Visiting Palm Springs? Don’t miss these things to do.
We’ve only been to Palm Springs three times despite living in 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 worthwhile things to do, as well as some activities we hope to do on our next trip.
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Last Updated: October 25, 2023
15 Unforgettable Things to Do in Palm Springs CA That You Can’t Miss
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 up to 8,516 feet elevation, 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. We love bouldering here when it’s too hot in Las Vegas (below is a photo of us working Swing Dance). You can also camp overnight with advanced registration.
Local Tip: They offer discounted Ride ‘n’ Dinner combos, saving you money if you eat at the Pines Cafe.
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.
San Gorgonio Pass, 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 a memorable area for us. Not only did we take our anniversary photos here with our friend, but it’s where we almost lost our Airstream awning.
Pro Tip for Photographers: Bring a wide lens and a 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 many RVers lose their awnings in this area, so be sure you secure it tight before coming through.
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 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
2901 North Palm Canyon Drive, 92262, map
Whether it’s your first or hundredth visit to Palm Springs, the Visitor Center is always an excellent resource for the most up-to-date info. The unique roof also makes it hard to miss. If you’re a fan of mid-century modern architecture, this station was designed by Albert Frey and Robson Chambers.
500 W. Mesquite Ave, 92262, map
This 1.7-mile 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.
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.
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.
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.
1350 Ladera Cir, 92262, map
The Alexander Estate was initially 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.
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.
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.
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, 92262, map
Unfortunately, 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 travel 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
One of the most iconic hotels in Palm Springs is the Saguaro Hotel. The hotel feels like a scene from Barbie, with bright and bold colors throughout the property. The rooms are a bit dated, but they’re clean and provide all the basics for a comfortable stay.
The pool and the colorful decor are the main draw of the Saguaro. Guests have access to the pool, and they provide cute robes in your room. If you’re pool hopping in Palm Springs, you can also purchase a day pass for the pool without staying at the hotel.
Have you been? Any other things to do in Palm Springs that we missed?
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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.