William Watson Lodge – Kananaskis, Alberta

We have stayed at William Watson Lodge several times over the years. This is a really special place, nestled in the heart of Kananaskis Country, which provides year-round, barrier-free lodging for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families.

William Watson Lodge is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on the edge of Lower Kananaskis Lake. It is about 25 minutes south of the Kananaskis Village on Highway 40.

THE GOOD

William Watson Lodge has 22 fully accessible cabins of varying sizes. Some are one and two bedroom units ($30 per night) and some are three bedroom units ($40 per night).  Every unit has a wheel-in shower, full kitchen, kitchen supplies, living room with pull-out sofa bed and dining table with chairs.

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Dining Table

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View of the Living Area and Dining Space

Each unit also has tracks on the ceiling for moving people from the bedroom to the bathroom. Some of the cabins are pet friendly.

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Ceiling Tracks

They are slowly replacing the older cabins with beautiful new cabins. We recently stayed in one of the new cabins for the first time and it was modern, clean and really nicely decorated. They put a lot of thought into the design of these cabins in order to make the space as easy as possible for those with mobility challenges. The ambience is very homey and it makes for a perfectly relaxing stay.

Our unit had three bedrooms. Each bedroom had two beds in it, a dresser and a window.

Our unit had two bathrooms. The first bathroom had a full bathtub, a raised toilet seat and a pedestal sink. One cool thing about this bathroom was that the shower rod holding the curtain could swing completely out of the way and then swing back to be tension fit on the wall. 

The second bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower with a built-in shower bench.

The flooring throughout the unit was laminate, making it very easy to wheel around on.

The main lodge, where guests check in and check out, also has a number of amenities. There is a large fireplace, a big deck out back, books, magazines, board games, bikes, sleds, and snowshoes for borrowing and coin-operated laundry machines.

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William Watson also has RV camp sites, an accessible comfort camping trailer and an accessible comfort camping hut. It is worth investigating all of the options if you are looking for a real wilderness experience.

Around the cabins are a number of barrier-free paved pathways and over 20km of accessible trails. In the summertime, they are completely clear and easy to traverse. In the winter, due to the volume of snow in the mountains, the pathways around the cabins are kept clear but the trails accumulate snow. People enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the network of trails that surround the lodge. There is a sit-ski available for borrowing as well as a sled for pulling those with mobility challenges through the snow. It attaches to a harness that an able-bodied person can wear in order to pull the sled behind them.

There is an accessible playground about 2 minutes down one of the main trails. In the summer, it is completely clear and easy to get to. In the winter, that particular trail is impassable in a wheelchair but relatively easy to get to on a sled or on skis.

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There are accessible picnic sites and campfire sites, so if you come with a group of people there are lots of outdoor spaces to use for gatherings. 

THE BAD

One bad thing about William Watson Lodge is that it is completely outside of cellphone range and there is no internet availability. The lodges also have no TVs, so you can feel very isolated. Once you get used to the lack of connectivity, it actually feels nice to have the time to focus on other things. We usually read lots of books when we are there and we enjoy the family time.

The cabins do not come equipped with any bedding, so you do need to bring your pillows and blankets with you. This can make for a number of trips to and from the car when you are loading and unloading. You also need to bring your own towels.

When you check in to your room, you are given a cleaning list. The cleaning tasks are less onerous than they used to be but they do expect you to help out to cut down on costs (i.e. you have to vacuum, clean all the dishes, wipe all surfaces, empty garbages, etc.). After I have finished packing, cleaning and hauling all of our stuff out to the car, I am usually pretty exhausted, but the price reflects the amount of work you have to put into your stay here.

One other thing to keep in mind is that reservations must be made pretty far in advance and there is a priority listing for bookings:

  • People with disabilities living in the province of Alberta get first priority and can make reservations up to 4 months in advance for the severely disabled (non-ambulatory, legally blind, profoundly deaf, dependently cognitively disabled). Those with less severe disabilities can make reservations 3 months in advance (semi-ambulatory, medically fragile). 
  • Alberta seniors (65 years and older) can make reservations up to 2 months in advance, space permitting.

THE UGLY

Some of the older cabins are getting a bit ugly. They are definitely cozy and rustic but the carpets, kitchens and bathrooms are showing their age. If any are available, I would recommend requesting a new cabin. 

OVERALL

Overall, William Watson Lodge is an absolute treasure. The fact that we have this amazing place right here in Alberta is really special. Everyone can enjoy the mountain parks and everything that the great outdoors has to offer and William Watson makes that possible for so many who would otherwise have difficulty finding a comfortable place to stay.   

 

Holiday Inn & Suites – Osoyoos, British Columbia

We stayed at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Osoyoos, BC for 5 nights in April of 2017. This was our first trip to Osoyoos as a family and we picked this hotel largely because all of the other hotels I called in Osoyoos were booked solid. They all told me the same thing – Osoyoos gets a number of snowbirds that rent out the hotel rooms on a monthly basis through the winter and they don’t go home until the end of April. Apparently the wheelchair accessible rooms get booked up by people looking to escape the winter weather elsewhere in Canada. This isn’t too surprising given that the daytime average temperatures are higher in Osoyoos than anywhere else in Canada. The winters are shorter and milder and spring arrives earlier than in other parts of the Okanagan. If I could afford it, I would spend my winters in Osoyoos too!

THE GOOD

The Holiday Inn & Suites is located in one of the best spots in Osoyoos. It is right on a peninsula in the middle of Osoyoos Lake. There is a small private beach area in the back of the hotel and it is an easy walk to the larger public beach (Gyro Beach) and the downtown area. 

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Our room rate for the accessible room with a wheel-in shower was $158.95 per night. The room was really well-appointed for a family. It came with two queen-sized beds in a separate bedroom, a large accessible bathroom with wheel-under sink, wheel-in shower (with built-in bench) and a toilet with grab bars.

Bedroom

The rest of the room had a very large living space with a full-sized kitchen, dining area and living room with couches and a TV.

There was a large balcony off of the living room which made for a nice spot to sit at the end of the day. 

There was free laundry available at the end of one of the hallways. The hotel also had a restaurant with a beautiful view overlooking the water. 

There was a pool, hot tub and fitness room located on the main floor. There was a large, accessible washroom located in the pool area. 

Our nightly rate included free, underground parking. 

THE BAD

This hotel is clearly not one of the finer properties in Osoyoos. It served its purpose, however, it is outdated, dirty and looks run down. It was probably in its prime 30 years ago. 

The wheel-in shower in our room had a built-in plastic shower bench. However, the bench was really far from the taps and it would be a challenge to stay on the slippery bench while trying to reach the taps. If you have mobility challenges, you may require help with this shower. 

The hotel had a pool and hot tub, however the pool wasn’t functioning for the first 3 days of our stay due to an issue with the pump. Also, every time I went to the pool area with the kids I had to go to the front desk to ask for towels as they weren’t stocked on the racks near the pool. They would often give me 2 towels for the three of us, which I found strange. 

When we checked in, they gave us “kids eat free” coupons for the restaurant. Apparently these coupons can only be used to order food off of the kids’ menu and when we ate at the hotel’s restaurant, we were told that they didn’t have a kids’ menu. 

THE UGLY

The hallways and common areas in the hotel smelled very strongly of curry and other combinations of food and grease. 

OVERALL 

Although the hotel itself wasn’t amazing, the location of this hotel was great. The view from the balcony was really beautiful and it was a very short walk to the public beach area and downtown. We were able to walk everywhere once we arrived. 

Some highlights of our stay in Osoyoos included the Desert Model Railroad (www.osoyoosrailroad.com) and the Rattlesnake Canyon Theme Park (www.rattlesnakecanyon.ca). The town also did an amazing family oriented celebration for Easter, complete with an Easter Egg Hunt, live music, petting zoo, face painting, games, bouncy castles, etc.

At that time of year, the town felt a bit sleepy, but it was a great place to unwind, relax and enjoy the beautiful Okanagan air. 

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Marriott’s BeachPlace Towers

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to write this post! This was one of our favourite hotel stays and I definitely want to go back to the BeachPlace Towers again. We stayed at this hotel for four nights in February of 2015 (2 bedroom villa, room 1116). The hotel is located right on the beach, within walking distance to restaurants, shops, playgrounds, entertainment and lots of beautiful scenery. 

THE GOOD

Our two-bedroom villa was huge and fully wheelchair accessible! We had two full bedrooms, each with a king-sized bed, two bathrooms (one was fully accessible), a huge jacuzzi tub, kitchen, dining area, living room, pull-out sofa, washer and dryer, balcony, etc. 

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Jacuzzi Tub

The view from our balcony was absolutely amazing. We got to watch boats come and go all day long and admire the gigantic houses across the water. Watching the sun go down and taking in the city lights from that vantage point was really quite breathtaking. 

This hotel was absolutely perfect for families. There was lots of room to explore, there was a splash park in the pool area and there was a huge playroom on the main floor of the hotel with a giant wooden ship for them to climb around on. The kids absolutely loved it. The hotel had a program of activities with things like craft time and movie night. They also had video games, board games, chess and other activities for older kids. 

The pool area was accessible. There was a ramp to get from the pool area to the hot tub area. The pool was equipped with a lift (the hot tub was not). There was also a pool-side bar where you could order food and drinks to enjoy by the pool or to take up to your room. 

The location of the hotel was perfect. It was set back a little bit from the road but it was in a complex with lots of restaurants and fast food options. We had a very short walk across the street to get to the beach. 

About 10 minutes away on the same street as this hotel, there was an accessible playground and mats for wheelchair users to get closer to the water. The kids had a ton of fun playing there. They had convenient foot showers and sprayers located at the entrance to the beach so you could get the sand off after playing.

THE BAD

The entrance to this hotel was through a semi-sketchy parkade and it felt a bit strange walking through there after dark. 

A portion of this hotel is a timeshare for Marriott Vacation Club. We definitely got the timeshare vibe when we were staying there. We were invited to a sales pitch, which we declined. 

We checked out the Fort Lauderdale water taxi, which stops about a 5 minute walk from this hotel, but it was not accessible. There was no way that someone in a wheelchair could get themselves up the huge step to get onto the water taxi. That was a real shame as it would have been a great, inexpensive way to see more of Fort Lauderdale.

THE UGLY

There was nothing ugly about this hotel. 

OVERALL

This place was one of my favourite vacation stops for a number of reasons. The weather and the beach in Fort Lauderdale was amazing. It was sunny and humid and the evenings were absolutely beautiful. Having the two bedrooms with a full kitchen and washer and dryer was so great. I could make food for the kids that I knew they would eat and save us from having to eat out for every meal. 

The location of this hotel was perfect. We were right in the middle of the action and a stone’s throw away from the beach. We took the kids to play in the sand and ocean every morning and then came back to shower off and have lunch. At dinnertime, we would walk to a nearby patio, listen to live music, sip piña coladas and watch the cruise ships sail away. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back there! 

Polo Towers – Las Vegas, Nevada

We stayed in a wheelchair accessible room at the Polo Towers for the first time many years ago and recently stayed again for one week in August of 2016. 

THE GOOD

The Polo Towers is conveniently located right on the strip between the MGM Grand and Planet Hollywood. There were lots of places to eat in front of the Polo Towers in a Hawaiian market of sorts, including a popular Chili’s restaurant. 

Our room was a two bedroom, two bathroom unit with a living room, sofa bed, full kitchen,  kitchenette and two balconies. One bedroom and one bathroom were fully wheelchair accessible. 

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Accessible Bedroom

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Accessible Bathroom

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Wheel-In Shower with Built-In Shower Bench

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Wheel-Under Sink in Accessible Bathroom

There was a handle on the bathroom door to make it easier for people with limited upper body mobility to shut the door. 

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For Closing the Pocket Door on the Accessible Bathroom

There was a door in between the second bedroom and the main living area that could be closed or locked for additional privacy. The bed in the second bedroom was a murphy bed, so it could be folded up to create additional living space. There was a small kitchenette on this side and a second bathroom (the door was wide enough to get in, but the bathroom itself was not accessible).

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Second Bedroom, Murphy Bed

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Second Bathroom – Not Accessible

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Second Bathroom Shower – Not Accessible

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Kitchenette in Second Bedroom

The kitchen in the main living area was modified with lower counter tops and a wheel-under sink.

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Kitchen with Wheel-Under Sink and Lower Countertops

There was a Room Valet panel on the wall in the accessible bedroom, living room and accessible bathroom with several cool features. You could turn it on to receive visual alerts when the phone rang, when the doorbell was pushed, for a wake-up call or when the fire alarm went off. You could also set the bed to vibrate for these same alerts (I know what you’re thinking but this would be really handy if you were sleeping and couldn’t see the visual alerts!).

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Each room had a closet, a dresser, TV, in-room safe and coffee maker. 

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Main Closet

The entire hotel was accessible, including the entrances, exits, main lobby, washrooms on the main floor, fitness area, splash park and the roof-top pool area. There was a large cold pool and a smaller hot tub. Both pools were equipped with a lift. 

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Cold Pool Lift

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Hot Tub Lift

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View of Pool Area – Hot Tub is in the Back Behind the Blue Cabanas

There was an observation deck at the end of the pool area that was up a few stairs, however, there was an ADA lift so that people who could not climb the stairs could still get up to look around. This space provided a beautiful view of the strip at night!

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ADA Lift to Access the Observation Deck

There was an amazing splash park in the back of the hotel, which was great for kids of all ages. Because of the shape of the hotel, the splash park stayed shaded all day long, which was perfect for everyone. Even though it was 40 degrees Celsius outside, the temperature in the splash park was quite comfortable. There was a shallow kiddie pool, sprayers, a play structure with slides and lots of room to run around. For the parents, there were several comfortable loungers along the sides, tables and chairs and a vending machine.

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Play Structure

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Kiddie Pool

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Sprayers

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There was no casino at this hotel. For some, this might be considered a drawback, but for us it meant a much quieter place to retire to and a smoke-free environment to walk through and sleep in each night. 

I cannot forget to mention that his hotel had free laundry machines on every other floor! I walked up one floor and had full access to the machines for as long as I needed them. There was enough laundry soap provided in our room for one load and there was a vending machine in the laundry room from which additional soap could be purchased. 

THE BAD

The view from our room was facing the front of the building, which was not a great view. We could see people coming and going and see the MGM Grand in the distance but otherwise there wasn’t much to look at. 

Our room did not have a bathtub. The accessible bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower and the other bathroom had a shower as well (note that the glass door on the other shower didn’t open or close properly, which was a bit dangerous for the kids). We managed fine but I really prefer hotel rooms that have a bathtub for the kids.

The kitchen was not set up for guests with kids. The knives and all of the sharp implements were located in a cupboard that was very easily accessible for small people. As soon as we discovered this, we had to empty out the cupboards and move all of the sharp things to the top of the counter!

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Yikes! Not a Great Location for Knives When Kids are Around!

The Wi-Fi in this hotel was atrocious! They provided us with a password and log-in information for the free Wi-Fi when we checked in but the signal strength was terrible and every time we lost the connection, we would have to go through the log-in process all over again. It was so unbelievably bad it was practically unusable. 

My husband got stuck in the lift between the pool area and the observation deck one night. He got part-way up and then it stopped working. He was able to access the emergency phone to call the hotel staff and I pulled the emergency release button to get him back down to the ground. The hotel sent a maintenance crew up and they worked on it for about 30 minutes to get the lift up and running again. 

THE UGLY

The furnishings in our unit could have used an update. The couch in the living room, in particular, had a panel on the front that kept falling off exposing a bunch of sharp staples that little people could easily scratch themselves on. I kept trying to re-attach it to the couch but had little success.

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Living Room Furniture was Old and Outdated

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This Panel Kept Falling Off the Couch Exposing a Bunch of Sharp Nails and Staples

One of the toilets in our room was not working properly. It stopped flushing several times and we would have to call the front desk to request that someone in maintenance come and fix it. The first time this happened, we had just gotten back to our room and had a message on our machine saying that housekeeping noticed that one of the toilets wasn’t flushing properly and to call if we wanted maintenance to come and fix it. So what did we do? Naturally, we tried flushing the toilets. The one in the accessible bathroom overflowed everywhere and covered the bathroom floor in water. We called down to request that someone come and fix it and despite the fact that it was leaking everywhere, they said it would take about 30 minutes to get someone to our room (this was about 10pm). They did send someone up with a bunch of towels though!

OVERALL

I would definitely stay at the Polo Towers again. I think most of the bad elements were specific to our room and we probably would not have that same experience again. The proximity to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood was a bonus and the splash park was unbeatable for the kids. They started every day running around in there and had so much fun.  

The hotel was clean and quiet and our room was huge considering what you would get at a normal hotel in Vegas. The two bedrooms worked out great and having two bathrooms and a kitchen was ideal. I think Polo Towers is a great option, particularly if travelling to Vegas as a family.

 

 

Rancho Mirage, California (Palm Springs) – Westin Mission Hills Resort Villas

We stayed in a one bedroom, one bathroom villa at this resort for a week in 2010. We had never been to Palm Springs before but had heard good things about the shopping. We booked this place without knowing anything about it, just hoping it would be okay, and we were very happy with what we saw when we arrived.

THE GOOD

If you are looking for wheelchair accessible accommodations in Palm Springs, there are probably lots of nice places to choose from. We chose the Westin and found it really exceeded our expectations. The unit we stayed in was unit 3819, a non-smoking unit on the main floor. There was parking for our rental car right outside of our unit. 

We entered the unit into the kitchen but there was a stackable washer and dryer just inside the doorway off to the side (super convenient!). The kitchen was accessible, complete with a wheel-under sink, and had a fridge, dishwasher, stove and microwave. 

Accessible Kitchen

Accessible Kitchen

Wheel-Under Sink in the Kitchen

Wheel-Under Sink in the Kitchen

The kitchen led into the dining room area, where there was a table that seated six people. It wasn’t a huge space, but it was big enough that a wheelchair could get around the table and the table was high enough that a wheelchair could get underneath.

Dining Room Area

Dining Room Area

The living room area was beside the dining room. It had lots of seating, a TV and a fireplace. The couch in the living room was a pull-out sofa, so this room could sleep four if two people wanted to use the sofa bed. 

View of Living Area from the Door

View of Living Area from the Door

Living Room and Fireplace

Living Room and Fireplace

The living room patio doors opened out onto the private deck area. There was a patio table with chairs and a barbecue outside on the deck. The bedroom also had patio doors that opened out onto the deck. Both sets of doors in the below picture were connected to our unit. 

Outside View of our Main Floor Unit

Outside View of our Main Floor Unit

View From Our Patio

View From Our Patio

The bedroom was comfortable and a good size. There was a king-sized bed, a TV and a fireplace in the bedroom. There was also a large closet next to the door that has lowered railings for ease of use. 

Bedroom with King-Sized Bed

Bedroom with King-Sized Bed

Closet in Bedroom with Lowered Railing

Closet in Bedroom with Lowered Railing

The bathroom in this unit was really something. I always love places that have both a wheel-in shower and a bathtub and this one had both and both were nice! The wheel-in shower had a built-in shower bench which was close enough to the controls that a wheelchair user could use them on their own. 

Wheel-In Shower with Built-in Shower Bench

Wheel-In Shower with Built-in Shower Bench

The jetted bathtub was huge and one nice feature is that you could watch TV from the bathtub if you opened up the shutters in between the bathtub and the bedroom.

View From the Bathtub

View From the Bathtub

There were two wheel-under sinks in the bathroom and a toilet with two grab bars. The mirror over the counter was the perfect height for wheelchair users and able-bodied users. Overall this bathroom was perfectly equipped for wheelchair accessibility.

Two Wheel-Under Sinks and Bathtub

Two Wheel-Under Sinks and Bathtub

Toilet with Grab Bars

Toilet with Grab Bars

The outside grounds at this resort were really beautiful and well-maintained. Everything was green and there were fountains and little ducks everywhere. The pathways around the resort were all paved and easy to wheel on. There were a few wooden bridges that went over top of the water areas, but they were flat bridges and could be easily navigated in a wheelchair. 

Beautiful Fountains Everywhere

Beautiful Fountains Everywhere

Beautifully Manicured Grounds

Beautifully Manicured Grounds

The pool area was large and we found it easy to find a spot to sit in the shade. There was a pool lift at the pool. We didn’t make use of it, but we did see it and if you look in the back of the middle of the below picture, you might be able to see it. There was a really cool hot-tub area here too hidden inside some rocks and we made use of that even though there was no lift for the hot tub. We asked for help to get in and out and the other guests were more than happy to assist. 

Relaxing Pool Area - With Pool Lift

Relaxing Pool Area – With Pool Lift

While in Palm Springs, we took in the shopping at the outlet mall (Desert Hills Premium Outlets) and in the El Paseo Shopping District. Both areas were accessible and easy to get around in. The outlet mall is absolutely massive, so do take note of where the washrooms are as there aren’t that many and they seem hard to find when you need them. El Paseo was fun to walk around in but is very expensive. 

We also took in the Palm Springs Street Fair or VillageFest, which takes place every Thursday night. There was a ton of food, artwork, crafts and entertainment and it was a fun atmosphere. This is definitely worth doing in order to see a lot in a short amount of time. 

I also have to mention that we ate at a Mexican restaurant called La Casita, which was arguably some of the best Mexican food we have ever had. The decor leaves a lot to be desired, but the food is amazing. This place is definitely worth looking up if you are in the area. 

THE BAD

We had never been to Palm Springs before and had no idea what to expect. Now, having been there, I feel like there isn’t a lot to do there other than shopping and golf. The outlet mall is good but it is really too large to explore in one day. There are definitely some deals to be had, but trying to see it all is pretty exhausting. 

We don’t golf, so we failed to appreciate the beauty of the multitude of golf courses here.

There aren’t a lot of restaurants or shops close by to this resort. You definitely need to have a rental car if you are staying here. There is a restaurant by the pool at the resort but it is only open select hours and the food is just so-so. You will find lots of restaurants and grocery stores in Palm Springs, but you will need to drive there. 

The location of this resort is very quiet, but it isn’t right in Palm Springs. It is about a 15 minute drive from the airport and from downtown Palm Springs. It takes about 30 minutes to drive to the outlet mall, although it’s a very easy highway drive to get there.

Highway on the Way to the Outlet Mall

Wide Highway on the Way to the Outlet Mall

Wind Turbines All Along Highway

Wind Turbines All Along Highway

THE UGLY

There was nothing ugly about this resort. 

OVERALL

Overall, this resort is a beautiful, wheelchair accessible place to escape to. If you enjoy shopping, golfing or gambling, there are lots of attractions here to keep you occupied. Otherwise, you can take in the scenery, relax by the pool, enjoy the hot temperatures and try some good local restaurants. 

 

 

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