Things to Do in Palm Springs

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Palm Springs California street with palm trees and desert mountains
Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash

When you think of Palm Springs, what comes to mind? Hollywood stars? Golf? Deserts?

While all three are definitely part of the area’s culture, there are plenty of other things to do in Palm Springs besides golf, take a tour of the stars, or go hiking. Palm Springs is a blend of art, history, outdoor fun, and luxurious relaxation. Whether you choose to hit the classic tourist destinations or try something less well known, there’s plenty of cool things to do in Palm Springs!

Before planning your activities, consider these three things – What type of trip do you want to take? Who is going with you? What are your must-dos? By determining these factors, you can narrow down the attractions you want to visit. If you want to spend most of your time outdoors, you may well go to all the hiking and desert attractions. If golf is your thing, you’ll want to check out all the options in the area. Travelling without kids? Take advantage of the sights and locations that are best for adults! The key is to choose things to do in Palm Springs that fit your style, not just the popular attractions.

Things to Do in Palm Springs:

Palm Springs Attractions for Adults

There are some Palm Springs attractions you’ll find will be easier to enjoy sans kids. So, if you’re travelling with all adults, you might want to take advantage of some of these cool things to do in Palm Springs. We can’t promise that kids won’t be at these locations, however it is likely that you’ll have an enjoyable time with your adult group!

Hike Indian Canyons

Choose between three incredible hiking trails – Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon, each with their own distance and difficulty. All three canyon trails show off the natural beauty of the area, also give you a chance to see places where the Native American Cahuilla people once lived. On the Palm Canyon trail, there’s even a Native American Trading Post where you can find genuine American Indian souvenirs and other cultural items.

Why Visit?

Palm Springs is known for its proximity to amazing hiking grounds. The Indian Canyons are not far from the city itself, and you can choose a trail that works for the people in your party. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the natural and native history of the area.

Plan Ahead:

Bring lots of water! Indian Canyons park enforces minimum water requirements on the trails, and for good reason. Palm Springs is still in a desert area, so it can get hot. Wear appropriate clothing, like closed toed boots and even long pants, and plan to bring some snacks for the trail.

Palm Springs Art Museum

One of the cool things to do during your vacation is visit the Palm Springs Art Museum. Palm Springs is an incredible collection of diverse artwork, from fun and funky modern pieces to beautiful traditional paintings. Art is an important aspect of the culture in Palm Springs, and the art museum highlights that.

Much of the artwork also highlights the history of Palm Springs and the surrounding areas, both the good and the bad. Sculptures and statues mix in among the other art, giving you plenty to look at as you explore. While you might find some older kids at the museum with their families, it is unlikely you’ll see children under ten. With that in mind, the Palm Springs Art Museum is a great adult outing to beat the heat or to enjoy on a rainy day.

Why Visit?

This is one of the most popular and beloved attractions in Palm Springs. Whether you’re an art lover or not, you don’t want to miss the chance to see this history, as well as some contemporary and local art pieces.

Check out this sneak peak into some of the museum’s previous exhibits:

Moorten Botanical Gardens and Cactarium

Established in 1938, Moorten Botanical Gardens has always had the goal of sharing the natural beauty of the desert to any who wish to see it. Created by Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten and his wife, Patricia, who shared a passion for desert plants. Together they built the botanical gardens and grew their business into the family-owned masterpiece it is today.

With over 3,000 different plants and cacti, you will have a great time exploring the area and learning more about the flora. There are several habitats on display, not all of them native to America, as well as a collection of rocks, crystals, fossils and gold-mining relics. There’s even plants for sale on your way out, so take a piece of the desert home with you!

Why Visit?

Moorten Botanical Gardens shows off the history of Palm Springs in a way that no one else can. While you can take a tour, you can also just spend a leisurely afternoon strolling through the grounds. Moorten’s also appeals mostly to adults, making it perfect for your adult-only trip.

Plan Ahead:

If you would like to take a guided tour, Moorten’s recommends booking ahead. They also recommend about an hour or so to truly appreciate the entire area, although you might want to stay longer. It does require a bit of walking, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. The gardens are also closed on Wednesdays.

Joshua Tree National Park

Picture of Joshua Tree near  Palm Springs California
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Initially established in 1936 and gaining national park status in 1994, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in the Palm Springs area. The Mojave and the Colorado deserts meet right in the park, giving you the chance to see two unique ecosystems and sets of desert life. The park gets its name from the Joshua tree, or Yucca brevifolia, a member of the Agave family valued by historical native tribes and pioneers alike. Everywhere you look, you’ll see these trees.

The park itself has plenty of incredible trails, campgrounds, and tours of spots like Keys Ranch. You can explore the park on your own, or book a tour to guide you through the area. While Joshua Tree is also a popular spot for families, the park is large enough that you could have an entirely adults-only excursion without any issues.

Why Visit?

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most fun things to do in Palm Springs, mostly because of the historical value. It’s also a great opportunity to get out and appreciate the natural beauty of the desert. If you’re not someone who lives in a desert area, you don’t want to miss this chance to see nature like you’ve never seen it before.

Plan Ahead:

Dress for hiking, and bring water. Lots, and lots, of water! You do also have to purchase a pass to get into the park, and reserve a site if you’re planning to camp. You can check out the passes and fees on Joshua Tree’s website. Also be sure to check out their important safety information, which will better help you to plan for what is in the park. It may be a national park, but it’s still wild country!

Visit the Windmills

Picture of Windmills near  Palm Springs California
Photo by Nancy Reid on Unsplash

Ok, we know how this sounds. What’s so cool about windmills? Believe it or not, this is one of those cools things to do in Palm Springs that you’ll never forget! These awesome windmill tours give you the chance to get right up close to a windmill and experience their full size – something we take for granted when we see them from the highway.

Choose between a self-driving tour or a biking tour (bring your own), both of which give you plenty of chances to get out and see the windmills up close. Also available are exhibits about the history of renewable energy and wind technology, so there’s more than just the windmills to draw you.

Why Visit?

These windmill tours are one of the most highly recommended experiences in the Palm Springs area. Again, we know it sounds weird, but there’s something about feeling so small against such a powerful machine. The ability to go at your own pace is nice, as well as staying in your own car. This means the tour consists just of your group, and you can bring all your own water and snacks.

Palm Springs Attractions for Families

When you’re travelling as a family, sometimes it can be hard to find activities for your energetic little ones or that will appeal to all your kids’ ages. However, there are plenty of fun things to do in Palm Springs for everyone! (Even your moody teenagers)

Just remember – you know your kids best. While these attractions might work for some families, they won’t cut it for others. Make sure you check out the locations more in-depth before booking and excursion or making the drive.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Picture of aerial tramway near  Palm Springs California

One of the most popular things to do in Palm Springs, Aerial Tramway lets you see the natural splendor of the area in a whole new way. Riding in the world’s largest rotating tramcar, take a gentle two and a half mile flight over Chino Canyon. Trust us, you’ve never seen canyons and cliffs like this!

At the end of the ride is the Mountain Station at Mt. San Jacinto State Park, where you can find two restaurants, a variety of observation decks, the natural history museum, two different documentary theaters, a gift shop and over fifty miles of hiking trails. The park also has different events throughout the year specifically for families and kids, so make sure you check the events calendar to see what will be available during your trip!

Why Visit?

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is one of the quintessential destinations of the area. You’re really missing out if don’t go, and your kids will love it (provided they aren’t bothered by heights). The park is also beautiful, and gives your family a chance to explore at their pace. Riding the tramway means you don’t have to hike the mountain to get to the park, but you still have a chance to enjoy its beauty.

Plan Ahead:

Again, you know your kids. If they don’t like heights, or you’re not sure how they’ll do, maybe skip this experience. You also watch videos with them, like the one below, to help your kiddos understand what will happen during the ride. There are also food options available at the park, but you might also want to bring your own snacks.

Be aware the temperatures are usually 30-40 degrees cooler than down in the valley. Even if you’re there in the summer, you might want to pack a bag with jackets or pants in case of chill.

Please note – this video was made in 2019 pre-COVID

Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum is the largest collection in the world of wartime planes. Here, you’ll see aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, all of which are still operational! In addition to the planes, the museum has plenty of other exhibits to explore, as well as special fly-over events on occasion. You can even purchase a ride in a Warbird airplane!

The museum is open every day from 10:00am to 5:00pm (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), making it an ideal day trip during your vacation. Parking is free, which is definitely a bonus. Many of the aircraft are open for tours on a daily basis. There’s even a library full of aircraft history for those who want to find out more!

Why Visit?

If this museum doesn’t appeal to the whole family, we don’t know what does. If you’re looking for cool things to do in Palm Springs, this is it. Not only that, but guests are encouraged to interact with the planes – something many museums won’t allow. This is fabulous news if you have excited, tactile kiddos who want to touch every object they deem cool. There’s also plenty of activities and simulators just for kids, like a kid-size control tower. Your kids might roll their eyes when they hear museum, but trust us, they’ll love this one.

Plan Ahead:

There aren’t any dining options here at the museum, so you may want to consider eating ahead of time or going to get food right afterwards. You could also bring snacks, but do keep in mind that it is a museum. Avoid food items that are messy or easily spilled. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Picture of giraffe near  Palm Springs California
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Zoos are a great place to take the kids in general, with all the remarkable animals to see and habitats to explore. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Springs kicks things up a notch, with lots of interactive activities and things to do in addition to looking at the animals. Check out the adorable train garden or travel down one of the hiking trails. Watch amazing animal feats at the Wildlife Wonders show, or have a personal encounter in the petting zoo area. There’s no end to the fun!

There are different food locations throughout the park, as well as a few different visitor centers to explore. Most of the paths are easy for a stroller or wheelchair to traverse, although there are a few unpaved paths. Don’t forget to check out the calendar of events to see what specifically is going on during your trip!

Why Visit?

Especially if you have younger kids, they won’t be bright-eyed and full of wonder forever. Take this chance now to bring them to place where they will be awed and have a great time. This zoo is made for people of all ages to enjoy, but especially kids. There’s even a play area or two if you have some kiddos that just need to get out some energy. The zoo is a fabulous day out, and you’ll leave with amazing memories.

The Shields Date Garden

We know what you’re thinking. A what garden? Dates? Like, the fruit?

Yes, dates. Yes, the fruit. Dates are an important crop and agricultural staple in California, with over 90% of the nation’s dates coming right from Coachella Valley! At the Shields Date Garden, you can learn all about how the dates are cultivated and harvested, as well as its significance as a crop. Also on the property is the Garden, a walk that winds through the seventeen acres of the date farm. Along this walk are twenty-three different statues that form fourteen scenes depicting the life of Jesus Christ. These statues come from a biblical exhibit that closed and found a home here at Shields. You can even access an audio tour on your phone!

If all that weren’t enough, the Shields Date Garden has an amazing café featuring one of the most unique California treats – the date shake. Don’t knock it until you try it, the date shake is one of those things you have to experience to believe! There’s plenty of other fantastic food on the menu as well, so you might want to plan your visit around a meal time.

Why Visit?

If you’re looking for a real Palm Springs experience, you have to try the date farm. It’s a great place to take your kids, especially if they’re never seen a working farm before. The biblical walk and the café just add to the draw. Don’t forget to take a video of your kiddos trying their date shake!

Plan Ahead:

There isn’t a lot of shade, so prepare with sunscreen and hats. As the majority of the farm’s attractions are outside, you might want to plan to go in the morning and leave around lunch to beat the heat. Also, the film in the theater is titled The Romance & Sex Life of the Date. While it isn’t as risqué as it sounds, you can preview the video here to be sure you’re ok with your kids watching it.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Picture of Dinosaur statue near  Palm Springs California
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

One of the most iconic attractions in Palm Springs, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are a “tourist trap” your kiddos are going to love! After all, who doesn’t love gigantic dinosaurs? For just $13 an adult and $11 a child, you can walk the trails and see this awesome creatures up close. Very close, in some cases!

Take a picture inside a dino before continuing through the walk. On Saturdays and Sundays, you might even catch the Wafflesauras truck, with plenty of sweet treats for the whole family. Cabazon Dinosaurs also likes to mix things up for the season, so your visit could be different each time!

Why Visit?

Yes, it’s cheesy and touristy, but that’s part of the appeal. Especially if you have kids, they are going to love the over-the-top nature of Cabazon Dinosaurs. Come in the morning for a cooler stroll, or go in the afternoon to snag an ice cream. Either way, you’ll be glad for the time you spent here once you get those adorable photos.

Palm Springs Attractions for Couples

Whether you’re on your honeymoon or just a getaway, spending time together as a couple is important. Even if it’s not a romantic trip per se, finding activities to do as just the two of you – or close to it – can be nice. These attractions all cater to couples in different ways, giving you the chance to relax and reconnect.

The Spa at Desert Springs

Located at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, The Spa at Desert Springs is one of the most popular couples’ destinations in the region. Just in the spa area alone you’ll find a salon, bistro, VIP suite, fitness facility and saltwater pool, not to mention the forty-eight treatment rooms. With all these amenities, it’s a small wonder that they offer so many services and treatment options!

At the salon, treat yourself to a hair treatment, manicure, pedicure, or all three. Try one of their seventeen different massage options, each designed to meet a particular need within your body. The Spa also offers several nature-based remedies, incorporating citrus oils and date fruits into the mix. You could even try a mud cleanse if you’re looking for something different!

Why Visit?

Going to the spa just makes you feel good. You can then take all those good feelings and direct them towards your partner. The Spa also has couples’ treatments, like one-hour or ninety-minute massages, that you can enjoy together. It’s a great activity to do with one another, while still treating yourself.

Plan Ahead:

The Spa at Desert Springs does require bookings in advance for treatments, and ask that you arrive forty-five minutes prior to your check-in time. While that may seem like a lot, this gives you the chance to get settled in before your appointment. During the spa day, you are provided with a locker for your belongings and a robe for your privacy in between sessions. The Spa also asks that you refrain from using your cell phone while in the spa space.

Balloon Above the Desert

Picture of hot air balloon near  Palm Springs California
Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

Founded in 1979, Balloons Above offers hot air balloon rides soaring over Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, and the surrounding area. You won’t believe the views from this incredible experience! Also, there’s something amazingly peaceful and tranquil about flying so high above everything. It’s more than just a great view, it’s a moment you’ll treasure forever.

The balloon ride lasts about an hour and a half, giving you plenty of opportunities to see all the sights. After the experience, take time to enjoy some refreshments with your balloon pilot, Wil, and ask any questions you would like. Wil has years of balloon piloting under his belt, and loves to share his stories with the guests.

Why Visit?

Even if you fly with another couple, this is a romantic trip. You’re going to feel emotional seeing so much beauty, and the peaceful nature of the trip will bring you closer together. This is a great chance for you to have a once in a lifetime experience together.

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall Hike

Part of the Indian Canyons park, Tahquitz Canyon is best known for its cultural heritage and beautiful hiking trails. Among these is the trail that begins with a sixty-foot waterfall, a marvel of nature that will astound you. Tahquitz Canyon has several other gorgeous locations throughout the trails that are ideal for pictures, picnics, and just spending time together.

At the mouth of the canyon, you’ll find the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center. The Visitor Center house several different educational and cultural exhibits to help guests better understand the history of the canyon. The Center also offers a display of artifacts, an observation deck, and a theater room for viewing The Legend of Tahquitz Canyon.

Why Visit?

This a place in Palm Springs you just have to visit. Even if you aren’t a big nature person, come just to see the waterfall and explore the exhibits in the Visitor Center. Tahquitz Canyon will give you a better appreciation for the history of Palm Springs, as well as the natural beauty that surrounds the city. As a couple, it’s something fun to do together that gets you outdoors. For those of us who work jobs inside, this is a nice change of pace!

Plan Ahead:

If you do plan to hike, make sure you wear the right hiking gear and bring plenty of water. There are places along the trails to stop and rest, but there isn’t a lot of shade. Slather on plenty of sunscreen, wear a hat, and plan to go in the morning to beat the heat.

Get a peek at the waterfall and the canyon in this video:

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

Take a tour of Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s Palm Springs honeymoon home. The modernist style of the home appealed so much to Elvis Presley that he ended up modeling two suites in Graceland after the house! Designed and built by Robert Alexander, he called it the House of Tomorrow, totally swept up in the modernist movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The house was designed in four complete circles across three levels – not a square room in sight. There are four bedrooms and five bathrooms, equally over 5,000 square feet. If the size of the house wasn’t enough, the grounds include a large pool with a stage and private garden, a tennis court and a fruit orchard. Even if Elvis Presley and his wife hadn’t stayed here, this would be a house worth exploring!

Why Visit?

This is a distinctive piece of Palm Springs history that really shows the modernism movement in action. The Honeymoon Hideaway also shows a side of Hollywood that we rarely get to see, while still having that opulence we expect from the stars. Even though there might be others on your tour, there’s something romantic about seeing a honeymoon cottage – er – mansion while you’re on your own couple’s trip.

Dip in a Hot Spring

What could be better than a private soak in a hot spring? Spend time alone, enjoying each other’s company, while bathing in one of the nature hot springs in the deserts outside Palm Springs. This Airbnb experience is a great chance to get some quality time as a couple while basking in the beauty of the area.

You’ll meet your Airbnb host at their privately owned greenhouse before taking a short walk to the hot springs. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to see some of the plants native to the area before reaching the springs. Once you arrive, the host will settle you in to the springs before leaving you to enjoy your soak in peace and privacy. The total experience is about two hours, with at least an hour to enjoy the springs.

Why Visit?

Hot tubs are one thing – hot springs are another entirely. This is a totally different experience than any other time swimming or bathing. Not to mention, some of the most beautiful scenery in Palm Springs surround you. Between that and the complete privacy, how could this not be romantic?

Plan Ahead:

These are natural hot springs, so the hosts ask that you do not wear makeup, sunscreen, deodorant, perfume, or hair care products. This is all to protect the spring, and prevent any of the chemicals from those products from getting into the springs. With that in mind, you might want to plan to do your soak first thing and head back to your hotel immediately after.

Free Palm Springs Attractions

Maybe you’re trying to stick to a budget, or maybe you just don’t want to overspend on your trip, but we can all agree that we would prefer more free things to do while on vacation. In this, Palm Springs does not disappoint. We’ve found the top five best things to do in Palm Springs that won’t cost you a dime!

Walk Down Palm Canyon Drive

Palm Canyon Drive is one of the most well known shopping destinations in Palm Springs. If you’re an avid shopper, this might not be free for you. However, if you can control your impulses and just window shop, a walk down Palm Canyon Drive is a great cost-free option!

With a wide variety of stores, including six different premiere antique shops, there’s plenty for you to see. By the way, we highly suggest stopping in those antique places, as they are like their own little Palm Springs museums. There’s also real museums along this road, along with amazing restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, and spas. You want it? Palm Canyon Drive has it!

Why Visit?

You could almost think of this as the center of town. Even if you’re trying not to spend money, a walk down Palm Canyon Drive gives you the chance to see what the city is like. Not only that, but there’s no charge for just walking into a store, so feel free to explore!

Watch a Polo Match

Picture of croquet mallet near Palm Springs California
Photo by Tim Engle on Unsplash

Ok, we know this one sounds strange, but you wanted free, right?

At Empire Polo Club and Eldorado Polo Club on select days you can watch a free polo match. Yup, with the horses, giant polo mallets, and everything. This is one of those cool things to do in Palm Springs that your friends won’t believe!

Bring a blanket and some lawn chairs and stretch out to watch the match. While there are restaurants on site, you can bring your own picnic lunch or snacks to eat while you cheer on the competitors. Both men and women compete at the different polo clubs, as do some junior leagues, so be sure to check the schedule. You might even be able to make a day of it – and it didn’t cost you a thing!

Why Visit?

How many times in your life are you going to watch a polo match? The fact that the clubs are open to public spectators is pretty amazing, so you might as well take advantage of it. Even the parking is free, so why not? Besides, this proves there’s other sporting events and things to do besides golf!


Every Thursday evening, Palm Canyon Drive is blocked off from traffic to set up for VillageFest. VillageFest is the biggest street fair in town, stretching to Indian Canyon Drive to the east and Belardo Road to the west. Vendors line both sides of the street, and visitors walk through the center of the road like an old-world market town.

Vendors range from art to antiques, bakeries to banh mi, shoes to satchels, and everything in between. If you’re staying in Palm Springs for more than one week, you might want to plan to come to more than one VillageFest. There’s no way you’ll hit all the stalls in one evening, even if it is open for four hours!

Why Visit?

Palm Canyons Drive might be a tourist area, but VillageFest is when the locals come alive. All the vendors are local sellers and approved by the Palm Springs VillageFest Board. This is Palm Springs putting the best it has to offer right out there for you to see, so you won’t want to miss it.

Plan Ahead:

Yes, going to the festival is free. However, if you’re planning to eat there or want to do some shopping, obviously that’s going to cost you some money. We suggest taking out a certain amount in cash and purchasing food first. Once the money is gone, then it’s gone. That will keep you from overspending…and buying that antique hand-carved horse statue that sounds great at the time, but really isn’t.

Here’s a glimpse of VillageFest!

Ride the BUZZ Trolley

Scoot around town on the BUZZ bus, absolutely free! This is a great way to tour Palm Springs on your own. Ride the whole loop or get off at certain destinations, either way it’s a fun way to see the sights without having to drive or park anywhere.

BUZZ busses stop every twenty minutes from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays. Along the route, the bus stops at several popular locations in Palm Springs. This means you could combine a couple of attractions into one, and take the BUZZ bus to get wherever you’re headed.

Why Visit?

It’s just something fun to say – I rode the BUZZ bus in Palm Springs. It’s a completely complimentary service, it stays right in town on the same loop, and you can just go along for the ride. There really isn’t a downside!

Ruddy’s General Store Museum

Ok, we have to be honest for a second. This one isn’t free – it costs $1 to get in. However, given the admission, you can see why we put it in with the free options.

Ruddy’s General Store Museum takes you back to the 1930s, with shelves stocked with actual unused items you might have seen in your local general store. From sarsaparilla to silk stockings, Ruddy’s has everything needed for the modern family! Well, the modern 1930s family, anyway.

Why Visit?

Firstly, it’s just cute. It’s a fun, preserved piece of history that speaks to the nostalgia of our country. Second, you will love showing your kids all the different items that we don’t need anymore…as well as explaining why they did need those things in the 1930s. Finally, if you’re in the area, it gives you something fun to do that won’t break the bank.

Meeting the needs of every group, we guarantee you’ll find plenty of things to do in Palm Springs!

Grace Hoyos, Staff Writer

Grace loves to travel, particularly to Florida or anywhere with a beach. Her ideal vacation is a mix of theme parks, historical sights, and local cuisine. That and a Caribbean cruise.