Visiting Palm Springs? Don’t miss these things to do.
We’ve only been to Palm Springs twice despite having lived in both LA and San Diego. It’s one of the most popular quick weekend getaways when you need a break from the city.
Now that we’re back in the Southwest, we can’t wait to be pool hopping in Palm Springs. Today, we wanted to share a list of things we thought were worthwhile as well as some things we hope to do on our next trip.
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Last Updated: March 18, 2023
15 Unforgettable Things to Do in Palm Springs CA That You Can’t Miss
1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
1 Tram Way, 92262, map
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world. The 10 minute ride takes you over 2.5 miles along the Chino Canyon, giving you great views of the cliffs, vistas, and the valley below.
Once you arrive at the top, the temperature drops roughly 30 degrees from the desert floor. There are two restaurants, viewpoints, and over 50 miles of trails to explore. There’s even some bouldering in the area, and you can camp over night with advanced registration.
Local Tip: They offer discounted Ride ‘n’ Dinner combos, which will save you money if you plan on eating at the Pines Cafe.
2. Palm Springs Art Museum
101 Museum Drive, 92262, map
Stop by downtown Palm Springs to visit the local museum. It has a great permanent collection of works by western, contemporary, and glass artists. It also brings in exhibitions from internationally acclaimed artists. Besides enjoying the art, they also run art classes and workshops for kids and adults.
Local Tip: The museum is free every Thursday from 4-8PM and every second Sunday.
3. Palm Springs Air Museum
745 N Gene Autry Trail, 92262, map
Any history or WWII buff needs to stop by the Palm Springs Air Museum. It has one of the world’s largest collections of flyable WWII planes, and the museum focuses on the role these planes had in winning the war.
4. San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
San Gorgonio Pass California 92230, map
The San Gorgonio Pass is one of three major wind farms in California and one of the windiest places in SoCal. It’s bound to catch your eye when you’re driving in and a great spot to take photos. It’s definitely a memorable area for us. Not only did we take our anniversary photos here with our friend Kassia Phoy, but it’s where we almost lost our Airstream awning.
Pro Tip for Photographers: Bring a wide lens and long lens to give you options. The long lens will compress the photo and make you look closer to the windmills.
Pro Tip for RVers: We heard a lot of RVers lose their awnings in this area, so be sure you secure it tight before coming through.
See More: 5 year Anniversary Shoot in Palm Springs
5. Stroll Down Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Canyon Drive is in the heart of the city, where you’ll find shops, art galleries, restaurants and more.
Besides the drive, the Palm Springs area is full of art galleries, antique shops and furniture stores to check out during your visit. Here are some of the most popular.
- House 849
- Imago Galleries
- Stewart Galleries
- Palm Canyon Galleria
- Modern Home Design Showroom
- Studio 111 Palm Springs
- Trina Turk Residential
6. Palm Springs Visitor Center
2901 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA, 92262, map
Whether it’s your first or hundredth visit to Palm Springs, the Visitor Center is always a great resource for the most up-to-date info. The unique roof also makes it hard to miss.
7. Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall Hike →
500 W. Mesquite Palm Springs, CA 92262, map
This 1.7 mi. easy, loop hike is one of the most popular hikes in the area. Starting from the Visitor’s Center, you will climb 350 feet in elevation over steep terrain and giant steps. At the end, you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful Tahquitz Waterfall.
Local Tip: There is very little shade on this hike, so bring plenty of water, dress appropriately, and wear sunscreen.
8. Joshua Tree National Park →
6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, 92252, map
Palm Springs can be a great base for exploring Joshua Tree, especially if you want luxury accommodations. It’s less than an hour drive from either the South or West entrance.
Jtree is usually what distracts us from spending more time in Palm Springs. Not only does it have the most epic sunsets we’ve ever seen, it’s also a playground for climbers. Since we started rock climbing, Jtree has easily become our National Park.
Local Tip: Pick up an American the Beautiful Pass to save money on all your National Park visits.
See More: 11 Amazing Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park
9. See the Fan Palms at Palm Canyon
Palm Springs, CA 92264, map
In this 15 mile long section of Indian Canyons, you will find the largest Fan Palm Oasis. You can picnic near the stream, hike the trails, and learn more about the significance of this area to the Cahuilla Indians.
Local Tip: Stop by the Trading Post for hiking maps and more information.
10. Coachella Valley Preserve
29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Road, Thousand Palms, 92276, map
The Coachella Valley Preserve has hiking trails and exhibits to explore. A great place to start is at the Preserve’s visitor center in the Paul Wilhelm Grove. The Thousand Palm Oasis is also a popular stop.
Local Tip: This is the only place in the world where you can spot the Coachella valley fringe-toed lizard.
11. Moorten Botanical Garden
1701 S Palm Canyon Dr, 92264, map
The legacy of Patricia and Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten, the Moorten Botanical garden and Cactarium really showcases their love of the desert. There are outdoor displays of beautiful desert plants and a greenhouse with cacti and succulents.
See More: The Most Beautiful California Flower Fields to Visit This Spring
12. Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway
1350 Ladera Cir, Palm Springs, CA 92262, map
The Alexander Estate was originally known as “the house of tomorrow” when it was built. In 1966, Elvis Presley took up residency here as a retreat from LA then one year later, Elvis and Priscilla celebrated their honeymoon here. Architecturally, it’s unique because there are no square rooms in the house.
Local Tip: Daily guided tours are available at 1 PM & 3:30 PM. Call ahead for reservations and to double check their schedule.
13. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260, map
There are over 500 animals and 150+ species at this zoo. You can feed giraffes, pet goats, and say hello to all the animals. There also have two African black rhinos and a carousel on site. Plus there are some beautiful gardens to stroll through.
14. Palm Springs Villagefest
Every Thursday night, you can hang out with locals and tourists at the Palm Springs Village Fest in the downtown area. Palm Canyon Drive, between Indian Canyon Drive and Belardo Road, turns into a pedestrian street fair with over 180 vendors.
15. Cabazon Dinosaurs
50770 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, 92230, map
The Cabazon Dinosaurs are iconic roadside attractions in southern California. There are two massive dinosaurs named Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr. Rex. Dinny is 150 feet long and Mr. Rex is 65 feet tall making it easy to spot as you drive by. Inside, you’ll find a dinosaur-themed gift shop and a dinosaur exhibit. You can even climb up Mr. Rex all the way to his mouth.
Closed: Ruddy’S General Store Museum
221 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, map
Unfortunately it looks like Ruddy’s didn’t make it through the pandemic.
Have you ever wanted to time travel? Unfortunately time machines still don’t exist as far as we know, but Jim Ruddy’s General Store Museum can take you back in time. The museum showcases pristine products from the 1930s in their original boxes and tins.
Map of Palm Springs Attractions
More Things to DO in Palm SPrings (Area)
- Anza Borrego Desert State Park (200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, 92004, map)
- Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center (300 S Palm Canyon Dr, 92262, map)
- Palm Springs Historical Society (221 S Palm Canyon Dr, 92262, map)
- Shields Date Garden (80225 US Hwy 111 Indio, 92201, map)
- Sunnyland Estate (37977 Bob Hope Dr. Rancho Mirage, 92270, map)
Best Places to Eat Palm SPrings
- Chef Tanya’s Kitchen (💰💰, Vegan)
- Del Rey (💰💰💰, Tapas)
- Lappert’s Premium Gourmet Ice Cream (💰, Ice Cream) – you can get your dole whip fix here.
- Rooster and the Pig (💰💰, Vietnamese)
- Sandfish (💰💰💰, Sushi)
- The Sandwich Spot (💰)
- Shanghai Reds Bar and Grill (💰💰, Seafood / Bar) – closed Mon and Tues
- Takashin (💰💰, Sushi) – closed Mon
- Desert climates mean extremes. Check the weather before you visit and be prepared for hot weather during the day but cooler temps at night.
- Pack plenty of water if you plan on hiking. These are our go to water bottles: insulating, light, & a reservoir.
- Bring a sunhat, sunglasses, & sunscreen. Be sure to reapply throughout the day.
Best Places to Stay in Palm Springs
- Joshua Tree National Park (49 miles / 52 min)
- Anza Borrego State Park (98.5 miles / 1 hr 38 min)
- Salvation Mountain (84 miles / 1 hr 30 min)
- Los Angeles (107 miles / 1 hr 47 min)
- San Diego (139 miles / 2 hr 15 min)
- Get comprehensive insurance for your trip.
- Find a great deal on Palm Springs hotels.
- Arrange a rental car for your trip.
- Book a tour for your visit.
- Get airport lounge access.
- Buy a travel charger to keep your devices charged.
- Get a new backpack for your trip.
- Buy a Palm Springs travel guide.
- Pack the appropriate shoes for your trip.
- Don’t forget your in-flight essentials.
Have you been? Any other things to do in Palm Springs that we missed?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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