During the summer of 2010 the folks at La Quinta Resort and Club hosted my family for a two night stay. That’s right, La Quinta in the summer. I know what you’re thinking: You must be crazy! Why would anyone go to the desert when it’s 110 degrees?
Because it was awesome. Even though I never ever go to the desert when it’s that hot out it was a fabulous trip. Although winter is the high season I’m going to stop avoiding the desert in the summer.
If you’re driving from Los Angeles to the Desert Cities La Quinta is tucked away seemingly in a corner behind Highway 111 and nestled into the mountains. Driving in (for us at dusk) you pass through an endless rows of strip malls, turn into a largely residential section of town and then disappear into the sprawling resort. When we drove in rows of stout palm trees greeted us like a row of bellmen from a Hollywood Classic movie. The resort itself is full of Hollywood history as the desert has always been our playground.
Speaking of bellmen, I’d driven out on a Friday afternoon taking the children and Junior straight from school. When we got out of the car the cheeriest bellman I think I’ve ever met greeted us. I checked in and he took the kids for a ride in an electric cart. Since the resort is so large (and there is parking everywhere) this is the best way to check in. Junior and I hopped in the car and our bellman guided us to a parking area close to our rooms. When I parked we opened the trunk of the car so he could get the luggage out and lo and behold there was pink slime all over the trunk of my car.
In addition to entertaining my children, carrying my luggage, and watering my dog. The bellman got the pink slime out of the car. I muttered something about “doing it later.” He cheerfully replied, “I’ve got an eight year old and a ten year old at home. If you don’t get this out now it’s going to be all over everything.” Handful by disgusting handful he scooped the slime out of the trunk of car and he smiled, “my kids do stuff like this all the time.” Which was great, because the pink slime had me fresh out of smiles. I tipped solidly and made a mental note to never allow slime in the house again.
We walked down a path lined with Grapefruit trees to get to our rooms. The trees were heavy with bright green and over sized fruit and I was thinking, “I want to be here when the fruits are ripe.” Not so much because I want to eat the fresh grapefruit (I do) but because I want to walk through rows and rows of ripe citrus. I just want to know what that feels like to wander through groves of obscenely large citrus. I hear that the citrus is shared among the staff and placed in gift baskets.
We got to our rooms, which opened up to a nice pool. To be fair just about every room there opens up to a nice pool. There are 42 pools and they are all at 83-84 degrees which will cool you off on a 100+ degree day but it’s also just right at night. We never had a huge amount of people in our pool. There were a few moments were a couple wasn’t super excited about sharing it with my kids but they gathered their stuff and walked to the pool next to us. Yes, there are side by side pools. Officially the resort has one pool that’s designated adults only, unofficially people seem to find their tribes.
The kids, Junior and I checked out the room. Junior was delighted with his dog bed and the kids were dazzled by the swans and lollipops. The folks at La Quinta make fabulous swans out of towels and decorate them with the tiniest chilis. On the bedside you’ll get a note about the chili and how it’s good luck and that it’s a regional thing. Very sweet. Very welcoming. It will keep your kids busy long enough for you to unpack the underwear but not long enough to keep them from jumping on the beds.
I was very happy with our rooms. In keeping with the general HUGENESS of the resort, the rooms were spacious and bright. I love this. One of the reasons I don’t enjoy hotel stays is that being in the rooms can feel like you’re in a tight and cramped office. Not the case here. There was a beautiful fireplace in the King room and the kids room had two queens and a few extra feet of play area. The bathrooms are massive but not brand new, this is good. They are traditional over sized resort bathrooms with double sinks and tons of drawers. Since the desert features so much golf, tennis and hiking there are massive closets. I’m sure you could leave your clubs with the concierge but when a resort is set up with your car nearby it sure is nice to just keep them in your room and be on your way.
The kids and I had our first night’s dinner at Twenty6. I have three words for Twenty6 Ah. Maz. Ing. We are there a few times over the course of three days and I cannot recommend it enough. If you check the Twenty6 fan page you’ll get to see pictures of the their chicken wing lollipops. Chef Michael Vaughn frenches the chicken drumsticks, flash fries them and then finishes them off on the oven with his hot wing sauce. They were too spicy for the kids but it’s the first time I’ve eaten chicken wings that were as good as the ones from Hot Wings Cafe. It’s the only time I’ve ever eaten hot wings without having orangey red goo all over my fingers. My son stuck to his hamburgers and my daughter shared salads and pastas with me. Everything we had there was good, it was pretty and it was fresh. Dessert at Twenty6 is something special. They have floats that are worth every calorie and Chef Vaughn has an off the menu offering of cereal ice cream. The weekend we were there it was Froot Loops and the ice cream literally tasted like the bottom of the bowl from when you were a kid. It was unexpected and delicious AND it confirms for me that fact that most packaged cereal is more appropriate for dessert than for breakfast. Stepping off the soapbox now.
My husband arrived at the resort quite late in that evening and we ordered a little room service for him. It was prompt, it was hot, and, like room service everywhere, it was expensive. Since the resort was kind enough to comp our room fees we figured we’d go a little crazy. The kids had a late night swim (10pm is late for them) and we sat outside with Junior watching them.
The perfect ending to the day.
The beds at La Quinta are cozy and the rooms are fresh and airy but there was one little thing that kept me from having a perfect night’s sleep. The ice maker. Heed my warning. If you are staying at La Quinta, and you are a light sleeper like I am turn the ice machine off at night. I don’t know why they’re so loud and rumbly. I know you’ll be grateful to have tons of ice in the hot desert but you won’t sleep well until you turn it off.
My kids were snoring but I turned theirs off too, just in case.
We spent Saturday at the local water park, which is a good enough, but small and expensive. In retrospect we’d have been better off just hanging out at the resort. I’m not really sure why we went.
Saturday night we were treated to dinner at The Adobe Grill. They have indoor and outdoor seating. Had it not been a 90+ degree night the outdoor seating would have been amazing. There’s a beautiful patio with a view of the resort entrance, the mountains (do NOT miss the sunset over the mountains), and the desert valley. When you’re there for the last days of August an air conditioned restaurant is the most beautiful thing you’ll see (unless you are my mother and love the heat).
The Adobe Grill is very traditional Mexican fare. We were greeted by a host/owner and our server was chipper. We started with guacamole, which is always best when someone else makes it for you. I know I could do exactly the same thing at home with exactly the same ingredients but, like salad, guacamole is best when someone else makes it for you. The chips were very good and clearly made on site. According to my mother the Margaritas were pretty darned good too. My family tends to share so I had nibbles of fish tacos (ask for the fish grilled), steak fajitas and chicken enchiladas. Six of us were absolutely delighted with every bite.
The Adobe Grill is very traditional Mexican food. I’m a total gringa, but I am also an Angelino and we love our Mexican food. In every plate you could taste fresh ingredients. The rice was fluffy and loose the chicken was shredded white meat, the fajitas were flavorful , and the refried beans were the only thing I could have lived without. They were good, but everything else was great.
There are shops at La Quinta with great resort wear, there’s also a Ralph Lauren as well as a Tommy Bahama. I found a few cute things but I was able to resist. My son found the toys irresistible and we dropped a few dollars there.
We all played a little tennis. My husband hit balls with the kids on center court, which was an absolute highlight for them. Also, the pros were able to set up a very competitive match for my husband. I know that’s the luck of the draw but frankly it’s the first time we’d been lucky with that in a number of years.
As an FYI this is the first time I’ve taken Junior to a hotel and I think I’d like to do it more often. Dogs stay at La Quinta for $50 a visit, not a day, but for a visit. This saved me a bundle with the dog-sitting fees, and frankly Junior likes a fluffy bed.
Disclosure: La Quinta provided my family with two rooms for two nights, and they picked up the tab for part of our dinner at Adobe Grill. I paid for Junior’s visit and an obscene amount of room service. Apparently laying around a pool makes you hungry.