Whether you and your bridal party arrive several days early to relax and kick back, your guests indulge for a weekend getaway, or you newlyweds stay on for a palm-trees-and-mountain-views honeymoon, the Coachella Valley has plenty to do, see, eat, and buy. Our resort towns offer much more than aqua-bottomed swimming pools and lush green golf courses! Romantic hideaways, luxe spas, trendy hotels, amazing art, tours and trails, and live entertainment are all part of the desert package.
There are more than 120 golf courses in the greater Palm Springs area. Talk to a course manager about arranging a wedding weekend tournament so guests can get to know one another. A round of golf is an excellent pre-wedding stress-buster, too. The public Golf Resort at Indian Wells offers a pre-wedding party package for groups of 12 or more that includes choice of a Macanudo cigar or a sleeve of balls, a souvenir logo cap for the groom, and a visor for the bride. Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert’s public facility, plays host to several coed wedding golf events throughout the year, and at the legendary La Quinta Resort & Club wedding golf tournaments are a popular request.
The Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism can give you a list of courses and direct you to booking services (handy for making group arrangements). A golf outing can run from $35 to more than $150 per person, not including club rental. To curb costs, limit the event to nine holes, which will also keep guests from getting tired. (800) 347-7746.
TAKE ME SHOPPING
A girl needs something to wear on her honeymoon, right? For a power shopping day, there are plenty of tempting choices across the Valley. Try a few of these favorite shop-and-lunch destinations.
Designer storefronts line the upscale avenue of El Paseo in Palm Desert. Browse a diverse selection of clothing, accessories, art, and antiques before grabbing lunch at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant (760) 674-8666. Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café (760) 836-0188,Or Augusta Restaurant (760) 779-9200, featuring one-of-a-kind artwork in a warm, engaging atmosphere.
Stroll the shops and boutiques of downtown Palm Springs, then indulge in a relaxing lunch in the garden patio setting of Spencer’s Restaurant (760) 327-3446, or Le Vallauris (760) 325-5059, both walking distance from the center of downtown Palm Springs.
Or wander through the eclectic Old Town La Quinta, a quaint, European-style village of unique shops, restaurants, and galleries. Lunch at Hog’s Breath Inn (760) 564-5556, with its patio, Santa Barbara-meets-Old-West atmosphere and Clint Eastwood movie memorabilia.
Serious shoppers can breakfast in town before heading out on Highway 111 for the half-hour drive to Desert Hills Premium Outlets (951) 849-6641, in Cabazon. They’re you’ll find an impressive array of 130 high-quality outlet stores and plenty of bargains.
UP, UP AND AWAY
Balloon Above the Desert is one company that offers beautiful hot air balloon tours with champagne toasts at sunrise and sunset. Group discounts are available; prices range from $150 to $175 per adult. (760) 347-0410.
LET’S GET WILD
Spend a day with some wild animals at The Living Desert in Palm Desert (760) 346-5694. Leopards, wolves, giraffes, owls, snakes, hawks, meerkat, Bighorn sheep, and other creatures from deserts far and wide are just the beginning.
Natural mineral springs and the wondrous desert climate converge in Desert Hot Springs, an area long recognized for its healing powers. More than 40 hotels and spas offer all types of accommodations and/or day use for visitors. Popular getaways include Two Bunch Palms, The Spring, and Nurturing Nest. (760) 329-6403.
Locals love to hike at the Indian Canyons. This desert landscape, which belongs to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, offers miles and miles of hiking trails, waterfalls and views galore. Cost: General admission to the trails costs $8 for adults, $4 for children. Arrange to have a ranger lead your hike (great for groups and visitors) — $11 for adults, $6 for children. (760) 325-3400.
OUT ON TOUR
A variety of tour companies offer Jeep, Hummer, and all-terrain vehicle tours of the local desert landscape. The Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism (760) 778-8415, can give you a list of tour companies. For starters, Elite Land Tours (760) 318-1200, offers a Safari Trax tour that gets up close and personal with big cats. Cost starts at $75 per person. (800) 347-7746,.
Palm Springs architecture is like none other in the world. Back streets and hidden encalves reveal one of the largest and most eclectic collections of mid-century homes and landmark buildings anywhere. Tour them by minivan or on a Segway scooter with Robert Imber of PS Modern Tours. (760) 318-6118.
Every Thursday the Taste of Palm Springs four-hour whirlwind tour includes a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway with dinner at the top of the mountain, a celebrity home tour, and an hour and a half to browse at the famous VillageFest in downtown Palm Springs, which happens every Thursday evening year round. Cost for the tour is $79 per person. (760) 285-1608.
REALLY GREAT OUTDOORS
Contemplate the desert’s vast and versatile beauty at Joshua Tree National Park, approximately 45 miles from Palm Springs. Year-round activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, camping, stargazing, and more. (760) 367-5500.
ON TOP OF IT ALL
Find new heights of serenity when you travel the 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride from the valley floor up to an elevation of 8,516 feet aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway — gateway to the Mount San Jacinto State Park and wilderness area. Bring a jacket: it’s usually around 30 degrees cooler at the top, where you’ll find two restaurants and scenic hiking trails. (760) 325-1449.
Two low-key local delis shine above the rest. Sherman’s Deli (760) 325-1199 in Palm Springs is an unassuming New York-style sandwich shop — except for the lines out the door at lunchtime. Drop in to find out why the classic deli sandwiches and colossal desserts have made this a meeting place for half a century. Manhattan in the Desert (760) 322-3354 is another crowd-pleaser, with tall sandwiches, big booths, and terrific matzo ball soup.
GET SMART WITH ART
Just a block from downtown lies the Palm Springs Art Museum, featuring contemporary and Western American art, culture, natural history, basketry by the indigenous Cahuilla Indians, changing exhibitions, and performing arts and lectures at the Annenberg Theater. The museum is open every day except Mondays and major holidays, with free admission Thursdays 4-8 p.m. (760) 325-7186.
El Paseo in Palm Desert is famous for its assortment of world-class galleries. On the first Thursday of each month, from October through May, stroll 17 exciting fine art galleries on this glamorous boulevard from 5 to 9 p.m. with artist receptions, gallery hospitality, and a festive atmosphere. For details call (760) 346-8885.
Celebs came from Hollywood to relax away from the limelight, a tradition that continues at Melvyn’s (760) 325-2323, the cocktail lounge and restaurant at the Ingleside Inn. Carole Lombard and Clark Gable honeymooned at the inn and Frank and Barbara Sinatra held their pre-wedding dinner at the restaurant. Mel Haber greets his guests and quickly whisks them back in time. Take a peek at the celebrity photo-lined walls across the bar in the Casablanca Room. Nightly entertainment at this piano bar and lounge is like stepping into an old black-and-white film: the men are mysterious, the women are alluring, and the bartender pours a mean martini.
With interior design by Jonathan Adler, Parker Palm Springs embodies all that is funky and fun in the desert. You may have caught a behind-the-scenes look on Welcome to the Parker. The hotel remains popular for al fresco breakfast or lunch at Norma’s (760) 770-5000, dinner at the clubby Mister Parker’s restaurant, or lemon drops in the retro-cool lobby lounge complete with fire pit. Don’t miss a walk through the grounds, scattered with hammocks, fire pits, a croquet course, tennis courts, and pools.
HIPPER THAN HIP
A boutique hotel just a block off the main strip of downtown, Viceroy Palm Springs buzzes with a scene every night of the week. The black, white, and yellow Hollywood Regency décor by Kelly Wearstler lends a fresh, crisp look to the entire hotel, which is a 1930s historic property. The spa gets rave reviews for its pampering service (some locals can’t go a week without a massage here). Citron, the Viceroy’s signature restaurant, attracts fans with their mojito menu at the bar (the watermelon is sublime), but the upscale contemporary American menu is equally delicious. (760) 320-4117.
After dinner, head to Buddy Greco’s Dinner Club (760)-883-5812, for live, late-night music with Buddy’s trio and his wife, Lezlie Anders, on vocals. Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Lounge (760) 674-5764, in Rancho Mirage swings with piano favorites seven nights a week. Copykatz Showroom and Backstage Bistro (760) 864-9293, in Palm Springs combines dinner with a cabaret show starring first-class celebrity impersonators.
LOOKING FOR LUXURY
In addition to pools, lakes, gondola rides, and a poolside steel-drum band, the Desert Springs J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa in Palm Desert boasts a new The Spa Desert Springs. Reserve your own 600-square-foot private suite with discreet entrance, two-person hydrotherapy tub in a walled-in courtyard (plus another tub indoors), and digitally programmable rain shower. Lounge fireside in the living area with high-definition television while your personal butler waits on you hand and foot. You’ll be relaxed before your treatment begins! The spa is also decked out with a Turkish hammam and steam showers infused with essentital oils. (760) 341-2211.
Couples who check into the Tuscan-inspired Miramonte Resort and Spa in Indian Wells enjoy bougainvillea-draped private terraces, marble baths, and swaying hammocks for two that are set among a soothing palette that reflects the desert sunset. The amenity-laden Miramonte is a favorite choice for its world-class spa, villa-style guest rooms, and 11 acres filled with bubbling fountains, piazzas, gardens, and Italian architecture. (760) 341-2200.
The La Quinta Resort & Club is a choice destination for golfers and spa-goers, and the resort’s accommodations also pull out all the stops: fireplaces, patios, and mountain views complete with your own pool or spa. Without even stepping foot off the grounds, you can sample the cuisine at several restaurants.(760) 777-4827.
OLD WORLD CHARM
Hide away inside the Villa Royale Inn, (760) 327-2314, in Palm Springs and you will be pampered like a Parisian. The romantic inn is a labyrinth of lush gardens serenaded by the sounds of water trickling from central fountains. Many of the villa’s guest rooms lead to private patios and boast large fireplaces. Wake up to the smell of jasmine and lavender and enjoy a complimentary, cooked-to-order breakfast of omelets, fresh fruits, juices, and coffee and teas. Or hole up in to Korakia Pensione, (760) 864-6411, recognized by the Times of London as one of the “best small hotels in the world.” It offers a range of accommodations for every budget. The whitewashed walls, international furnishings, and flowing curtains whisk you away to an oasis of exotic simplicity. The two villas, one Moroccan and one Mediterranean, were built in the 1920s and became a hideaway for artists and other creative types.