You probably recognize Mario Lopez as the charming co-host of TV’s “Extra” or the star of ‘90s series “Saved by the Bell,” but his most important role? Best dad in the world. And when it comes to family time, Greater Palm Springs is just the place where Lopez can transform his family of four—six when they travel with the grandmas—into a family of one.
“[In Greater Palm Springs,] the kids are having a great time, my wife and I are having a great time, and even our moms are having a great time,” Mario says. “Greater Palm Springs offers a lot.”
As dancers, Mario and his wife, Courtney Mazza Lopez, understand the importance of balance—and as busy parents with equally busy careers, maintaining balance becomes even more important. Family vacations often provide just the right balance for the Lopez family.
“During the day, I like to hang out by the pool, maybe enjoy a nice margarita [and] watch the kids swim,” Mario says of his ideal vacation. “At night, I like to enjoy a nice dinner, have a nice glass of wine and just be very low key and just kind of enjoy that slow vibe.”
On a recent visit to Greater Palm Springs, Mario and Courtney took us outside in this beautiful oasis and inside their family life with their two young children, Gia and Dominic, and their two moms.
Relaxation at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage
Their family getaway kicked off under a gorgeous desert sunset at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. Perched high above Greater Palm Springs on a mountainside bluff, the stunning resort set the stage for a relaxing family vacation.
Inside the stone-accented lobby, the family was greeted by attentive staff that took care of every detail. The kids’ eyes lit up as a staff member wheeled out a wagon filled with stuffed animals, letting Gia and Nico each pick one to keep.
After settling into their suite, Mario’s mom, Elvia, took the kids to enjoy the resort’s family pool. Meanwhile, Mario and Courtney shared a glass of wine by the firepit as the sun set behind the San Jacinto Mountains. After a busy workweek in Los Angeles, the parents toasted to kick off their well-deserved family getaway.
“When I’m looking for a resort, I want to feel like I’m really being taken away and a million miles from home,” Mario says. “What’s great about [The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage] is you really don’t have to leave if you don’t want to.”
“It’s a beautiful property,” Mario adds. “My family and I loved it.”
Food and Family at Las Casuelas Nuevas
“Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed being in the kitchen,” Mario says. “I’m a big foodie, so all our vacations are always planned around food.”
After all, what better way is there for the family to spend time together on vacation?
“For me, nothing symbolizes family more than everyone being around the dinner table,” Mario says. “Eating together is something special that we look forward to as a family.”
During their stay in Greater Palm Springs, the family shared a meal under the stars on the patio of Las Casuelas Nuevas, which Mario describes as a “really cool family-owned Mexican restaurant.”
Las Casuelas Nuevas is known for their authentic Mexican fare, which Mario and his family couldn’t get enough of. Add in a beautiful setting, and it was the perfect backdrop for a family meal.
“Outside, you felt like you were inside, [and] it was gorgeous,” Mario says.
From tableside guacamole to handcrafted margaritas (a favorite of Mario’s), it was all smiles and laughter, making their first night together fun and festive.
Dining at a restaurant like Las Casuelas Nuevas just made the experience that much more memorable.
“The food’s delicious,” Mario says. “[The restaurant is] romantic, it’s fun, it’s festive. We had a really good time.”
Walking on the Wild Side at The Living Desert
An adventurous stop for the Lopez family was The Living Desert, a desert-themed zoo and botanical garden in Palm Desert. With animal encounters like feeding experiences or high-fiving a porcupine, The Living Desert offers one-of-a-kind opportunities for parents like Mario and Courtney to make lasting memories with their little ones.
“I was so impressed with the zoo,” Mario says. “It was great. The kids really enjoyed themselves.”
Gia especially lit up as she got up close and personal with her favorite animal—the giraffe—for a feeding experience.
“She didn’t want to leave,” Mario says. “She even said she wants a job there.”
Over at the lorikeet exhibit, Dominic was all smiles as the colorful birds landed on him for a sip from his nectar cup.
“My son was brave and wanted [the lorikeets] all over him,” Mario says. “It took my daughter a second but she loved it.”
The entire Lopez family played like they were kids: even Mario’s mother got in on the lorikeet action.
“They loved my mom, and maybe that’s because my mom loves birds,” he says. “She had them all over her.”
Time for Two in Palm Desert
While the kids enjoyed the Ritz-Carlton’s family pool with Grandma, Mario and Courtney were able to enjoy a few quiet moments together exploring Palm Desert. Their first stop? El Paseo, a vibrant district known for its shopping, art galleries and restaurants.
“El Paseo in Palm Desert…is beautiful,” Mario says. “They’ve got all kinds of luxury shopping with stores that everyone knows, but then you’ve also got little boutiques.”
Here, Mario and Courtney could slow down and enjoy time as a couple, whether shopping at local boutiques like Candice Held or sipping coffee in The Gardens on El Paseo. As the parents strolled hand-in-hand down El Paseo—often stopping to pose for pictures with fans—it was clear how at ease they felt.
Their next stop was The Spa at Desert Springs, where Mario and Courtney were able to take their relaxation to the next level with a couples massage and spa suite. With plenty of quiet time to reflect on the day, the pair enjoyed slowing down and soaking up the feeling of being on vacation. Throughout their day in Palm Desert, the couple found that every little enclave offered a little “find your oasis” moment.
A Family-Friendly Oasis
From feeding giraffes to chilling by the pool, vacation is all about finding balance and spending quality time together for the Lopez family—and they find plenty of ways to make memories in Greater Palm Springs.
“I think destinations like this are great because it has stuff that the parents or the couple can go do on their own to reconnect on a romantic level, but at the same time, there’s a lot of stuff for kids, and they can have a great time,” Mario says.
Plus, this family-friendly oasis is just a two-hour drive for the LA-based family, proving you don’t need to travel far to get away and find your own oasis.
“The great thing about Greater Palm Springs is it’s so geographically convenient to LA,” Lopez adds, “but you feel like you’re a million miles away.”