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My first stop on the most amazing California road trip is none other than one of the most sunshine-filled places – Greater Palm Springs!  This SoCal area is close to the infamous Joshua Tree National Park and home to Indio – hey, Coachella! I’m not going to lie, I had very high expectations for this trip. I know that California is home to some of the most beautiful sites and sunsets in the world. So, can you blame me for not expecting anything less than total amazement?! (Spoiler Alert: it definitely was all it’s cracked up to be!)

I am breaking my Southern California road trip into three posts for each of the main stops…Greater Palm Springs, Temecula and Huntington Beach. If you are looking for another California road trip blog post, check out my post about my adventures in Gold Country….California Road Trip – Gold Country.

Greater Palm Springs

The Greater Palm Springs area isn’t just the super popular city, peppered with palm trees in every front and back yard. It consists of 9 different cities (Palm SpringsDesert Hot SpringsCathedral CityRancho MiragePalm Desert, Indian WellsLa QuintaIndio and Coachella) and is surrounded by beautiful Southern California deserts. Although the majority is desert, there are amazing hiking trails, water springs and oasis’, and even the largest date farms in all the United States. It is one of the great inexpensive warm winter vacations in the USA and a reason for its popularity.

Its popularity sparked due to Hollywood having a big “2-hour rule” for their actors. This means that actors shouldn’t be away from their set that’s longer than 2 hours away. Greater Palm Springs is right in that sweet spot of ensuring the actors weren’t far gone from Tinseltown, plus having beautiful and diverse scenery that the city doesn’t have, provides directors with an incredible place to do some shoots.

There was so much to do in such a short amount of time – I could’ve stayed 2 weeks and still find a ton of other activities to do! But let’s first start with my awesome stay at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa.

A special thank you to Brendan Williams for joining me on this trip and taking photos.

Check out my Southern California road trip vlog below or directly on YouTube for better quality.

Stay at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa

Spread across 360 acres of pure paradise, the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa provided us with a royal stay. They are even listed as one of the top 75 golf resorts in all of North America! Between the Mediterranean architecture and desert views, every site was designed with keeping every guest amazed by the little things around them. With restaurants that serve American, Italian, and local California cuisine, you won’t have to stray very far for some delish food. By the way, if you feel a little guilty for all the indulging – their gym is THA BOMB. And at the end of the day, #TreatYourself to some R & R at their spa where soothing serenity is only a water park away. Oh, I didn’t mention they have like 3 pools including a gigantic water slide? Yep, they have that, too!

Moorten Botanical Garden

Next on my list was the Moorten Botanical Garden. If you’re a local, this a gorgeous place for large events and even a cute little date! If you aren’t from the area, then you may not have heard of it – but I’m here to tell you that you need to look this place up right now!

The Moorten Botanical Garden was established back in 1938 where it has been privately owned and maintained to ensure quality and extraordinary desert plants and specialties for the public to see and research. Since SoCal is home to varieties of plant life that is not seen around the world, the Moorten’s wanted to give visitors a chance to see all this region has to offer while also allowing the plants to have a stable growth. Outside of being an arboretum for desert plants, they also are a museum for gold mining relics, special gems, ancient fossils, and naturally colourful desert rocks. Also, a fun FYI – they do weddings and large specialty events so *cough cough* to anyone who wants to have a romantic desert wedding!

Driving Experience at BMW Performance Center

Who loves Fast and Furious? Better yet, who likes to pretend they’re in the Fast and Furious? Hi, it’s me. I am all those things. What better way to funnel that urge than to literally live it out?! Mind you, I wasn’t allowed on the real streets to show off my new moves, but I still had a ton of fun during my 2 hour lesson with BMW Performance Center West at The Thermal Club.

They have a couple of different lessons for you to choose from. You can simply have a driving experience with one of their Minis or you can sit down with instructors and learn how to put the pedal to the metal and pretend you are the newest NASCAR driver. The choice is yours!

Joshua Tree National Park Tour with Desert Adventures

And the winner for most beautiful experience and sunset views goes to *drum roll* Joshua Tree National Park! If I could have stayed the night in the desert just to watch the sunrise after that insane colour show in the sky from the night before, I would have.

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On our Red Jeep tour of Joshua Tree, we got to literally dive deep into all that this magical place has to offer. I have never seen such beauty in the desert before. Our six-hour-long experience felt like it flew by because we were just having so much fun! Between bouncing around the rocky hills and swerving between trails, I had such a blast being out in nature and getting to experience something so fun. 10/10 would recommend calling up Red Jeep Desert Adventures when you’re in Palm Springs next!

It was my first visit to Joshua Tree, so it was great to get a guided tour with someone that shared so much information about the Park and surrounding area. I am such a nerd and love to learn facts about where I am visiting. Firstly, it is named after the short and unusually shaped Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia) which are native to the park. I did not know that! I also wasn’t aware that the park has two distinct desert ecosystems that are very different in appearance. They are at different elevations – the Mojave Desert is at a higher elevation than the Colorado Desert.

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Sorry for the abundance of photos from Joshua Tree National Park, but it was so beautiful and there are just so many things to do in Joshua Tree! While on this tour, our guide mentioned all the California hot springs we should visit and it had me planning yet another trip to this beautiful state.

Places To Eat

Lunch at Lulu California Bistro

Lulu California Bistro is a vibrant and it embraces the dynamic downtown Palm Spring scene. The menu is full of great food to please everyone. P.S…. they also have great gluten free options! It is a tasty (and quick) spot for lunch.

Dinner at Pinzimini at The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa

Remember how I mentioned that there were amazing dining spots in our luxury Westin hotel? Well, I dove straight into Pinzimini and had to let you all know – YOU NEED TO GO HERE. With modern Tuscan flavors infused with culinary bliss, you might not go anywhere else during your stay. Their happy hour goes from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. as they serve antipasto and pizza galore, I fully expected to be rolled back to my room. The atmosphere is different from the rest of the hotel to provide a fully in-depth experience of the Pinzimini vibe. You will find a cool, distinguished feel when you are seated and the service is almost as divine as the food. People are always so iffy with hotel restaurants, but there is nothing to question about this fine-dining establishment. 

Greater Palm Springs, you did not disappoint! I just love California. If you ever get the opportunity to come to this awesome area make sure you have a few days to spare. You are going to want to do everything and more, because the fact of the matter is that there is simply so much to do and see. Make sure you ask locals where to eat and the servers what the most popular dish is at a place to really dive deep and feel like you are a true Palm Springer! Take a drive and let the road lead you wherever – adventure is always around the corner there.

Stick around to get an insider’s look at the rest of my Southern California road trip!

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This California road trip blog post is brought you in collaboration with Visit California and Greater Palm Springs. Thank you for supporting the destinations that support me

Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.


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  1. You took great photos, and I particularly love the hotel and the trees outside, the cactus like big trees, I think they are unique.

  2. Those are real trees! They’re so beautiful. I really lobe your travel pictures and your travelling adventures.
    It is something I hope to do someday.

  3. California is such a surprising state! There is just everything – beaches, beautiful residential areas, drives like you have described! Loved the pictures you have shared šŸ˜€

  4. I like the blue car…I enjoy your travel pics. I have yet to spend time in the Southern CA. I have been to CA once but did not do much of sight seeing.

  5. I’ve been dreaming of visiting California, specifically the Palm Springs area. It looks incredible! Thanks for sharing, tons of inspo in here for when I finally make the trip out there.