Palm Springs, California | A Guide

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Well, hey there! How are you? I’m doing just fine, chilling here back home in the South.

I’m back from a vacation my Mom and I took to Palm Springs, California. We were out there for Planners Rock, hosted by The West Coast Planners. We decided to make a week of it and enjoy one of our favorite parts of the Golden State.

This was my third time to visit Palm Springs. As such, I’ve accumulated some favorite places that I’ve visited with my family over the years. I like to think I’ve gathered quite a few since the first time I visited Palm Springs three years ago.

So, here are some food and things to do that I love out in what I think is the happiest place in the desert.


King’s Highway - Located at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, King’s Highway used to be a Denny’s, but after getting the “Ace” treatment, it’s an awesome retro diner with the coolest 60s-70s aesthetic. The food here is phenomenal anytime during the day, but my personal favorite is breakfast. I loved the breakfast burrito (with copious amounts of chorizo), and their yogurt and granola. Honorable mention: their chicken caesar salad with extra avocado.

Norma’s - Go get brunch at Norma’s at least once. Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs (which is worth a visit to the hotel itself for its amazing interior decor designed by Jonathan Adler) is a sibling to the Norma’s in New York, just with different offerings, like their donuts. Speaking of their donuts, you need to try them, too. They’re my favorite thing to get there (I mean, who doesn’t like brown sugar donut holes you can dip in lemon curd and blueberry jam to your heart’s content?). But I’m sure you will find something you like here. 

Cheeky’s - Mom was recommended this place by a friend of hers. and boy howdy, it did not disappoint. They had an awesome selection of brunch offerings, too. I went with their Chilequiles - breakfast nachos - and they were the most beautiful chilaquiles I’d ever had. Of course they tasted awesome. Mom's Huevos Rancheros looked incredible, too, and she definitely enjoyed hers. This place is fun for breakfast, lunch, or late brunch out.

Manhattan in the Desert - A longtime favorite of my family’s, Manhattan in the Desert is a New York-style delicatessen serving sandwiches, soups, and everything else in between. I like their Lox (Smoked Salmon) bagels a whole lot.

Elmer’s - If you want a classic diner with the comforts of home-, almost Southern-style cooking, this is a great place, too. I got biscuits and gravy, because, hey, I’m a Southern gal. I crave things like that sometimes no matter where I am in the world.


The Aerial Tramway - Mom, Dad, and I did this last year during our last visit, and we loved it a lot. It’s a neat getaway from the city. Just remember to pack a sweater, because there is snow. And it’s a mountain, so you’re going to get that chill. Take pictures of the views!

Cabazon Dinosaurs!! - This is hands-down my favorite attraction in the Palm Springs area. Head west to Cabazon and visit the dinosaur exhibit out there. You can pay for a tour (which we still have not done yet, but I’d like to someday), or (my favorite), take quick photos with the giant T-Rex (named Mr. Rex) and the Brontosaurus (named Dinny, or as I call him, Littlefoot). It’s just a cool and weird thing on an interstate exit and I love it so much.

Salvation Mountain - I wrote a longer post on this that you can check out here. It’s a mountain handmade and hand-painted by a local artist that’s neat to see.

Joshua Tree - If you haven’t been to this national park, you need to go. Just drive east from Palm Springs - which, by the way, is an awesome drive that’s worth making in itself through Morongo and Yucca Valley and into Joshua Tree itself - and visit the national park while you’re in town. Also, if you have extra time, try Pioneer Town just a few roads away, a fun recreation of an old West cowboy town.

I hope you enjoyed this little guide I put together of one of my favorite places ever. Thanks for reading!

A Trip to Salvation Mountain

Friday, February 9, 2018

Salvation Mountain…oh, where do I start with you? (You know it’s going to be a ride when I start a blog post this way.)

It all started while I was scouring places on Pinterest to visit on my and my mom’s trip to Palm Springs that we took last week. We decided to try some new things this trip, so I mentioned one of my finds: Salvation Mountain. She thought the pictures looked cool, so we decided to make a day trip of it.

Here is my honest look and thoughts on my visit to Salvation Mountain.

Some Background

Salvation Mountain was a passion project by Leonard Knight, a man who wanted to spread the message of God’s love. He did so in such a unique way: he layered piles of trash with Adobe clay and countless gallons of latex paint, and after decades, Salvation Mountain was born. He absolutely covered his mountain with Bible verses and various sentiments about love itself; most repeatedly, “God is love.” If there was one thing he wanted you to take away from this experience, it was those three words.

Leonard Knight lived in a truck on the plot of land he built Salvation Mountain on (shown above), up until his passing in 2014. Now, the land is owned by the state of California, and it’s staffed by locals from dawn until dusk.

Also, it’s one of many filming locations in Kesha’s music video for her song “Praying.” (You can clearly see the mountain around the 2:56 mark.)

The Mountain

The mountain itself is a work of art. It’s almost Wonderland-like with all its mismatched colors, and Dr. Seuss-like with all its winding corridors and bright, twisting branches jutting in various parts of its caverns. And even the caverns had hidden messages and verses. You can walk on top of it - provided to “stay on the yellow brick road,” as various signs around the mountain direct you - but I would only do so if you have shoes with significant grip. (Mom and I didn’t, so we didn’t risk it, as there are no rails.)

When you look at this mountain as a work of art, almost like a museum piece by a man who dedicated his life to sharing what he was passionate about with others, you really get a sense of how much he loved God and how much he wanted others to know that He is love.

To be honest, it really made me think about how I presented myself as a Christian. Though this mountain isn't meant to be a sermon by any means, knowing that God loves us is always a good lesson to take away from anything. At the end of the day, I want to share Christ’s love with others, and I want to do so with the talents He gave me.

The Surrounding Area

If you sensed any chagrin or hesitation at the beginning of this post, this is the reason why.

As I was driving my Mom and I down California’s I-10, and farther and farther away from the city, we got an increasing sense of how alone we were in the desert. I get that its the desert, but it was unsettling how dead everything became.

Salvation Mountain is located near Niland, CA, just forty minutes away from the border to Mexico. While I’m all for exploring new places, I was very, very glad I was with someone. Long story short, it’s an unsafe area, especially at night, and especially alone. We kept describing it as “post-apocalyptic” and “Mad Max,” and not in a good way. 

Near Salvation Mountain is a community of drifters and those who choose a true off-the-grid lifestyle called “Slab City.” It’s a community of shanties and scrap metal that’s something out of a zombie movie. But this is real life. Honestly, it was saddening to see how people lived out there, in all that dust, surrounded by dilapidated buildings and closed down groceries. You couldn’t even get gas out there, unless you were willing to drive an hour away.

But, you know what? They need God’s love, too. So, looking back after being out there, maybe it was a good thing that they lived so near something so positive.

I just added these thoughts for safety reasons. God loves everyone no matter their station in life.

Final Thoughts

This is even more honest icing on this figurative truth cake, but I think this is the first time that I’ve ever been hesitant about recommending a place to you.

On one hand, it was cool to walk through. It was fun to know that I walked through some of the parts of the mountain Kesha walked through, and, hey, it’s about God and His love for us. If I can’t get behind that, I don’t know what else.

But the area is not for solo travelers. At all. Go in a group during the day. And I would not just go to this area just to visit Salvation Mountain. I know it’s about an hour and a half from Palm Springs, and it’s a few hours from Los Angeles. Wait until you’re less than two hours away to visit. It’s too long of a drive for artwork that takes forty-five minutes tops to visit.

But, if you want to take a quick trip to see a work of art with an uplifting message, it’s cool to see once.