Christmas and the holidays are a special time of year no matter where one finds oneself. But when that “where” is the Palm Springs Valley, there are truly magical Yuletide sights and happenings that last more than just a few hours of the day or night. So mark your calendars and stop off and one—or all—of the spots highlighted below.
To start off, how about visiting the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage (www.ritzcarlton.com/ranchomirage) to feast your eyes on its amazing 30-foot high Christmas tree? And while you’re on the property, be sure to check out one of the most amazing views of the valley there is to be seen. On Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the Mirada Ballroom, the Ritz-Carlton will host “Breakfast with Santa.” Adults and children can decorate cookies or take photos with Kris Kringle, and are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to be donated to Toys for Tots.
Also make your way to the lobby of Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa (www.rancholaspalmas.com) to take a peek at master pastry chef Neri Tiburcio’s annual gingerbread house display, which is so big it’s assembled where it resides, in the resort’s main lobby. This year’s confection—whose dimensions are nine feet long, four feet wide, and five feet high—has as its theme the Disney animated instant classic Frozen. “I love creating the gingerbread display each year,” says Neri, “because I get to take that year’s most loved children’s movie and make it come to life in a new, exciting way.” To make it, the 30-year veteran of baking and his team took 300 hours and used 300 pounds of dough, 150 pounds of flour, 50 pounds of icing, 300 pounds of sugar, 400 eggs, and 70 handmade figures. This is a definite don’t miss!
If you’re concerned that you don’t yet see the Christmas tree high up at the top of the tram in the San Jacinto Mountains of Palm Springs, don’t be. It hasn’t been lighted yet. That official duty will be carried out at the mountain station by two-time Grammy-winning recording star Jack Jones in a celebration that starts at 5:30 p.m.on Sunday, December 7, and that will feature a holiday performance by the Palm Springs High School Madrigal Singers. The 45-foot-high tree, decorated with 6500 LED lights, can be seen from throughout the Palm Springs Valley, but the best way to see it is up close and personal, of course. To find out other dates where various choirs will perform at the foot of the tree, visit www.pstramway.com.
And while you’re in Palm Springs, be sure to make a stop to see Kenny Irwin Jr.’s Robolights—which has been described as a “fantastical winter-wonderland-meets-sci-fi art installation” by the Desert Sun newspaper. It’s all on view daily between the hours of 4:00 and 9:00 p.m. at Irwin’s rambling property at 1077 East Granvia Valmonte in Palm Springs through January 6. The attraction itself consists of hundreds of sculptures created by Irwin himself, most of which are made of recycled materials and festooned with colored Christmas lights. While there’s no admission fee, donations are appreciated. I make it a point to stop and contribute my small share to Irwin’s electric bill each year, and always get back so much more than what I give. www.facebook.com/robolights.