Twentynine Palms is an anomaly. You have to crave a whole lotta “nothing” to choose to drive three hours to a hot, dry, dusty and seemingly inelegant place. OK, now that the SNOB is out of me… time to GUSH about this tiny, peaceful, clean, spiritual space.
Twentynine Palms is a getaway destination. It’s the desert. It’s dry. It’s natural. It’s uncrowded. It’s also funky and artsy, a little enclave with giant outdoor art installations and dozens of quality painted murals everywhere.
Growing up in LA, I’d heard of Twentynine Palms, somewhere around the Palms Springs zone. “There’s a Marine base there, right?” And I knew Joshua Tree National Park was in the vicinity. That was pretty much it until I attended the Los Angeles Travel Show and chatted with Vickie Waite, Tourism Marketing Specialist for the City of Twentynine Palms. She spun a compelling story, and urged me to toss my business card into a drawing. A few days later, mine was the winner of a stay at the 29 Palms Inn. YEA! Packed Larry (“We’re going WHERE?”) into the car and headed on an easy road trip that opened my eyes. LOVED IT.
A funny place that appears tailor made for hippies, Twentynine Palms is in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. As a good start, it possesses one of the gates into the Joshua Tree National Park. Rock climbing. Hiking. Star gazing. More rocks. MANY more rocks. Blue skies. Wide vistas. A million yucca and Joshua trees. Plenty of 60’s songs sang about going to the desert to do drugs, and it is clear why. I’ll leave it at that.
There are campgrounds in the park, nestled among boulders, with unobstructed views of the sky. Larry and I are not that hearty and were glad to have our adobe bungalow at the 29 Palms Inn during… by coincidence… the full eclipse of the Blood Orange moon! That evening, we dozed off but wisely set an alarm for 10:30 PM so we could move outdoors to lay on lounge chairs under blankets and watch the entire eclipse. The moon slowly disappeared, the sky got darker and the stars brighter. Once fully shadowed, it glowed a big, mellow Blood Orange moon. The Eagle’s “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” song played in my head practically our entire stay, “I want to sleep with you in the dehhhh-zurt tonight, with a million stars all around.”
TO STAY: 29 Palms Inn – I’m NOT saying this because of the complimentary nights. Having looked around the little town, unless you want to camp in the Park, this really IS the coolest place. There are adobe bungalows, framed cabins and a handful of guest houses. Some have kitchens. We stayed in a pink adobe named “Encelia” facing a mountain; it stayed cool during the day, warm at night with walls so thick, only the sound of a chirping quail seemed to penetrate (weird, huh?). The Inn’s swimming pool is crystal clear and a pleasant temperature. The organic vegetable garden feeds the restaurant. The natural oasis is just kinda interesting (you won’t want to get wet there, and I brought bug repellant just in case). The roads throughout the property are sand. And here and there are whacky things like a rusting truck and a pumpkin carriage. Depending on season and room, rates are $75. a night up to $350., but holiday rates are higher.
TO EAT: Dinner at the 29 Palms Inn was exactly what recent Yelp reviews proclaimed: best food in town. And the reviews also spoke the truth about its popularity – jammed with hungry patrons, so be prepared! For a modest $10 corkage fee, Larry packed some fine wines from home which brought our dinner tab of fabulous steak salad, spinach salad, pizza and tip to $68 (we also scarfed down two baskets of famous homemade sourdough bread). Rooms at the Inn come with breakfast in the restaurant or poolside, LOVE THAT– hot oatmeal, their renowned breads (the sourdough mother is over 200 years old, they say), hard cooked eggs, fruit, juice, coffee.
Lunch at the Natural Sisters Café in Joshua Tree (15 mile drive) was spot-on perfect to rekindle my inner hippie. Chewy grain bread, avocado, good mayo, sprouts, Jack cheese — my FAV sandwich of college days. A cup of vegetarian bean soup, and a little shot of fresh applesauce, perfect.
TO SHOP: the Cowboy Attic. Come here in the mood for used cowboy boots and you won’t be disappointed. I was THIS CLOSE to buying a pair of Lucchese boots ($150) “just because,” but talked myself out of them knowing that was TOO cowgirl for me. There’s vintage Western clothing, hats, belts, jewelry, yard art, collectibles. Two pug dogs help owner Robin charm shoppers.
TO SIGHTSEE: Joshua Tree National Park, duh. My photos cannot capture the vastness, so please just notice the clear air and rocks, rocks and rocks. If you are at all a camper, do it here. Stunning.
TO PAMPER: Naturalives Day Spa delivered one of the BEST massages Larry has ever, ever, ever had. Me? My facial left my skin smooooooth and purdy. The day spa is a small, square cinderblock building right off the main street. The prices are excellent.
TO GAMBLE: there is a small Indian casino, brand new and already reeking of cigarettes. If you are itching to gamble, you can do it at the Tortoise Rock Casino in Twentynine Palms or hit the large Morongo Casino on your way back to LA. We only spent 15 minutes in the Tortoise Rock cuz of the stench. With maybe two dozen gamblers in there total, and only a few smoking, this confirmed my suspicion that all casinos pump cigarette smoke IN.
29 Palms Inn – 73950 Inn Avenue, 29 Palms, CA 92277, 760-367-3505 www.29palmsinn.com
Naturalives Day Spa – 6530 Split Rock Ave., 29 Palms, 92277, 760-865-0901 www.naturalives.com
Cowboy Attic – 5686 Plaza Rd, 29 Palms, CA 92277, (760) 367-7437, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm www.cowboyattic.com
Natural Sisters Café – 61695 Twentynine Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, (760) 366-3600
DISCLAIMER: while our two nights’ stay at the 29 Palm Inn were complimentary, the opinions and photos herein are my own.