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16 Best Things to do in Palm Springs, California

16 Best Things to do in Palm Springs, California

Looking for some fun things to do in Palm Springs, California? We have the full list of local, tourist and unusual things to do in this iconic desert town.

As young people say these days, travel is life!

Seeing a new place for the first time or going back to a favorite vacation spot is an unforgettable experience. Making fresh memories and embarking on memorable journeys are just two of the many perks of traveling.

In case you are planning to go on a unique, exciting, but at the same time laid-back vacation and great day trips, Palm Springs in California is the best choice you can consider.

Whether you are a local or a tourist, Palm Springs is the place to go if you are starving for a posh desert getaway.

Palm Springs, California, was once known as a movie stars’ playground, but it is now a vibrant and laid-back place for anyone looking to relax and unwind.

Palm Springs is the ideal combination between nature and elegance and emphasizes art and architecture.

Do you want to know what sounds so fantastic about Palm Springs? It is a place where you can pretty much ride a golf cart everywhere. Cool, huh?

Now let’s take a look at what you can do and where you can go while you are in Palm Springs.

In the early twentieth century, Palm Springs grew into a popular tourist destination. It has enticed tourists with its arid landscape, an overwhelming number of palm trees (in a good way), golf courses, attractive midcentury holiday homes, and fantastic restaurant scene ever since.

Although many people will spend their weekends lounging by hotel pools, Palm Springs offers various other activities.

The scorching heat keeps things quiet in the summer, but you can go on enjoyable home tours, visit botanical gardens, and have a blast on one-of-a-kind tram trips at any time of year if you follow our unique guide.

In Palm Springs, you can admire midcentury modern houses, ride a mountaintop tram, take photos in the unique Arabian-like desert, and do plenty of other things.

Activities in Palm Springs

Experience an oasis of arts and rich culture

Modern exhibitions and fine arts and local artist galleries, murals, and outdoor sculptures can be very appealing if you are an art lover.

Thanks to a myriad of midcentury modern designs by renowned architects such as Albert Frey, Donald Wexler, John Lautner, and E. Stewart Williams, architecture and design you can enjoy Palm Springs at its finest.

Take in some culture during your stay by visiting one of the many art museums.

Relax, Revitalize and Pamper Yourself

Palm Springs was built with an emphasis on health and wellbeing as well as luxury.

A manicure, pedicure, or massage can be enjoyed at almost any resort, but the greater Palm Springs area is known for its health spas, where you can recharge, reinvigorate, and detoxify.

The water in Desert Hot Springs comes out of the springs at 60 degrees Celsius, is cooled, and then sent to the baths. The mineral content of the water has long been thought to be beneficial to the human body.

You can make a reservation at Two Bunch Palms, which has a cave with two mineral pools and a waterfall, as well as a unique yoga dome where regular classes are held.

A Watsu therapy, one of the most deeply soothing treatments, is available at the spa.

Relax in mud baths, which are said to eliminate toxins while also exfoliating the skin. These spa treatments are unlike anything else you’ve ever had.

It’s no surprise that Los Angeles and San Diego celebrities and entertainment industry professionals come here to relax, find privacy, and get well.

Play golf and tennis

Palm Springs California Golf Course

Palm Springs is also well known for having a plethora of golf courses.

With 150 golf courses and 600 tennis courts, you will never be bored if you come to Palm Springs to play golf or tennis. The Humana Challenge golf tournament is held in the city.

So, if you love golf or tennis, you may want to make arrangements ahead of time to witness some world-class action and maybe even pick up some style tips from the pros.

Palm Springs is one of the tennis capitals in the world. The BNP Paribas Open is a premier global tournament held every April at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Professional tennis players such as Andre Agassi, Rod Laver, and Rafael Nadal have all played there.

Palm Springs should be at the top of your list for an active outdoor getaway like driving in California, whether it’s hiking with the family or playing a round of golf at an epic golf course as a couple or with your friends. There are plenty of great family-friendly hotels in Palm Springs to make the most of your getaway.

See Related: Best Vacations with Minimal Walking

Enjoy the great outdoors and stunning natural landscapes

In the greater Palm Springs region, there are many lush natural landscapes to be found.

Palm Springs has everything you need to experience the desert outdoors, including hiking, biking, climbing, and sightseeing.

Mountain views, wildflowers, and a range of options for early risers and sunset chasers can all be found here.

Best Things to do in Palm Springs, California

Check out my tour of Palm Springs via drone while covering some fun things to do in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs, California: Things to Do and See [4K HD]
Watch this video on YouTube.

Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum is a museum in Palm Springs, California that promotes interest in aviation and the history of the area.

The museum’s many displays include an aerospace exhibit with aircraft such as a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and an F-105 Thunderchief and a rotating display of airplanes.

One of the most unique exhibits at the museum is a B-25 Mitchell bomber that has been cut into two halves. You can walk through both cabins of the plane and see how it was built.

Another unique exhibit at the Palm Springs Air Museum is its Hall of Fame which honors pilots who have made contributions to aviation.

The Palm Springs Air Museum has an extensive collection of other WWII planes, including the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Grumman F7F Tigercat, and Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.

Like the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., the museum is positioned through Lichtenstein’s works.

This kind of experience is undoubtedly one for the books.

The museum is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday thru Sunday.

Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center

The Palm Springs Art Museum has a prestigious contemporary art collection that includes works by Picasso, Warhol, and Lichtenstein. The museum is visually appealing, with 28 galleries, two sculpture gardens, a cafe, gift shop, lecture hall, theater, and various rooms and resource centers.

The museum is a serene space to revitalize the mind, specializing in modern art such as paintings, glasswork, photography, and architecture.

Believe it or not, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art all owe their existence to this museum. Even the architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by his stays in Palm Springs.

One important aspect is that it continues to play an influential role in both Palm Springs and Southern California as an art institution that promotes education and exhibitions by artists of national and international fame.

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Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a must-see museum with an impressive permanent collection of art and often fascinating temporary exhibits. There are plenty of docents on hand, and the staff is amiable.

Make an effort to pay a visit. You will not be dissatisfied. If you are a geek, you’ll have a great time in Palm Spring. You won’t definitely have dull moments.

The Palm Springs Art Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and closed on Mondays, except for New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Admission for adults is $8 and $5 for students with ID.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Southern California

Moorten Botanical Garden

Moorten Botanical Garden - Palm Springs, California
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This Palm Springs landmark is an estate-turned-botanical garden with great cacti from all over the world. This garden features only the nearby desert plants that you can find in remote areas of the greater Palm Springs area.

The Moorten Botanical Garden is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, except for Mondays, Wednesdays at noon, and Fridays. The admission fee is $8.

Suggestion: Make sure you have enough room on your phone because the golden light in the cactarium is incredible.

Just check it out here:

Moorten Botanical Garden & Cactarium: Palm Springs, CA
Watch this video on YouTube.

Best Family Thing to do in Palm Springs: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The Living Desert is home to more than a thousand animals, of which 30% are threatened or endangered species that are native to California.

They have been rescued by the zoo, often from places where they were treated cruelly. The grounds cover over 60 acres and include an aquatic center, covered picnic areas, a gift shop, the Fun Zone playground, and much more.

Giraffes at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

A one-of-a-kind zoo and botanical garden devoted to the world’s deserts. Giraffes, mountain lions, zebras, and cheetahs are only a few of the amazing animals that will accompany you on your journey from Africa to North America.

Geographic replicas of areas as varied as Baja California’s Viscaino Desert and Madagascar’s tropical deserts can be found in the botanical gardens.

Is it just me, or are you also experiencing South Africa Safari feels already?

See Related: Northern California vs Southern California

Best Free Thing to do in Palm Springs: Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon

Tahquitz Canyon | Hiking in Palm Springs, California [4K HD]
Watch this video on YouTube.

Tahquitz Canyon is known for its beautiful rushing waterfall and calm, deep pools of precious water found in the region.

Palm, Andreas, and Murray are the three canyons that make up the Indian Canyons located at the San Jacinto Mountain.

Each one takes visitors on a stunning journey through an abundance of plant life that contrasts sharply with the surrounding desert mountainsides.

The picturesque hiking trails wind through rocky gorges that give way to roaming natural springs, with some of these streams flowing all year.

The Tahquitz Canyon is open from sunrise to sunset and during summer weekends there are free guided tours.

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Best Fun Thing to do in Palm Springs: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Mount San Jacinto: Palm Springs, California

The easiest way to see and experience all of these wonders at once is to order your tickets and reserve a seat on the Tram in advance.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway climbs to 8,516 feet at Mountain Station, on the flanks of towering Mount San Jacinto, after a 2.5-mile journey through Chino Canyon.

You’ll be Instagramming nonstop on the way up, taking in breathtaking views of jagged cliffs and canyons wearing comfortable shorts.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Palm Springs

Take a plunge at a pool party

There’s nothing better than jumping into a cool pool when your summers can easily battle with desert temperatures of 110F (43C) or more.

The Ace Hotel & Swim Club, the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, and the Saguaro all sell day passes to use their services, with hotel guests getting free entry.

A young crowd is catered to by DJs and a vibrant atmosphere. On weekends, a day pass to the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel costs $10 and provides access to several pools, a sauna, and showers.

Palm Springs is often thought of as being “the place” during the winter.

See Related: Best Things to do in Pioneertown

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Cabazon Dinosaurs is a roadside attraction in Cabazon, California. This is an area that used to be known for the production of grapefruit. There is a motto at Cabazon Dinosaur which reads: “We’ve been doing it longer than anyone else”.

The business began in 1966 and has been operating ever since. Visitors can feed large dinosaur models here, see a movie, do a petting zoo experience, and much more.

There are some misconceptions about dinosaurs in this area that you should know before visiting. One is that the dinosaurs were created by George Rayners from orange crates from his father’s citrus shop.

The other one is that the models were created by Ray Johnson who bought scrap metal and re-purposed them.

It is confirmed that the dinosaurs were not created from orange crates, but they are modeled into dinosaur models.

Cabazon Dinosaurs became a tourist attraction because of their historical presence and unique nature.

People who visit this place should take note of their official website as well for further information about hours of operation, ticket prices, and more.

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Shop until you drop in Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Springs

Greater Palm Springs has great shopping centers, like El Paseo located in Palm Desert, the “Rodeo Drive of the Desert,” where the best designers are lined up next to one another. It’s ideal for window shopping when taking in the views of the desert mountains.

Downtown Palm Springs also has the Uptown Design District, which is home to various fascinating galleries and mid-century modern home décor boutique shops with bold colors and bold designs.

One of the most popular places for shopping in Rancho Mirage is the Old Las Palmas Plaza. The Plaza includes a variety of retailers and dining options, all with indoor and outdoor seating.

Shopping enthusiasts may also want to try Fashion Central if they’re looking for more exclusive or boutique shops.

Among the places to visit while you’re in Rancho Mirage are Desert Hills Premium Outlets, Westfield Palm Desert, and Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store.

Complete your vacation by visiting Trina Turk and purchasing a traditional Palm Springs souvenir for your wardrobe or house.

See Related: 15 Unknown Destination in the United States

Coachella Valley Preserve

The Coachella Valley Preserve is a system of twenty-seven preserves along the eastern slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains, in Riverside County, Southern California.

The Coachella Valley Preserve has been designated a “Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO. The area encompasses 300,000 acres of land that includes vernal pools (seasonal wetlands), hot springs, and desert grasslands.

Do you know those scenes in movies where people are walking through the desert and see a mirage of a water desert oasis in the distance? This is literally that.

The best time to visit the Coachella Valley Preserve is during the winter months of December, January, and February.

Robolights

Robolights, near Palm Springs, CA is an otherworldly spectacle that attracts thousands of people each year to see these amazing lights.

The show features 200+ dancing Christmas characters and numerous animated displays; including a giant laser-illuminated Saturn made up of 1400 lights! It’s truly something you must experience to believe!

This Palm Springs estate (yes, it’s located at someone’s house) is surrounded by towering robots and unusual Christmas scenes made out of discarded electronics.

Since 1986, Kenny Irwin Jr. has been creating the sci-fi holiday show, which has evolved into a year-round experience that can be seen from the street.

However, during the winter season, Robolights comes to life with millions of lights and public access to the entire celebration.

Robolights is open every day of the year, but the winter season is the most popular time for locals and tourists alike.

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Palm Springs Walk of the Stars

Palm Springs has long been a favorite refuge for Hollywood’s elite.

The Walk of Stars in this city is much less crowded than its western equivalent, but it is no less critical. You’ll enjoy taking a walk down the main town streets and seeing how many familiar faces you can see.

The Walk of Stars is Downtown Palm Springs’ answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and it’s located downtown along sections of Museum Drive, Tahquitz Canyon Way, and Palm Canyon Drive.

Famous residents, local philanthropists and humanitarians, and Medal of Honor recipients all have stars dedicated to them.

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Take a Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

No trip to Palm Springs is complete without hitting Joshua Tree National Park, check out our full Joshua Tree itinerary to figure out how long you need to spend and what you need to see on your visit.

Don’t miss out on your chance to visit Joshua Tree National Park. To get there, you will first take a short drive down the road to use either exit 62 or 74 depending on which direction you are coming from, and then head west for about 45 minutes.

It’s a really breathtaking experience. From the higher elevations in the park, you can see all of southern California and it is just totally incredible.

The desert is this really otherworldly landscape with these cacti that look like something out of a science fiction film and then I heard this weird ghost call sound which turned out to be owls. It was just surreal!

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is from late November through the end of May. This is because the weather is at its most pleasant with mild temperatures and little chance of rain. The best months to go would be November, March, April, and May when there’s also less chance of rain.

Joshua Tree National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The park is closed on the 25th of December and opens up again on the 1st of January every year.

For those that love hiking, the opening times for Joshua Tree National Park are not restricted to daylight hours.

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

And, while we’re on the topic of Hollywood, what is Hollywood without Elvis Presley? If you’re a big Elvis Presley fan, you won’t want to miss this stop on your itinerary.

The house, which is located at the San Jacinto mountains base, has panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, which can be seen from the gorgeous gunite pool.

On regular year-round guided tours, see these and other era-defining elements and see what it was like to be inside Elvis’ former home.

Your Instagram account will indeed be famous when you have walked into the mansion of the King of Rock and Roll.

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Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Sunnylands Center and Gardens is a National Historic Landmark and the living legacy of Ambassador Walter Annenberg, one of the most influential men of the 20th century. The Annenbergs were passionate gardeners who created what would become Sunnylands – a living heritage to peace, culture, and nature.

Today, visitors can come to explore this magnificent jewel in Southern California’s Coachella Valley.

The gardens at Sunnylands are like an oasis in the middle of Southern California: they’re lush with mature trees, flowering plants, and numerous surprise garden rooms framed by carefully planned walkways.

As you wander among these gardens, you’ll start to notice things that only come alive in this type of environment — the way flowers smell. It sounds like such a simple concept but it really comes alive when visiting this historic attraction.

Sunnylands Center and Gardens is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Visit Palm Springs Welcome Sign

For decades, this iconic sign, which can be found on Indian Canyon Drive on the way into town at the Visitor Center, has been featured on postcards. Residents and visitors have posed for photos with it for years, but its popularity has increased in recent years.

The welcome sign was created by a local artist named Stan Penkin, and it is one of the best symbols of Palm Springs.

This structure is framed by gorgeous native plants like succulents and agaves.

The welcome sign is open during the day on weekdays and weekends. The hours will vary depending on the season but it is typically open from 10 am until 4 pm.

Friendly Suggestion: To park safely away from the main road, turn right on Tramview Road.

Go on a Mid-Century Modern Home Tour

The area is home to an architectural marvel: mid-century modern homes.

If you’re into the style, this is a must-see when in Palm Springs. You’ll find these homes around the city’s neighborhoods with their clean lines and low-slung rooflines.

Check out two of these below but be sure to ask your concierge for more recommendations (we have some great ones!).

Elrod House

Best known for its “X” design, Elrod House serves as a model of innovative engineering since 1958. The house was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and is considered by many to be one of his most iconic works in Southern California. This home now serves as a private residence where you can enjoy the unique Chateau.

The Elrod House is open for tours every Friday through Sunday from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm.

Cree House

Located on 7 acres in the North Palm Springs neighborhood, Cree House is a strikingly beautiful example of the California ranch style.

The home was designed by midcentury modern architect William F. Cody and built-in 1957. It was most recently renovated by noted Palm Springs-based architect Michael Pearce to restore its original beauty (among other things).

Cree House has seven bedrooms, which is perfect for those with large families or lots of guests visiting at once.

If you’re looking for some good pieces of history, this house has it: it served as Clint Eastwood’s home during the 1970s and then was purchased by George Hamilton during that same decade.

The pueblo-style home is filled with fun activities to engage even the youngest guests! The main floor offers a variety of hands-on museums and exhibit spaces, including an interactive art studio that lets you create your own painting.

Monument Peak Park and Lookout Point

This park has been a very popular Palm Springs attraction because the views of the city that you find in this park are truly remarkable. This is especially true when you take a walk up to Monument Peak and get the best panoramic view of the city and the desert around it.

Monument Peak Park and Lookout Point are open year-round and the cost is completely free.

Tourist Tip: If you want a great view without hiking, hike as far as your body allows. It’s it guys, I hope you found this article informative and helpful.

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm

This is located in Palm Springs, California. This wind farm has a total installed capacity of 398 megawatts. It was developed by San Gorgonio Energy Company LLC and operates 1,710 turbines.

There have been numerous complaints that this power plant emits excessive infrasound which disturbs the public living nearby.

However, it’s quite a beautiful sight as you drive into the desert metropolitan area.

The Palm Springs Windmill Tours is an amazing way to take in the landscape of the desert when you drive up to the wind farm.

The tours are offered by San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm and one of the benefits is that they offer a stopover spot for taking photos with the scenic windmill landscape in the desert behind you.

That Pink Door

Fill up your feed with Instagram-worthy establishments and structures.

You know this one, without pictures, it never happened.

You’ve come to Palm Springs to have an excellent time, relax, and spend a lot of time in the water.

But, without a beautiful Instagram feed, were you even there at all? We’ve already found the most Instagrammable spots in the desert, so you can spend less time looking and more time slaying.

How did 1100 Sierra Way’s bubblegum pink door become the city’s most photographed residential door? No one knows. But you can’t argue with the zeitgeist, mainly when it’s so darn attractive.

Do not forget to use the hashtag #ThatPinkDoor when you get there.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there are many different things to do in Palm Springs that you will enjoy and be able to experience. A few of these things to see are the world-famous welcome sign, Joshua Tree National Park, and Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway.

Also, don’t forget to take a walk down the main downtown streets where you’ll find plenty of familiar faces. The friendly people who live in this city are also what I enjoyed most about the city because they were always ready to give me some advice or help me out when I needed it most.

So, that’s it. Good luck with your vacation planning, and we hope you’ll have a whale of a time in Palm Springs.

Let us know in the comments below if there are any other Palm Springs attractions or landmarks that should be on our itinerary. Happy travels!

And you can also check out our YouTube channel to keep updated with new posts about traveling, photography tips, and tricks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the main attraction in Palm Springs?

The Welcome to Palm Springs sign is the most iconic thing to see in the city and is a bit more of a landmark. The bright and welcoming words are a staple of desert culture for visitors from all over the world. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a great activity to explore the desert mountains.

What are some other attractions I can visit while in town?

One option would be to take a walk on State Street during happy hour where you can stop at one of the many restaurants and have a drink on their patio or if there’s a festival going on, take a look at what that offers. If you’re interested in nature, Joshua Tree National Park is also nearby with plenty of diverse landscapes worth exploring.

What is there to do in Palm Springs, California?

There are a lot of things to do in Palm Springs. Some good family-friendly options would be hiking, taking a walk downtown for some street shopping, tennis, and golfing.

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