Megan and I were going to leave the house early, check in to our Rancho Mirage hotel and then check out the local sights, like the Aerial Tramway and...
...well, that was the only activity I was aware of here. I figured we woud spend the rest of the day shopping at the River complex, and hanging out at the pool.
That was before Megan turned on her newly charged cell phone and found a text message from a friend, who happened to be staying at the Morongo Casino and Resort, out in Cabazon... which we would be passing by on our way to Palm Springs. The Desert Hills Premium Outlet mall is located right next to the resort... I had always wanted to check it out (for some reason, my husband never seems to want to stop and shop when we're traveling) and Leesa and her family were planning on having lunch there. So why not?
While there, Leesa's family invited us to come and hang out with them at the resort's fabulous pool. So instead of an awesome aerial view, we ended up spending the afternoon at an Indian casino... and it was good.
I have to tell you: My husband and I have never been a fan of Indian casinos. The ones we've been to have been unpleasant, smoky and full of people who looked like they were gambling away their welfare benefits. That's why we haven't set foot in one for several years.
But that was then - and this is now. The tribes have built their businesses wisely. Yes, there is still a "low rent" element to some of the machines (Five cent games, anyone?) and tobacco is still a prevalent substance on the casino floor. But today's Morongo is a class act, with a luxury hotel tower, lovely spa, fine restaurants, and the previously mentioned pool.
I got a chance to check out our friends' guest room on the 14th floor of the tower, and it was what you would expect from a four-star resort: good size, nice beds, decent bathroom, and CLEAN. No tobacco smell (which was an issue the last time we actually STAYED at an Indian casino; even in a so-called no smoking room).
I ended up leaving Megan with our friends while I drove to Rancho Mirage to check into our own (decidedly no-frills) hotel. When I returned to take my daughter off their hands, she announced that she LOVED Morongo and wanted to come back.
I have to admit - it's not a bad place for a relaxing getaway, even if you have no intention of gambling. My friends' midweek summer stay was costing $119 per night. A quick peek at Hotels.com shows that you can get amazing bargains at other desert resorts if you show up this summer. When you compare that with what I've discovered trying to book a room in San Diego next month (where even crummy hotels are charging $200 a night), the desert is kind of a steal (especially if you go midweek), and the drive is a little bit easier (less traffic!).