By Jen Lothspeich
Bachelorettes wander through the wonders of Palm Springs
Palm Springs is known for many things: boutique hotels, trendy clubs, golfing, upscale dining — and, apparently, bachelorette parties.
With a stash of Champagne, swimsuits and the desire to relax and let loose, a group of friends and I recently took a bachelorette weekend trip to this oasis in the desert.
Arriving ahead of a crazy busy time in the area, we beat the rush for Coachella, Dinah Shore Weekend, Stagecoach Festival and the White Party, but discovered we were one of at least a dozen bachelorette parties with the same idea.
And with good reason.
It may sound cliche to say a travel destination has something for everyone or invites all walks of life, but in gallivanting through the downtown area, we found both to be true. Along with our to-be-wedded counterparts, we found our fellow revelers were young spring-breakers, couples of all ages, vacationing families and even celebrities (hey, Kelsey Grammer!).
But before making it to our destination for relaxation, we decided to do a little physical activity and detoured to Joshua Tree National Park. On an ideal 75-degree day, we enjoyed a couple short nature walks (Barker Dam and Hidden Valley) while a soft breeze kept us comfortable. I could attempt to describe the natural beauty here but it’s better experienced first-hand in this magical place.
Then it was on to where we would rest our heads.
With its bold pyramid-shaped exterior, The Hard Rock Hotel looks plucked from the strip in Las Vegas. Music memorabilia and loud tunes greeted us as we walked through the David Bowie-adorned doors. The party atmosphere was set.
While the rooms were spacious and the beds cushy, a few issues arose in our first hours. A broken coffee maker, faltering light bulbs and speakers, and a few other dinged-up items caught our attention, but we were quickly visited by hotel staff who fixed the problems.
What didn’t come as rapidly was our luggage, which we had to call for several times. This caused frustration as five women tried to prepare for a night out with limited time and bathrooms.
Back on the bridal party track, we headed to Lulu California Bistro where we and several other bachelorette parties had dinner reservations. The brightly lit restaurant was adorned with colorful artwork and plenty to look at from our central downstairs table.
For dinner, a few opted for entrees, others stuck to appetizers and I went for the $20, three-course, prix-fixe menu while we enjoyed beer and wine. Around the table everyone was pleased with their lobster quesadilla, roasted chicken, and my savory plate of ziti. For dessert, we balanced our booze buzz with a sugar rush ordering a comically sized cotton candy that didn’t warrant its $15 price tag. Rumor has it that if you mention a birthday when reserving at Lulu, that puffy pink mess arrives on the house.
Next up was Village Pub, which offered different dance and bar areas to choose from. We made our way to a small room where a DJ spinning mostly pop, hip-hop and rap got us dancing like we were half our age. But it quickly filled with people and became a sauna.
A bar area close by offered respite from the heat and a view of a live band who played ’80s and ’90s hair bands along with strangely spot-on modern covers.
From there, we went to a quintessential spot on a Palm Springs trip — a gay bar. Hunters had both a nightclub feel with go-go dancers, flashing lights and a DJ, plus an inviting bar and lounging areas for a nice balance. The large space wasn’t particularly packed and we spent several hours dancing and drinking.
Forgetting we are all in our 30s, we proceeded to the dance club connected to our hotel simply dubbed The Club. As they were on their last hour of business, they ushered us in sans cover charge and we found less than a dozen people inside. This did not stop us from dancing until we could no longer stand. And the bouncers made us leave.
Choosing convenience over walking and waiting, the next morning we ate breakfast at the Hard Rock’s restaurant, The Kitchen. Our server, though sweet, was a bit absent-minded and we didn’t bring two ordered items and had to ask for them to be removed from the bill. The meal wasn’t impressive or disappointing and we got to move on with our day without much fuss.
The hotel pool was a major selling point when we planned our trip and we had no complaints. Their DJ churned out ’80s, ’90s and ’00s jams appealing to everyone in our group, and seemingly everyone in the pool area. After buckets of beers and bottles of Champagne, several parties began mingling and all we encountered were in celebratory spirits.
Another dinner reservation seemed too far off after a day in the sun, so we made our way to the “casual upscale” Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge earlier than planned and managed to get a table at the bar. This was a stellar move as the appetizers and discounted drinks were satisfying and money-saving. The ambience was chic and modern with bright pink accents on stark white backdrops. Our shared meal, even with several drinks, made this one of the thriftiest eating stops on our trip – but make no mistake, the dining room offers a fancier feel and a higher ticket.
Hearing Tiki-themed places are all the rage in Palm Springs, we chose the first one we came upon. Tonga Hut has an eclectic drink list, along with island-style food that looked and smelled delectable. We enjoyed Honi Honis (whiskey mai tais) while playing Jenga and Taboo like proper suburban housewives who also enjoy strong cocktails.
Though we’d talked about seeing a burlesque show, on this particular night, we remembered we are all in our 30s and opted for the hotel bar where we lounged and sipped Champagne until the comfy beds upstairs beckoned us.
After a subdued second night, we made good use of the last few hours of our jaunt with a drag queen brunch on Sunday morning.
Rio Azul is an unassuming Mexican restaurant, which happens to devote a room to a drag show with two showings Sundays. The ambience was a bit strange but with delicious $17 meals and plentiful drink specials, we settled in with a stack of $1 bills and watched the ladies get to business. The show was extremely entertaining with R-rated jokes, high kicks, stunning costumes and impersonations, and fabulous photo-ops to round out our trip. As we departed our final stop, we high-fived fellow bachelorette parties and blew kisses to the queens who had given us our last hurrah of the weekend.
With wrinkled dresses, sore feet and thousands of photos, we made our way back to San Diego with great memories and already-plotted plans to return.
— Jen Lothspeich is a wine-drinking, cat-cuddling native San Diegan who dreams of writing a best-selling true crime novel. Find her on Twitter at @Jen_Evel.
Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs
Joshua Tree National Park
Lulu California Bistro