The desert communities that have blossomed around Palm Springs, California, boast intimate bungalow colonies and big flop and drop resorts, so if you’re unsure what your family is looking for, you’ve come to the right place. To explore outside the resorts, a car is definitely in order for those with older children, who will long to try out the Oasis Water Park, nearby tennis facilities, ghost town in Yermo, Rancho Mirage children’s museum and the Algodones Sand Dunes. Here are some ideas for big and little family-friendly resorts — all gay friendly, some pet friendly — with Kid’s Clubs, water slides, golf courses and more in the area.
Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa
41-000 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, California 92270-4497
We like the split personality of this large resort recently taken over by the family-friendly Omni chain. It’s big for families with a 100-foot-long waterslide manned by lifeguards, plus a lazy river and sandy beach in the Splashtopia fun zone. The brand-wide Sensational Kids programs guarantees a welcome gift, turndown with milk and cookies, and seasonal perks for kids, too. On the other hand, there are 20 tennis courts and 27 holes of golf — with instruction for all ages — hiking, yoga, manmade lakes, an adults-only Azure Pool with plush daybeds at the water’s edge, and a variety of fine dining options. Built in the 1950’s as the Desert Air Hotel & Resort on 320 acres of land next to an air strip, this property became the locale for the popular “Bob Cummings Show,” then a favorite of Bob Hope and Roy Rogers, before being redeveloped as the Rancho las Palmas community in the late 70s. Today Hollywood families flock here in the value summer season to escape LA humidity and park themselves in the many swimming pools.
Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa
71333 Dinah Shore Drive
Rancho Mirage, California 92270
The 360-acre Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa is also located out in the desert, near Palm Springs (a longer drive from downtown San Diego.) It offers three swimming pools and a really fun 60-foot waterslide, two golf courses (juniors play and get clubs free after 3pm daily with paying adult) and lighted outdoor tennis courts (advanced clinics for ages 6-18). All kid-oriented rooms are equipped with the latest in video games, HBO and the Disney Channel as well as WiFi. While arts n’crafts, movies and use of the Kids Fun Cabana is free on weekends, supervised activities such as Build-a-Bear, pottery making, and sand art carry a nominal fee for supplies. The Westin Kids Club Discovery Room for ages 4-12, available for a fee, features crafts, basketball, nature walks and counselor-led golf and tennis lessons. For $30 per child, you can check them in for the evening and enjoy one of the resort’s many restaurants. Adults can also enjoy all these sports, plus bike rentals and use of the up-to-date fitness center and spa. In the low-season (summer), the Family Plan includes rooms sleeping up to two adults and two children (they’re spacious with two queen “Heavenly Beds,” stocked fridge and minibar), free dining for kids under 12 from the children’s menus and free tennis each afternoon. Rates vary considerably with last minute online specials.
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa
44600 Indian Wells Lane
Indian Wells, California 92210
At the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains on a neatly landscaped 45-acre spread near Palm Desert, the contemporary Hyatt is a popular location for conventions and weddings. The large scale meeting and entertainment facilities; variety of lodging (including double rooms, individual garden view villas and Regency Club levels where guests pay a premium for complimentary continental breakfast, hors d’oeuvres and snacks in a private lounge); also make it suited to family reunions. Family facilities include a landscaped pool garden with seven free-form pools, a 60-foot spiral water slide, toddler-size wading pool, and a huge splash fountain. There are several shops,restaurants, a fitness center, Indian Wells’ two championship golf courses and 12 tennis courts. The Agua Serena Spa, with its section that focuses on health issues and its unusual Vino & Vinyasa Classes (yoga and wine samplings) and Stretch & Scotch Workshops (exercise for men with Scotch and cigar tastings) is another attraction for adults, who have their own Oasis sun and pool areas. The well-run Camp Hyatt children’s program (kids 3-12 only) operates daily from 9am-4pm, focusing on the local environment and culture of the Coachella Valley. Movie evenings are held on weekend nights. Private, in-room babysitting by local, long-standing caregivers is also available. Rates are steep in the high season, but Hyatt’s family plan, allowing parents to book an adjoining room for kids at half the prevailing rate, is in effect year-round and there are many different special deals in summer.
Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa
74-855 Country Club Drive
Palm Desert, California 92260
An FTF member brought this bustling 450-acre Palm Desert resort to our attention because his friends and their extended family adored it. There’s a gondola system for transportation and tours; myriad water fountains; tennis lessons and play on 20 courts; two Ted robinson designed golf courses; six restaurants and a Starbucks; the Spa at Desert Springs; four pools including a children’s area; lawn croquet; bicycle rentals; and basketball courts. Not historic, not intimate, not familial, this is a 884-room business and convention hotel with enough bells n’ whistles and fountains n’ waterplay to amuse even sullen teens. If they love it, you can purchase one of the units in the next door condo towers. The year-round Kid’s Club (ages 4-12, 9am-5pm) is popular with kids and golfer parents who want to catch 18 holes. Call for information on frequent seasonal packages (the neat summer Family Fun package provides a room sleeping up to five, free pizza room service and in-room movies nightly, and free property-wide sodas for all kids under 17), plus holiday events for families.
For more hotel and attractions information, drop by the Palm Springs Visitors Center at 2901 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262; call them at 800/347-7746 or 760/778-8418 or go online to Visit Palm Springs.
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