Posts Tagged ‘Palm Springs’

Exploring Southern California: Sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park


Colorful sunrise in Joshua Tree

I have a fondness for desert landscapes and love to visit Joshua Tree National Park during the winter. The weather is pleasant and the park never seems too crowded. I find it particularly peaceful to get up before dawn to watch the sunrise.

I shot this time lapse video on my iPhone 7 plus at Joshua Tree National Park

On my most recent trip, I had my two labs with me. Since activities with dogs are limited in the park, I stayed in Palm Springs at the pet friendly Ace Hotel Palm Springs. The Ace Hotel also two dedicated Tesla chargers, which made this road trip easy since since I drive a Tesla.


Bristled Joshua Trees

If I was traveling without my two dogs, I would have stayed closer to the park. I’m a big fan of the Mojave Sands at Joshua Tree (check out this previous post about a stay at Mojave Sands), but they only allow small dogs.


Twisted, surreal Joshua Trees

If you’re heading to Joshua Tree National Park from Palm Springs, I suggest coming in through the West Entrance.  Each morning I drove towards Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, and Keys Ranch until I found a spot I wanted to watch the sunrise.


Here comes the desert sun

If you are driving from Palm Springs, and want to watch the sunrise, allow at least 90 before sunrise to drive to the West Entrance of the park and find a spot to watch and set up your equipment. It can get windy at times, and you might want to use a tripod.


Colors change dramatically just after dawn in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree has been a favorite spot of mine to just chill. After photographing the sunrise, it’s nice to explore the cholla cactus garden, an easy quarter mile loop with a dense population of cholla cactus.


Sunrise panorama shot on my iPhone 7 plus

Pet owners should note that activities with dogs are limited and animals must be leashed at all times. You can check out what activities you can do with your dog in Joshua Tree National Park here.


The last super moon of 2016 seen through a Joshua Tree

My trip occurred during the last supermoon of 2016, so that made both the sunrise and moon interesting to photograph.


Warm skies in Joshua Tree

After exploring the park for a few hours after sunrise, I like to head to the funky Joshua Tree Saloon for breakfast. The service is friendly and the place is packed after 7:30 with climbers and desert dwellers. They make a mean Bloody Mary, and the potato pancakes are quite tasty.


Morning walk through the cholla cactus garden

If you head to the Joshua Tree Saloon, don’t miss the vintage photo of Johnny Cash near the front door.


Rocky landscape at Joshua Tree National Park


Morning in the desert at Joshua Tree National Park

I’m a big fan of National Parks and Joshua Tree is the one I am most comfortable exploring on my own. It’s pretty user friendly.


Funky roadside Joshua tree

If you’re visiting Palm Springs, Palm Desert, or the Coachella Valley, I’d definitely recommend spending a morning exploring the surreal desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s one of those special places in California that has a “vibe.”


Morning sunlight in the cholla cactus garden

Joshua Tree National Park

74485 National Park Dr.
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Joshua Tree National Park is open 24 hours a day and may be visited at any time of the year.

Entrance Fee – $20.00 (7-day vehicle permit, admitting the passengers of a single, non-commercial vehicle on the day of purchase and for the next six days).

Motorcycle or Bicycle Entrance Fee/ Walk-In Fee – $10.00 (7-day entrance permit, per motorcycle or bicycle/per person on foot).

Joshua Tree Saloon

61835 Twentynine Palms Hwy.
P.O. Box 289 Joshua Tree
CA 92252 USA


Hours Open:
Sunday – Thursday 7:00 am-12:00 Midnight
Friday & Saturday 7:00 am – 2:00 AM

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Exploring Southern California During the Holidays: Robolights in Palm Springs


Giant inflatable santa on the roof of this year’s RoboLights display

If you are going to be in Southern California during the holidays and are looking for an outside-the-box holiday experience, consider heading to Palm Springs to see artist Kenny Irwin Jr’s 32nd year of RoboLights, an upcycled holiday lights display unlike any other.


Robo reindeer outside the RoboLights display

Palm Springs artist Kenny Irwin, Jr.’s more is more aesthetic has been putting on an increasing complex mixed media holiday lights art installation at his father’s home since he was 12. Now in it’s 32nd year, RoboLights is truly something to behold.

Video of the RoboLights reindeer

Visiting RoboLights is like walking through a surreal winter wonderland.


Surreal winter wonderland at RoboLights

Built on the outdoor property of the artist’s father’s home, the greeter outside RoboLights told us the display has over 4 Acres of lights. It’s wildly impressive in a Watts Towers meets Willy Wonka sort of way. Sculptures are made from repurposed toilets and mannequins, and old dog crates re-worked into Sci-Fi art containing giant spiders, all bedecked with holiday lights.


Sleigh pulled by team of jackalope

Visiting RoboLights, I felt I was walking through a surreal winter wonderland. Some of the sculptures seemed better suited for a haunted house or dystopian futuristic film set than a holiday light show but that’s what makes RoboLights so interesting.


Left: Upside down Santa Clause Right: Bunny driving a sleigh straight out of Mad Max

I spoke with some locals who visit RoboLights every year and asked them how much the display changes from year to year. They guessed about 30%– sometimes new elements like color schemes or themes get introduced, or the layout changes.

Video of one of the displays of lights at the 2016 RoboLights

This year’s addition of an inflatables on the roof, including a Santa and a Godzilla with a candy cane,  bit of an uproar. The City of Palm Springs attempted to close down this year’s RoboLights citing safety concerns but the artist prevailed in court last week and the city was denied a restraining order that would only allow residents of the property and contractors to access the robotics and light displays.


Walls of dolls and fairy lights at RoboLights

RoboLights is open to the public and accepts donations ($5 is recommended).

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Dangling mannequin installation at RoboLights

Sensory overload comes with the territory and some of the subject matter is non-traditional enough that I think adults will enjoy RoboLights more than children with more traditional expectations.


Mannequins on display at RoboLights


One of the more light hearted sculptures at RoboLights


Christmas trees at RoboLights


Dog crate sculpture at the 2016 RoboLights

Artist Kenny Irwin Jr. has really gone above and beyond and RoboLights is unlike any other holiday lights display I’ve ever seen. If you’re in the Palm Springs area, I’d recommend checking it out. The display runs through January 1, 2017.


Dystopian holiday spirit on display at RoboLights


tunnel of lights at RoboLights

Opening hours for RoboLight are from  4-9:30 pm but the display is capacity controlled. If you don’t want to wait in line, consider getting to the outdoor light show when they open.


RoboLights exterior is hard to miss


ROBOLIGHTS is OPEN to the public from Thanksgiving to January 1st 4:00-9:30PM 
The installation – free to the public, but donations are suggested to help defray costs.
1077 E Granvia Valmonte
Palm Springs, California
(Located in a very residential part of Palm Springs, Robo Lights is in/around the 1077 Property).

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Restaurant Review: El Jefe at the Saguaro in Palm Springs

El Jefe has excellent tacos & tequila

On our girls weekend in the desert, we decided to head to The Saguaro in Palm Springs on Saturday night. I’m a fan of the margaritas at El Jefe and we thought that tacos and tequila sounded like a good time.

The drinks were great, and the small plates were delicious and inexpensive. None of us were adventurous enough to try out the cabrito (goat) or lengua (tongue) tacos, we all enjoyed the others versions. The pescado (fish) tacos were crispy and delicious, the carnitas tacos came with smoky black beans and pineapple-habenero salsa.

Elisa singing, Claire dancing, and Erina prepping to play some mean ping-pong

Our group ordered a few ceviches which were well received. The skirt steak nachos were slow to arrive but tasty ($11). The queso fundido- made with duck confit barbicoa and poblano chile was a real standout, with the cheese not overly oily ($12). Tacos (3 small tacos per order) cost between $7-$9.

Smartflyer lovlies Erina, Lauren and Claire

The margaritas were a big hit with the ladies of Smartflyer as well. The pineapple and watermelon margaritas were popular with our group. Cantina margaritas (the house standard) ran $10, with the fruit-infused versions cost $12.

Smartflyer girls Erina Pindar and Lauren Saiger Machowsky get their ping-pong on

The food and drinks at El Jefe aren’t the only reason to head to The Saguaro Palm Springs. The hotel is adored by millennials for it’s happening pool scene and outdoor movie screenings– Uncle Buck was showing the night we were there.

Erina and Lauren played table tennis in the Saguaro’s technicolor lobby

El Jefe also has good live music… and all of us are music fans. Chad Gregory was performing the night we were there and he was great. His original stuff was enjoyable and he also does a great cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Chad is also a nice guy. When he found out Elisa Chacon could sing, he invited her to perform a song with him.

Chad & Elisa prepping at the mic. Not only is Elisa sweet and beautiful, but she has some seriously killer pipes

Elisa is smart and lovely and and has asurprisingly soulful and powerful voice. During her performance, some diners at El Jefe asked us, “is she famous?”

The Live music at El Jefe was very enjoyable, and Elisa was a huge crowd pleaser

We had such a good time at El Jefe, I’m pretty sure I have to stay at The Saguaro next time I’m in Palm Springs. I’m very curious to try Tinto, the Saguaro’s other restaurant with cuisine by Iron Chef Jose Garces. Tinto also was mentioned by Chef Chris Mitchum at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells when I asked him what restaurants in the area he liked.

Good margaritas & tasty tacos at El Jefe

The patio at Tinto and the outdoor movie screen at The Saguaro

The Saguaro uses  bold color choices

Saturday night pool scene at the Saguaro Palm Springs

You can check out a calendar of upcoming events at The Saguaro Palm Springs on their Tumblr blog or see more on their Instagram account @thesaguarops

The Saguaro Palm Springs

1800 East Palm Canyon Drive

Palm Springs, CA 92264

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Viceroy Palm Springs Featured on The SmartFlyer Blog!

I’m thrilled that my friends at the Smartflyer blog have featured my review of The Viceroy Palm Springs on their blog today. You can check out the post of this chic, budget-friendly luxury desert retreat here.

One of the three pools on the property at The Viceroy Palm Springs.

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The Ace Palm Springs: A Photo Essay

Once Upon a Time, The Ace was a Howard Johnson’s. It’s a Great Example of Upcycling!

On my recent trip to Palm Springs, I stayed at the Viceroy. But I did pop by The Ace Hotel a few times. I’ve stayed there in the past and I’m a fan of King’s Highway, the diner at the hotel  that used to be a Denny’s in a former life. This trip I went for lunch with my friend. We agreed- The raw kale and quinoa salad and pork belly sloppy joe were both tasty.

Here is a little photo essay of some of the fun and funky public spaces of The Ace Palm Springs.

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