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Rancho Las Palmas Where a Dad Can Be a Kid
January, 2010 - Issue #63
Remember those days when you were a kid and you could float in the pool with nothing to do but let the sun sprinkle freckles on your back? And then someone would cannonball in and set off an endless round of trips off the diving board?

As I heeded my kids' urgent pleadings to follow them up the stairs for yet another trip down the water slide at Splashtopia, I couldn't help but feel like a kid again myself. We spent the day shooting down the slide, floating along the lazy river and building sand castles. And when Splashtopia closed at 5 p.m., we moved our fun to the regular pool.

Splashtopia is the centerpiece of the newly renovated Rancho Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage. The resort has a 27-hole golf course, a decadent spa, well-equipped workout room and hip bar/restaurant. But as a dad with four children ages 1 to 7, my world revolved around the 2-acre water park.

And here's the part moms care about. It comes with clean bathrooms, big fluffy towels and life jackets for the little ones. It is securely fenced and watched over by at least a half-dozen attentive life guards. One more thing: a bevy of servers stand ready to deliver your chilled beverage of choice, as well as lunch. So you really can relax while the kids splash the day away and wear themselves out.

At that point, they'll be so mellow you can go out for dinner and they might actually sit still. At least that was my theory, anyway. Across Bob Hope Drive from Rancho Las Palmas is The River, an upscale shopping center ringed with a collection of promising dining choices - P.F. Chang's, Yard House, The Cheesecake Factory, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, and more. We opted for The Cheesecake Factory and proved my theory to be a bad one.

I did have two other good ideas during our stay. One was visiting The Living Desert, which is part zoo and part botanical garden, and showcases the treasures of the world's deserts. That includes snakes, and the kids stepped right up when they had a chance to pet a king snake at the Wildlife Encounter show. I stepped right out the door. Snakes aren't on my short list of things to pet.

We spent a morning at The Living Desert and sampled just a taste of what it offers, including the Butterfly Garden, Cahuilla Indian Ethnobotanical Garden, Wildlife Hospital, and hands-on Discovery Center. There, the kids had a chance to examine different animal skeletons, peer through a microscope at various slides, and even put on their own puppet show.

My other good idea? Taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to the top of the San Jacinto Mountains, which shoot straight out of the Coachella Valley floor. After the 10-minute ascent that covers 8,515 vertical feet in 2.5 miles, we hiked the Desert View Trail.

As the name implies, the 1.5 mile trail skirts the edge of the mountaintops and allows you to take in views of the valley, from the wind turbines at the western edge, all the way down to the Salton Sea.

As impressive as that was, I'm not sure it measured up to the excitement level of Splashtopia as far as the kids were concerned.

Weeks after our visit, Drew refused to cut the plastic Splashtopia admission bracelet from his wrist. He wanted to be ready for another run down the waterslide when his dad feels like being a kid again.

I'm ready!
Eric Harnish lives in Newhall.

Check it Out
Rancho Las Palmas
41-000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage
www.rancholaspalmas.com

The Living Desert
47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert
www.livingdesert.org

Palm Springs Aerial Tram
One Tram Way, Palm Springs
www.pstramway.com
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