Ah, the holidays! Such a busy yet magical time of the year. We had time off from work, but weren’t traveling home for the holidays, so we decided on a quick trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. We stayed one night in each place, although technically we stayed in 29 Palms and not in Joshua Tree itself. If you are planning to visit the dessert soon, this guide is for you!
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Where to Stay
I found this super cute Airbnb yurt-style bell tent located just outside of the park in Twentynine Palms. (If you have never created an Airbnb account, use this link and save on your first stay!) Growing up in West Virginia, we went camping A LOT. I had 2 camping trips that were awful, and hadn’t had interest in it but being married to an Eagle Scout, I thought I would give glamping a go. The tent had a bed and was spacious, there was a porta potty on property and propane for us to use for a fire but that is where the luxuries ended. If you want an actual campsite, you can reserve those here at a very affordable rate.
What to See
Cholla Cactus Garden - Definitely hit up the cactus garden for a little stroll through the crazy cholla cacti. There are signs about how they might look like a regular prickly cactus, but in fact, they are much more painful if you brush up against them. Danny went to kick a branch of one off the path, and we found out why there are so many warning signs. Just from attempting to brush it with his hiking boot, it sunk deeply into his boot. Pretty wild, honestly, so be extra careful.
Skull Rock Nature Trail - You don’t have to walk the whole trail to see Skull Rock, but I would recommend it. I really enjoyed how there are informational placards all around the National Park, and you can learn a lot about geology and see various formations on this little trail. It’s fairly close to the road, but you still feel secluded.
Arch Rock Nature Trail - A natural arch is found in Joshua Tree, just a quick little walk from White Tank Campground, and surrounded by boulders to climb around on. This is a pretty magical little spot.
Wall Street Mill Trail - This trail leads to an old mining site, we didn’t get to it on this trip, but it’s on the list for next time!
Drive through - if you don’t have enough time or interest in getting out and exploring, the drive through the park is worth the views. Stunning, otherworldly, and worth putting on your bucket list.
Where to Stay
We stayed at The Saguaro hotel. I found a discounted rate on Groupon, and had been recommended this hotel by a friend. It’s known for being super colorful, trendy and fun and that it was. I wouldn’t really recommend staying here if you will only be there one night because they do charge a resort fee, if you aren’t going to be there long enough to use the amenities then it’s kind of a bummer. We were able to check in super early and lounge by the pool, have a few drinks etc. It’s a super cute spot and the view from the pool is great, we would definitely stay here again. We didn’t get a chance to take one of the bikes out for a ride, and we would definitely do that if we had more time. A plethora of Airbnb options exist in Palm Springs, but we waited a bit too late to book this trip to find any affordable options.
What to See
Palm Springs Art Museum - We didn’t have time to explore the art museum, but it is on the list for next time. It’s centrally located to downtown so you can explore the shops before or after perusing the art.
Downtown - We were there at Christmas, so it was nice to wander the main downtown strip area and go in and out of shops. We stopped at a cigar and wine bar and enjoyed a glass on the patio while people watching. There are a few fun art galleries along this strip as well that are worth popping into. I especially enjoyed perusing the crystal shops.
Moorten Botanical Garden - If you are on Instagram, you have probably seen photos from Moorten’s. I feel like everyone that goes to Coachella also stops into Moorten’s and it was on my list for a long time. It costs $5 to walk through, so unless you really love cacti and botanical gardens, I would skip this one. We won’t ever go back, but it was worth doing once.
Robolights - This is for my fellow quirky art lovers. The craziest Christmas display I will ever see. It is the largest residential Christmas lights display in the United States with upwards of 8 billion lights or something like that. Everything is built from trash and other scrap materials. Rumor has it that this was the last year to view the display at its current location, and that it will be moving to a gallery of some sort in the future. It’s hard to explain this into words, it’s a bizarre yet very fun art installation in someone’s yard. A must see, in my opinion.
Aerial Tramway - It costs to get into the tramway parking area, and costs even more still to ride the tram itself. However, you can park at the bottom and walk up if you want some exercise. We just drove up until the pay gate, and then drove back down. The view alone is worth it even if you do just turn around like we did!
Where to Eat
Chef Tanya’s Kitchen - We loved this little spot. It’s kind of in an odd location, but they have plenty of parking and it’s very quaint and nice inside. You order at the counter and they also have a cooler of takeaway items. I had the Caesar salad with avocado and seitan chicken added on, Danny had the El Cubano with a side of pozole and key lime pudding for dessert. Yum! We really loved the food and will definitely be back. Bring your own water cup, or plan on drinking from very tiny paper cups and my dressing came in a single use plastic container.
Palm Greens Cafe - We went here for breakfast and were pleased with the number of vegan options on the menu.. They had juices and smoothies as well, and I had a turmeric ginger shot which wasn’t quite gingery enough for me, but still good. We shared the biscuits and gravy and the breakfast bowl. They were both yummy, and we would go back to try some of their lunch options. Again, with the single-use plastic here in the form of water cups so try to bring your own.
Native Foods Cafe - This is both a grocery store and a cafe. They also have a takeaway cooler for grab and go items. I had the tofu egg salad sandwich and a side salad with balsamic dressing and Danny had the special which was a Beyond Sausage and a side of potato salad. Their coffee they sell here is also on point (Joshua Tree Roasters or something like that?…), and we got a bag of it to bring home with us. Out of everything that we ate, I enjoyed this the most. Again, with the single use plastic. What gives, Palm Springs??
Peppers Thai - We didn’t get a chance to dine here on this stay, but it was recommended by a friend and the menu looks delicious. Next time!