We decided to have a little weekend getaway in July and my 14 year old picked Palm Springs of all places. The Coachella Valley had highs of 105 to 110 predicted for the weekend but when the kid who has few requests makes one I do my best to honor them. Plus I love the heat.
As is always the case when I’m looking for a resort vacation I started with American Express and their Fine Hotels and Resorts program. I zeroed in on the Ritz Carlton in no time. I had been there about 10 years ago, which was before their remodel and I remember thinking that the location was outstanding but the place was a dump. Well, after being closed for half a dozen years and undergoing a major remodel I’m here to tell you that the Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage is a fantastic resort. Celebrities agree, we spotted Ryan Seacrest in the gym Saturday afternoon.
When you arrive at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage the valet and bellmen will coordinate to begin your holiday. There is no self parking and that often irritates me because I don’t love valets, I don’t love having my seat moved and my radio changed, I don’t like their colognes and I don’t mind walking. The valet attendants at this resort are odorless, respectful and don’t touch a dial on your vehicle. Additionally the desert gets so hot that having someone else get your air conditioning started is a treat that can’t quite be matched in other locales.
Reception will greet you with champagne. Take it. Enjoy it. If you turn your head to the right you’ll see a candy bar. Forget calorie counts, gluten free nonsense and self restraint. You’re on vacation. Have a piece of sticky gooey candy and chase it down with bubbly.
If you golf or play tennis like we do be sure to contact the resort in advance & they’ll help arrange games or lessons for you at a nearby country club. I was able to play doubles each morning and my husband had a great tennis workout on grass. Most importantly I didn’t have to arrange a thing, this guy did it all.
This is Bruce. He is the concierge and as such he is the man in charge of the fun. You’ll find him arranging tennis, golf and dining for guests like me and hanging out next to the candy bar… where I pretended it was for the kids. Like everyone who we dealt with at the Ritz this weekend Bruce was warm and friendly. Every luxury resort has it’s own personality and the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage makes you feel like you’re at home. A very very fancy home. #travel #RCMemories
We settled in to our rooms and the kids rumbled around the resort while I headed for the gym and then the pool.
Our first dinner was at Mastro’s Steakhouse. It’s about a 10 minute drive from the resort over on El Paseo in Palm Desert which features world class shopping but shuts down very early. The desert is for early birds. The service at Mastros is perfection as is the food but the hostesses will put you in Siberia in the absence of a hefty tip. I often feel extorted by this and it was the only disappointment of the day. The only thing worse than Siberia (the room to the right of and behind the bar) would be tables next to the band – which was enthusiastic and lively.
Sunday brunch at the Ritz is great. It’s a huge spread without a huge pricetag and very convenient if you just want to sit yourself down to eat without standing on ceremony. The kids wanted room service which was our only disappointment. It took an hour to get their pancakes. The second morning we pre-ordered the night before and breakfast was delivered right on time. The kids were in heaven.
We only had one full day in the desert and we spent it heading up to the stop of the San Jacinto mountains on the aerial tramway. We had our son along with his friend and I hadn’t even thought to ask if anyone was afraid of heights. We had some nervousness but no outright fears. If I had to do this over again I’d pack a large picnic and a blanket. I’d bring a book and I’d plan to spend several hours just relaxing in the mountains. The tram is great fun. It’s a 10 minute ride that takes you from an elevation of 2,643 feet to the Mountain Station at an elevation of 8,516 feet. In the summertime it’s an average of 30 degrees cooler making it feel like springtime.
Off season travel can be excellent.
After hanging out in the mountains it was back to the resort for some pool time. The pool attendants are some of the finest I’ve ever experienced. We had drinks, water, menus, towels and sunscreen delivered quickly and happily. The kids were treated like stars (sadly I’ve noticed that not everyone treats my teens well when I’m not looking) and the prices were not unreasonable.
We tried our second dinner at the Mikado which is a Benihana style place inside the JW Marriott in Palm Springs. It was not good. It wasn’t terrible and the food was good as was our chef but the staff is just not trained and the place is dilapidated. The best examples are that they continuously cleared our plates before we’d eaten our food and that chairs were being dragged across tile floors rather than lifted so you’d have this cacophony occurring every time the staff came to set up a table. I don’t mean dragged by inches either – room to room. It was weird.
If you stay at the Ritz see if you can get a room with a fire pit. It’s an sturdy enough building that you won’t have noise from the floor above you and the patio is a lovely place to hang out.Prior to booking this weekend away I’d debated getting rid of my Platinum American Express Card. There’s a $450 annual fee that I wasn’t sure was providing value. Between the AMEX app which alerts me to local deals and two nights at a Ritz Carlton it’s more than paid for itself. Here’s the breakdown.
- Free noon check in
- Free 4pm check out
- $100 resort credit per room (that came in handy when I forgot to pack a bikini and shoes)
- Free breakfasts. Two per room at $35 each ($140 total)
Even without the card this was a fantastic option for a quick family getaway. It’s small enough and exclusive enough that you’d be very happy there without kids too. An adult pool was available to us but I never made use of it. I’m just not that grown up.