One of my resolutions is to spend more time with friends. While my family of four brings me some of the greatest joys, the pandemic made me realize how important it is to spend time with my gal pals.
Despite crazy schedules and busy careers, a college friend and I recently carved out time to spa, dine, and shop in Palm Springs. This long weekend of laughs was one of the highlights of my year. I recommend anyone who can do it taking time for a mini-getaway to reconnect with a favorite friend this new year. Need some inspiration? Here are the details on our Palm Springs weekend.
Making the Plan and Getting There
“I’m desperate for a massage,” my friend JenLynn had texted weeks prior. We were planning to get that massage, try a sound bath, check out some cool shops in the dessert and chill. Just us. No deadlines. No children’s demands. Just mama time.
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We met at O’Hare airport and sipped champagne before boarding our flight. When was the last time I indulged in champagne before takeoff? Honestly, I don’t know. During the flight, we chatted and then watched whatever show we each wanted to watch. Gosh, no arguments about what was on? These were the first signs that this weekend would be like hitting the refresh button.
Arriving and Unwinding
We awoke the next morning to views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. There was a chill in the air, but the Southern California desert was decidedly warmer than my home of Chicago. We slept peacefully in a spa suite at Azure Palms Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis. The newly renovated hotel was especially calm, particularly because it’s adults-only. We filled our huge in-room mineral springs tub with warm, silky water and sipped our morning coffees in our bathing suits. Good sunshiney morning to us!
After languidly enjoying the early morning, we padded over to the Azure Palm Café in our robes to order frothy cappuccinos and healthy breakfasts. We ate on our balcony overlooking the sparkling turquoise expanse of SoCal’s largest mineral pool with ruggedly beautiful Mount San Gorgonio and Mount San Jacinto in the distance.
JenLynn received that massage she so desperately desired. My masseur happily untangled all the knots in my shoulders until I felt like a decompressed version of myself. Post-masssages, we met up in a hot tub outside to further rejuvenate. Next up, our skin was nourished with Moisture Miracle Facials. Indulging in two services is a superb treat and an exquisite way to make a spa day feel extra special.
Azure Palms’ Day Spa Oasis is going to be super relaxing when it opens in 2022, with hammocks and hot springs dotted across the landscape. Azure Palms also features the only Himalayan salt room in Greater Palm Springs, which helps calm, detoxify and release serotonin.
Mojave Desert Sound Bath Experience
After checking out the eclectic roadhouse Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for lunch, we drove through the Mojave Desert to The Integraton. Located on a geomagnetic vortex, this wood dome hosts sound baths, an acoustically meditative experience we both wanted to try. Crystal bowls keyed to the chakras are played live with the goal of promoting peace, heightened awareness, and deep relaxation. We were asked to announce what we each are grateful for before lying on our mats.
We then settled in and listened as the soothing sounds resonated across the sphere. As I laid there listening, I became introspective, thinking about what I appreciated and wanted most out of life. Some people were so relaxed that they fell asleep. The time to think peacefully and purposefully and to savor something new was sublime.
Palm Desert Retail Therapy
We drove to Palm Desert for shopping at El Paseo, the “Rodeo Drive of the Desert.” Hotel Paseo Autograph Collection is conveniently located around the corner from upscale shopping, art galleries, restaurants and nightlife. This new boutique hotel features a funky lobby with wow-worthy art, an outdoor area with flickering fires and a large pool filled with Instagramable floaties. They even have a vintage 1950 Airstream trailer that you can stay in.
On the outdoor patio of the Larkspur Grill, we noshed on grilled Coachella Valley artichoke, honey garlic glazed salmon and heirloom tomato and artichoke crusted Alaskan cod as a live jazz band grooved.
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While shopping at El Paseo, we stopped and savored all the luscious creams at The Body Deli. Like a juice bar for your skin and hair, The Body Deli sells fresh, raw, organic superfoods in the form of lotions, shampoos, and oils. The ripe Blueberry Fusion Scrub and sweet Melon-Peptide Crème Gel were among my favorites. We each purchased mini kits to try the most popular offerings. Every time I put the Spanish Fly hydrating hand and body lotion on, my husband tells me I smell awesome.
I’m not a margarita person; but Tac/Quila serves a margarita flight that I would come back for time and again. The Avocado Margarita was creamy with cucumber juice, pineapple juice and muddled cilantro. The flight also comes with Kiwi Mint, Guavament and Prickly Pear. We enjoyed an appetizer of Campechana, shrimp and octopus in a chilled soup with a side of crispy, salty tortilla chips. The colorful patio décor and heaters provide a warm atmosphere and lovely ambiance for street tacos, seafood, ceviche, and salads.
Palm Springs Sightseeing
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating aerial tramcar, impresses with 360-degree views up the cliffs of Chino Canyon. We took the 10-minute ride to the top to hike the snowy Alpine forest. When finished, we clinked celebratory glasses at Peaks Restaurant while drinking in views of Coachella Valley below.
We were enamored by the beauty, history and serenity at Sunnylands Center & Gardens. This luxury estate has hosted past presidents, British royalty and celebrities. Walk the stunning gardens for free and immerse yourself in the art and history. Despite it only being 40 degrees on the morning we visited, it was sun-drenched and vibrant. We even participated in a free Tai Chi class on the expansive lawn.
Next time, I’d love to hike Joshua Tree National Park—perhaps in the spring while the wildflowers are blooming. And if you visit with family, you’ll probably want to check out The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, rated one of the 10 best zoos in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler.
Although we had to wake up super early for our return flights, and it took effort and schedule wrangling to make the trip happen, it was well worth it for the sunny days and good times with a wonderful girlfriend. We were only moms off duty for a few days; but as I texted JenLynn the pictures, she wrote back, “Happy memories.” I agree. These moments will have made some of the best memories of the year.