A recipe for a Date Shake inspired by our visit to Joshua Tree National Park! This creamy drink is sweetened with dates for a cool and refreshing treat.
We started our long weekend in Greater Palm Springs with a visit to Joshua Tree National Park! This nearly 800,000 acre park in Southern California is home to two desert ecosystems (Mojave and Colorado) along with trails for most skill levels and many amazing views.
To protect the unique environment and wildlife, the park was designated a National Monument in 1936 thanks to the work of Minerva Hoyt and finally a National Park in 1994.
We left Los Angeles very early (around 5:30 am) on a Thursday morning and drove to Joshua Tree, California to begin our day.
Located in San Bernardino County, Joshua Tree is a small town outside the west entrance of the park. It is about 140 miles/225 kilometers from LAX (2 1/2-3 hours depending on traffic).
We arrived just in time for breakfast!
Boo’s Organic Oven
Our first stop was Boo’s Organic Oven for coffee and scones at 61675 Twentynine Palms Highway #3 in Joshua Tree. This small batch artisan bakery features a variety of sweet and savory pies, cookies, pastries, bread, and lunch items.
The menu changes often based on the availability of seasonal ingredients and produce. We especially loved the mixed berry scone and gruyere caramelized onion scone.
We picked up lunch for inside the park from Roadrunner Grab + Go. It is situated right next door to the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center before the west entrance at 6554 Park Blvd.
This small shop has an abundance of hot/cold from-scratch take-away sandwiches, salads, coffee, other drinks, and snacks. Parking can be found in the visitor center lot.
Before leaving LA, I packed an insulated picnic basket with cold packs and it kept everything chilled for a midday lunch at the Hidden Valley picnic tables.
Since we visited on March 17th, the shop had a St. Patrick’s Day special called the Rustler McHaney with corned beef, Swiss, creamy house-made coleslaw, thousand island dressing, and artisan rye bread. We also enjoyed the Prosciutto and Mozzarella Sub, S’mores Bar, Junior Coyote Ham and Cheese Sandwich, Junior Bighorn Organic PB and Local J, and Maple Nitro Brew.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park has three entrances. We started at the west entrance and exited through the south entrance towards our hotel in Indian Wells.
The third North Entrance is in Twentynine Palms with the visitor center at 74485 National Park Drive.
The Joshua Tree Visitor Center had a few fun guides and coloring books available for purchase (we ended up using these throughout the weekend while in restaurants, etc) along with t-shirts, magnets, other souvenirs, and a few exhibits with facts about the park.
Be sure to pick up a park map at the visitor center too. GPS within the park is unreliable and most of the area has no cell service.
We stayed in Indian Wells, but the park has multiple campgrounds available at either a first come, first serve basis or via reservation.
During peak season (outside of summer when the temperatures can get extremely high), the weekends can especially get busy. We arrived early on a Thursday morning to light crowds, but it definitely got busier later in the day.
As the name suggests, a highlight of Joshua Tree National Park is the Joshua Tree (hunuvat chiy’a or humwichawa in the Cahuilla language). These unique trees belong to the genus Yucca (Yucca brevifolia) and are a part of the Agave family.
They are found in the southwestern part of the United States within the Mojave desert (northwestern section of the park). With a rate of about 1/2-3 inch (1.25-7.5 centimeters) a year, these plants can reach up to 40 feet tall (12 meters).
One of the first major stops when driving in from the west entrance is Hidden Valley.
Hidden Valley has plenty of picnic tables if you need a spot to take a break and eat. There were a few in the sun and others in the shade among the massive boulders. Other areas with picnic tables include Cap Rock, Quail Springs, Split Rock, Live Oak, and Cottonwood.
This stop also has a 1 mile (1.6 kilometer) short looped trail and options for rock climbing.
Barker Dam Trail
There are an abundance of hikes and trails for all skill levels. Many are great for children too.
Barker Dam was a particular favorite with our family. This spot has another looped mild trail about 1.3 miles (2 kilometers) long. During our visit, there was simply a tiny puddle of water next to the dam.
As a note, this trail is not accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
A personal favorite for me was Keys View. I was blown away by the views stretching beyond the park. You can even see the San Andreas Fault, Coachella Valley, Salton Sea, Santa Rosa Mountains, and possibly Mexico in the distance!
It is especially popular at sunset. Arrive early to get a parking spot.
There is a restroom next to the parking lot, but take care since it was covered in swarming bees when we drove by. The lookout area is wheelchair accessible.
Another popular spot is Skull Rock. Created with years and years of erosion, the rock resembles a human skull with two hollowed out points for the eye sockets.
Parking is just a few steps in front of the rock and it gets very busy at peak times. I walked in just far enough to take a photo, but there is a 1.7 mile (2.7 kilometer) trail here.
Cholla Cactus Garden
While the Joshua trees dominate the northern Mojave Desert section of the park, the Teddy-Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) found in the southeastern Colorado Desert are also stunning.
They may have a cute name, but take care when walking around them! The cacti are covered in many 1 inch (2.5 centimeter) long sharp spines which easily detach.
The Cholla Cactus Garden is home to many of these plants and a small 0.25 mile (0.4 kilometer) nature trail.
Before entering, make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and food on hand. There are no gas stations within the park.
Pack a jacket or layers even when the temperatures will be high during the day. Due to the desert climate, the mornings and evenings were about 30 degrees cooler than the high of 95˚F during our March visit (we have had quite a few incredibly hot days this spring in Southern California).
Also, pack plenty of water (even more than you think you may need- there are no sources in the park), sunscreen, hat, insect repellant, and a first aid kit. They may be needed even during the winter.
When going through the west entrance, the first restroom we came across was at the Keys West Boy Scout Trail with others a short drive down the road at Hemingway and Hidden Valley.
Watch out for local wildlife such as rattlesnakes, scorpions, spiders, bees, and coyotes.
The park is also home to the Greater Roadrunner, Desert Tortoise, Kangaroo Rat, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Iguana, Kit Fox, Desert Woodrat, and more.
We visited during the day, but a flashlight is helpful at night. I have seen some gorgeous photos of stargazing in the area.
As a note, most of the park (nearly 558,000 acres) has been designated as wilderness and away from roads and trails. Be aware of your surroundings, particularly your location and the areas for hiking. Avoid abandoned mine sites.
A Few Final Notes
Overall, we had such an amazing time visiting Joshua Tree National Park. We spent nearly a full day here and still only completely a handful of the trails. There is so much more that I didn’t get a chance to cover (including Arch Rock and Ryan Mountain).
You can simply drive through, but plan on at least 4 hours to see the more notable spots. The park is open 24 hours a day with the exception of some areas. The visitor centers have individual operating hours.
After a wonderful, long day at the park, we stopped by IW Coffee before checking into the hotel. Located at 74995 CA-111 in Indian Wells, this coffee shop features a variety of hot/cold coffee, tea, and food.
At the time of our visit, there was indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of parking in the shopping center. The Tiger Spiced Chai Latte and Iced Toasted Marshmallow Latte were quite refreshing following a hot day outside.
Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa
During our long weekend in Greater Palm Springs, we stayed at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa at 44400 Indian Wells Lane in Indian Wells.
March was a beautiful time to visit, but definitely check the dates of local festivals and tournaments before your visit.
We went during the BNP Paribas Open and this affected hotel prices/availability in the area.
The resort was absolutely gorgeous. We had a pool view room with two queen beds and a balcony. I especially loved the scenic view with the palm trees and mountains in the background.
The biggest hit with the kids was the pool in particular. There is a sandy beach-entry section perfect for younger children. They also loved the waterfall.
Other amenities include high speed wireless internet, bike rentals, lawn games, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor yoga classes, fitness center, and a variety of eating options.
Valet services are available, but we used self-parking. The parking lot (and garage) had plenty of spots.
There are a few food options throughout the resort. We tried the following:
- Cafe Biscotti- coffee, grab + go food, and gelato.
- B&F On-Demand- room service: Tuna Poke with avocado mousse and taro chips, Queso Pollo Tacos, Pepperoni Pizza, and Cheese Pizza.
- CAVA- the resort’s signature restaurant with indoor and patio dining. We actually stopped by twice, once for dinner and another for breakfast before checking out. We loved the ease of simply walking down from our room when we were a bit too tired to go out.
The H2O Pool Bar was perfect during our time at the pool. The menu has a variety of snacks such as Honey Lime Marinated Watermelon and Nachos along with sandwiches, burgers, Kids’ meals, beer, cocktails, and mocktails.
We didn’t try them, but the resort is also home to The Place (dinner and craft cocktails) and GLO Sushi.
Staying at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa was a fantastic addition to our incredible time in the Coachella Valley. The views were amazing, we enjoyed the food, and the pool was such a refreshing spot to relax after a hot day out.
Hadley Fruit Orchards
We first tried a Date Shake while in Palm Springs (more on that soon!), but also picked one up at Hadley Fruit Orchards in Cabazon.
This shop at 47993 Morongo Trail is packed with aisles full of market items, snacks, souvenirs, and more along with their full-service cafe.
Hadley Fruit Orchards was first created by Paul and Peggy Hadley in 1931 in Banning, California. A fire burned down their warehouse in 1951 and they continued the business as a roadside stand before expanding over the years to owning their own date orchards and stores.
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians became the new owners in July 1999 and updated with the current building in 2016.
We grabbed a few snack items for the drive home (Claire was very excited to find chocolate rocks) and an Original Date Shake. Of the different shakes we have tried so far, this one had the best texture.
Just down the road from Hadley Fruit Orchards at 50770 Seminole Drive are the roadside Cabazon Dinosaurs. We didn’t have time to go inside, but driving by was a fun ending to our trip.
Looking for more places to visit in Southern California?
- Spaghetti Grilled Cheese and Irvine, California
- Lort Cha (Cambodian Stir-Fried Rice Pin Noodles) and Aquarium of the Pacific
- Bear Doughnuts and San Diego Zoo
To pair with this post, I am sharing a recipe for a Date Shake! Vanilla ice cream is blended with softened dates, milk, vanilla extract, and nutmeg for an easy and refreshing drink. It is definitely perfect for cooling off during the many hot days in the area!
According to Visit Greater Palm Springs, dates have been grown in the region since the early 1900s and the now account for about 95% of the dates produced in the United States. The Date Shake was developed shortly after in the 1930s and is now found throughout the Coachella Valley.
A Few Tips
I used Medjool dates for this recipe, but you can swap for Deglet-Noor if unavailable. Make sure to remove the pits and chop before using.
For a more smooth texture, soak the pitted and chopped dates in hot milk for about 30 minutes. This is optional, but it will help them blend more easily. Before using, thoroughly chill the soaked milk and dates in the refrigerator.
I added a little nutmeg and vanilla extract for an extra burst of flavor. A pinch of cinnamon would also be delicious.
If the mixture is too thick to blend, slowly add a little more milk (up to about 1/2 cup, 120 milliliters).
We had an original date shake while at Hadley Fruit Orchards, but did try a Date Walnut Shake in Palm Springs.
I ultimately decided not to add walnuts to the shake (feel free to toss in a handful if desired- may need to blend in more milk), but did sprinkle a few over the top and rimmed the glass with finely chopped walnuts for a more decorative touch.
To optionally line the glasses: Place a thin layer of date syrup or honey in one small rimmed plate and finely chopped or crushed walnuts on another plate. Dip the top of each empty glass into the date syrup (or honey), then immediately dip into the chopped walnuts to thoroughly coat.
Date Shake Recipe
Adapted from What’s Cooking America
- 3.5 ounces (100 grams) dates pitted and chopped
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) milk hot, plus more as needed
- 3 cups (450 grams) vanilla ice cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Whipped cream for serving
- Walnuts for topping, optional
- Place the pitted and chopped dates in the hot milk and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, place the milk with the dates in the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until cold.
- Place the chilled milk and dates in a blender. Top with the ice cream, vanilla extract, and nutmeg.
- Blend the mixture until smooth to desired consistency. If too thick slowly add a little more milk at a time.
- Transfer the date shake to individual glasses. Top with whipped cream and optionally a sprinkling of walnuts. Serve immediately.