For more than two decades, Desert Adventures Eco-Tours & Events in Palm Springs has been providing groups with private tours and exhilarating teambuilding experiences through California’s dry lands. Their private 840-acre Metate Ranch preserve is nestled in the craggy steep-walled canyons of the San Andreas Fault, only 15 minutes from the down-valley resorts. Here, groups can enjoy a variety of themed events, activities and dinners.
Within the preserve, the two main group venues are the Old Mining Camp and Cahuilla Indian Village. For special events, groups have access to three stages, three dance floors, antique wagons, an old-time hotel, mercantile, saloon, bank, livery, stagecoach office and even a jail. There is also a gold mine exhibit that includes authentic gold-mining equipment and fascinating local photos taken more than 100 years ago. Or, take your own old-time photo with the gang in the Old Time Photo Studio.
Desert Adventures hosts a fistfull of teambuilding events at the Ranch. The 2-hour Desert Olympics at the Old Mining Camp takes groups through several rounds of wacky competitions that include target shooting, straw cow-roping, horseshoe tosses, Morse code decryption and gold panning.
“You can have a group in the most luxurious hotel with all the amenities, yet bus them 15 minutes away for a total desert experience that is so different from what they would ever expect,” says Ross Hutchings, executive director of the California Travel Industry Association. “I cannot say enough about this company, their guides, their knowledge, venues and the fun they put into every one of their events.”
As the glowing ember sky welcomes in the night, the mining camp doubles as a dinner venue. Groups can dine inside the Wild West-style dining hall, or host an outdoor barbecue for up to 1,000 pax.
“Our typical menu is BBQ based, such as BBQ chicken plus ribs, steak, tri tip, or brisket of beef, and an assortment of side dishes such as baked beans, baked, mashed, or scalloped potatoes, some sort of vegetable and dessert,” says co-owner, Kimberly Nilsson. “However, there are lots of choices and we work with groups to create whatever menu they want. We’ve done everything from Mexican fiesta-style buffets to Hawaiian Luau fare, to gourmet plated meals.”
And what if planners want to create a themed gala?
“We also include buffet décor and themed centerpieces at both the Old Mining Camp and Cahuilla Indian Village,” says Nilsson. “Each has a unique theme to them which requires very little additional décor. However, we can completely change the feel of either venue if desired. At our Cahuilla Village, we’ve done a variety of themed events including Arabian Nights, Hawaiian Luau, Indian Pow Wow, Beach Party or Mexican Fiesta. At our Old Mining Camp we’ve done Old West/Hoe Down-style events, Mexican Fiestas, or MASH-themed events.”
Desert Adventures offers group adventures throughout the cities of the Coachella Valley in their “Big Red Jeeps.” Drive deep into the heart of some of the most twisted and tormented landscapes in the world with their classic San Andreas Fault Jeep Eco-Tour. Visit the Cahuilla Indian Village and learn about how the Cahuilla people used the desert’s plants for food, medicine and shelter. Groups can then cool off by a lush natural palm oasis or learn about earthquakes and the geology of the Fault when they explore the Epicenter Earthquake Education Center.
The Jeep Riddle Rally & Scavenger Hunt (100 pax capacity) is another popular group option with a competitive element added to the traditional San Andreas Fault Tour. Groups are first given team assignments to uncover a series of riddles. Then they hop into their jeeps to motor around the desert in search of a series of items not native to the desert environment. At the end of the day, everyone can gather around a bonfire while the winners are announced.
Feel free to ask Nilsson ways you can create bespoke events customized for your group.
“For one group, it was starting to get dark and the group caravanned over from Indian Village to the Mining Camp in jeeps, the wagon and on horseback,” she says. “When they got to the Mining Camp, they were ambushed by gunfighters and a few people who had been preselected were arrested and thrown in jail. That turned into a great party at the Mining Camp that went late into the night. We had a full bar set up and an elaborate dessert/ice cream buffet. There was a wonderful band, magicians, gunfight show, stargazing and other fun entertainment.”
Sounds like a blast.
“I would say our venues are very flexible and our staff is very creative,” says Nilsson. “Whatever a client wants, we can probably do.”