Yes, it’s the best time to go. Plus, the golf and stars and flowers, oh my!  

Ranch at Death Valley In winter, this well known hot spot miraculously morphs into a desert paradise. And when you visit the Oasis at Death Valley —with its AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley and family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley — you’ll discover a place transformed. If people know one thing about Death Valley, they know that it’s hot. Fry an-egg-on-the-pavement hot (although don’t try that, because it makes a mess).

Death Valley is officially the toastiest place on the entire planet, thanks to a scorching day back in 1913 when temperatures reached 134 degrees, the highest ever recorded anywhere on the globe. And with 21 days over 120, this past July in Death Valley was the hottest month all-time at a single location. The second hottest month? The previous July in Death Valley.

So Death Valley comes by its sizzling reputation honestly. But that’s only during summer. In winter, Death Valley miraculously morphs into a desert paradise. And when you visit the Oasis at Death Valley — with its AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley and family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley — you’ll discover a place transformed.

During winter, average temperatures range from the mid-60s to the low 70s with overnight lows frequently dropping into the upper 30s. Those cooler conditions combine with clear, sunny days to make winter the perfect season to get explore Death Valley National Park. When the most of the country is shivering, you can be basking in warm, dry days with endless sun.

Here are a few special ways you can enjoy winter and spring in Death Valley.

Mountain in Death Valley

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park 

Hit the Trail

With even the day’s lowest temperatures hovering around 100 or more, you shouldn’t even think about hiking at lower elevations in Death Valley National Park during summer. But winter weather provides the perfect conditions to follow trails into the park’s canyons and see its incomparable geology.

You’ll find easy-to-reach trailheads near the resort along Badwater Road, including the classic hike into Golden Canyon, just five minutes away. But many visitors miss the much less crowded trek that explores nearby Desolation Canyon. It’s an easy-to-follow cross-country route (just look for the footprints) that leads into a canyon, which gradually narrows and reaches colorful formations similar to the brilliantly hued Artist’s Palette (farther south off Badwater Road along Artist’s Drive).

Stargaze

See stars like you never have before at Death Valley, a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park

Gaze at the Sky

Except at higher elevations, you won’t see any trees at Death Valley. But what you will see is sky — and lots of it.

If you love photography, winter offers optimal shooting conditions. Storms from the Pacific Coast send billowing clouds out over the desert that create an impressive backdrop for pictures of Death Valley’s expanses. The low-angle winter light also helps reveal details in the landscape that harsher sun conditions wash out, and things get especially dramatic when the clouds leave 11,049-foot-high Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park, covered in snow.

After dark, Death Valley boasts some of the best stargazing anywhere in the world. The dry desert air and distance from sources that spew light pollution helped Death Valley earn prestigious designation as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park from the International Dark-Sky Association.

Even if you don’t have high-end optics of your own (although basic binoculars enhance viewing), during events with park rangers and local astronomy associations you can gaze into the universe through high-powered telescopes. For example, the Las Vegas Astronomical Society holds complimentary star parties at the Ranch at Death Valley.

Golf

Golf the lowest elevation golf course in the world at the Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley

Shoot Your Lowest Round Ever (That’s a Guarantee!)

In most of the country, frigid winter weather forces golfers to take a hiatus. After all, a green certainly isn’t green when it’s covered by snow.

But for golfers, winter is prime time in Death Valley.

Many visitors are surprised to discover that Death Valley, the driest spot in North America, actually has a golf course. But thanks to a highly efficient irrigation system, water sourced from nearby natural springs, and tough Bermuda grass that can withstand the area’s weather extremes and salty soil, the Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valleyis a duffer’s delight.

Add to your bragging rights at the world’s lowest elevation golf course, a par-70, 18-hole circuit that’s 214 feet below sea level. As unique as the experience may be, Furnace Creek Golf Course is no mere novelty. A beautifully designed and challenging layout, Furnace Creek earned honors as one of America’s toughest courses from Golf Digest. And don’t expect your drives to carry as far: The heavier, low elevation air means that you’ll surrender distance on your shots.

Inn Pool Sunset

The pools at The Inn and The Ranch are both naturally spring-fed, and consistently 87 degrees year-round

Swim in a Real Oasis

If temperatures in the 30s or 40s hardly sound appealing for a swim, the cool winter nights create ideal conditions for one of the most sublime experiences awaiting guests at both the Inn at Death Valley and the Ranch at Death Valley. Both of these lodging choices have pools filled by natural springs that deliver water that stays in the 80s, even on the chilliest nights. The contrast between the balmy pool and the cold air is positively heavenly. The inn’s historic pool has been beautifully restored, and if you need a little warm-up after a dip, get toasty in front of one of two wood-burning fireplaces along the deck.

A rare “super bloom” event covering large expanse of the desert valley floor with wild flowers, dominated by the golden yellow of desert gold flowers (also known as desert sunflowers or Geraea canescens) in Death Valley National Park in California. The Amargosa mountains rise over the valley in the background.

Ooh and Ahh at Wildflowers

From mid-February to mid-April, when the conditions are right, Death Valley is painted with an explosion of color from a carpet of wildflowers. Golden evening primrose, notch-leaf phacelia, sand verbena, purple mat, gravel ghost, and brown-eyed evening primrose brush the arid landscape in Easter egg colors — especially the expansive fields of desert gold for which Death Valley is famous. To appreciate the diversity of blooms, get out of your car and walk. You’ll be rewarded with a spread of color blanketing the desert floor — perfect for Instagram moments.

How to Explore

The Oasis at Death Valley in Furnace Creek is situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park — just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The resort encompasses two hotels — the historic AAA Four Diamond, 66-room Inn at Death Valley and the family-oriented, 224-room Ranch at Death Valley. The entire resort is undergoing a complete renaissance with an extensive renovation to be completed in the fall of 2018. The resort includes natural spring-fed pools, an 18-hole golf course, horse and carriage rides, world-renowned stargazing, and is surrounded by Death Valley National Park’s main attractions. For information and reservations, visit The Oasis at Death Valley or call 800-236-7916. Oh and kids eat free, yep, they do!

Oh and kids eat free, yep, they do!To discover a world of unfogettable experiences available from Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.

Published in Destinations

Quick, what's the difference between a big resort hotel and the Wizard of Oz's Emerald City?

Answer: A story.

The wizard's creator, L. Frank Baum, was a frequent visitor to Coronado, California, and the town's beating heart, the Hotel del Coronado ("The Del" to the locals). His visits were so frequent, in fact, that his editor arranged for the rental of a separate house—off of "The Del" property—so that he might get away from the perpetual distraction of the hotel and get some writing done. The hotel and his whimsical experiences there clearly influenced his imaginings of Oz; some of Baum's illustrations of the Emerald City even look suspiciously like the iconic Queen Ann-style hotel.

Coronado still retains much of what attracted Baum (not the least of which is its own, amazing story), and it has also developed an even richer offering of experiences, accommodation, dining choices, and activities that (fortunately for his editor) didn't exist in Baum's day. And because families have always been such a part of the Coronado story, much of that new growth is still family-friendly.

The crown jewel of Coronado is, of course, the Hotel Del Coronado.

Before it was completed in 1877 there was little more than dust and scattered tufts of pampas grass. But the dreams and vision that brought forth the grand hotel spread outward, and shortly the whole island was transformed into the lush, green, and (relatively) tranquil community you see today.

A stroll through the exquisite Coronado neighborhoods is a hint of the island's military presence on its north side. Many current and former navy personnel have homes here, and that military precision shows in the beautifully kept homes and immaculate landscaping (you could bounce a quarter off the lawns). But perhaps a better way to stroll the area around the Hotel Del is to tag along with Coronado Touring for a truly fun and fascinating walking tour. The grand and historic feel of the Hotel Del suggests a great story all its own, and a couple of hours with Coronado Touring confirms it.

You'll even see "The Oz House", Mr. Baum's former "off-site" residence. If you can do this early in your Coronado visit, you'll then see the place with a sense of wonder you might otherwise miss (how else would you know about the secret message in the sand dunes?).

The walking tour begins in the Glorietta Bay Inn, which is itself significant in the story, as it's principle building was the home of Coronado's greatest benefactor and "savior" of the Hotel Del dream, John Spreckels. The Glorietta is a terrific option to the Del Coronado, as you are just across the street from the Del but can choose from luxurious and historic rooms in Spreckels's original house or more modern and affordable rooms of various sizes throughout the rest of the hotel. The entire property is immaculately kept and the friendly staff clearly take their cue from, Claudia, the Glorietta's gregarious and hospitable manager.

The vivid and fascinating history of the island lends a richer tone to everything else you experience afterward. Just a few blocks from the Hotel Del, Clayton's Coffee Shop could be just a nifty 50's-themed diner (albeit with great food and sumptuous milkshakes), but now it feels like a time machine and you wouldn't be surprised to see Mr. Baum himself at the counter reading the day's paper over a coffee and apple pie.

Two more blocks along Orange Avenue will find you transported back to that golden age of theatre at the incredibly restored Village Theatre and two blocks back on Orange Avenue from Clayton's will satisfy that old fashioned summer yen for handcrafted ice cream at the Moo Time Creamery.

And of course many of the shops at the Hotel del Coronado itself recapture that historic feel, like at Spreckels Sweets & Treats, where you can get (among loads of other things) the same fudge or saltwater taffy that Frank Baum undoubtedly sampled.

But while Coronado Island certainly honors its rich history, it has grown up nicely with terrific contemporary offerings. Head south along the narrow peninsula (Coronado is technically not an island) where you'll find the contemporary and luxurious Loews Coronado Bay Resort one of Parents Magazine's "10 Best Family Beach Resorts".

The sheer luster in the recently refurbished interior betrays the many family-oriented amenities, including poolside movies (at just one of the three pools!), a dedicated kids' activity desk, and rides in one of their authentic Venetian gondolas. And it's just a short walk or free shuttle to the quiet Silver Strand State Beach, which might seem like your own private beach, relative to crowds at Coronado Beach.

Further along Orange Avenue from the Hotel Del on the north side of the Island you'll find a host of shops, restaurants, and activities surrounding the Ferry Landing. Nearby the Ferry Landing is the sumptuous Coronado Island Marriott Resort, with exquisite views over the bay to the beautiful San Diego skyline, rejuvenating spa treatments, a private water taxi across the bay for guests, and a lush pool and outdoor restaurant that you may find difficult to leave to explore Coronado.

But explore you must, for no matter where you stay, your own Coronado story is waiting to be written.

hotel dell

"Coronado: The Queen of Fairyland"

And every day her loveliness,

Shines pure, without a flaw;

New charms entrance our every glance,

And fill our souls with awe!

- L. Frank Baum 

WHEN TO GO:

The locals are spoiled in San Diego, and even during what they call "June Gloom", the weather is pleasant (if not fully sunny till noon). That said, the best months for weather are June through September. You'll find better deals and smaller crowds outside those months. 

THINGS TO DO:

You'll find plenty to keep the whole family busy on Coronado, but here are number of things to consider in your itinerary:

- Gooey fun: After dinner S'mores on the beach at Hotel Del Coronado.

- Haute Culture: and evening at the impressive Lamb's Players Theatre

- Discovery: Kayak tour with a state park naturalist at Loew's Coronado Bay Resort.

- Gluttony: The indescribable decadence of the Hotel Del Coronado Crown Room Sunday brunch.

- Toodling: Pedal the family around the island on a 4-person surrey bike, available at your hotel or shops around town.

- Learning: Get the full and fascinating story on the island at the Coronado Museum of History & Arthttp://coronadohistory.org/

ACCOMMODATION:

Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa

Glorietta Bay Inn

Hotel del Coronado

Loews Coronado Bay Resort

Published in Destinations