Weekend trip: Luxury in the desert at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage
“It wasn’t exactly the Ritz,” people sometimes quip about a less-than-stellar hotel stay. Well, this time, I can say, yes, it was.
We were in a celebratory mood last summer when we decided to ditch our usual midrange hotels for luxe digs in the desert. The Ritz-Carlton fit the bill: the high life high on a hill on Frank Sinatra Drive in Rancho Mirage, redesigned and reopened in 2014 after a multimillion-dollar renovation.
Our adult son joined my husband and me, and our main activity was hanging around the pools in the daytime and the fire pits in the evening. We also ventured down the hill to enjoy meals in the greater Palm Springs area.
The tab: We paid about $650 for two nights (plus about $150 for parking and resort fees) and $450 for food and drink. Note: Room rates vary by season; summer is lowest.
We got lucky at check-in and scored an upgrade to a suite as longtime members of the hotel’s rewards program. At 850 square feet, our suite’s two rooms had twice the space of a regular room — and two bathrooms. My son enjoyed having his own room with a pullout sofa, desk and TV. The decor — understated yet ritzy — was a soothing neutral palette with pops of color, and the master bedroom had an oversize tile bathroom with a cavernous open shower and deep soaking tub. Our ground-floor suite, with two patio seating areas, opened to a desert landscape featuring manicured trees, cactus and plants and was close to the resort’s two swimming pools.
We stopped for lunch at the always crowded Sherman’s Deli & Bakery in Palm Springs and wolfed down the quintessential corned beef and pastrami sandwiches. The sandwiches were piled high and the real deal, as TV host Guy Fieri, who visited Sherman’s Palm Desert location, might say. A late dinner at the stylish Tropicale Restaurant & Coral Seas Lounge in Palm Springs was eclectic and satisfying: a pupu platter (coconut shrimp, chicken satay, beef skewers, spring rolls and ribs), a grilled Yucatán chicken sausage pizza, and Southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and country gravy. The dining room has a classic supper-club vibe, so we chose a retro booth; the patio had a buzzy party atmosphere. Back at the Ritz, we had lunch our last day at its more casual venue, State Fare Bar & Kitchen. A trio of sandwiches — a club, a brisket and a burger — were standard fare in a pretty setting.
Go take a hike. No, seriously, it’s a treat to wander a desert trail, especially in the morning. In keeping with the weekend’s lazy pace, we stuck to a pair of easy-to-moderate hikes on Chuckwalla Trail and Roadrunner Trail, each near the hotel. Check to see if the hotel is offering guided hikes; if you go on your own, ask for a hiking map and bottled water. It can get toasty even in winter.
THE LESSON LEARNED
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Be on the lookout for freebies, even in an upscale resort: A glass of Champagne offered at check-in, free morning coffee in the lobby. If available, bookend your day with a complimentary fitness class in the morning and a nighttime stargazing event. But the sweetest treat for us was the evening Candy Bar in the hotel lobby with glass beakers filled with candy to choose from (M&Ms, Reese’s, Snickers, Tootsie Rolls, Skittles).
Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, 68900 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage; (760) 321-8282. Wheelchair accessible.
Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, 401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; (760) 325-1199. Wheelchair accessible.
Tropicale Restaurant & Coral Seas Lounge, 330 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; (760) 866-1952. Wheelchair accessible.
State Fare Bar & Kitchen, 68900 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage; (760) 321-8282