My flights to the USA were with Qantas SYD/LAX/SYD on the A380 aircraft in economy class. Sydney now has the self-check in terminals for QF which is much quicker for passengers. The Qantas A380 have a pull-down hammock to elevate your feet off the floor which I really liked! The Tim Tams/apples/muesli bar snacks available at the back were also a nice treat.
We used the Karmel shuttle transfers to Palm Springs, which were very good. It was 2.5 hours from LAX. On the way we stopped at a new factory outlet centre for a quick shop.
I learned a few fun facts about ‘Palm Springs’….
• The area consists of 9 cities making up Greater Palm Springs. One of the cities is Palm Springs, then Coachella, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs, sometimes referred to collectively as the Coachella Valley, The California Desert, or The Palm Springs Metro area. From the first town to the last it’s only 45 mins drive, so they are quite small.
• It gets very hot in summer – September it was consistently 43 degrees.
• Downtown Palm Springs is the place to be and the best place to stay for most clients unless they are into golf resorts.Downtown has boutique hotels, hip shops, bars and restaurants.
• The other towns are predominantly made up of golf resorts.
• SALVATION MOUNTAIN man made painted mountain by a local to spread the message of love…very quirky and weird.
• AERIAL TRAMWAY The largest revolving tramway in the world. Goes up 3000 metres with lots of viewing platforms from the top looking over the cities. USD27 pp entry. Very popular with hikers as there is a national park at the top.
I stayed at the WESTIN MISSION HILLS in Rancho Mirage which is set in a golf course, and is a HUGE resort, very spread out with several pools. Very large rooms and bathrooms so would be good for families.
We also visit MARIMOTE RESORT AND SPA (at Indian Wells) is a beautiful resort. Part of the Hilton Curio range. Gorgeous outdoor fire, Spa centre, huge rooms. Golf course is across road. This would be more suited to couples than families.
After Palm Springs we headed back to the coast to Huntington Beach. What an awesome city! The original Surf City with a fabulous beach, great main street with shops (lots of the major surf/skate brands were started here, including VANS etc). Great restaurants and only a few hotels so it’s not touristy which is a nice change from its rival Santa Monica.
I would stay at Huntington Beach over Santa Monica. It is so much more ‘Californian’ and local rather than touristy and you can still get the same vibe. It has a great pier as well (not with rides, it has 2 restaurants), you can still hire bikes and ride along the long stretch of beach and you are only 25 mins from Anaheim. It’s such a great alternative to staying at Anaheim for families who want to spend their non-Disney days by the beach.
There are only 4 major hotels on the main beach area – Hyatt Regency (has a free shuttle to/from Disney for guests), the Waterfront by Hilton (where I stayed), The Pasea and Kimpton Shorebreak. The WATERFRONT BY HILTON was a fabulous hotel. Currently undergoing a huge renovation to one tower, so we were upgrade to the brand-new suites in the new tower which were stunning. Very Hamptons in style, huge bathrooms, living area and bedroom. Excellent for families. I inspected the PASEA and it was also stunning, very modern and probably attracted a younger crowd. Both have great roof top bars to watch the sunset over the ocean.
Huntington Beach has over 200 permanent fire pits on the beach that are available to anyone on a first-come-first-served basis. You can bring your own wood and food, or the hotels will set up for you and provide you with drinks (no alcohol) to make s’mores…it’s lots of fun!
Our last 2 days were spent in Anaheim. We stayed at SHERATON PARK ANAHEIM. It was in a great location, 5 minutes’ walk to Disney, lots of shops and restaurants nearby. Rooms were fine, but very small bathrooms may be a struggle for families. We stayed in a club floor room so had access to the Club Floor which included continental breakfast, afternoon snacks and drinks.
We spent a fantastic day at DISNEYLAND AND CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE PARK. It’s been 20+ years since I was there so it was good to revisit.
A few hints for Disney:
• It was still very busy and very hot (28-30 degrees) in September. I can only imagine to crowds in July/Aug in peak time and with US/Europeans holidays – I would strongly suggest avoiding that time of year!
• Download the Disneyland app on your phone and upgrade your tickets to the Max Pass. It costs and extra US $10 per ticket per day, however, for the time saving element of being able to activate the fast passes without walking to the ride to do it PLUS you can do it for your whole group on one device, is such a huge time saving benefit. When you book in the first fast pass and it gives you the time frame to go to the ride. Once you are at the ride for your time you scan your booking to activate it and then you can straight way book another fast pass while you are in the line for the first ride. The Max pass also allows you to download your photos from the ride or from any photographer to the app.
• If you have older children or are there with friends, take the single rider’s line where they are offered (sometime you need to ask as it isn’t on the app or signposted). This also saves SOOO much time. I did this a few times and I think I waited like 10 minutes when the wait in the normal queue said 60 mins. If you are with friends, you will get on with in a few turns of each other.
• Wi-fi available throughout
• Don’t rely on exchanging cash at hotels or finding money changers – terrible exchange rate and the money changers were few and far between. Take a cash passport, USD cash or other cards.
• The best outlets for shopping can be accessed by car are the Citadel Premium Outlets in East LA. From Anaheim it’s about 30 minutes. Worth the drive and allow the whole day as they are huge! Orange Outlets aren’t very most are regular shops, some are outlets.
• Uber is great and so cheap.