Category Archives: Family

72 Hours (and Change) in Palm Desert

It was a family affair. My brother Joey was taking his family to Palm Desert – 30 minutes southeast of Palm Springs- in the Coachella Valley, Calif., to sit in on some timeshare chat at the Westin Desert Willows. For $350, he’d get four nights’ lodging and Starwood points. My mom already has Starwood timeshare weeks so she booked herself and Dad into a neighboring two-bedroom unit at the Willows and invited us to join in the fun. The temps in Utah were hovering around 40; it was 90 in Palm Springs so we grabbed the swimsuits with pleasure.

Off to the California desert we trucked. We pitstopped about six hours into the drive, sleeping at the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, Nev. For $27, we bedded down in a clean, pet-friendly double-queen, QUIET room, slept soundly and got back on the road at 10 a.m. after recording a quick audition. There’s a web series casting in Utah and even on vacation I still want the work.

We stopped for an over-priced but satisfying breakfast at Webster’s Sports Bar that cost us an extra hour of drivetime because of the slow -yet warm, friendly service- but it beats eating eggs in a smoky casino.


We rolled into the Westin at 4 p.m., dropped off the luggage, said hello to my parents and dove in the pool. A total of 10 hours spent in the Cherokee.

By 6 p.m., we were dressing to visit my Mom’s long-time friend Sandy who had purchased a gorgeous golf-estate so she could transition out of Beverly Hills.

Dinner was at Ruth Chris. I’m not particularly psyched on dining at chains when on vacation but it was one of the few places happy to accommodate a party of 11.

Night came and although I was exhausted, the Harley like rumble of the AC was ridiculously annoying.


Our first official day in Palm Desert started with audition taping. Both Sage and I had clips dues before noon and boy was Sage angry. All she wanted to do was play in the pool with Cousin Tess and here she was working. Tough. I cut her loose at 10 a.m. finished my own project with Ryan’s help and met my brother and his family at the pool for lunch and cocktails.

The $10 margaritas dropped to $5 at 4 p.m. so we stayed till then, had a drink and went back to the room to shower and change for take and bake pizza and salad from Wal-Mart. I love staying at places with kitchens. Dining out is fun and tasty but it’s such a production. Much better to hang back with everyone and cook a few nights.

After dinner Ryan and I snuck away to check out the weekly Villagefest in downtown Palm Springs. Every Thursday night vendors, artists, entertainers, and produce growers set up booths along Palm Canyon Drive. It’s like Park City’s Sunday Silly Market except it’s only open from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. We finished the night with blueberry mojitos on the patio of the Hyatt Palm Springs while listening to a couple of talented performers sing and dance to current covers.

Day 2

Aunt Stacey took the girls (Sarah, Tess and Sage) to get manicures and a movie (Jungle Book), Mom shopped for Passover dinner and Joey, Ryan and I checked out the Palm Springs Tramway. Built in 1963 the two-car scenic adventure charges $25 to whisk locals and tourists 8500 feet out of the desert heat for an afternoon in the mountains with 500 miles of hiking around Mt San Jacinto State Park. It took helicopters some 23,000 missions over two years to create the five towers and the 35,000 sq. ft. Mountain Station. Engineers labeled it the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”


Gotta say the rotating floor made this way cooler than the Snowbird Tram.



We hiked a leisurely 4-mile loop, passing snowy swatches at the upper- most tiers, exchanging nods with several international foreigners with walking sticks. The 60-degree temperature was a cool relief to the 90-degree valley below.

We stopped at Great Shakes in Palm Springs on the way home because of a craving and Yelp reviews. Thanks, my Peeps, you didn’t steer my wrong. Thick mint Oreo shake with a mini donut circling the straw. As Vincent Vega said, “I don’t know if it’s worth $5 but it’s pretty fucking good.”

We were back in time to shower before the family Passover dinner courtesy of Gelson’s deli counter. We chilled, drank wine, dined on matzoh ball soup and brisket and bonded over James Lipton’s ten questions. It’s weird for me to travel long distances only to chill. I guess I’m not a good vacationer. I like to get out and do as much as possible and see as much as I can in whatever time I’ve got. This crowd is a poolside, lounge chair, sipping-adult-beverages crew. Working office jobs puts you in that mindset I guess.

Day 3

Still not sleeping well. Damn air conditioner. The mattress, linens and pillows facilitate the dreamstate but that god-awful sound takes a machete to all that. Ear plugs on my next trip. I scrounged up the energy for a power shower and we all met at the tiny El Paseo Grill. The breakfast menu isn’t extensive at the counter-service café but the scramble with cheese, tomatoes, broccoli, and grilled breakfast potatoes did the trick.

We said our good-byes to Uncle Joey, Aunt Stacey, Cousin Tessa and Sarah and drove to the Desert Hills Outlet Mall for one of the most intense shopping experiences I’ve ever seen. Nothing beats a sale on the sale stuff and there are 180 stores to choose from! Not to mention the selection in California beats the fashion sense in Utah.

Six hours later, we headed to Las Consuelas Terraza in Palm Springs for beef fajitas with my parents. The place has an authentic feel with the delicate sounds of live Mariachi music floating through the large, enclosed courtyard but we moved inside to the darkly lit, tiled dining hall to avoid the evening heat. The fresh chips and salsa and margs were a satisfying start after a long day without lunch but I was a bit disappointed with the rest- a handful of squash nuggets, one broccoli bit and palm-sized pile of beef strips.

We drove the 20 minutes back to the Westin, fat and tired. A late night challenge match on the tennis court – Sage and me against Ryan took us up to 10 p.m. and lights out- literally, the court went black.

Time for another night I knew would be rough. And that was that. We were leaving in the morning. Sad to leave the sun and warmth of family but soon I would be back in my own bed. Back to the cold temps, the fresh snow and pines instead of palms, and a good night’s sleep.

Slide The City Makes SLC Slide Lake City

I gave up the Slip and Slide when I was 15. It was all the rage on a hot summer day; roll out that yellow sheet of plastic on the lawn, hope you didn’t lay it over a sprinkler, spray a bunch of water with the hose (leave it running) then go to town for a good two to three hours of tummy diving. But alas it was yet another thing we outgrew as adults. Think of the funny looks you’d get from neighbors.

Well, the folks at Slide The City have turned up their noses at convention and tapped into – pardon the pun- that nostalgia and childlike fun by turning a backyard pastime into an annual event for all ages. Last weekend wasn’t Slide The City but Slide Lake City in my book when the organization unfurled a giant, four-lane, inflatable piece of vinyl in downtown Salt Lake City.

Last year’s inaugural event drew crowds of curious onlookers and this year nearly 3000 men, women and kids in bathing suits and smiles got down and wet. Some citizenry were concerned about safety issues but the Health Department gave the green light to allow thrillseekers their moment(s) in the sun. All it took was a wristband and some sort off blowup tube and you were on your way.

Although the slide opened at 11 a.m. we waited for the heat of the day at 4 p.m. We hiked north up to the top of the three block stretch from North Temple. Sage couldn’t quit grinning with glee as she bounced her official STC tube on waist. Her red wristband gave her five tries and she planned to use every one of them. For a lazy kid, she didn’t even mind hiking back to the top after each slide. I could see how a golf cart shuttling people would come in handy next time. We expected a Lagoon-length crowd but there was no line. We quickly slopped on the sunscreen, then flopped on our tubes. The volunteers gave us a shove and sped quickly down the track only to slow up exponentially as the street flattened. No need to fear a crash at the bottom. We actually had to use flailing hands to push our way through the last 50 feet. By the fifth round, however, I knew what I had to do for optimal speed. Disengage from Sage. We had been connected thinking the weight would propel us but in the end, going solo was the ticket. Shoot for the lane that has the most water coming off of it, lay on your stomach and you keep your knees and feet up. Aside from the few knee scrapes, the fun meter was off the charts. I couldn’t stop smiling and whooping. I wasn’t the only one either. Last year’s event did so well, the company has been moving that slide around to more than 50 U.S. cities like a regular carny ride.

By the 5th run, however, we were done. That’s a lot of hiking that sneaks up on you. Despite her enthusiasm, Sage was done too- but already begging to return next year. I promised. What’s a mom to do?

If you want to do Slide the City, make sure you sign up on the mailing list so know when the loyalty pricing opens and can get the cheapest tickets. Day-off registration was $30 for a single ride!!  Oh and if you can’t wait until next year to try, there’s a Slide The City event in Orem on Sept. 5. Save $10 by registering online.

Top Summertime Things to Do In Park City

Photos by Ryan Freitas

It’s hot; it’s August and you’re more than just a visitor to this vacation town of Park City, Utah. But can you really say you’re a “local”? Have you hiked or biked the Mid-Mountain Trail? Have you attended the Park Silly Sunday Market or boogied on the New Park Plaza during the Thursday night free concerts? Have you eaten breakfast at the Main Street Deli? Have you uncorked a bottle of fine wine while toasting the sunset and the Utah Symphony outside at Deer Valley Resort? Until you express yourself in all things resort-like, we reserve the right to judge.

So as the summer wanes, here’s your bucket list of things you might want to try before the snow flies and before it’s too late to be just another tourist.


Rock Climb in the Uintas

Hit White Pine Touring; grab a guidebook or, better yet, grab a guide/instructor and head to where the air is cool, clean and quiet; and where there’s a lake for the pooch to splash in. About 45 minutes east through Kamas on the Mirror Lake Highway, you’ll find the Ruth Lake pullout. Hike northwest for less than a mile until a wall, and people scaling it, comes into view. The lake itself is further along the trail but for climbers you can’t pick a better spot when it’s blazing in the valley. Snowbird instructor Mark Nakada and his friends mined the area a decade ago and the word’s gotten out. Great rock, over 100 routes of all levels and the ability to bring your four-footed friends make this and the Stone Garden (further east) a climber’s paradise.

Paddle the Mighty Weber

Weber River by inner tube or sit-on-top kayak is brought to you by Barefoot Tubing. You can also show up on Wednesday evenings for the weekly Utah Whitewater Club float. The Club usually has spare gear and room in rafts. Either way, don’t miss out on your shot at the only river worth paddling within an hour of Park City. Head out I-80 toward Cheyenne then go west on I-84 towards Ogden. The Henefer to Taggert section is about a class II+ – full of mild rapids and boulders to navigate, and nestled in the beautiful, wooded Ogden Canyon.

Mountain Bike “Canyons At Park City

After you dine on the deck of the Redpine Lodge (for one of the most scenic lunches in Park City), learn to ride like a pro with Canyons’ bike clinics. Sign up for a group or private clinics for the bike park and their trails, as well as custom mountain bike tours. They have more than 20 miles of cross-country trails, an expert bike park and a new beginner skills progression park. BTW, you can also ride at Deer Valley Resort (50 miles of trails) and Park City Mountain.

Slide the Slopes

The Alpine Slide at Park City Mountain Resort is a guaranteed thrill ride. But it ain’t the safety conscious Disneyland  (or even Lagoon) version. This summertime toboggan-on-wheels can be hazardous to your health if you forget the brakes so sign a waiver and ride at your own risk. Many a hardy athlete has launched off the track. After the aches, bruises and road rash subside, you’ll be anxiously drooling for your next visit. Looking for something safer? Try the Alpine Coaster. The gravity fed track carries you down to the base at speeds up to 30 mph. Hint: double up. The heavier the car, the faster you go.

Fly High at the Utah Oly Park

Adventure Courses at the Utah Olympic Park will bust through your test limits, and build skills that will carry on into the winter whether you weave through the ropes course, navigate a bobsled (on wheels), ride the world’s steepest zipline, or take a half-day freestyle clinic to learn to jump (into a pool). You can also just sit and watch others go nuts. The facility, the Alf Engen Ski Museum and international athletes training take place daily. (435) 658-4200

Milkbone’s Top Destinations For You and Your Dog

If you’re planning a trip with your dog this summer but aren’t sure where to go, Milkbone and the Big Heart Pet Brands family is here to help. They’ve created a guide to the top 50 destinations for you and your pooch.

The list evolved by cross referencing online review sites with data on dog-friendly restaurants and hotels.

The only spot for Utah was Dinosaur National Monument (Maybell, Utah) at #44. Perhaps they were hurting for suggestions? Personally, the Manti-La Sal National Forest surrounding Moab is rocking for dogs. At DNM, pets can only hike on the Cold Desert Trail, Plug Hat Trail, Iron Springs Bench Overlook Trail and Echo Park Overlook Trail. They can’t go into the buildings, hiking trails within the monument, along the Green or Yampa Rivers, or in the monument’s backcountry.

But Moab’s extensive network of bike and hiking trails and backcountry terrain make for some awesome canine carousing year round. There are more than 75 pet-friendly lodging properties (but only about 10 hotels) and at least four patios where you can cool off with your dog. I appreciate the Silver Sage Inn. There’s a $10 pet fee and it’s not high-class, but it’s clean, they have free wifi, fridge, micro and coffee maker.

Here are Milkbone’s top 10. For the rest of the list, Click Here.

#1: The Original Dog Beach (San Diego, California) (50 Milk-Bone biscuits))
#2: SF Golden Gate Park (San Francisco, California) (49)
#3: Fort Tryon Park (New York City, New York) (48.5)
#4: Runyon Canyon (Los Angeles, California) (47)
#5: Acadia National Park (Mt. Desert Island, Maine) (46)
#6: Pike Place Market (Seattle, Washington) (45)
#7: Carmel (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California) (44.5)
#8: The Biltmore Estate (Asheville, North Carolina) (44)
#9: Central Park (New York City, New York) (43)
#10: Buckskin Joe Frontier Town (Cañon City, Colorado) (42.5)


If you see a patch of open space you need to make sure you know who it belongs to. Here’s a breakdown in a nutshell.

National Parks

In general, dogs in national parks can be “anywhere a car can go.” Basically that’s, roads and parking lots. They can also be in picnic areas and campgrounds. Some parks actually allow leashed pets on those short trails around the Visitor Center but you’ll need to check with the individual parks you’re visiting. In Canada, however, most national parks extremely dog-friendly.

National Monuments
Some allow dogs on most trails while others like Devil’s Tower or Cedar Breaks ban them entirely.

National Forests and National Grasslands
National forests open their arms to pet owners. Most every trail is accessible. Usually the land surrounds national parks so you can let him run after you’ve left him back to explore the excluded places.

National Recreation Areas
Humans and dogs, ATVs and mountain bikes; usually everyone is welcome. Check the boating rules, however. If the NRA is a lake, dogs may be restricted to beaches or picnic areas.

National Seashores

The rule is pretty much no dogs on trails but ok on the beach, year-round. National lakeshores, however, allow canine hikers on many trails.

National Wildlife Refuges
Leashed dog are usually ok.

National Historical Parks, National Trail Systems
Get out and explore a bit of American history with your dog. It’s all good. Just check before setting off on a multi-day adventure if you are crossing private lands to make sure your dog can legally join in.

Bureau of Land Management Lands
Those 262 million acres of “nothing” are “something” for dogs. He’ll adore you for the romps stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast.

Beat The Heat At Provo River Falls

Photos by Ryan Freitas

We had no idea the Falls were right there. But as we headed east up Mirror Lake Highway to climb away from the scorching Salt Lake Valley, we saw the lineup of parked cars. We guessed the Provo River Falls pullout (23 miles from Kamas) would be popular but not like this.

We hopped out of the car and there it was. No wonder everyone is here, I thought. The access is unbeatable. Seniors with canes, babies in diapers, even the large and out-of-shape RV contingent could take a dip with little effort.

The water cascading from above was delirium inducing. It’s just so damn hot in Utah right now. You can stay inside with the AC cranked, wade with thousands of screaming kids at Lagoon or Seven Peaks water parks (and pay for the pleasure) or find nature’s own cooling pools. The latter was our plan.

Pack the dog, a picnic, the bug spray and fishing rod (for trout) to make a day of it or stay just long enough to cool off. Either way you’ll be psyched you made the drive.

There is no specific trail but from the parking area (N40° 39′ 27″, W110° 56′ 44″) you can walk up or down stream- which runs parallel to Highway 150- crossing over logs, gravel and shallow water for as long as you like.

We choose to follow the dry riverbed to the south of the Falls for a mile and escape the throngs of waders but you can also climb to deep pools above the pullout for swimming and exploring. Depending on the time of year you might find a natural water slide to entertain the kids.

The Falls themselves are part of the Upper Provo River which runs down to the Jordanelle Reservoir near Deer Valley Resort. It consists of four distinct tiers carved into stratified bedrock which is easy to scramble around. The total drop is about 100 feet but each tier is only about 35 feet high.

Don’t be shy about taking a shower in the refreshing veils of mountain runoff; it’ll be the highlight of your trip.

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