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The Luxe List: Family Vacations at Marriott's Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert

Family Vacations: As one of more than 50 resorts worldwide operated by the award-winning, industry leading Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott's Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert, California is a must-stay Southern California destination for families seeking luxury-laden R&R intertwined with a healthy dose of fun. Indeed, this kinetic kid-friendly property is a veritable 312-acre oasis nestled within the natural beauty of the desert and framed by spectacular mountain vistas. If you're looking for a resort with stylish and spacious accommodations, stellar customer service, copious kids' activities, thoughtful amenities, and numerous recreation, dining, shopping, and spa experiences conveniently accessible, then Marriott's Shadow Ridge is for you.

Fine Design
I recently vacationed at the property with my two young children and was duly impressed with the urbane villa accommodations — 497 on the property in all with a whopping 984 in total planned upon build-out.

A veritable home away from home, Marriott's Shadow Ridge villas have it all. Far surpassing even a high-end hotel room, the property boasts generous one-, two-, and three-bedroom floor plans ranging from 1,110 to 1,330 square feet. The two-bedroom, two-bath villas like the one I stayed in measures approximately 1,250 square feet and sleeps up to eight people. Some units have an additional guest suite available to increase the square footage and bed choices. A flexible "lock off" design allows the space to be turned into two separate units, each with its own living room, balcony or terrace, full kitchen in main villa, and kitchenette in lock-off. This considerate floor plan gives larger families, or teenagers who like their own space, added privacy.

Families vacationing in these villas will appreciate the decidedly well-appointed kitchens that feature granite countertops, custom cabinetry, tile flooring, and stainless-steel appliances. Kitchens are fully loaded with a dishwasher, microwave, pots and pans, serving dishes, cutlery, a refrigerator with ice maker, stove, table, and toaster. The roomy living and dining areas beckon you to come relax and unwind amid a contemporary style and high-end décor with natural materials and a color palate that complements the desertscape outside. The handsome master suites feature a king-size bed with sumptuous bedding, including a plush duvet and chenille bed scarf. Bathrooms have large soaking tubs, glass surround showers with dual heads, and creature comforts like hairdryers and magnification mirrors that extend from the wall.

Throughout the villa there are entertainment features, including multiple flat-panel TVs, Wi-Fi Internet accessibility, and DVD players. Other features include a washer and dryer and, in some units, gas fireplaces. Almost every villa offers a view of the mountains, fairways, or swimming pools amongst lush landscaping and tropical palm trees.

Kid-Friendly Features
Outside of the sleek accommodations, Marriott's Shadow Ridge also offers an array of exciting amenities, including multiple whirlpool spas and heated swimming pools (with towel service and raft rental) dispersed throughout the expansive property, including one "quiet" pool that's unofficially for adults only. In addition to an abundance of lounge chairs surrounding each pool, cabanas are also available to shade you from the desert sun and generally enhance your poolside experience. At two of the pools children delight in "splash zones" with water sprayers and dumping buckets of various sorts. One of the pools has a beach entry play area great for smaller children, and another pool has a very large water slide feature.

But, the kid-centric fun does not stop there. Marriott's Shadow Ridge also boasts an Activity Center like none I've ever seen, complete with full video game arcade, ping pong table, two Wii stations, a movie theater, giant chess/checkers, billiards, shuffleboard, playground, and oversized board games. Kids also have a number of daily classes and endeavors to choose from at "Marriott's Activity Zone Experience," including Wii challenges, arts and crafts projects, scavenger hunts, and organized games (bingo anyone?). Library-style board game check-out and free book exchanges are also available. Outside, the action continues with multiple available basketball courts, tennis, sand volleyball and a mini putting green.

A nightly "Movie in the Park," one of my favorite experiences at the resort, offers relaxed family togetherness and a communal experience with other guests amid the fresh evening air. I was impressed to see the movies were relatively recent releases. Kids Night In/Parent's Night Out offers three-and-a half hours of supervised fun for $35 per child ages 4-12, including pizza and games, so that parents can enjoy some adult time together. All told, the breadth of amusement available at this resort is truly incredible. With such a wide range of options designed with both kids and parents in mind, it's no wonder that the Marriott Vacation Club was named one of the "top resort chains for family togetherness" by the Family Travel Forum.

Fitness-minded adults can partake in a complimentary yoga or other exercise class, water aerobics or power walking sessions. The more ambitious can try the vacation boot camp for full-body workouts. Tennis courts are available for reservation. A partner list is also available for anyone looking for a tennis game, or you can opt for a tennis workout session that includes drills and coaching. A 24-hour accessible fitness center offers an impressive assortment of cardio equipment, weights, a steam room, and sauna. A secondary fitness center on the other end of the property provides yet more cardio equipment (treadmills and elliptical), lower pound free weights, and a few nautilus machines. While there are no day spa facilities located on site, there are numerous upscale spas located nearby.

Other guest services at Marriott's Shadow Ridge include a concierge desk, newspaper delivery, safe deposit boxes at the front desk, valet dry cleaning, and an on-site ATM. There are also two banquet rooms available for events.

As if all of the on-property excitement were not enough, Marriott's Shadow Ridge is also located near a number of family-oriented Palm Desert attractions, including bowling, hiking, horseback riding, miniature golf, skiing, water parks, the Children's Discovery Museum, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the Palm Springs Air Museum, and fun centers with arcades and go karts.

Got Golf Game?
Golf aficionados will love Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club, the first Nick Faldo-designed championship 18-hole golf course in the U.S., and the Faldo Golf Institute where owners and guests can receive comprehensive instruction for all skill levels. Peppered with lakes and sand lots interspersed amongst well-maintained greens, the impressive course was voted the best course in the Coachella Valley two years in a row by Desert Golf magazine, as well as 2010's 41st best resort course by Golf World magazine.

The course also boasts an expansive pro shop with all the latest equipment and golf apparel for men and women. There is also a putting green and sizable driving range for practice. With Palm Desert known to have at least 350 days of sun each year, there is plenty of time to work on that golf swing while admiring the beauty of the Santa Rosa Mountains in the distance.

Good Mood Food
Open daily for lunch and dinner and located in Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Clubhouse, Nick Faldo's Bar and Grill offers gourmet delights in a casual and lighthearted country club atmosphere that is, of course, kid-friendly. In fact, books and games are provided upon arrival to keep the little ones occupied until the meal arrives. The seasonal dinner menu has something for everyone, offering various cuts of steak, lamb, chicken, seafood, and pasta selections.

My party started with the Shrimp Cocktail ($11), which was very fresh and the shrimp well-cleaned, and the flavor-packed Scallops Rockefeller ($12) attractively plated in the shell — a dish I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. We then enjoyed a large Caesar Salad ($13) before moving on to our entrees: Rosemary Marinated Rack of Lamb ($33) in a mushroom demi-glace and with a mint jelly accompaniment, and tender Braised Short Ribs ($20), both served with mashed potatoes and vegetables, and Fresh Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon ($23) topped with a fabulous mustard caper aioli sauce and served with rice and vegetables. The portions were generous and cooked to perfection. Fresh, flaky French bread is also provided at the onset — so delicious it can become a meal in itself. Rivaling the fantastic food is the service, with the hostess, wait and support staff and management checking in often to ensure guests are thoroughly enjoying their experience.

Nick's offers a number of specials, including twilight dinner selections that include an entrée, side salad and a sorbet dessert for $17.95, Happy Hours and a Prime Rib dinner. The restaurant often hosts wine tasting events, which include light hors d'oeuvres paired with various wines for $25 per person.

Other dining options on the property are poolside: Snake Bites Bar & Grill, perfect for quick meals and lighter fare such as deli sandwiches, salads, snacks and beverages, and Chuckwalla Pool Bar & Grill offering a range of entrees, pizzas, grilled selections and sandwiches along with a wide selection of cocktails. Also on site is the Marketplace convenience store and deli, which offers groceries, Starbucks coffee, continental breakfast, gift items, and a variety of sundries.

Award-Winning Timeshare Ownership
Options for visiting Marriott's Shadow Ridge include staying as a guest by renting with a nightly rate via or awards redemption option, or as a timeshare owner. The vacation timeshare ownership is in the form of a deeded property purchase for one or more weeks within a floating time system so that trips can be planned throughout the year. Owners have the ability to rent out their villas when not in use.

More Information
Located just ten minutes from Palm Springs International Airport and a quick two-hour drive from Los Angeles (two-and-a-half hours from San Diego), Marriott's Shadow Ridge is located at 9003 Shadow Ridge Road, Palm Desert, California 92211. It's important to note that pets are not allowed on the property except for service animals for guests with disabilities. All facilities are handicap accessible.

For information on vacation ownership, visit

- Merilee Kern
JustLuxé.com's "The Luxe List" Executive Review Editor

The Luxe List product, service and travel review editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for new and captivating "musts." Submissions are accepted via e-mail at View all of Merilee's Luxe List articles from here (scroll to page bottom).

Merilee Kern

Merilee A. Kern is a good life connoisseur who scours the luxury marketplace for new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points - the extreme high end to the affordable. The best of the best across all product, service and travel categories are detailed in her exclusive column 'The Luxe List' that reaches millions of affluent consumers each month through multiple print...(Read More)

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