Best things to do in Palm Springs California

Have you been to the Date capital? 
Or wandered into this Golf paradise? 
Maybe you know it better for its Hiking trails? 
Or possibly for its museum tales?

Discover this little treasure in the desert called Palm Springs that is known for all of the above and much more... Explore the best things to do in Palm Springs California!

Palm Springs is a popular vacation destination in the United States and one of the top destinations to visit in California. Located in the Sonoran Desert in Southern California, Palm Springs gets around 1 million people visiting the city. It is a large resort city – set among the San Jacinto Mountains, adjacent to Palm Desert and approximately 107 miles east of Los Angeles.

Discover the best things to do in Palm Springs California
Discover the best things to do in Palm Springs California

Palm Springs offers more than just sunshine – it offers a wide variety of attractions, events, history, and activities. From indoor adventures to outdoor fun and things to do with kids in Palm Springs, there’s really something for everyone here. If you want to know the best things to do in Palm Springs California, this is the guide you’ve been looking for.

Facts about Palm Springs California

Downtown Palm Springs

A popular resort city, located in Coachella Valley, Palm Springs in California may not need a big introduction. However, there are quite a few facts about Palm Springs that you might not know. Check out some of these as they will definitely help you know this city better.

  • It was not always a resort city. Palms Springs was actually native to Cahuilla Indians.
  • The first foreigners to come to his land were Mexicans in 1823. The two men came by as a part of a mission by the Mexican Government to find land that connects them to California.
  • Palm Springs was recognized as the homeland of the Cahuilla Indians in 1876 by the American government. After this, it slowly developed into a desert resort city.
  • In the 1930s, it became a popular haunt for Hollywood celebrities – that is even before Las Vegas got its fame. In fact, some of them loved it so much that they have chosen to be buried here. Famous names among them include Frank Sinatra, Sonny Bono and  Jimmy Van Heusen
  • Palm Springs is home to the World’s largest aerial tramway which was first built in 1963. You can still ride on it!
  • It is fondly known as the “Date Capital of USA” – Dates referring to the fruit from Palm trees.
  • The desert resort city has over 100 golf courses.
  • With so many resorts, it is not surprising that they host a Golfing festival. The Palm Desert Golf Cart parade draws almost 25000 people every year.

Indian Canyons Hike – one of the best hikes in Palm Springs

Palm canyon - one of the best hikes in Palm Springs CA
Palm canyon – one of the best hikes in Palm Springs CA PC :Pixabay

If you are looking for some hikes in Palm Springs, visit Indian Canyons. There are over 60 miles of hiking trails at Indian Canyons. You can choose between three different canyons to hike: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon. These trails vary in length and difficulty. On these hikes, you will see many different types of wildlife from desert birds to Bighorn sheep. The scenery on these hikes in Palm Springs is well worth the effort it takes to get there! To keep yourself safe, make sure to bring plenty of water and wear appropriate shoes for hiking over the coarse terrain.

Location: 38520 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264
Time to Spend: 4-5 hours

Admire art at the Palm Springs Art Museum

Visit Palm Springs Art Museum
Visit Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a must-see attraction in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. With both indoor and outdoor exhibits (check out the suspended car!), it offers beautiful displays to admire, as well as events to experience. Exhibits range from paintings to sculptures and you’ll find two museum stores inside that sell American and European crafts.

A visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum is definitely recommended if you are looking for activities in Palm Springs for kids. They have some interesting workshops and art classes that will keep them happy and engaged.

Location: 101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Time to Spend: 1-2 hours

Shop and dine at The Gardens on El Paseo

El Paseo in Palm Desert - a perfect place for shopping in Palm Springs California
El Paseo in Palm Desert – a perfect place for shopping in Palm Springs California PC: Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons

Your shopping and dining options are plentiful at The Gardens on El Paseo. Located in the heart of the Palm Desert, the Gardens is home to more than 50 specialty retailers and restaurants. A variety of special events are also held at the Gardens each year, including Fashion Week El Paseo which takes place each March.

Location: 73545 El Paseo, Palm Desert, CA 92260
Time to Spend: 2-4 hours

Tee off in one of the many Golf courses in Palm Springs

Consider spending a day in one of the many golf courses of Palm Springs
Consider spending a day in one of the many golf courses of Palm Springs PC: Pixabay

As mentioned in the section on the facts about Palm Springs, you have around 100 golf courses to choose from. The Golf courses vary in the challenges they give you, some quite tough and a few easy enough if you are a beginner. Many of them have, in fact, been designed by renowned designers and golfers like Arnold Palmer. Given the enormous number of options, it is not surprising if you find some amazing deals offered by these Palm Springs golf courses including luxury buffets!

One of the things that visitors should not miss in Palm Springs is their annual Palm Desert Golf Cart Parade. It draws almost 25,000 people every year. The fiesta features some really quirky golf carts parading the streets along with entertaining clowns and costumed artists. There are numerous games and activities that add to the entertainment during this festival. This is yet another thing in Palm Springs for kids.

Location: Various
Time to Spend: 5 -6 hours

Explore Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium

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The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium are considered by many to be the most unique attraction in Palm Springs. This garden, with its over 3,000 cacti, is a great place to learn about various cacti and plants. It also gives visitors an insight into the natural history of California allowing them to see exactly what the area was like before it became a popular destination for tourists. Learning more about these plants could help you begin your own garden back home! On your way out, visit the nursery to buy your own cactus.

Location: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264
Time to Spend: 2-3 hours

Visit Joshua Tree National Park – one of the key Palm Springs day trips

Joshua Tree National Park - one of the key Palm Springs day trips
Joshua Tree National Park – one of the key Palm Springs day trips

If you’ve never visited Joshua Tree National Park, it’s well worth the drive from Palm Springs. Just an hour away, the park is an expansive wilderness, a combination of two distinct desert ecosystems: the more temperate Colorado Desert and the higher, cooler Mojave Desert. These contrasting environments are home to many different species of plants and animals, including cacti and Joshua trees (hence the name).

There’s so much to do in this park! You can go rock climbing (or just watch people climb), hike through miles of flat, open terrain, or challenge yourself on rocky trails that lead up steep mountainsides. The place is home to some of the best hikes in Palm Springs – viz hiking to Arch Rock, Skull Rock, and Split Rock. There are lots of great places to set up camp in the park, but the best place is Jumbo Rocks Campground due to its central location in the park. Stay until the stars come out to stargaze above the park’s rock formations.

Location: Joshua Tree National Park - West Entrance Station, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Time to Spend: An entire day at least but we recommend staying overnight and spending 2-3 days at the park.

Viator.com has quite a few activities in Joshua Tree National Park that you can book online. Here are a few that you can consider booking through the given links - 
- A 4 hour rock climbing trip 
- Joshua Tree National park offroad tour
- Joshua Tree Adventurer Hidden Valley Scavenger Hunt
Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone National Park 

Yellowstone National Park

If you enjoy visiting the various US national parks, then you should definitely consider the oldest one there. Yellowstone National Park is known for its stunning landscapes, erupting hot geysers and waterfalls. Read about it here.

Catch a movie at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

Once called the Camelot Theaters, the Palm Springs Cultural Center shows films, art events, lectures, performances, and even farmer’s markets. You can also watch independent films or classic movies at this center. The theater seats are comfy with excellent sound systems.

Location: 2300 E Baristo Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Time to Spend: 2-3 hours 

Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Experience Palm Springs Aerial Tramaway
Experience Palm Springs Aerial Tramaway PC: Pixabay

Head to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and ride the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world! It also has the largest rotating tramcars. Passengers can see snow at the top of the tramway if they ride it in winter. Start from the Coachella Valley and go up near Mount San Jacinto.

You’ll be 8,516 feet high where the temperature does drop by a few degrees, making this Palm Springs activity extremely pleasant and enjoyable. What is even more amazing is the whole transition of landscapes – from a desert floor to a pine-covered mountain. There are many services at the top including restaurants, theaters, a museum, and a gift shop.

Location: 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Time to Spend: 6 hours to an entire day

Walk along the “Walk of the Stars” in downtown Palm Springs

Walk of the Stars in Palm Springs CA
Walk of the Stars in Palm Springs CA

Similar to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Palm Springs has its very own version. More than 400-star plaques have been installed on the streets of downtown Palm Springs. Other than movie stars, you’ll find leaders in various industries including politics, business and literature.

Location: 10 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Time to Spend: 1 hour

Observe Desert Life at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens

If you are wondering what to do in Palm Springs with kids, then the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens has to be on your itinerary.

Spanning 1,200 acres and located in Palm Desert, the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is a beautifully landscaped park that provides sanctuary to over 500 animals from desert habitats. This non-profit zoo focuses on the education and conservation of these desert species as well as preserving the natural wildlife for future generations. The zoo also features a variety of flora endemic to the area. There are several gardens spread throughout with different themes, including the East African Garden (plants from East Africa), Hummingbird Garden (plants that attract hummingbirds), and Madagascar Garden (native Madagascar plants). The zoo also hosts several special exhibits and events such as camel rides and illuminated installations.

One of the things to do in Palm springs with kids is visit the Living desert zoo and garden
One of the things to do in Palm Springs with kids is to visit the Living desert zoo and garden PC: Piqsels

The Living Desert Zoo has been open to visitors since 1970 when it first began with a small collection of native reptiles on display. Today it offers educational programs and zoo camps for school children

Location: 47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260
Time to Spend: 3-4 hours

Learn about American History at the Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Located in Desert Hot Springs, Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is just 20 minutes away from Downtown Palm Springs. The museum’s architecture is unique, being built in Pueblo Revival Style. At this museum, you’ll find exhibits and information on Alaska Native and American Indian people. Among the various exhibits, keep an eye out for the 43-foot sculpted head of a Native American. Referred to as the Waokiye, this is one of the 43 pieces in a famed collection termed the Trail of the Whispering Giants by the artist – Peter Wolf Toth. Waokiye is the only one left in California.

You can experience the museum on a self-guided tour and then make sure to check out the gift shop that offers many items including books, art, and jewelry.

Location: 67616 Desert View Ave, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
Time to Spend: 2-3 hours

Go Back In Time at the Palm Springs Air Museum

One of the top Palm springs museums - the Air museum
One of the top Palm springs museums – the Air museum

The Palm Springs Air Museum is a place to learn about the history of aviation and see airplanes up close. You can see some of the famous warplanes that have been used in World War II. You’ll see the world’s largest collection of planes used in World War II here. In fact, you can even ride some of them the C-47 Skytrain for a small price. Many of the volunteers at this Palm Springs museum are WWII veterans and are happy to share the tales behind each of the exhibits.

Between the months of November and May, you can check out flight exhibitions or attend any one of the daily documentaries. This museum has become one of Palm Springs’ top tourist attractions and has welcomed more than 100,000 visitors from around the world!

Location: 745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Time to Spend: 2-4 hours 

Pose with the Marilyn Monroe statue

The Marilyn Monroe statue in Palm springs
The Marilyn Monroe statue in Palm springs

Are you a fan of Marilyn Monroe? Then you’ll love this huge Marilyn Monroe statue even more! This sculpture stands 26 feet high and weighs 34,000 pounds. It’s made out of aluminum and stainless steel. This statue was created by Seward Johnson, inspired by one of Marilyn Monroe’s scenes in the old “The Seven Year Itch” movie. Stay past sunset to see the lights behind the statue light up, making the statue stand out even more.

Location: Forever Marilyn Statue, Museum Wy, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Time to Spend: 10-15 minutes (depending on whether there’s a line of people waiting to pose) 

Visit Cabazon Dinosaurs – a fun activity in Palm Springs for kids

Cabazon dinosaurs for kids in Palm Springs
Cabazon dinosaurs for kids in Palm Springs PC: Pixabay

This Palm Springs California attraction has two mighty dinosaurs to keep your kids entertained. Mr.Dinny is 150 feet tall while Mr. Rex is 65 feet high. What makes them fun is that you can actually climb Mr. Rex right to his mouth. The attraction even has a souvenir and gift shop at its entrance.

Final Thoughts: Things to do in Palm Springs California

Palm Springs is a unique city in California with a thriving cultural and art scene and great weather. Plus, in the past few years, Palm Springs has had a massive revival. With its close proximity to Los Angeles, as well as a slew of new hotels, restaurants, and attractions popping up, it’s become an idyllic destination for weekend trips in Southern California. When you visit Palm Springs, no matter what your age might be, there’s something fun to do every day. Plan your next getaway to Palm Springs, California!

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Common FAQs about Palm Springs California

What is the best way to reach Palm Springs in California?

There are two ways to reach Palm Springs in California – by Air or by Road.

Palm Springs has its own international airport that has direct connectivity to almost 30 different cities. This makes the flying down option really convenient, especially if you have booked well in advance.

If you plan to drive down to Palm Springs, you need to get to the US Interstate 10 (I-10). This gets you straight to Palm Springs. A lot of people use this option to travel from Los Angles to Palm Springs as it takes just 2 hours.

Which is the best time to visit Palm Springs CA?

The best time to visit Palm Springs CA is from October to March. The town has pleasant weather during these months, making it perfect to enjoy the numerous hikes in Palm Springs as well as the other outdoor activities like off-roading, rock climbing etc. From April, it begins to get really hot and uncomfortable for the outdoors.

It is also, recommended that one plans a visit to Palm Springs to catch the Palm Desert Golf Cart Parade. This is usually held around Halloween in October.

How did Palm Springs get its name?

The native place that the Cahuilla Indians settled into was filled with palms and hot springs. They regarded these are auspicious, especially the hot springs which they felt offered miraculous cures. Possibly the name, emerged from these two aspects of the place.

History also, points to the early Spanish explorers calling it “La Palma de la Mano de Dios”. The term means the palm of God’s hand. It is possible that the name emerged from his phrase.

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This post has been written by my guest author - Rasika. Rasika is the owner of the travel blog Bae Area and Beyond. She is from the Bay Area and her blog covers California destinations. To this day, Rasika isn't sure if she likes traveling or making plans to travel more! She has loved planning trips since she was little. Rasika brings her love for California and trip planning in this blog. She hopes that her readers will fall in love with California, just like she did.
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