Looking for some fun things to do in Palm Springs, California? We have the full list of local, touristy, 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 returning 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.
When you want to go on an exciting vacation with a laid-back vibe and great day trips available, Palm Springs is one of the best travel destinations you can consider. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, Palm Springs is the place to go if you crave a posh desert getaway.
Palm Springs was once known as the playground for movie stars, but it’s now a vibrant place for anyone looking to relax and unwind. It’s a location with an ideal combination of nature and elegance, with a great dose of art and architecture thrown in.
Do you want to know one of the things that are so fantastic about Palm Springs? It is a place where you can pretty much ride a golf cart everywhere. Sounds cool, huh? Now, let’s take a look at what you can do and where you can go while in Palm Springs.
In the early twentieth century, Palm Springs grew into a popular tourist destination. It has enticed visitors with its arid landscape, an overwhelming number of palm trees (in a good way), golf courses, mid-century modern homes, and fantastic restaurant scene ever since.
Although many people 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, have a blast on one-of-a-kind mountaintop tram trips, take photos in the Arabian-like desert, and do plenty of other things at any time of the year when you follow this guide.
Table of Contents
- Activities in Palm Springs
- 1. Experience an Oasis of Arts and Rich Culture
- 2. Relax, Revitalize and Pamper Yourself
- 3. Play Golf and Tennis
- 4. Enjoy the Great Outdoors and Stunning Natural Landscapes
- 5. Take a Plunge at a Pool Party
- Places to Visit in Palm Springs, California
- 6. Palm Springs Air Museum
- 7. Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center
- 8. Palm Springs Art Museum
- 9. Moorten Botanical Garden
- 10. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
- 11. Take a Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park
- 12. San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
- Free Things to Do in Palm Springs
- 13. Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyons
- 14. Painted Canyon
- 15. Coachella Valley Preserve
- 16. Sunnylands Center & Gardens
- 17. Visit Palm Springs Welcome Sign
- 18. Monument Peak Park and Lookout Point
- 19. Salton Sea Palm Springs
- Things to do Near Palm Springs
- 20. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
- 21. Cabazon Dinosaurs
- Things to Do in Downtown Palm Springs
- 22. Shop Until You Drop In Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Springs
- 23. Palm Springs Walk of the Stars
- 24. Palm Springs VillageFest
- Go on a Mid-Century Modern Home Tour
- 25. Elrod House
- 26. The Cree House (Frey House II)
- Final Thoughts
Activities in Palm Springs
1. Experience an Oasis of Arts and Rich Culture
Modern exhibitions, fine arts, local artist galleries, murals, and outdoor sculptures can be very appealing if you’re an art lover.
Thanks to an array of modern works by renowned architects such as Albert Frey, Donald Wexler, John Lautner, and E. Stewart Williams, there are tons of architectural displays and design elements to enjoy in Palm Springs.
Take in some culture during your stay by visiting one of the many art museums.
2. Relax, Revitalize and Pamper Yourself
Palm Springs was built with an emphasis on health, well-being, and 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 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.
Watsu massage therapy, one of the most deeply soothing treatments, is available at the spa. Also, you can relax in the mud baths, which are said to eliminate toxins while also exfoliating the skin. These spa treatments make use of the natural attributes of the area and make the whole experience one to remember.
It’s no surprise that Los Angeles and San Diego celebrities and entertainment industry professionals come to Palm Springs to relax, find privacy, and get well.
3. Play Golf and Tennis
Palm Springs is also known for its many golf courses and as a site for world-class tennis. With 150 golf courses and 600 tennis courts, you’ll never be bored if you come to Palm Springs for sport. So, if you love golf or tennis, you may want to make arrangements ahead of time to witness the action and maybe even pick up some game tips from the pros.
The Palm Springs area is one of the tennis capitals of the world. The BNP Paribas Open is a premier global tournament held in the spring at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the Coachella Valley. 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, whether you’d like to go hiking with the family or play 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 sports-focused trip.
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4. Enjoy the Great Outdoors and Stunning Natural Landscapes
Many lush natural landscapes can be found in the greater Palm Springs region. 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.
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5. Take a Plunge at a Pool Party
There’s nothing better than jumping into a cool pool when your summers can easily battle desert temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43℃) or more.
The Ace Hotel & Swim Club, the Hotel ZOSO, The Saguaro Palm Springs, and other resorts and hotels in the area sell day passes to use their services, so you can sample the amenities and ambiance at other properties even if you’re not spending the night.
Many hotels cater to a younger crowd, with DJs providing music at the pools and a vibrant party atmosphere. Palm Springs is often considered “the place to be” during the winter.
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Places to Visit in Palm Springs, California
Check out my tour of Palm Springs via drone while covering some fun things to do in Palm Springs.
The Palm Springs Air Museum is a museum that promotes interest in aviation and the area’s history. The museum’s many displays include an aerospace exhibit with aircraft such as the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, 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 plane cabins 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 every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and February 24th.
The Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center 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, a gift shop, a lecture hall, and a theater, as well as 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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The Palm Springs Art Museum is a must-see museum with an impressive permanent art collection and often fascinating temporary exhibits. There are plenty of docents on hand, and the staff is amiable.
Make an effort to pay it a visit. You won’t be disappointed. The Palm Springs Art Museum is open from 10:00 a.m., Thursday through Sunday.
Admission for adults is $14, and it’s $11 for seniors, and $6 for students/teachers. Children and military/first responders get in for free.
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This Palm Springs landmark is an estate that was turned into a botanical garden with great cacti from around the world. The Moorten Botanical Garden features only the nearby desert plants you can find in remote areas of the greater Palm Springs area.
Suggestion: Make sure you have enough room on your phone for photos because the golden light in the cactarium is incredible.
Just check it out here:
Moorten Botanical Garden & Cactarium: Palm Springs, CA
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.
It’s a one-of-a-kind zoo and botanical garden devoted to the world’s deserts. Giraffes, mountain lions, zebras, and cheetahs are only some 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 Vizcaino 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?
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11. 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 what you need to see on your visit.
Don’t miss out on your chance to visit Joshua Tree National Park. To get there, first take a short drive down the road to use either exit 62 or 74, depending on which direction you’re coming from, and then head west for about 45 minutes.
The park is a breathtaking experience. You can see all of Southern California from the higher elevations; it’s just 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 people who love hiking, the opening times for Joshua Tree National Park are not restricted to daylight hours.
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12. San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
This Palm Springs wind farm was developed by San Gorgonio Energy Company and operates about 2,300 turbines. There have been numerous complaints that this power plant emits excessive infrasound, which disturbs the public living nearby. However, as you drive into the metropolitan desert area, it’s quite a beautiful sight.
Palm Springs Windmill Tours offer amazing ways to take in the landscape of the desert when you drive up to the wind farm. One of the benefits is that they offer a stopover spot for taking photos with the scenic windmill landscape in the desert behind you. They also have guided golf cart tours. You are transported on an open-air electric golf cart and tour a private wind farm.
Free Things to Do in Palm Springs
13. Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyons
Tahquitz Canyon is known for its beautiful rushing waterfall and calm, deep pools of water found in the region.
Palm, Andreas, and Murray are the three canyons that make up the Indian Canyons located at 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 has summer hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with the last hiker allowed on the trail at 3:30 p.m. There’s a free ranger-led hike on those days at 8:00 a.m.
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14. Painted Canyon
If you want to see a unique location while visiting Palm Springs, plan a day trip to the Painted Canyon. You can hike through Ladder Canyon Trail and Painted Canyon Loop. The total distance is approximately 5 miles, with a hike time of about three hours.
The hiking trails are considered moderate difficulty. During your hike, you’ll weave through rock formations and slot canyons created by the San Andreas Fault and years of erosion. Climb up and down several ladders to scale the cliff walls. This provides a great view of the mountains.
Painted Canyon Road closes seasonally due to weather conditions, so check availability before making plans.
See Related: Best Day Trips from San Francisco, California
15. Coachella Valley Preserve
The Coachella Valley Preserve is a system of 27 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, including vernal pools (seasonal wetlands), hot springs, and desert grasslands.
Do you know those scenes in movies where people walk 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.
16. 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 of peace, culture, and nature.
Today, visitors can explore this magnificent jewel in 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 these gardens, you’ll start to notice things that only come alive in this type of environment — such as 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 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except during the center’s summer hiatus when it’s temporarily closed.
17. 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 recently increased.
The welcome sign was created by a local artist named Stan Penkin, and it’s one of the best symbols of Palm Springs. This structure is framed by gorgeous native plants such as succulents and agaves.
The welcome sign is open during the day on weekdays and weekends. The hours vary depending on the season, but it’s typically open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Friendly Suggestion: To park safely away from the main road, turn right on Tramview Road.
18. Monument Peak Park and Lookout Point
This park is a popular Palm Springs attraction because of the remarkable views of the city. This is especially true when you take a walk up to Monument Peak to 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, except for the fee to park your car.
Tourist Tip: If you want a great view without hiking, just hike as far as your body allows.
19. Salton Sea Palm Springs
Looking for another budget-friendly day trip option when visiting Palm Springs? Salton Sea is a huge lake just east of Greater Palm Springs. You can tour the surrounding 115 miles of shoreline, where you’ll discover many new and interesting things. You can also plan a visit to the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.
Things to do Near Palm Springs
The easiest way to see and experience all 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.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Palm Springs
21. Cabazon Dinosaurs
Cabazon Dinosaurs is a roadside attraction in Cabazon, California, in the Greater Palm Springs area. This is an area that used to be known for the production of grapefruit. There’s 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, enjoy the petting zoo, 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 using orange crates from his father’s citrus shop.
The other is that the models were created by Ray Johnson, who bought scrap metal and re-purposed it. It’s confirmed that the dinosaurs were not created from orange crates, but were modeled into dinosaurs.
Cabazon Dinosaurs became a tourist attraction because of its historical presence and unique nature. People who visit this place should also take note of the official website for further information about hours of operation, ticket prices, and more.
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Things to Do in Downtown Palm Springs
22. 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 decor 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 the Desert Hills Premium Outlets and The Shops at Palm Desert.
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23. Palm Springs Walk of the Stars
Palm Springs has long been a favorite refuge for Hollywood’s elite.
The Walk of Stars is Downtown Palm Springs’ answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and it’s located along sections of Museum Drive, Tahquitz Canyon Way, and Palm Canyon Drive.
The Walk of Stars in this city is much less crowded than its western equivalent, but it’s no less impressive. You’ll enjoy taking a stroll down the town’s main streets and seeing how many familiar names you can spot.
Famous residents, local philanthropists and humanitarians, and Medal of Honor recipients all have stars dedicated to them.
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24. Palm Springs VillageFest
If you’re visiting Palm Springs on a Thursday evening, stop downtown at Palm Springs VillageFest. This is the area’s most vibrant weekly street fair. You’ll find over 180 different food vendors and shopping booths featuring art and handmade crafts, as well as live entertainment.
Go on a Mid-Century Modern Home Tour
The area is home to an architectural marvel: the mid-century modern home.
If you’re into the style, these examples are must-sees 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 the models below, but be sure to ask your concierge for more recommendations (we have some great ones!).
25. Elrod House
Best known for its “X” design, the Elrod House has served 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 is a residence on private property. Keep an eye out for the occasional tour of the interior (sometimes hosted during the Palm Springs annual celebration of Modernism Week), and book it well in advance.
26. The Cree House (Frey House II)
Located on 7 acres in the North Palm Springs neighborhood, the Cree House (aka Frey House II) is a strikingly beautiful example of the California ranch style.
The home was designed by mid-century modern architect Albert Frey in 1955 for local resident Raymond Cree. Noted Palm Springs-based architect Michael Pearce renovated it to restore its original beauty (among other things).
The Cree House has seven bedrooms, perfect for those with large families or many guests visiting at once.
If you’re looking for some interesting pieces of history, this house has it: it served as Clint Eastwood’s home during the 1970s and was purchased by George Hamilton during that same decade.
This pueblo-style home is filled with fun activities to engage even the youngest guests. The main floor offers a variety of hands-on museum and exhibit spaces, including an interactive art studio that lets you create your own painting.
The Palm Springs Art Museum typically has Cree House on the site list (as Frey House II) for The Modern Tour and as part of its annual Modernism Week celebration.
Overall, there are many different things to do in Palm Springs that you’ll enjoy. A few things to see are the world-famous welcome sign, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Painted Canyon.
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!
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