The following is a guest post by Joeann Fossland. Check out her bio at the end.
Off the beaten track, yet accessible, The Oasis at Death Valley is a bucket-list worthy experience. Two hours from Las Vegas and 4 from Los Angeles, a trip to Death Valley it is an ideal destination to escape and unwind over a long weekend or as a venue for an unforgettable destination wedding! My husband, Bub and I embarked on a summer road trip that took us to Death Valley. Past Las Vegas, for hours, we drove through miles and miles of dry, desolate, desert into the 3.3 million acres that comprise Death Valley National Park. Then we crested a hill and, suddenly, there was a lush oasis, the polar opposite of the terrain we’d been immersed in, right ahead! And, this Oasis was real, not some shimmering illusion.
The Superlatives of Death Valley National Park
Entering the extreme desert of Death Valley National Park, we found ourselves in the land of the superlatives!
Driest: Dry, dry desert, mountains and salt flats comprise most of the Park with an annual rainfall of 2.4 inches.
Hottest: Temperatures have climbed to 134° in the summer. The afternoon we were there in June, it was 121°. Last July, records were broken and this summer may exceed that.
Lowest: If you are aching to golf at the lowest golf course in the world, at 214 ft. below sea level, the 18-hole Furnace Creek Golf Course is for you!
Biggest: An International Biosphere Reserve, Death Valley National Park is 3.3 Million Acres, the largest National Park in the continental US.
With a recent renovation to the tune of $100 Million Dollars, The Xanterra Travel Collection has breathed energy and life back into these lodgings, expanding and upgrading not only the rooms and the property, but the service and amenities.
Rebranded, it is now The Oasis at Death Valley. There are two properties: the luxurious Inn at Death Valley and family-oriented Ranch at Death Valley.
Beginning summer of 2018, it is open year-round. Previous to that, it closed from May to October because of the brutal summer heat. Trey Matheu, General Manager, told me the summer brings lots of European visitors who want to check some of those superlatives off their Bucket Lists. They are delighted when the temperatures reach insane numbers.
The Historic Roots
Originally this was the headquarters for the 20 Mule Team. Later, tourism became a focus and the elegant inn was built in 1927 by the Pacific Borax Company as stop on the train ride west and a winter destination. It became a hideaway for adventurous travelers and the Hollywood elite. The movie stars such as Marlon Brando, Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, relaxed here.
I’m prepared to channel their energies while I unplug swimming in the spring-fed pool at a perfect 97°, lounging in a cabana, and strolling through the date gardens surrounding the Inn.
Thanks to the foresight of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and the National Park Service, in having Death Valley declared a National Monument in 1933 and then a National Park in 1994, when it was substantially expanded, further development was limited and, today, we can enjoy the same untrammeled beauty of Death Valley that guests did back in 1927.
Which Property is for You?
We have booked 2 nights at the AAA-rated four-diamond, 66-room The Inn at Death Valley. Built into the hill, all rooms have stunning views of the Panamint Mountains, desert vistas and pristine sand dunes.
Our room is spacious and elegant with a door leading out to the stone patio that overlooks the entire valley and mountains to the west. A thoughtful cheese and fruit plate along with a note from Manager Matheu provide a nice welcome. I’ve been driving for 7 hours and am ready to jump in the waters of the 87º ancient underground springs that feed the pool. On second thought, there’s no hurry. A nice glass of wine and tastes from the welcome plate will take the edge off.
The walk through the tall palm trees from our room down to the pool is accompanied by melodic, bubbling streams next to the walking paths. Surprisingly, water is everywhere. Ahhhhhh…as I drop into this spring water, I can feel tension melting away. The relaxation has begun.
Below the pool, the 22 casitas have been built beside a 60,000 sq.ft. grassy lawn. The perfect setting for a wedding.
The epitome of privacy and luxury, each casita includes a wet bar, a separate bedroom with king or queen-size beds and a golf cart to navigate the grounds. Perfect for a honeymoon, babymoon or romantic getaway, I’m sure these will be fully booked as the word gets out.
For a more casual, family-oriented experience, the Ranch at Death Valley, about a mile further down the road, is the place to stay. There are 224 rooms. There’s plenty going on down here: a spring-fed swimming pool, tennis courts, horseback riding, jeep rides, golf and the Borax Museum as well as a General Store. The famous Furnace Creek Golf Course is located here. Xanterra plans a second phase of renovations that will focus on upgrading this area. All rooms will be remodeled. Additionally, 80 cottage units are planned with full kitchen and laundry facilities. A classic soda fountain with burgers, shakes and ice cream with be a signature piece of this phase.
Are You Hungry Yet?
Fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the remodeled Inn Dining Room where you look out over the vast valley. Meals are infused with their dates (the date bread was fantastic) and other regional flavors food like cactus and pomegranates for gourmet eating.
The next phase of renovations will include a chef’s garden, expanding the date groves, and planting citrus and pomegranate trees.
Down at the pool, The Inn Pool Cafe allows guests to feed that hunger or thirst without leaving their cabana or the pool. It’s menu features sandwiches, wraps, salads, sides, and assorted beverages.
Next to the dining room, The Oasis Lounge is filled with western art, from original paintings to original bronze sculptures. It’s a busy place at for signature cocktails and a limited small plate menu in the afternoons and early evening.
Food Down at the Ranch
Last Kind Words Saloon has been completely updated to bring the old west alive. The menu includes everything from a 36 oz. tomahawk ribeye, to wild Alaskan salmon, to featured game of the day, all of which can be enjoyed alongside local draught beers or choose from a large selection of wines and whiskeys.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Ranch 1849 Buffet features a rotating array of items that include breakfast entrees, breakfast meats, and a cold selection of baked goods and assorted fruits. At Lunch, there’s a make-your-own sandwich station, soup and salad stations, and assorted pizzas. For dinner, you’ll enjoy a full salad bar, a carving station and assorted desserts.
The bar and grill fare at 19th Hole at The Furnace Creek Golf Course is perfect after your golf game for burgers and brew.
What is There to Do?
Whether you want to just unwind and relax or want to take advantage of the National Park, there is enough to do here for everyone. I can sit by a pool soaking in unreal scenery with the Pool Cafe offerings and spa treatments from the Spa for several days before getting antsy.
Both mornings we were here, we played tennis early before the heat became intolerable. There are two beautiful courts at the Inn and more at the Ranch.
Then it was time to jump in the pool. At both resorts, the Pools are sourced from the natural spring water that flows through so no chemicals or chlorine are needed. They were resurfaced during the renovations and are refreshing. I floated easily due, I think, to the mineral content of the water. It felt good to close my eyes and just float.
For the active adventurers, there are trails for hiking are in every direction. If you are into Rock Climbing, your options are numerous. There are some incredible natural wonders in the Park that are worth the effort to see.
The roads through the park are mostly flat, so Bicycling is an easy and fun way to explore.
Horseback Rides and Jeep Tours also offer a less strenuous way to see the trails, sand flats and surrounding mountains. And then, of course, there is Golf!
At the end of the day, we saw Sunsets and Stars. After our swim, on our first night, we drank in the spectacular, psychedelic sunset from our room’s terrace, as we drank up our bottle of wine, fruit and cheese.
Not long after the colors began to fade, the stars started coming out. Death Valley National Park is the largest Dark Sky Nation Park in the Country and you can see the Milky Way like never before.
Would I Go Back?
Our two days were a fun, yummy and relaxing time. The Inn at Death Valley strikes the perfect balance between the historic romance of a vintage hideaway and the pampering amenities you’d expect from a contemporary luxury resort. It would be fun to bring my kids and grandkids for a week and let them stay at the Ranch, while we stay at the Inn? What do you think?