For New Year’s Eve, I took a trip out to Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is a National Park a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles. It’s the perfect place for a desert getaway that’s not too far from the city.
I decided to find an Airbnb that was close enough to the park and all of the restaurants and shops in town, while also having some really great desert views in affordable luxury. I decided to stay at the Mojave Hilltop luxury home and it was exactly what I was looking for!
Mojave Hilltop is only 20 minutes from the main Visitor Center at Joshua Tree National Park, 10-15 minutes from all the great local restaurants and shops, and is perfect for groups! Here are some of my favorite things to do at Mojave Hilltop and in Joshua Tree during my stay.
Best Places to Eat in Joshua Tree
Being vegan, it can definitely be difficult to find good places to eat with options for me. Thankfully, Joshua Tree has an abundance of food options that I can enjoy too!
Crossroads Cafe is probably my favorite place to grab lunch when in town. They have these really delicious seitan tacos that I could eat again and again! With creative spins on diner classics, served in a chill, quirky setting, Crossroads has become a staple in the local community.
JT Country Kitchen is another favorite of mine, but for breakfast! JT Country Kitchen has been serving breakfast and lunch for over 45 years now. It’s no longer run by the original owner, Mareine Uy from Cambodia, but she shared the recipes with the current owners and they’ve kept her spirit alive here.
When I sat inside one morning waiting to order, I noticed a photo of Anthony Bourdain on the wall. I’ve loved Anthony Bourdain forever, especially since his travel/food show, Parts Unknown. I already loved the food here, but with his stamp of approval it automatically solidified itself at the top of my list.
Favorite Activities in Joshua Tree
Hiking. Of course some undeniable must-do activities in Joshua Tree are to go into the national park and hike through some of their gorgeous desert trails. You’ll get to have a chance to be up close and personal with nature and take in unmatched desert landscapes.
Visit a museum. Another great way to spend some time is by visiting a few of the museums in the area. I would check out the Hi-Desert Nature Museum or the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum. You could also visit some of the local thrift shops (kinda like a museum, right?) which have some really cool, unique items. One shop I stopped in even has the largest magazine collection on the west coast in its archives. How cool is that!
Additionally, my personal favorite activity is to go star-gazing! As a city girl, I don’t get the luxury of seeing many stars on a regular basis. Some people that live in more rural areas take this for granted, but it’s definitely a sight to see when you don’t get to do it often! There can be nothing as soul-soothing and life-affirming as looking up to the night sky when you have the chance.
Tips to Make Your Star-Gazing Experience Worth It
Timing. The right time of the month can really take your star-gazing experience to the next level. If you can avoid the moon as much as possible, there will be less light in the sky to obscure any stars or planets you want to see. A new moon would be the best time!
Technology. Bringing the right technology along can really make or break your star-gazing experience. It takes 20-30 minutes for the human eye to fully adjust to very low light conditions. Bright white lights will definitely delay this process, so remember to use red lights only, if possible. You can turn a regular flashlight into a red light by covering it with red cellophane, tape, fabric, paper, or something similar.
Also, don’t be scared to get your phone involved! Sure, you want to keep looking up, but so many great smartphone apps help with stargazing too. (Try to look at these before getting outside in the dark if possible to help your eyes adjust!)
- Night Sky – an iOS app that uses AR to offer a stunning sky map
- NASA – their app is packed with information and houses 16,000+ images
- Pocket Universe – an easy-to-use skymap that you can also use in your living room
- Sky Map – calculates your position, then presents you with a map of what is above and around you
A mobile app isn’t essential, but it can make stargazing a lot more fun, especially for beginners like me.
Take it slow. The noises you hear at night in the woods or the desert can be very different than what you’re used to hearing in the city. It’s important to watch your step wherever you walk because cacti, nocturnal animals, and uneven surfaces may be difficult to locate. Your other senses might need a moment to adjust too. Use the red light we talked about to check your surroundings!
Bring the right gear. Since you’ll be walking outside in the dark most of the time, you should have the appropriate clothing. Some sturdy walking boots with ankle support and warm jackets or blankets would be perfect. Don’t forget some chairs for when you find the perfect star-gazing spot. EcoGearFX has some great options for all the gear you might need. Snacks will definitely come in handy too!
Zoom in. You might be tempted to buy a telescope, a telescopic camera lens, or all sorts of other things. These can definitely come in handy, especially for a more seasoned star-gazer, but instead, a set of binoculars can do the job just perfectly. One of the best things about stargazing is that you can enjoy it no matter where you are traveling in the world!
If you’re looking for a luxury desert getaway, Mojave Hilltop is your place! I can’t wait to come back again!