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    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel

    Tasty Tucson – Our Favorite Dining Spots

    As we travel during the PanDamit we eat out only sparingly…keeping our distance and always dining outdoors. We also often prefer to cook in our Airbnb, to stay on budget and feel relaxed. All that said, dining out is a big part of travel, and during our visit to Tucson we discovered some delicious local options. So here is our recommendations… Tasty Tucson – Our Favorite Dining Spots.

    El Charro

    El Charro
    El Charro

    If you come to Tucson this is a must. The ninety-nine year old restaurant is a Tucson institution and the place to experience authentic southwest cuisine from tamales to tacos to chili relleno. We enjoyed the back patio and our food was delicious, despite the fact our waiter didn’t seem to know how to properly wear his mask. El Charro

    Cup Cafe

    Cup Cafe
    Cup Cafe

    We heard so much about this place we had to check it out, if not for the food for the history of the place. The Cup Cafe is a popular restaurant and bar (serving breakfast all day) at the historic Congress Hotel right in downtown Tucson…close to everything. Make reservations if you can, we did and had a no wait table on the patio where we enjoyed great food, excellent service and live music. Order the ribs with green chili macaroni and cheese. Yum. Cup Cafe

    Barrio Brew Pub

    Barrio Brewing
    Barrio Brewing

    The beer was great, and we also enjoyed a lovely salad and tortilla soup, opting for a light lunch in this restaurant/brewery located in an old warehouse. Though we didn’t eat the burgers or sandwiches, everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked incredible. Barrio Brewing Co


    On our last night in Tucson we drove to the far end of town from where we were staying because we had heard so much about this place. And it is totally worth it. We made a reservation so we could sit outside and the outdoor area was lovely and guests were spread apart. Wildflower does not have a huge menu, but I actually prefer that. The menu is seasonal and well thought out.


    We started with a beautiful hamachi appetizer. Followed by a delicious Kale Salad. For our entries I had an outstanding roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and Arne loved his slow braised short ribs with arugula. A bonus was we happened to be there on half price bottle of wine night (Tuesday) so of course we drank wine.

    Best meal we had in Tucson and the service was exceptional. Don’t miss it. Wildflower.

    Sonoran Hot Dogs

    Well, even though I am not a hot dog eater usually, we couldn’t come to Tucson and not experience this local favorite. So we set out to test several different Sonoran Hot Dogs and here is what we found.

    Quench Your Thirst

    Moto Sonora
    Borderlands Brewing

    In addition to the Barrio Brewing Co above we enjoyed the beer at Borderlands Brewing right in downtown Tucson and another beer on the sunny outdoor patio at MotoSonora. We wanted to visit the Owls Club, a funky old bar in a former mortuary in downtown Tucson. It’s a favorite of locals and visitors a like but it wasn’t open when we arrived…next time.

    Tasty Tucson

    Tasty Tucson – our favorite dining spots. Come to Tucson hungry. Come to Tucson thirsty. Come to Tucson. We are so glad we did.

    See last week’s post Nine Things to do in Tucson Arizona.

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    Nine Things to do in Tucson Arizona

    Location: Tucson Arizona

    We spent two fabulous weeks exploring and getting to know the high desert area of Tucson Arizona. It was unexpected. I loved pretty much everything about it and I will definitely come back next winter. In fact, I really think I could spend several months a year in this lovely town, surrounded by nature. Here are the things I loved the most, the nine things to do in Tucson Arizona.

    Organ Pipe Cactus

    Saguaro National Park

    Saguaro National Park
    Saguaro National Park

    You must spend time in this remarkable place. It is not the biggest national park, or the most diverse, but it is indeed a gem. Saguaro National Park offers hikes for people of all capacities from nature walks (wheelchair accessible) to multi-day excursions. We enjoyed all of the hikes we did, short and long, and especially the unique desert plants. Saguaro National Park.

    Sabino Canyon National Forest

    Sabino Canyon
    Sabino Canyon

    This is where we enjoyed my favorite hike during our visit, called Phone Line Trail. We hiked more than nine miles on this trail, that cuts across the side of a mountain with spectacular views. But you don’t need to be able to hike that distance to enjoy Sabino Canyon. A National Forest Service tram provides transportation into the canyon. You can walk a portion of the canyon, and then catch the tram at your leisure. Sabino Canyon.

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    I always love learning about the local flora and fauna and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is one of the finest of this kind of museum I have ever seen. Acres of desert flora are marked with interpretive and interactive signage. Indoor exhibits of reptiles, birds, and a replica of an underground cave give visitors a up close look at desert life. The museum also is home to a mountain lion, bear, wolves and javelina. Don’t miss this wonderful place. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Tucson Botanical Garden

    Tucson Botanical Gardens
    Tucson Botanical Gardens

    This historic site was once home to the Porter Family, a leading Tucson family in the landscaping business. The property has been home to the Tucson Botanical Garden since 1974. Beautiful gardens offer a wonderful look at desert plants from aloe to cactus including an herb garden, butterfly garden and pollinator garden. Definitely worth a visit. Tucson Botanical Garden

    The Barrio Viejo

    Barrio Viejo
    Barrio Viejo

    This historic neighborhood was once home to to Tucson’s working class, immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The adobe homes were built in the 1800’s as Tucson grew in agriculture and as a crossroads in the Southwest.

    Unfortunately many of the old buildings were bulldozed during Tucson’s “revitalization” period when the new convention center was built. Today, the remaining homes are becoming popular to purchase and restore and a walk through these neighborhoods offers a peek into Tucson’s history as well as a colorful opportunity for photographers. Barrio Viejo.

    The Tucson Museum of Art

    Tucson Museum of Art
    Tucson Museum of Art

    As we were walking around Tucson we noticed the Tucson Museum of Art was offering a special exhibit of the works of the Wyeth Family. My husband and I both love the work of Andrew Wyeth so we thought we should check it out. The beautiful museum is right in the center of Tucson in a newish building that is attached to one of the most historic homes of Tucson.

    The $12 entrance fees seemed very reasonable and we not only enjoyed the Wyeth Family exhibit, but wandered through all the permanent exhibits of the museum. Well worth a couple of hours when visiting Tucson. Tucson Museum of Art

    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    San Xavier del Bac Mission
    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    A truly unexpected beauty of a mission rises up out of the desert like a white beacon about ten miles outside of Tucson. This National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.  Entrance is free and it is definitely worth checking it out. Very beautiful. San Xavier del Bac Mission.

    Walking Tour Historic Tucson – Presido Trail

    From the original Presidio in historic Tucson you can easily walk in any direction to multiple buildings and sites of historic significance. Throughout this walk you will also find numerous historic markers interpreting the unique and interesting history of Tucson. Tucson is home to several sites on the National Historic Register. It’s an easy walk (flat) for just about anyone and worth an hour or more depending on your interest. Presidio Walking Trail

    Historic Congress Hotel
    Historic Tain Depot

    Mount Lemmon

    Mount Lemmon
    Mount Lemmon

    On one of the colder days during our visit we drove up Mount Lemmon all the way to where the road ends. This drive offers spectacular views as well as some hiking options. Worth a half a day to see how the landscape changes from saguaro to pines. Beautiful. Mount Lemmon

    Thanks Tucson

    There you go, nine things to do in Tucson Arizona. Throughout the area there are several places designed to show visitors what the old west was like, but they aren’t authentic and I usually shy away from such things. But if you are interested to learn more about the wider variety of things to see and do in this remarkable region of Arizona at Visit Tucson. There are certainly more than nine things to do in Tucson Arizona…but this will give you a start.

    We will definitely be back. Thanks Tucson. We loved you.

    Want to take a day trip south? Read our post Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona.

    Next week we will post about our favorite food in Tucson.

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    Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona

    Location: Arizona USA

    There is a wide variety of activities to enjoy while visiting Tucson Arizona, without ever leaving town. But if you have the time, make your way south for some colorful history and fun. Enjoy Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson.


    Any of these three destinations could also be an overnight destination, but we left Tucson around 8 am and headed first to Tubac. About an hour and half drive to the tiny historic town, known for its historic presidio (fort in Spanish). The seven dollar entrance fee is well worth it to explore the presidio and learn about its history, which began in 1691 as a small Spanish Mission. The presidio served the Spanish, the Mexicans and even the Apache over the generations. Today it is an Arizona State Park.

    Southwest style pottery in Tubac

    Tubac is also a great destination for acquiring lovely Southwest pottery, glass and metal art. We spent about two hours total in Tubac (if shopping, you could easily spend more), including breakfast at the Stables Ranch and Grill, on the grounds of the Tubac Golf Resort. The resort is located on a 400 year old Spanish farm and ranch.

    Presidio in Tubac
    Historic Adobe School House, Tubac

    Learn more about Tubac here.


    Our Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson continued as we drove almost two hours to Bisbee. The two lane road, and eventually a highway wind south nearly to the Mexican border before heading east through endless grass lands with mountain ranges distant. A beautiful drive.

    There are three main areas to explore in Bisbee. First are the open pit mines, a giant scar on the earth from the copper and silver mining that ruled this region for decades. Today there is no mining but you can take a tour of the mines. If you don’t want to take a tour you can just stand on the edge of the pit and be amazed at the devastation.

    Pit mine, Bisbee

    Near by is the former town of Lowell, which has been incorporated into Bisbee. Most of the town of Lowell was swallowed up when the Lavender Pit Mine was expanded, leaving only Erie Street intact. Businesses on Erie Street struggled to survive with few residents left. Today, preservationists keep Erie colorful for tourists, even though only one business remains open. It lives up to it’s name as an eerie mining ghost town.

    Erie Street, Lowell Arizona

    Old Bisbee, also hit by hard times, still offers a colorful and historic story of small town mining life with several museums and a historic hotel in the middle of town. Built on the side of a mountain, surveying the town requires climbing stairs, but the views are worth it. Quaint and quirky Bisbee is worth two hours, and more if you take the mine tour. Stop for a beer at the Bisbee Brewing Company.

    Bisbee Brewing

    Learn more about Bisbee here.


    The most famous of these three towns was actually my least favorite, although I am glad we stopped. The historic old town of Tombstone, site of the infamous shootout at the OK Coral, is now a very touristy destination. But much of the old town remains, and local lore draws thousands of visitors to witness the “shootout” re-enactment several times a day at multiple locations.


    The OK Corral is a Historical Landmark and the Tombstone Courthouse is a State Historical Park. Stagecoach rides through town are popular, and costumed characters wander about. Souvenir shops and restaurants occupy the remaining old west buildings. We recommend a meal at Big Nose Kate’s with excellent live music and the movie Tombstone on continuously on the big screen.

    An hour is enough in Tombstone, unless you plan to do the 45 minute “shootout” show (there is a shorter option too) or plan to do a lot of shopping.


    Learn more about Tombstone here.

    Your Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone day trip from Tucson ends with a one hour drive back to Tucson; we were back a little after 5:00 PM. A very enjoyable day trip if you have the time when visiting Tucson – a city filled with history, scenery, recreation and more.

    Watch for next Friday’s blog all about Tucson.

    See last week’s blog about Senstional Sedona Arizona

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    Sensational Sedona

    Mother Nature’s Masterpiece in Arizona

    Location: Sedona Arizona

    Why have I not been here before? Of all the traveling we have done, somehow this place has eluded me. And here is the silver lining of the PanDamit…my travels are now focused on my home country of the United States. And I have discovered Sensational Sedona.

    Cathedral Rock

    We had six days to explore Sensational Sedona. We kept very busy, and could easily have stayed longer. So of course we will come back. March is a good time to visit, although it was busy with families due to Arizona spring break. But if I return I’ll come during the quieter off season times, such as October and November or January and February.

    Bell Rock
    Bell Rock
    Church of the Holy Cross

    Mother Nature’s Masterpiece

    At 4000 foot elevation you can see a wide variety of weather in March. And we did. During our six day visit we saw temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 72. And one morning we woke up to three inches of snow…which melted by midday.

    Baldwin Trail

    We’ve seen a lot of Arizona on previous road trips. I’ve visited the Phoenix and Scottsdale area several times, including all the surrounding communities. I imagined Sedona would be similar with the brown desert colors. Wow was I wrong. Sedona is Mother Nature’s masterpiece. She has created an artists pallet of red, green, orange, buff, gold, gray and blue. She was showing off a bit when she made this place. Sensational Sedona.

    Devils Bridge Trail
    Airport Mesa Loop Trail
    Cathedral Rock Trail

    We came to hike. And we did. Nearly every day. Yet we hardly touched the surface of the immense number of hikes available in the area. We climbed rocks, traversed valleys, forded streams and stood in awe of the magnificent views all around. There is no place like it that I have ever been…and here it is right in my own back yard. I can’t find enough adjectives to express all that this place makes me feel. Energized, astonished, inspired. It is breathtaking, magnificent, sumptuous. Sensational Sedona.

    Hot Air Balloon at dawn from Chuckwagon Trail
    Baldwin Trail
    Golfing at Sedona Golf Resort
    Devils Bridge view

    Sacred Sedona

    People come here not just to hike, although that is the most popular activity. But many people come here because they believe Sedona is sacred. And more than sacred, they believe this place has a gravitational pull that creates energy and strength. I may not believe all of this but it’s easy to see how this place can affect people this way…create a spirit, a vision, a passion for the earth. I can’t deny it is magical. Sensational Sedona.

    And so we have been baptized to the wonders of Sedona. And we will never be the same. I can’t wait to come back and experience it all again. Sensational Sedona.

    Star Gazing
    Boynton Canyon Trail
    Courthouse Rock

    Learn more about Sedona here.

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    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel

    Favorite Dining Discoveries Around Palm Springs

    Location: Palm Springs California

    We spent seven weeks in the greater Palm Springs area, enjoying the weather, hiking, golf and much more. We didn’t eat out a lot, both due to Covid and to stay on budget. But when we did eat out we tried to visit some of the best of the valley, as well as some lesser known places. There are literally thousands of restaurants to chose from. Everything from Mexican or burgers to seafood and steak. Every cuisine of the world is available somewhere in the area. And we made some favorite dining discoveries around Palm Springs.

    Sherman’s Deli

    We tried to explore and through our exploration we offer a list of some favorites we found. Next time you are in the greater Palm Springs California area, you might consider some of these restaurants. And by the way, wherever you are, please support local restaurants and shops to help keep them alive and well during the pandamit…oops I mean pandemic.

    Eat Here

    Sherman’s Deli – an institution in the valley, Sherman’s is a true New York style deli and bakery. We ate here twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. In true NY fashion they served Matzo Ball soup, Corned Beef on Rye, Chopped Liver, Hot Pastrami and much much more.

    Sherman’s Deli

    Tyler’s Burgers – Many people recommended Tyler’s to us as the best burger in the valley, so yep had to try it. We both had the bacon cheeseburger and it was real good…but even better was the amazing potato salad, just like my mom used to make.

    Potato Salad at Tyler’s

    Grind Burger – my husband Arne thinks this was the best burger in the valley. A tiny little eat in or take-away joint in Palm Desert.

    Armando’s Mexican – on El Paseo in Palm Desert you’ll find dozens of restaurants, but we happened upon Armando’s (no website) for just an appetizer and drink one afternoon. Outdoor seating was excellent, service was great and so was the food.

    Paul Bar – located in a sad little strip mall, Paul Bar was a huge surprise. Despite currently only being take-out, we loved our food we got there, especially the Bacon Balsamic Brussels Sprouts.

    Take out from Paul Bar

    Pieros – one of the best meals I had anywhere in the valley. Pieros is known for it’s pizza but I had the Short Ribs and Arne ordered Lasagna. We also enjoyed the Tuscan Wedge Salad. This is definitely one of my favorite dining discoveries around Palm Springs.

    Lasagna at Pieros

    Chef Georges Picasso – hidden in a little shopping center in the tiny community of Bermuda Dunes near La Quinta, this place has a giant menu of many European specialties and a particular focus on Hungarian food. Great service, huge portions.

    Hungarian Goulash

    Lavender Bistro- definitely the loveliest meal we had both for ambiance and food. This was a bit of a splurge for us but worth it for sure. A gorgeous lighted patio, well protected from the wind and top-notch service in every way. My filet mignon and Caesar salad were perfect.

    Filet Mignon at Lavender

    John Henry’s – we learned about this restaurant from a local couple we golfed with. They said we had to try it, even though few visitors ever go there. I’m really glad we did. The outdoor patio was beautiful and everyone in our group enjoyed their food from steak to sea Bass. I had Osso Buco and it was delicious. Reservations a must.

    Lemon Cake at John Henry’s

    The Daily Grill – located on El Paseo in Palm Desert this is a great place to sit on the outdoor patio and watch the ridiculously expensive cars drive by: Bentley…Maserati..Jaguar.. Ferrari. Excellent and inexpensive for breakfast lunch or dinner.

    The Daily Grill

    Farm – we only went to breakfast once during our visit and I am so glad we chose to eat at Farm. Tucked into the cutest little space right in old Palm Spring, the outdoor patio is bursting with flowers.

    Eggs Benedict at Farm

    Also For Your Consideration

    Outside of the valley we also really enjoyed Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild, Pie at Julian Pie Company as well as La Cucina Mexican in Anza ( no website). All worth a visit if you are in the area.

    Cafe Aroma

    Finally, a shout out to two local microbreweries. If you like to visit brewpubs when traveling don’t miss La Quinta Brewing and Desert Beer Company.

    La Quinta Brewing

    Covid in California

    As of this writing, only outdoor dining is open in California. But the nice weather in the valley makes outdoor dining easy. Most restaurants have expanded their outdoor seating and diners are enjoying the new spaces. Masks are still required. Remember the temperatures drop in the desert so bring an extra layer for evening dining. Also, because of reduced capacity, make a reservation no matter where you want to eat.

    Street Tacos at La Cucina Mexican, Anza

    Read last week’s blog about the Flora of the Desert here.

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    Flora of the Desert

    Location: Palm Springs Calfornia

    I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the desert. But after two and half months in the Coachella Valley, I’ve been inspired and intrigued with the unusual beauty of the flora of the desert.


    Flora of the Desert

    Coming from the wet and evergreen region of the Pacific Northwest I was unfamiliar with desert plant life. Of course I have seen a variety of deserts in our world travels, but never have I spent an extended period living in the desert. From our Airbnb in Palm Desert California I quickly became infatuated with the unique variety of the flora of the desert as well as the beautiful and musical birds.


    The Coachella Valley

    The Coachella Valley is an ancient seabed but today it is an arid desert 50 miles long and 15 miles wide. Surrounded by mountains, including two of California’s highest (San Jacinto and San Gorgonio) the valley sits in a rain shadow from the Pacific Ocean air. This dry region has more than 300 days of sun and averages 3.3 inches of rain a year. So the flora of the desert is uniquely suited to this harsh dry environment.

    Moorten Botanical Gardens

    There are dozens of ways to get into the desert and explore the beauty of it. There are also options right in town to learn about the desert without venturing out into the harsh climate. Whatever suits your needs, you will find it here. No matter what you do, take a moment to learn a bit about this magnificent ecosystem, its plants, birds and wildlife.

    Where to Explore and Learn

    Here is a list of some of the best places to enjoy the beauty, learn the lingo and history, and revel in the unique beauty of this valley.

    Close to Town;

    Living Desert and Zoo, Palm Desert – You’ll need to buy a ticket to the zoo, but it’s worth it to get out into the natural environment adjacent to the zoo known as the Living Desert. If you are up for an invigorating hike, climb up Eisenhower Mountain to enjoy the valley views and look across to the San Andreas Fault. The natural desert landscape is dry and barren with cactus, mesquite, creosote and much more. Learn more here.

    Living Desert

    Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage – the stunning landscaped desert gardens offer four distinct looks at desert life including an audio walking guide. All for free. The gardens include a sunken garden, a wildflower garden, a labyrinth and a wide variety of cactus. To visit the landscaped area around the mid-century modern home you can take a guided tour for $25. This is possibly my favorite thing in the greater Palm Springs area. Learn more here.


    Coachello Preserve, Thousand Palms

    This little known spot turned out to be one of our favs. You can wander the Palm oasis or venture out into the desert known as Moon Country. There are several hikes offering great 360 degree views. Learn more here.

    Coachella Valley Preserve

    Moorten Botanical Gardens, Palm Springs – this little hidden gem in the heart of Palm Springs has a $5 entrance fee. Wait. What? How can this 85 year old cactus oasis only be $5? Best little gem in the valley. Learn more here.

    Moorten Botanical Gardens

    Indian Canyons, Palm Springs – entrance to this area on the ancestral lands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is $9 per person but the wide variety of hiking options is totally worth it. A great way to see and enjoy the palm oasis and palm trees in their natural, unadulterated habitat. Hike to a waterfall, see a wide variety of cactus and birds. Picnic areas available. Learn more.

    Indian Canyons

    Shield’s Date Farm, Indio – Date cultivation is big business in the valley, but date trees are not natural to the valley. Learn how the dates have been adapted to this desert area at Shield’s Date Farm. Learn more.

    Further Afield;

    Joshua Tree National Park – a little more than an hours drive from Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is chock full of nature walks and longer hikes to get up close and personal with some of the high desert flora. You’ll also see astonishing boulders and of course, the namesake of the park the Joshua Tree. The park has three entrances (north, south and west) with the west entrance closest to Palm Springs. Learn more.

    Joshua Tree

    Palm to Pines Highway – Highway 74, fondly known as the Palm to Pines Highway leaves from Palm Desert and climbs up up up. Even if you only go as far as Vista Point (great views back on the valley) or the Cahuilla Tewanet Vista Point (interpretive signs tell the story of the ancient life of the Cahuilla people) it’s a fun and easy tour of local flora.

    Cahuilla Tewanet Vista Point

    Like any natural environment be aware of your surroundings at all times. Rattlesnakes are present even in landscaped and cultivated areas. Other predators are also present, watch for warning signs. Always bring lots of water and stay hydrated. Even when cool the dry air can take it’s toll. Wear a hat and sunscreen whenever you are out and about.

    Joshua Tree

    Visiting the Coachella Valley of California is a must for anyone who loves plants and appreciates our earth’s varying ecosystems. Learning about the ancient history of this valley will help you appreciate what remains of the vast desert that once stretched for miles.

    Read about our visit to Idyllwild California – Idle Away in Idyllwild

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    Idle Away in Idyllwild, California

    Location: Idyllwild California

    It’s been five weeks since we arrived in Palm Desert California for a bit of winter sun and fun. Despite the pandemic we have found lots of outdoor activities we can enjoy in the region, while staying safe and protected. This past week we took a fabulous two-day excursion to the little mountain town of Idyllwild. What a hidden treasure. When in Southern California, you must idle away in Idyllwild California.

    Less than an hour from our Palm Desert Airbnb but like a whole different world, Idyllwild is a breath of fresh mountain air. From Palm Desert at 300 feet above sea level you climb the beautiful Palm to Pines Highway (Highway 74) into the San Jacinto mountains and to the little village of Idyllwild. At 6000 feet this area is popular with the Los Angeles crowd on the west side of the San Jacinto and the Palm Springs crowd on the east side. Locals know the secret to idle away in Idyllwild California.

    Welcome to Idyllwild

    The desert valley Cahuilla Indians came to the region for generations to escape the heat of the desert. In the late 1800’s a summer camp was opened called Idyllwilde, and later a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients. Although there is no skiing in the area, Idyllwild today attracts hikers, mountain climbers and cyclists.

    Taquits Rock also known as Lily Rock

    Two beautiful rock formations look down on the village nestled in the small valley where the Strawberry Creek runs, famously known for wild strawberries in the summer. Tahquitz Rock, also known as Lily Rock juts majestically out of the mountain while Suicide Rock is less steep but no less beautiful. Rock climbers love the area.

    On the trail over the creek

    Hikers Paradise

    We aren’t rock climbers but we are definitely hikers and we took advantage of the sunny and cooler mountain weather. We arrived on a quiet Tuesday and spent several hours exploring Idyllwild park just a half mile from town. The Idyllwild Nature Center is currently closed (check website) but the trails are open and mid-week we practically had it all to ourselves. Amazing views no matter where you look.

    Hiking Trails

    The gorgeous Ponderosa Pines and Sugar Pines as well as Manzanita, fir trees, oak and many other beautiful green flora contrast with the gorgeous blue skies and I was smitten. Signs warn of mountain lion, bears, rattlesnakes and poison oak. We did see some poison oak (educate yourself) and lots of gray squirrels and birds…but no snakes or large mammals.

    Tranquility Room at The Grand Idyllwild Lodge

    Lodging and Food

    We checked into The Grand Idyllwild Lodge, one of the premier lodging choices in the area. There are many options for overnight stays, but The Grand Idyllwild Lodge came highly recommended to us so we splurged a bit and were glad we did. We had a beautiful cozy room in the three story lodge, including an amazing “continental” breakfast. On weekends the breakfast is “gourmet” but the weekday “continental” was pretty darn gourmet in my opinion. Fabulous. Currently The Grand Idlywild Lodge is “contactless” and masks are required. They are following California Covid regulations so both guests and staff stay safe.

    Continental Breakfast

    Idyllwild is home to a wide variety of eateries from pizza and tacos to burgers and fine dining. We enjoyed an after hike beer (or two) at the Idyllwild Brewpub. We did not eat here but the food that was coming out of the kitchen looked amazing. The beer WAS amazing.

    Cafe Aroma

    The only meal we ate out was dinner, and again on recommendation from our friend we headed to Cafe Aroma just down the street from our lodgings. Outdoor seating under current California Covid rules was well done with large mega heaters keeping us toasty in the cool mountain evening. The service was incredible too. We enjoyed wine with our dinner from their extensive wine list. I had fresh-made Tomato Basil Soup, and Pork Chops with Potatoes. My husband ordered the Steak Frites special which was huge and delicious. We finished our lovely day with fresh made Beignets and coffee.

    Giant Boulders on the mountain side

    Day two we headed out for another hike along the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail. National Forest or National Park pass required, so stop in at the Ranger station before heading up Fern Valley Road. Park where the road ends and begin your walk. Here on the north facing slopes we encountered some snow from the big storm more than three weeks ago. But easy passage brought us to south and west facing trail with dry and beautiful trails. The incredible giant rocks in this region are astonishing, tumbled down from the mountains and strewn about – the rounded boulders reminiscent of dinosaur eggs.

    We returned to Palm Desert late Wednesday via the Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy (Rt 243) where astonishing views nearly to the ocean welcomed us along the way. At Banning we picked up Interstate 10 east into the greater Palm Springs area and back to our Palm Desert Airbnb.


    It would have been very easy to idle away in Idyllwild California for a few more days. I’m not sure how I have never been to this lovely little treasure of a town high above the bustling Los Angeles metropolis. Add it to your list. You won’t regret a day or two enjoying some idle away in Idyllwild California.

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