As a top travel producer for my parent company, I had the privilege of attending the biannual conference of one of the world’s largest travel consortiums in Palm Desert, California this past weekend. I intended to learn a lot about my industry and some of the amazing vendors that service it (which I did), but I was not prepared for the fun and excitement I would have exploring new destinations in Southern California.
It started with the airport. Yes, the airport, you read that right. I’ve been to and through a lot of airports in my life but I can’t say that any have charmed me, that is until I stepped foot off the plane at the Palm Springs airport. It is a tiny airport with only two runways and about 15 gates, but what was most charming was the open-air concept with palm trees and other beautifully landscaped desert foliage lining the walkway as you travel from the gates to baggage claim. I have to admit, in the selfie-crazed society in which we live, I just couldn’t help but to snap a pic, which happened to be the best airport selfie pic of mine to date! The airport also had a playground where the little ones can play as their families await their flights. How cute is that?!
Palm Springs Airport
The travel conference was being held at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs, which is a beautiful 4 star luxury resort that is just as ideal for a bachelor/bachelorette destination as it is for a conference or a family getaway. That type of diversity within one property is hard to come by but this resort manages to nail it. Between the massive lobby and sushi bar, 5 pools, spa and golf facilities, nightclub, multiple dining options and even a gondola ride that takes you on a tour of the exterior of the property and pool areas, you really don’t have to leave the resort for anything. But of course, as travel professionals wanting to see what else the Palm Springs area had to offer, my partners and I ventured off the beaten path and we were pleasantly surprised by the options there as well.
J.W. Marriott Desert Springs
Being the foodie I am, I was delighted to know that the travel conference fell right in the middle of the Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week. Winning! I don’t normally eat at a chain restaurant when traveling out of town, especially if it’s a chain that exists in my home town, but the first night we just couldn’t resist the $38 three course restaurant week menu at Ruth’s Chris. I mean come on, it’s Ruth’s Chris! Lol. The second night, we did get to sample a local gem called Kaiser Grille (Palm Desert) and we were pleased not just with the delightful three course $38 pre-fixe menu, but the excellent service as well. Definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the Palm Springs area!
Dijon and panko crusted half rack of lamb with grilled asparagus at Kaiser Grille
I’m not your adventurous type but thankfully my partners with whom I attended the travel conference are and they convinced me that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world, was a must experience excursion. While it was a little rough getting up to the 8,500 ft. elevation (2.5 miles above the desert floor) for a girl who has a slight issue with heights, the majestic views were worth it. Words can’t really express the beauty and peace we experienced up there. If all I had was one word, it would be enchanting.
Before leaving the area, we had to visit the gorgeous La Quinta Resort, known for its quaint, home away from home feel and being the host of many world-famous golf tournaments. The brunch at their Twenty6 restaurant was amazing! I recommend the crab benedict for you crustacean lovers out there. When I return to the area, I’m definitely staying at this property and doing a thorough “site-inspection” of the spa. I could hear it calling my name when we left…if only there were more time!
La Quinta Resort & Club
By the way, I could not write a blog about my experience without mentioning my very first California earthquake! My first night there, I was awakened at 1:00 AM (which was still 4:00 AM EST for me at this point) by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake! It only lasted for 30 seconds, 15 seconds of which I was still sleep and trying to figure out what was happening, but how’s that for a first impression of Palm Springs? I can’t say this made up the “pleasant” part of my experience but it’s certainly a good story to tell!
Overall, I was most awestruck by the natural beauty of this area. I’ve seen many different landscapes around the world but the contrast of palm trees and mountain views are up there in the most remarkable category. I must say, this was definitely a “sleeper” destination for me but now having visited, I definitely see myself not just returning but offering this destination as an alternative to my clients seeking getaways right here in the United States. I’m confident they will be just as pleasantly surprised as I was.