On the Scene: Winter Vacation in Palm Springs

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When the San Francisco Bay Area winds were blowing wildly, bringing freezing temps in December, I decided it was time to spend the winter holidays in warm Palm Springs with my Wong family.  We were not disappointed when clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid 70s greeted us.  The Coachella Valley is a wonderful place to visit in the winter, as the nation’s snowbirds have discovered, leaving blustery east coast and Midwest storms for the calm, laid-back life there, bragged Joyce Kiehl, Media Relations Manager for the Greater Palm Springs Coachella Valley Bureau and Hillary Angel of the Palm Springs Bureau of TourismAs I basked in the sun speaking with them, I heartily agreed and took in their their many suggested activities and sightseeing adventures for a family to experience during the holidays. 

Joyce Kiehl, Media Relations Manager for the Greater Palm Springs Coachella Valley Bureau welcomes the Wong family visitors.

Joyce Kiehl, Media Relations Manager for the Greater Palm Springs Coachella Valley Bureau welcomes the Wong family visitors.

We got into the holiday spirit immediately by going to the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs to catch their headline show, The Edge’s Rockin’ The Holidays with a happy capacity crowd in the Woodstock Room. With a glittering production of the season’s favorites, the 12-person cast spread a winter wonderland of world-class singing and dancing with an electric live band. They had everyone singing and clapping with them as they danced through the audience with a show whimsical in sound and scene with equal parts rock and holiday magic. Thanks Ryan Porter for recommending this fine show for family fun.

Kelly, Melissa and Justin Matsuura enjoy holiday music at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs show The Edge’s Rockin’ The Holidays

Kelly, Melissa and Justin Matsuura enjoy holiday music at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs show The Edge’s Rockin’ The Holidays

Another nighttime adventure for us was seeing the Wildlights at The Living Desert, one of Coachella Valley’s most adored and sparkling holiday traditions for young and old alike. All of the animals are asleep, but the park is lit up with almost a million twinkling lights, visits with Santa Claus, Wildlife Wonder shows, camel and carousel rides, and the popular Tunnel of Lights was fun to walk through with music synchronized with the twinkling lights.  Newly appointed Public Relations Director Rebecca Brown was visibly excited to tell us about all of the activities of the Living Desert, explaining that it is an AZA-accredited zoo and gardens dedicated to conservation and education; it is a family friendly place to explore nature and create memorable experiences for visitors to remember for a lifetime agreed nature lovers son Michael and grandson Braden Wong.  Be sure to visit here if you have any interest in nature and animals of the desert. www.livingdesert.org; Location is at 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert, CA. 

 Public Relations Director Rebecca Brown greets visitors to Wildlights at the Living Desert outdoor museum park.

Public Relations Director Rebecca Brown greets visitors to Wildlights at the Living Desert outdoor museum park.

Because my family is always nature-oriented, we went on a Desert Adventures San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour, the company’s most popular tour, according to Kim Nilsson, owner of this very popular tour company. With seven to a jeep, and wonderful guides Morgan and Phil, our group learned that jeeps are used because many of the most pristine locations are “off the beaten track” and is only accessible with 4WD vehicle. As Kim explained to our group, ages 83 to 17, “we always adapt the tour to the abilities of the guests in the jeep with the only requirement that they be able to get in and out of the jeep. I even had one gentleman celebrate his 104th birthday with us on our tours which teach guests all about the desert from the plants and animals to geology, history, Indian culture, agriculture and much more.”  As 25 year tour guide veteran, Morgan explained, “It is my goal that my guests leave with a new appreciation and love of the desert after I tell them about the lives of the Indians who once lived here, and lead them to climb among the large boulders left by an earthquake thousands of years before.”  My family was thoroughly impressed with the knowledge of the guides as they told story after story during our three hour trek with nature and history of the area.  I would call these tours an ”edutainment experience” not only educational but truly entertaining to all ages. Ecology-minded grandson Garrett Wong and Melissa Matsuura agreed Desert Adventures Company, a family-owned company, truly brought the wonder of nature to our senses, memories not easily forgotten.

living desert museum

Michael Wong, Todd Matsuura, Braden Wong and Kelly Matsuura examine the Living Desert’s exhibits of wildlife history in Coachella Valley.

Smack in the center of downtown Palm Springs, the Spa Resort Casino is a very popular place for those seeking refuge from the busy activities Palm Springs has to offer visitors – from bowling to shopping, from golfing to dining.  Its signature experience is the “Taking of the Waters” where relaxing therapy combines with their steam room infused with eucalyptus aroma oil, sauna and an inhalation room infused with menthol and the power of their own mineral waters to help remove toxins, increase circulation and reduce muscle tension.  After walking the College of the Desert’s famed weekend flea market, the spa massage provided the perfect antidote for aching feet and sore back with well-trained and  accomplished therapists and masseuses. 

Desert Adventure Tours leaders Phil and Morgan take the Wong family on a jeep eco tour of San Andreas Fault area.

Desert Adventure Tours leaders Phil and Morgan take the Wong family on a jeep eco tour of San Andreas Fault area.

Golf is definitely one of the most popular attributes Coachella Valley has that attracts fans from all over the world. The Indian Canyons Golf Resort, a jewel of Palm Springs since the 1960s, was the favorite haunt of Hollywood celebrities Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra and President Ronald Reagan.  Set on 550 acres of Native American tribal property, the South course we played is home to four ball-eating ponds and 850 ball-attracting palm trees. In neighboring Palm Desert, we experienced Troon Golf at Classic Club, listed in Golfweek’s 2010 “Best Courses You can Play”. The site of the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, this nationally recognized championship course provides a true world-class golf experience, as designed by Arnold Palmer with its rolling terrain, 14 bridges and 30 acres of water features.  With five sets of tees on each hole, Classic Club Golf Course can be enjoyed by all levels of players. Our family, from college student grandsons Justin and Todd Matsuura to aging grandparents Calvin and myself enjoyed trying our best to hit the ball, but most importantly, we had a ball playing here.

The Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs welcomes weary travelers to its many personal care services.

The Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs welcomes weary travelers to its many personal care services.

BACK TO THE HOME SCENE

Visitors to San Francisco are always attracted to the over 40-year-old stage phenonoma BEACH BLANKET BABYLON and the boisterous full-house audience at the matinee we attended attests to its continued popularity. Special weekend matinees are set up for the below-21 set, so we brought our family of five grandkids to introduce them to this San Francisco showtime icon.   Its fast-paced campy songs and hilarious changes of scenes, clothes and music kept us smiling for 90 minutes of good hearted fun.  Where else can you see Obama, Hillary, Beyonce, dancing Peanuts and French poodles with so many other look-alikes, and a sky high growing Christmas tree hat and rising Transamerica Building San Francisco chapeaux before your eyes on stage?  As Publicist Charly Zukow put it once, this is a San Francisco jewel that all ages can relate to and enjoy.

Mark your calendars for January 26 to open up the new year of the horse at the Spring Festival Silicon Valley Gala, set at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts theater, and presented by the California Performing Arts Association. The colorful vibrant show will bring alive the magical “MASK CHANGE.” Highlight of the show will be the world premiere of “The Chinese Emperor and the Nightingale,” a multi media multi-discipline new work that can only happen in Silicon Valley where cultural diversity is the inspiration of innovation in this region.  Guaranteed to entertain all, the show will feature magic, acrobatics, Kung Fu, ballet and world ethnic music and dance. Kudos to Director Ann Woo whose vision for over 30 years has been to bring attention to the rich cultural history of Chinese music and dance.   Ticket info: (408) 973-8276.

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