I spent the first 18 years of my life living in the Palm Springs area (Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indian Wells). So whenever I get asked the question, “Where are you from?” and after I answer, “Palm Springs area,” I prepare myself for the response of “Oh, my parents/grandparents live there/have a condo there/play golf there, etc.” If you look up Indian Wells, you will find the median age of the residents is 63 and that the average high for the year is 89 F, perfect for retirement. Nevertheless, I grew up there and watched the area change from a vast desert to a thriving community.
Since the BNP Paribas Open is just around the corner, I thought I would write a blog about things to do, places to eat for those who are going to visit the tournament.
The River in Rancho Mirage
I know you are thinking, “How could there be a river in the middle of the desert?” But this river is not what you think. A manmade river weaves through the middle of this outdoor complex that has several restaurants, including P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, the Cheesecake Factory and the Yardhouse (one of my favorites) to name a few. In addition, there is a movie theater, spa and plenty of stores for shopping.
El Paseo in Palm Desert
I call this street the Rodeo Drive of Palm Desert. Beautifully lined with palm trees and one of a kind artwork, El Paseo offers the ultimate shopping experience for both men and women. There are plenty of high-end shops like Sak’s Fifth Ave, Tiffani & Co, Burberry, Coach, Gucci and Ralph Lauren to choose from. There also many restaurants, art galleries and beauty shops for your shopping pleasure.
Old Town La Quinta
A quaint little downtown area that is filled with fun, unique stores and eateries. For food, you can find a gelato shop, wine bar, coffee shop and a variety of grills. The shops range from small boutiques to full service salons. It’s a fun little retreat that is close to the tournament site. A bonus if you are around for the second weekend of tournament: Old Town La Quinta is holding a Wine and Food Tasting Event on Saturday, March 17.
The Living Desert
The Living Desert is one of my favorite places to go when I am back home visiting. It is definitely not your average zoo. There are plenty of animals to see that are native to the desert like bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, tortoises as well as other zoo staples like cheetahs, giraffes, camels and badgers (you can see a honey badger who doesn’t give a ….). In addition to the animals, there are beautiful botanical gardens to stroll through as well as several hiking trails that lead into the mountains.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Take a trip on the world’s largest rotating tram car and travel up to 8,500 feet to the top of San Jacinto Peak. It is one of the most gorgeous sights you will ever see (you can quote me on that). Once the tram gets you to the top, you are now free to explore nature. In March, if you are lucky, there still might be some snow to frolic around in. Yes, even in the desert, snow is not too far away. I would recommend going later in the day (after 4 p.m.) as they offer Ride ‘n’ Dine passes that include a round trip tram ride with dinner at their restaurant with a view of the valley. Don’t forget your jacket as it is still pretty chilly up there.
Knott’s Soak City
This is kind of a touristy spot, but you will thank me when the weather gets into the 90s. It is the perfect place to go with the kids and cool down. There is a lazy river perfect for relaxing, a wave pool, a kid’s fun house as well as plenty of crazy rides for the thrill seekers. Don’t forget sunscreen!
Las Casuelas La Quinta
This is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in the Palm Springs area (there are actually 4 of these restaurants throughout the desert). An added benefit for this restaurant is that it is extremely close to the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. One of its sister restaurants, Las Caseulas Nuevas in Rancho Mirage, has an awesome Sunday morning brunch.
A newer restaurant to the Palm Springs community, Jackalope Ranch offers California Ranch Cuisine and classic BBQ. The food is delicious, and the atmosphere is unparalleled. The back patio is huge and great for big groups when the weather is nice.
I had to give a shoutout to this restaurant because I have been going to John’s since I still was in my mom’s tummy. It is a quick, cheap but a scrumptious restaurant that serves big servings of food. My personal favorite is breakfast (it is served all day!). It has a variety of cuisines ranging from American to Greek to Mexican.
Another restaurant situated close to the BNP Paribas, this sushi place has had many sightings of professional tennis players there during the tournament. It offers an all you can eat menu as well as a happy hour menu and a regular dinner menu with many delicious entrees if you are not a sushi fan.
LG’s Prime Steak House
If you are in the mood for a delicious steak, look no further than LG’s. It’s a local favorite, and you can’t go wrong with any steaks on the menu. Also, the Caesar salad is amazing! Just writing about this restaurant makes me hungry.
Last but not least, the Beer Hunter is a TW favorite. Don’t be surprised if you run into some TW employees who put in a long day at the TW tent. This place has cheap beers, burgers and shuffleboard. Yes, I repeat shuffleboard. And Jason claims he is the best shuffleboarder in town and is up for any challenge thrown his way. This restaurant also gets bonus points for being close to the tournament.
Finally, if you are planning to head down to the BNP Paribas Open make sure to stop by the Tennis Warehouse tent. We will have tons of products, a demo court to test racquets and many player autograph sessions. Keep an eye out for Chris, Jason and me as we will be at the tournament the first week. Make sure to say hello!
Most Palm Springs residents know in mid-March every year a “big tennis tournament” is held at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. Being a local and avid tennis player, that “big” tournament is an exciting two weeks of watching the top men’s and women’s tennis professionals compete at the BNP Paribas Open. In fact, some of my fondest tennis memories derive from the tournament. And this year is no exception as I have come full circle from spectator to media.
Back in 1999, the tournament was known as the Newsweek Champions Cup and was held at the Hyatt Grand Champions hotel. As an eight year old new to the competitive game of tennis, I was invited by a friend to watch the men’s final. To this day, I will always remember Mark Philippoussis defeating Carlos Moya in five sets. I was lucky enough to interview Philippoussis earlier this year for Tennis Warehouse and I was definitely still as star struck as I was that day.
Just a year later in 2000, the venue changed sites as well as sponsors and became the Pacific Life Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. I too changed from spectator to ball kid. For two weeks, I spent all day on the tennis courts running around and chasing balls standing mere inches away from the players! I had so much fun and I think I might have had the best seat in the stadium to watch matches. Watching the pros play was inspirational and motivational for my young tennis career and I secretly hoped someday I might just be playing in the tournament as well.
Four short years, I had my chance when I was given a wild card into the qualifying rounds at the tournament. At just fifteen with no professional experience, I was overcome with nervousness but so thankful for the opportunity. A year later, I was granted another chance to compete and was able to calm my nerves and play some of my best tennis at the time regardless of the outcome.
And now in 2011, a full twelve years later I am still at this tournament participating in the pre-qualifier and working with Tennis Warehouse interviewing the pros. I had minor success at the tournament advancing to the round of 16s (You can watch my preparation and matches on Tennis Warehouse’s Gotta Want It Season 3 on YouTube.) A week later I began interviewing and was just a little intimidated at first. The ten seconds before my first interview was nerve wrecking but Sam Stosur ended up being really nice and I relaxed after (barely) spitting out the first question. Once I completed my first interview, I was hooked. I was really excited for my next interviews with Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters. As each interview went by, I realized just how normal (yet amazing at tennis) these players were.
As each day passes at the tournament, I could not have asked for a better job or even dreamed this is where I would end up. I have grown up with this tournament and have seen so many different sides of the tournament. As I sit here in the media room looking down on stadium 1, I can’t help to think where will I end up next?