I love a good old tropical-island getaway as much as the next mom, but I’m developing an increasing interest in family desert vacations.
Just to be sure we’re on the same page here, I’m not talking about roughing it Lawrence of Arabia–style. I’m thinking more along the lines of a desert resort or those luxury desert-safari camps complete with a claw-foot tub, high–thread count sheets, room service, and expensive soaps.
This is by no means a complete list, but here are five desert hot spots that are worth a Google search.
1. Palm Desert—Within easy driving distance from both San Diego and L.A., Palm Springs/Palm Desert is a nice side trip from a Southern California family adventure. The highlight of this area is undoubtedly a hike through Joshua Tree National Park—perfect in March and April when the desert is in bloom. Stay in the delightfully retro Mojave Resort in Palm Desert. This cute little resort is in walking distance of downtown Palm Desert and has a very inviting courtyard pool.
2. Tucson—If seventy degrees on New Year’s sounds good to you, check out the southern Arizona city of Tucson. Desert biking and hiking are the highlight here. Arizona Inn, a historic landmark and one of Zagat’s Top 50 Small Hotels in the U.S., should meet your every need, whether you’re traveling with the family or sneaking in a little escape from parenthood.
3. Dubai—On the surface, it’s an over-the-top Western-style playland in the heart of the Middle East, but even a brief visit uncovers so much more. While there’s plenty of sightseeing and activities for your family, including shushing down the slopes at an indoor ski area, a visit to the shopping mall can be equally fascinating. Shopping malls are truly the same the world over, but there’s something completely unique about being in a typical Western setting among veiled women wearing Jimmy Choos and the most luxurious and elaborate eye makeup you have ever seen. While in Dubai, you don’t necessarily have to stay at the Burj or the new $25,000-a-night underwater-themed hotel, but you do get what you pay for. Experience the desert landscape right outside of Dubai at Al Maha.
4. Petra—There’s no doubt in my mind that as soon as my toddler is old enough to utter the words “Indiana Jones,” we will return to this incredible lost city in the desert of Jordan. Made famous as the location of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Petra is an ancient city that was carved from solid rock in the walls of a desert valley by the Nabatean people. Although the ruins of this stunning city literally feel like the end of the earth, Petra has the most developed tourism infrastructure in Jordan. Plenty of reputable desert safari tour operators and a range of accommodation choices make it a family-friendly vacation spot.
5. Egypt—Still on my “to see” list, but Kayt Sukel has been there and writes about her trip with her toddler to Giza to see the pyramids.