An iconic venue gets a reboot
One of the hottest places on earth just got a little cooler. An old school Ice Cream Parlor soda fountain shop has opened at The Oasis at Death Valley, as part of a nearly six- year $150-million renovation at the resort, which encompasses two hotels — The AAA Four-Diamond historic Inn at Death Valley and the family style Ranch at Death Valley.
The Ranch has 80 new bungalow-style, stand-alone cottages, steps away from the revitalized mission style town square that includes new retail shops, a restored saloon and restaurant. Originally a working ranch that was built in the 1930s, most of its structures were built in the 1950s. It offers 275 rooms in low-slung one- and two-story buildings arranged around sprawling lawns, with many of the rooms open onto patios, while others have balconies overlooking the grounds.
The Ice Cream Parlor at the Ranch, known for years as Furnace Creek, is a sweet and nostalgic addition to the Oasis, with a variety of shakes like peanut butter cup, creamsicle and Badwater Caramel, banana splits, soda floats, sundaes and 20 different types of ice cream including date, huckleberry birthday cake and brownie extreme. The grill offers lunch options like burgers, grilled cheese, hot dogs and chili.
Adjacent to the new 1849 restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet is the updated version of the Ranch’s Western-style bar, now known as The Last Kind Words Saloon. With its soaring ceilings and hearty fine-dining options like rib eye and flat iron steaks, filet mignon, prime rib and baby back ribs, it’s a welcome addition to starving and thirsty travelers at the end of a long journey through the National Park.
The resort was originally built by the Pacific Borax Company in the late 1920s and was the getaway winter spot for Hollywood celebrities like Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan, and is where George Lucas filmed scenes from the original Star Wars movies. The oldest structure in Death Valley is now the Borax museum that sits on the Ranch property.
Originally built in 1927, the historic, four-diamond mission-style high-end Inn at Death Valley sits up on a hill overlooking the Ranch and reopened at the end of 2018, after major restoration. The property, privately owned by Xanterra Travel Collection, has 66 elegantly updated rooms, renovated fine-dining restaurant and cocktail lounge, new Tranquility Spa, verandas with panoramic views of Death Valley and the Panamint Mountains, opulent gardens, and a spring-fed pool (naturally at 87 degrees) bordered by a new pool café and numerous cabanas.
Twenty-two private, one-bedroom new casitas were built in the shadow of the Oasis Gardens’ date palms, within walking distance to the pool. Each casita comes with a golf cart (cars can’t get down to these rooms), as well as room options with either one king bed or two queen beds. In addition to the main sleeping quarters, each Casita also has a living room with a sleeper sofa, as well as a wet bar. There also are renovated suites in the main building.
The Inn Dining Room has expanded with additional seating areas including outdoor options, and a new pool cafe has been added featuring sandwiches, wraps, salads, sides, and assorted beverages. If you’re dining at the Inn, the Death Valley Date Cake is a local valley must. The gooey cake comes with caramel sauce, orange zested dates and candied pecans in a light cardamom cream. You can burn off the calories the next day with a quick morning hike to Zabriskie Point.
Across the road from the terraced stone inn is a new wedding and event venue, the stunning Mission Gardens. A palo verde punctuated courtyard open to the desert skies and surrounding mountains, the gardens are enclosed by Spanish-style, white-washed adobe walls that feature details crafted from Mojave Desert stones. Improvements of the property are ongoing. The Wild Rose Hall is currently being transformed into the new 19th Hole and Pro Shop.
Because water is precious in the desert, sustainability is in focus at The Oasis. Every drop of the pool water in the two naturally spring-fed pools is purposefully used and carefully managed. The spring water is not chlorinated, eventually flowing through the pools to be used for a variety of other non-potable functions, like landscaping and irrigation of the neighboring Furnace Creek Golf Course (which also is an Audubon-approved bird sanctuary and is the world’s lowest golf course at -214 feet that has been welcoming golf enthusiasts since 1927.)
Any extra is released so that it replenishes the aquifer beneath the valley floor. The property has a one MW solar PV system that generates more than one-third of the total annual electricity needs of the Inn, The Ranch, the golf course, employee offices and housing. The system was designed to withstand the harsh conditions of Death Valley and produces more than two million kilowatt-hours per year of clean renewable energy.
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