New Year’s is a magical experience for me! You’re closing out the old with a bang and welcoming in the new with open arms of hope. New Year’s Eve is all glamour and fun, with New Year’s Day being about peace and relaxation. So, where does a SoCal resident go to obtain such a vibe? Well, there are always the beach cities in South OC, but that’s not amazing when you live there…

On the other hand, Palm Springs is the perfect combination of fun, elegance, entertainment, and relaxation coupled with Winter weather and nostalgia to ease you into the right state of mind for January First!

When I started here, I used to say the average age of clientele was ‘deceased.

– Brian Ellis

I spent New Year’s in Palm Springs two years in a row. I enjoyed it so much, but I’ll review my first trip to cue you in all the new experiences, travel tips, etc.  First off, there is still a stigma that Palm Springs is full of retirees and has zero fun outside of golf.  I’m here to tell you that is the furthest from accurate.  Yes, it’s a well-kept secret, so don’t spoil it, OKAY?!  PS (Palm Springs) rocks like no other. 

Yes, the desert party scene is owned by Las Vegas, but it’s a lot to deal with.  Too many day pools, wristbands needed, vomiting tourists, etc.  Nobody needs all that nonsense while ringing in the New Year.  PS has none of that but does have all the glitz and glamour you long for, coupled with relaxation and inner peace-yielding experiences that a proper New Year’s trip should.  So here we go…


Logistics and Excursion Planning

Since I’m driving, a rigid schedule isn’t necessary. Yes, I will plan around traffic, but having a couple-hour window is totally realistic and a nice change versus a hard boarding time. Especially when all you’re craving is a relaxing, resort-type of trip. So that’s one perk, but let’s chat about a few others.

I can pack with fewer restrictions because the luggage is only going in my SUV, and I have plenty of room. I can take my own groceries instead of relying on the hotel lounge or eating out/buying them on the road. And, I can blast my music en-route while also dancing around in my seat; this doesn’t go so well on planes, trust me.

TB TIP: When you’re taking a road trip, packing space isn’t as rare of a commodity compared to flying, cruising, etc. So, take stock of your daily consumables like water, snacks, protein bars, coffee/tea, and of course, alcohol (everything you would spend money on while traveling). Then pack that daily amount for the duration of the trip. This should save you at least $100 daily.

So now the planning process.  While some view this as a daunting task, trust me, it’s actually fun when you know the ins and outs.  Here’s how I navigate it:

  • Find a Marriott property that suits my desires for this trip (each of these wants must be checked yes):
    • Relaxing, desert oasis type 
    • Onsite restaurants for brunch and good dinners since I’ll be camped out there for at least a few nights
    • High floor rooms for pools/lake/golf course/snow-covered mountain views and less noise
    • It has an onsite gym and spa with full services that grant free access for Elite Members.  Obviously not the actual spa services, but the facilities which include a sauna, steam rooms, jacuzzies, etc.
    • Stay on points is available (it usually is, but New Year’s can be tricky, and sometimes it’s not an option).
  • Excursions:
    • The resort had several Christmas and New Year’s activities and parties onsite, which sparked my interest.  Especially the tie-dye t-shirt making daytime activity… don’t judge me. I’m still a kid at heart. 
    • Find local holiday events.
      • There was still a holiday-themed ride up the PS Aerial Tramway. 
      • Holiday light tours in specific neighborhoods
  • Driving Route:
    • Determine the time of day with the least amount of traffic
    • It’s about a two-hour drive, so determine where I want to make my one stop ahead of time; I usually choose a Starbucks as they have clean restrooms and lots of caffeine in a cup to-go!

Travel Day

Getting up at 7 am on a travel day is glorious; typically, I’m up around 4 am, which isn’t pleasant!  Easing into the day with a coffee and Bailey’s is a much better way to start.  From there, I finished my last-minute packing and got ready to hit the road. 

Between 10 am-2 pm, traffic in SoCal is pretty light, and this trip was no different.  I arrived at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa around noon, which was perfect, just in time for lunch and a nap.  The Elite Member check-in desk scenario was a little precarious as my room wasn’t ready since they were planning on upgrading me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Marriott, but sometimes they can’t fulfill their guarantee, and you have to ask for concessions which is what I did and got me $50 worth of free food and beverage while I waited for my room. 

A few hours later, I was settled in my room, and ohhh, was it worth the wait.  Top floor, perfect view of all that I had requested, and the sunset was right in front of me!  And now the fun begins… with a hot toddy in my hands, it was time to take a walk and explore this massive property.  

Day One – New Year’s Eve

The first day of vacation is arguably my favorite. It’s when that feeling of freedom sets in, and you transition mentally away from responsibility and tedious schedules.  This day was exactly that.  I woke up so rested and relaxed that I didn’t even check emails.  This JW has a good-sized lake surrounding the property’s interior, so lakefront dining in the desert is a reality I was about to embark on. 

The food was okay, what you would expect from a hotel.  But, the Bloody Mary bar, now that was amazing (side note, the food at this property’s all-day restaurant has drastically improved since the hiring of a new executive chef in 2018).  With brunch behind me, I was on the loose. 

Taking a stroll of the property was an hour-long excursion; this place is HUGE!  I found my way into the spa, of course.  It’s a standalone structure on the river feeding into the lake at this property.  It has a men’s and women’s spa, couple’s spa, private pool with bar and cafe, massive gym, and full service in every way.  After booking a much-needed full-body massage and facial, I was back to exploring the property. 

The resort’s entry is an extensive grassy knoll surrounded by the golf course and water features, complimented with live flamingos frolicking about.  Given it was still the holiday season, this area remained a daytime Santa’s Village-type environment for kids.  Being the big kid at heart that I am, of course, I had to partake.  I limited my fun to tie-dying a few t-shirts; this is a messy and potentially deadly craft to nice clothing or shoes you may be adorned in, just FYI.    

The next stop was a quick trip to the grocery store across the street for balloons.  One thing you’ll notice as we continue exploring my travels (which are usually around a holiday), I LOVE to decorate and make the holidays special. 

This New Year’s, I was going to try something new; get two larger balloons than the ones for decorating and write my goals for the upcoming year on one, the things I’m happy to let go of on the other and release them into the sky at midnight.  The habit has become annual ever since, and I highly recommend it.  

Now that the room was decorated, a trip to the hot tub and hotel bar before dinner (9 pm reservation) was the perfect segue into a fun-filled night.  What I didn’t take into account was that the hotel bar was full of people dressed to the nines on their way to celebrate.  I, on the other hand, was in my hotel robe and flip-flops fresh out of the hot tub.  Ehh… it was laughable.  Time for a drink to officially start New Year’s Eve.

Although a chain restaurant, Morton’s has a pleasant atmosphere and is very nostalgic in PS.  You can’t go wrong kicking off your experience with a dirty martini and some Ahi.  Follow that up with a filet, some red wine, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts, and you’re a little closer to heaven.  Finally, butter cake.  If you haven’t had butter cake before, let me tell you it is life-altering!  New life rule: if you see butter cake on a menu, order it.  

Okay, back to my room to freshen up and write on my balloons!  As midnight approached, I found a quiet area dimly lit on a little bridge leading over one of the resort’s several water features to reflect in peace.  With an old year behind me and an exciting one on the horizon, I set my balloons free and said a little prayer…  HAPPY NEW YEAR!    

Day Two – New Year’s Day 

I didn’t make plans for today other than the spa, and I’m glad.  Getting a good night’s rest and easing into a new day and a new year was exactly what I needed.  The spa has a café onsite next to the private pool, so I ordered a fresh-pressed juice and light breakfast there. 

Something about breakfast poolside is tranquil; only the sounds of golfers across the lake and a few birds broke the absolute silence.  My massage and facial were serene.  Followed up by some time in the steam room and dry sauna, this day could not be any better.

After cleaning up from the spa and taking a nap, the sun began to set.  With a hot toddy in hand, and the sun disappearing behind the PS mountain range, it was time for dinner fireside.  I can’t stress enough how nice it is to have a selection of restaurants on-site with varying cuisine and levels of ambiance. 

Tonight’s dining experience consisted of soup, veggies, and a hot toddy for dessert.  Coupled with my spa experience, this was truly the perfect day of relaxation and reflection.

Day Three 

Although I would’ve loved to stay a few more days in PS, this was a great trip.  On my final day, I was going to ease into it at my own pace and have a late brunch at Spencer’s in downtown PS on my way home.  But first, a little relaxation and fresh-pressed juice at the Spa again before packing up.  

One thing about PS that just warms my heart is the brunch scene.  It’s composed of several small, quiet, and peaceful spots carved into neat little areas surrounded by plants and ambiance.  Think of mountains as your view, gardens, trees, water, fountains, etc.  Spencer’s was no exception.  Located at the end of a cul-de-sac, it was about as secluded downtown as you could be. 

After a phenomenal egg’s benedict and breakfast cocktail, I reluctantly started my drive out of town.  PS will do that to you; make you want to stay longer or buy a little vacation home and come back the following weekend.

Trip Summary/Recap

New Year’s was taken to a new height thanks to this trip, and it will always be my baseline for awesomeness!  I wouldn’t change one minute of it… okay, maybe a little less tequila before bed on New Year’s Eve.  

While a joyous memory, this blog was difficult for me to write as I have been traveling to PS 1-2 times annually since this New Years’ experience for holidays, relaxation, and The Stagecoach Festival.  COVID has made it impossible to enjoy the resort as they were closed for 6+ months, and Stagecoach was canceled until at least Spring of 2021.  Most of SoCal, in general, has been closed, actually. 

It’s understandable but still painful as this place has given me so many beautiful experiences and memories.  However, I’m optimistic that 2021 will bring about a renewed PS experience.  Starting with the fact that the JW Resort remodeled their entire property from rooms to lobbies and restaurants, and the Spa facility opens back up in February.

I look forward to a rejuvenated PS experience this year and can’t wait to share it then with you.  Stay tuned… And until then, I hope you can daydream of the fun to come through my stories and experiences.

Tips & Tricks


  • It’s cold and is often windy, so a good jacket, scarves, and gloves will suit you well. 
  • Pool attire.  Yes, it’s wintertime, but the spa pools and hot tubs are heated, and you’ll want to take a dip.
  • Spa attire; something loose and flowy to walk back and forth from your room to the spa.
  • The best dining experiences in PS are smaller, independent restaurants and cafés.  Jump on Yelp, go by the reviews, and make reservations!  The locals love to eat out, and most of the smaller venues will have a wait if you don’t book ahead.


  • The weather is DRY, you are in a different area and need to stay hydrated:
    • I recommend bringing a packet of Liquid I.V. for each day you’re in town.  
    • Lotion from home; what the hotels provide is usually full of alcohol and dries your skin even more.
    • Lip balm, Chapstick, etc.


  • Bring cash!  It makes tipping the resort staff much easier and avoids those awkward “I don’t have cash on me moments.”

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