Thanksgiving in Palm Springs, Idyllwild, & Joshua Tree

It’s that time of year, when I try to find a place to escape to. But I live in Southern California and this is where everyone comes to for warmer weather.

So I called my friend Jordan to take a 4-day Thanksgiving road trip to Palm Springs, the neighboring town of Idyllwild, and Joshua Tree.

Day 1: Palm Springs

We left on Thanksgiving Day and found NO TRAFFIC – we made it to Palm Springs in 1 hour 30 minutes!

Our first stop was ARRIVE/Reservoir. We stopped in for our first drink and lounged by the pool fully clothed.


We got sick of being hot and decided to check-in early to The Riviera. The Riviera is a mid-century modern dream with a beautifully decorated lobby, dining areas, and pool. We laid by the pool to cool off before exploring the rest of Palm Springs.

They had bikes to rent for free so we rode to the Ace Hotel for poolside drinks and a dip in the hot tub, and finally made it to The Saguaro’s El Jefe Tequila Bar for happy hour/Taco Thursday drink specials and… guacamole for Thanksgiving dinner.

In the end, we headed back to The Riviera and their HOT hot tub. Compared to The Saguaro, which is similarly priced and neon, the rooms at the Riviera are much fancier. I hear The Saguaro is just a little better than a motel. The Ace Hotel is much pricier and while the rooms are nice, the pool area was gross, with fuzzy bits in the hot tub!

Day 2: San Jacinto & Idyllwild

We woke up early to grab bagel sandwiches at Townie’s Bagels before the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway opened.

$25 later (each), we were up 8,000 feet by 9:30 and started our long trek to San Jacinto Peak. I was doing okay the first 3 miles but the last 3 miles were killer! The trail itself isn’t hard – the elevation gain is only about 2,000 feet over ~6 miles – but the thin air had me completely out of breath!


Still, we made it up by just past 12pm! Our journey down took us another 2 hours, but it was much easier and I kept pace with Jordan.


All we wanted afterwards was ice cream from the Ice Cream Shop(pe) and In N Out… and to lay down. We’re just simple people.

After sustenance, we went west and then up the mountains again to the town of Idyllwild.

Day 3: Idyllwild

We woke up tired in Idyllwild. Our legs felt fine but neither of us slept great. I was up at 7:30 and walked to town from our cottage. I grabbed coffee and a bacon cheddar biscuit at Idyllwild Bakeshop & Brew.


We decided to walk back to town for lunch at Idyllwild Pizza Co, met Mayor Max and Deputy Mitzi and Mikey, and then walked even more to the Nature Center.


5+ miles later, we sat our butts down at Idyllwild Brewpub for Palomas (for me) and Pilsners (for Jordan) and then stopped into the town center to see the tree lighting ceremony.

Our night ended early with hanging out in the cabin watching “Friday the 13th” and some of “Point Blank” until I passed out.

While we thought Idyllwild was a bit too quiet for us, we liked the small town, almost Southern feel. It’s a nice place to escape to for a couple of days and locals seem to enjoy camping around Lake Hemet.

Day 4: Joshua Tree



We woke up to drive 2 hours (1 hour down the mountain) to Joshua Tree National Park. I went in the spring but only camped and saw a tiny bit of the park. We visited Barker Dam and the Old Mine. Both were easier hikes (maybe 5 miles altogether), albeit a lot of sand to trudge through.

Unlike my trip here in the spring, there were far less people and it made for a much nicer experience.

Jordan has been my second travel buddy and while sharing some asada fries, he asked, “What’s next?”


What ideas do you have for us over Christmas break?

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