Taking young kids out to a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. I still vividly remember the first time I took my sons out to eat, by myself. Within minutes of arriving at the restaurant, with a 1 & 3-year-old, I was in a full-body sweat, swearing our family would never eat out in public again. Needless to say, our first public dining experience was an epic fail.

Kids are savages when they are born. Never in my life did I ever expect to say “spitting on the table is not appropriate” or “you never put your penis on your fork”. I have said these and so many other insanely ridiculous sentences relating to appropriate behaviour that you’d think I was raising barnyard animals. But our boys slowly morphed from livestock to humans and as they’ve matured we’ve expanded our forays into the world of fine dining.

When travelling, dining out ramps up to a level not experienced at home. Unless you are staying somewhere with a full kitchen – and you want to spend your holiday time preparing meals – you are going to eat out as a family. Trying new restaurants, and new cuisines is a highlight of any holiday. But over the years of travel, we’ve consciously adjusted our dining expectations based on what our kids can handle. The next time you are in California’s Palm Springs check out these 3 family-friendly restaurants:

The Tropical in Palm Springs

Photo credit: Melissa Vroon

The Tropical – I absolutely loved the fact that at The Tropical we could dine family style. Without fail, I’m the person at the table who can’t make a decision when it comes to ordering. It’s not because I can’t find something I like; it’s because I want to eat everything on the menu. Family-style dining allows for everyone to pick a few dishes and share. The majority of kids are ultra-picky eaters, by ordering a bunch of small plates you increase your chances of finding a dish your little one will devour. My taste buds highly recommend the Firecracker prawns, chilled blue crab and sushi rice stack, and crispy, boneless, Southern-fried chicken.

Kaiser Grille in Palm Springs

Photo credit: Charity Quick, Melissa Vroon, Voula Martin

Kaiser Grille the most painful time during any meal for parents is that endlessly long lag between placing your order and the food arriving. That time lag could be a mere 30 seconds and it would still feel like a lifetime. Finding a restaurant that provides a distraction for the kids while waiting for the food to be made gets a big thumbs up from me. The food at the Kaiser Grille was super tasty and the fact that we could sit at our table and people-watch, count cars, and spot illuminated carriages made for a successful meal. Highlights of the meal we enjoyed at Kaiser Grille were: the fig, brie and arugula pizza, the crab cake, and the pannacotta. (FYI – the cocktails were incredibly tasty too!)

Chi Chi at the Avalon Hotel

Photo credit: Melissa Vroon

Chi Chi┬áThe dinner hour is always a bit riskier when dining with young kids. Not only are you more likely to attract glares from people who’ve forgotten what its like to have little ones, dinner falls at the point in the day when the chance of a meltdown skyrockets. Why not find a trendy/funky restaurant for breakfast or lunch? Everyone seems more tolerant of little kids during the daylight hours; the kids have more patience, and the venues are frequently less crowded. When we visited Chi Chi at the Avalon Hotel, there were a number of young kids successfully enjoying meals with their families. Highlights of the meal we enjoyed at Chi Chi are avocado toast with watermelon radish, the Wellness Beverages (think ultra healthy smoothies), and the apple sausage. A few months have passed since we were in Palm Springs and I still find myself daydreaming about the avocado toast at Chi Chi, it was divine.

No parent is going to say taking little kids to a restaurant is a relaxing and stress-free experience. But the dining experiences with your kids are only going to improve if you shove up your sleeves, wrangle those savage-beasts, and actually eat in a restaurant. Start with an early meal, start at a venue that welcomes kids, and go somewhere the kids will be entertained. It gets easier eventually…right?