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!