Desert Beauty and the Beasts

How to experience a weekend of a chateau on the lake, horses, wild birds and unforgettable desert scenery

Karen Graninger Hotels & Resorts, Watch & Listen - Hotels & Resorts


A trip to Greater Palm Springs, or planning a special weekend if you live here, is much more than simply choosing a place to stay.

The activities you plan for your trip are potentially even more important.

In that spirit, we offer a weekend trip complete with amenities for fun, food, and frivolity.

VIDEO: See highlights of an experiential weekend in the desert.

Waking up Saturday Morning

Enjoy a “Rise and Dine” lakeside breakfast at The Chateau at Lake La Quinta's Melange restaurant at 8 a.m. The blueberry pancakes and butcher cut bacon satisfy the carnivore, while the herbivore feasts on Melange's parfait of mixed berries, granola and Greek yogurt.

• See related story: The Chateau at Lake La Quinta Says Chic

You'll want to be at the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center by 9:30 a.m. The drive from the Chateau takes about 15 minutes. The center is only open until noon and you'll want some time to absorb the birds and their sounds, the views, and the stories you'll hear from founder Linda York, a knowledgeable bird enthusiast and rescuer.

photo courtesy of coachella valley wild bird center

Founder Linda York talks with Cora the owl at the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center.

“Be open to anything. Refocus. Use all your senses. With birds, you can walk right past them and not even see them. When you come visit us, it can change your perception and meaning of nature, at times, profoundly,” says Linda as she explains the lives of each of the birds they rescue.

Uhley, a male barn owl, has agreed to sit on and foster eggs for a female owl. Sele, a majestic red tailed hawk heals from injury. And if you're lucky, you'll get to see Cora, the barn owl, take her bath inside the center.

Self-guided tours take you around the outside enclosures for disabled or recuperating birds, which often include owls, hawks, falcons, quail and at times, a pelican or two from the Salton Sea. There is a viewing deck overlooking a vast water area for water fowl to accumulate with the desert cityscape in the background. Information: coachellavalleywildbirdcenter.org

photo courtesy of Palm springs archives

The Café at Shields Date Garden is a must stop for a Date Burger and Date shake.

Lunch Time

Upon leaving the Bird Center, you'll make a 15-minute drive to Shields Date Garden for lunch at the Cafe at Shields. Trying some of the date specialties are encouraged, such as the Stuffed Dates appetizer or Shields Signature Date Burger. The salads are chopped fresh. The salmon is flaky. You can't go wrong with most anything. But try the dates.. See the lunch menu.

Afternoon Delight

Next you'll head out on a 20-minute drive to the HITS Thermal Desert Circuit Horse Show. This offers you a chance to see some world class showjumping, hunting and equitation. Park and head to the main office, which is just to the right of the front gate after you drive in. They will provide you assistance and a map of the facility.

Admission is free for all daytime events on Saturdays. The horses are gorgeous and the vendor row offers some incredible fashion finds. Everything from domestic and foreign riding clothes, which can double as workout clothing, to leather goods, sun hats, jewelry, and stuffed animals. Most importantly, find a seat under the shaded area near the rings and enjoy the horses and riders. HITS Thermal Desert Circuit runs through March 20. Information: www.hitsshows.com/thermal/hits-thermal-desert-circuit

photo courtesy of the Chateau at Lake La Quinta

Caprese Salad with Heirloom tomato, mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and a basil pesto. Accompanied by a house-made, hand-shaken Strawberry Balsamic Martini featuring Tito’s handmade vodka, muddled strawberries, lime juice, simple syrup, splash of balsamic vinegar.

Evening Repose

After the long day, return to the Chateau for dinner on the patio at Melange. Check out the new “Sunset at Melange Happy Hour Menu”  available from 3-5 p.m. daily with light bites from $7-$9 and cocktails from $4-$8. Menu: http://thechateaulakelaquinta.com/chateau-assets/pdf/Melange-Menu-Sunset.pdf

photo courtesy of the Chateau at Lake La Quinta

Drinks and appetizers overlooking the Lake at Chateau's Melange.

Twilight overlooking the lake becomes one who's been in the sun all day. Herbivores can settle in on the Caprese salad with heirloom tomato, mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and a basil pesto.

Accompany it with a handmade Strawberry Balsamic Martini featuring Tito's Handmade Vodka, muddled strawberries, lime juice, simple syrup and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Carnivores may enjoy the Medallions of “Creekstone Farms” Prime Filet of Beef with Shrimp accompanied by Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Retreat to the pool and spa under the stars for the evening. Perhaps a glass of champagne is in order poolside.

Sunday Call

Sleep soundly and awaken to a late breakfast on the lake, a small stroll. And then it's time for polo. There are two polo games every Sunday at noon and 2 p.m. at Empire Polo Club, site of the famed Coachella Music and Arts Festival. General admission is free. Parking is $10 per car. Information: empirepolo.com/for-spectators/season-schedule

After polo, meander over to the Tack Room Tavern at Empire Polo Club to indulge in a Pony Goal Tuna Croissant or an Empire Polo Club Sandwich. Information: www.empirepoloevents.com/tack_room_tavern.php4

You will find an enchanted world of birds, beasts, dates, incredible cuisine and a chateau on the lake. An experience unlike any other in the desert.

The Chateau at Lake La Quinta, 78120 Caleo Bay Drive, La Quinta, 760-564-7332, www.thechateaulakelaquinta.com

Follow Karen on Twitter: @gloriousallianc

What other hotels have we profiled: Hotel Essentials

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