We have been to Joshua tree too many times to count, but we continue to find new areas to explore. On my most recent trip, I had the opportunity to stay in Twentynine Palms near the Oasis of Mara entrance. In all my times to the park, I have only visited this area twice. Now I have a new reason to return.
The city of Twentynine Palms is a wonderful destination as well as place to stay while exploring Joshua Tree. The town itself is super cute, bursting at the seams with a creative vibe that is inspiring. This part of Joshua tree is less touristed than the main visitor center, but there are plenty of reasons why you should make put Twentynine Palms on your must visit list.
What to Do
Joshua Tree is one of our favorite places to visit, but we often feel it is off limits during the height of summer due to the heat, however, there is plenty to do regardless of the weather, specifically in Twentynine Palms, which makes it great any time of the year.
Oasis of Mara Visitor Center
The Oasis of Mara Visitor Center of Joshua Tree is beautiful and quite informative. Most visitors to Joshua Tree only visit the main visitor center near Joshua Tree town. Similar to that visitor center, the Oasis of Mara also has park rangers on hand to answer questions as well as a small gift shop for souvenirs. What makes this center special however are the wonderful exhibits providing information about the park’s animal life, habitats and climate.
In addition, the visitor center is also the entrance to the historic Oasis of Mara. This natural oasis encompasses the original 29 palm trees for which the town is named.
The short .5 mile loop around the oasis grounds is on a concrete path, which is suitable for all ages. Information boards provide details about the history of the place, geology, plants and animals. This is a great stop on a visit to Twentynine Palms.
See the Stars
Joshua Tree is known to as a destination with excellent star gazing opportunities. We have been there several times specifically to for this, but only recently did we learn about the Sky’s the Limit Observatory in Twentynine Palms. On our last visit to this area of Joshua Tree we noticed the observatory’s building, but didn’t really know what it was.
On my most recent trip, I was informed about their free Saturday night sky viewings, so I went to check it out. Every Saturday (except when there is a full moon), volunteers are on hand with giant telescopes to teach visitors about the night sky. On our visit we saw the rings on Saturn, the lines on Jupiter and the red of Mars. Sky’s the Limit Observatory is located on Utah Trail Road, the same road you would use to visit Joshua Tree National Park from Twentynine Palms. If you can’t manage to stay up for the night sky parties, stop in at any time to check out the amazing planet mapping on the front lawn. It really brings into focus how grand the solar system really is. Read more about our visit here.
Make Some Art
Driving around Twentynine Palms, you can’t help but notice there is art every where you look. From the beautiful murals on the main street to the eclectic sculpture art at hotels, art is a major part of this town. The 29 Palms Creative Center & Art Gallery is such a fun and unique place to visit while in town. It is especially great for those days when you need to get out of the heat. The center offer classes as well as drop-in art projects that will be entertaining for the whole family. During my visit we participated in an adult painting workshop that was so awesome. It was difficult for my perfectionist self to compare my painting to the very beautiful and professional paintings hanging on the wall, but now that I have it home without the comparison, I would say it looks pretty great!
Lisa Starr, the owner of the Bonita Domes mentioned below is also a drum maker and guide for drum medicine journeys. One of the most fascinating parts of the desert is it’s pull in the artistic and spiritual realms. Participating in a drum medicine journey is a great way to tap into your own inner conflicts as well as experience first hand the spiritual properties of this amazing landscape.
A Drum Medicine Journey is a meditation of sorts that can help restore one’s inner calm and balance in life. Participating in one of Lisa’s journey’s made a profound effect on me that I am still processing a few months later. At the very least, being in her presence and hearing her amazing drum skills is well worth seeking out this experience when you are in town.
Where to Stay
The desert areas surrounding Joshua Tree hold many unique and adorable gems that call to be explored. This extends even to accommodation. Some of the most unique and welcoming hotels we have stayed at have been in this area of the desert.
The 29 Palms Inn
The 29 Palms Inn is an eclectic artist hive of creativity tucked behind the Oasis of Mara Visitor Center. The hotel consists of several free standing rooms, many of which are Adobe brick buildings dating back to the 1940s. The rooms are adorably old school, providing a perfect retreat for both couples or families. If you are with kids ask for Irene’s Abode as its a full house with living room, a twin bunk bed bedroom and kitchen with a massive courtyard. You may not even want to leave the hotel if you have that room- it’s amazing! Don’t fret if that is booked as there are several other very family friendly rooms as well, at very reasonable rates. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful with a lake (the oasis!), plenty of grass for kids to roam around on as well as a fully functioning garden providing fresh food for the onsite restaurant.
If you are looking for something a little more classic, considering staying at the Campbell House, a B&B also operated by owners of The 29 Palms Inn. It has a totally different feel, with a classic 1920’s home surrounded by large shady cypress trees. There are 12 rooms that are decorated more like a country home, each with a patio, kitchenette, TV sitting area and full bath. The rooms are very spacious and comfortable. Inside the main house, you might feel like you have been transported to old England with the royal feel of the sitting and dining areas. The beauty of a B&B is the gourmet breakfast which is included in your stay. Kids are welcome here, but not necessarily encouraged. This would be the perfect place for a parent’s weekend getaway where you can spend the day relaxing in the quiet, peaceful gardens.
For those of you looking for a little more unique setting, check out Lisa’s hand made adobe bag brick domes. Not necessarily recommended in the height of summer as they are not air conditioned, but these are great fun in the winter months. The Bonita Dome’s currently consist of two pods – the East Pod and West Pod as well as a private suite in the main house which is shared with owner and awesome drum maker, Lisa. This is a unique opportunity to get close to nature in a camping type experience, without having to sleep on the hard ground of the desert!
Twentynine Palms is a unique destination in its own right, but also provides the prefect backdrop to a weekend escape to the desert to reconnect with yourself, your loved ones as well as nature. Have you been? What is your favorite part of Twentynine Palms?
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