#TravelTuesday: Twentynine Palms Gateway to Joshua Tree National Park

Heading east into the desert provides a quick escape for our family. The past two summers we’ve gone to Palm Springs and enjoyed the comfort of a resort hotel. This time, I thought, we ought to try something new. Located less than 140 miles from Orange County, CA, that’s about a 2.5 hour drive, the City of Twenty-Nine Palms is a literal oasis in the desert. I had never been nor did I know anyone who had but the brochures assured me there would be lots to do – it was after all, the Gateway to Joshua Tree National Park.

When you’re traveling with family, it is important to find a place that can “entertain” every member of the family. For us, with a teen and tween son, our challenge was to find a place that would provide enough interest even without digital devices. I was determined to make this weekend be an unplugged experience. We embarked on our excursion on the last Saturday before the last week of school. It was to be my older son’s last week of middle school. I had it in my mind to have an EPIC weekend.

29 Palms
The drive to the desert is calming. Twentynine Palms, here we come.

We drove down the familiar CA-60 E freeway and passed the windmills that often signaled how close we were to Palm Springs and just kept going. The sun shone bright and it got warmer as we headed to 29 Palms. Before long, we spotted the Joshua Trees, straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, along the highway. Then came the funky art pieces and curious shops along the road.

We stopped at a homey and kind of rundown diner called “Carousel Café.” The people were friendly and the serving portions were large. We were hungry and did not want to stop at some fast food joint. Our 29 Palms adventure began here.

Fried Chicken at Carousel Cafe
Must’ve been so hungry that I didn’t take a photo of the round building that was the Carousel Café. But I did take this pic of fried chicken.

The City of Twentynine Palms, California, in the southern Mojave Desert, is the home of Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters and Oasis Visitor Center. The North Entrance to the park is located 3.25 just miles up the hill from the Headquarters. We were staying at the quaint 29 Palms Inn, not too far from that entrance.

After lunch, we headed to 29 Palms Inn, where we would be staying for the night.

29 Palms Inn
29 Palms Inn

We stayed at the West End Cottage, a 1950s cottage with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, a fireplace and a piano! It felt like the place one could spend time to paint or write a novel.

West End Cottage, 29 Palms Inn
I was told the West End Cottage was always in demand. It’s perfect for families. 2 Bedrooms, a living room and kitchen. It’s dog-friendly too.
I'd forgotten that you could plat the piano, Mom, said my older son.
I’d forgotten that you could plat the piano, Mom, said my older son.

Next door to the cottage is the 29 Palms Creative Center and Gallery. You can drop in to paint pottery or take an art class.


With some time to kill before heading out to Joshua Tree National Park, my kids opted to paint a ceramic dog and a ceramic snake.


snake eyes

The artist-owner of the gallery, Gretchen, is the daughter of 29 Palm Inn proprietor Jane Smith. Gretchen was cool. We chatted about the vibrant art scene in 29 Palms and she handed me 2 literary journals! A literary journal, wow I hadn’t seen one of those since college.

We hit the pool to cool off – it was a blazing 104 degrees by then, and we decided on an early dinner at the inn’s restaurant.

After dinner, we headed out to Joshua Tree National Park around 6pm, as suggested by Ms. Pat Flanagan, the resident naturalist guide at 29 Palms Inn.

Ms. Pat was right! It was the perfect time to visit – as the sun slowly set on the Mojave Dessert.



As twilight turned to night, we headed out and stopped at Sky’s the Limit Observatory. They were having a special event unveiling new sculptures and there was a band performing in the middle of the desert, as we awaited nightfall. The sky just seemed endless and it wasn’t too long before we peered through the volunteers’ telescopes carefully set up in different places so that we could view the stars. We saw Saturn and its moons, and Jupiter. It was amazing.

Sky's the limit. Non-profit Observatory in the middle of the #desert #29palms @29palmsinn

A photo posted by Marcie Taylor (@marcietaylor) on

We did it – packed an entire unplugged adventure in one day. We slept soundly at the West End Cottage and got up early enough to partake of the complimentary breakfast at the 29 Palms Inn library/office. We then met with Ms. Pat, who would take us on a guided nature walk around the premises. It was an informative morning and a great way to learn more about the Inn and Twentynine Palms.


Naturalist Pat Flanagan told us all about fault lines, geography and history.
Naturalist Pat Flanagan told us all about fault lines, geography and history.
This boathouse is part of 29 Palms history. Jane's family actually lived in it for a time.
This boathouse is part of 29 Palms history. Jane’s family actually lived in it for a time.

All too soon it was time to leave. Our unplugged weekend was a success. We cannot wait to go back and stay at the 29 Palms Inn again. Maybe I’ll even get started on that great American novel…

The stillness of the desert. That is until @timoteo5000 calls the boys #joshuatree

A video posted by Marcie Taylor (@marcietaylor) on

29 Palms Inn is at 73950 Inn Avenue, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277. For more information, visit 29palmsinn.com

You can learn more about visiting Joshua Tree National Park here.