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: January 15, 2021
15 Unforgettable Things to Do in Palm Springs CA that You Can't Miss
Note: Although most everything is open, there are still a few places closed. We’ve made notes below with the details we could find. While planning, be sure to check for altered hours, and if you hear anything new, let us know. Also, travel safe and wear masks!
1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Note: The Tram is currently closed and no open date has been announced yet. Check their website for the most up-to-date info.
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
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.
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.
Note: It’s only a dollar to get in!
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
Note: The Visitor Center is currently closed with a tentative open date of July 1. Check their website for the most up-to-date info.
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. San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
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, 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.
photos of us by Kassia Phoy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
photo: Douglas Sanchez
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.
Note: The VillageFest is currently shut down and no resume date announced yet. Check their website for the most up-to-date info.
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.
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.
Map oF Palm Springs Attractions
More Things to Do in Palm Springs (Area)
- Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center (300 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, map)
- Palm Springs Historical Society (221 S Palm Canyon Dr, 92262, map)
- RoboLights (closed on Jan 2 for an eventual relocation to a commercial property)
- Anza Borrego Desert State Park (200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004, map)
- The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens formerly Living Desert Museum (47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260, map)
- Shields Date Garden (80225 US Hwy 111 Indio, CA 92201, map)
- Sunnyland Estate (37977 Bob Hope Dr. Rancho Mirage, CA 92270, map)
Best Places to Eat Palm Springs
- 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.
What to Pack for Palm Springs
Best Places to Stay
- Del Marco Hotel (mid-range) This hotel has a certificate of excellence on tripadvisor and was where we stayed. We loved the decor of our room and the pool. Also, if you’re trying to have a quiet vacation without kids, this hotel is 21+.
- Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel (luxury) – pet friendly
- Hotel California (mid-range)
- Knights Inn Palm Springs (budget)
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, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both 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.