more about La Quinta Resort & Club by calling (760) 564-4111 or visit laquintaresort.com. M