Silhouettes of palm trees in Palm Springs. Silhouettes of palm trees in Palm Springs.

Getaway Guide: 14 Things to Do in Palm Springs

Spread across a vast expanse of North America, the seemingly endless sheets of desert sand dominate the miscellaneous topographies of the USA.

Palm Springs is one of the most famous desert cities. Once you go through all the things in Palm Springs, you’ll get a better idea of all the glitz and glamour associated with this desert land.

It is a comparatively small town known for its relaxed vibes, scenic drives, and strong history and culture, and it has completely redefined tourism in many ways.

Whether you come here to take a break from your arduous life routine or to test your adventure-seeking spirit, Palm Springs, CA, is going to carry you away in its tides and leave you wanting more.

Palm Springs label on the side of the road on a fence.
Photo from Shutterstock

Palm Spring’s Interesting Locations

The geographic location of this desert floor is a strong card the place has to play. Located approximately an hour’s drive from downtown LA, the place receives many visitors, especially the elite Hollywood community.

Hollywood stars popularised the city when they flocked here to relax, unwind, and escape public scrutiny. 

But they never got enough of Palm Springs, and as a result, this resort town is a site for lavish hotels and suites and some out-of-the-world, mid-century modern estates.

Palm Springs is located in the Sonoran Desert, Southern California. Situated on the Western edge of Coachella Valley, it falls in the Colorado Desert region.

14 Things to Do and See in Palm Springs, California

Greater Palm Springs is a cluster of 9 charismatic cities like Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, famous for its art exhibitions, and the very popular Fountain of Life. Then there is Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella.

List of Things to Do in Palm Springs

Greater Palm Springs is like a roller coaster ride that won’t stop midway until you get the complete thrill you have anticipated.

Greater Palm Springs takes your travel plans to another level with multitudes of natural attractions challenging your inner adventurist to bring out the best in you.

Being a historic city, it is the center point of arts and culture in the entire Coachella Valley and, at the same time, stained with Hollywood extravaganza, which can be seen in its mid-century modern architecture.

Also, this desert city, right from the start of civilization, is known for its natural hot springs. Today, the city has various luxurious spa resorts to pamper your ached muscles and treat you with the divine healing waters.

You name it, and Palm Springs, CA, like the genie that it is, whips it out for you.

So, to begin with, the natural attractions in Palm Springs have some vivid national attractions to make you fall in love with your planet.

The Palm Springs label on the fences of the entrance.
Photo by Cesar Cid on Unsplash

1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Address: 1 Tramway Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92262, United States

Palm Springs is a collective landscape of desert floors, mountain peaks lining its circumference, and lush canyons, which become a site of attraction and admiration.

Palm Springs also boasts of the World’s largest rotating tramcars, better known as Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you up 5,873 feet in cars that rotate completely 360 degrees. So you are met with a vision for a lifetime with the mountain ranges splitting the horizon, separating the clear blue skies from the stark desert terrain.

Ascending through the Chino Canyon in a 2.5-mile-long route, you are taken to the relatively cooler mountain station. You get to witness the amazing mountain wildflowers in your 10-minute journey.

However, Palms Springs Aerial Tramway is not about stunning scenery or enjoying the cool mountain air; it’s about exploring the San Jacinto mountain top.

Landing on the mountain summit, you will be taken to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Don’t worry if you are not good at packing lunch. The cafes and bars with surplus options have been taken care of to meet all of your needs.

Now, start your expedition on the hiking trails that cover more than 50 miles of the mountaintop.

You can embrace yourself for some stunningly unexpected experience. It is an aesthete’s favorite nook, a feast for your weary eyes. Exploring the wilderness high in the mountain peak can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Keep moving further on the trails to keep discovering something new and worth the effort.

You can stop for a while when you see the Round Valley Meadow signboard. An open wilderness area is also a wetland habitat, probably the last thing you would be expecting to find in a desert.

But it’s Palm Springs, the genie, so you can keep your hopes high!

You also get to see the Wellman’s divide if you continue walking on the trails.

The trails are wide and safe enough for your family, especially kids. Be sure to follow the rules and regulations of the wilderness, and you can have quality time undisturbed with some wonderful memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Fun and safe hiking and amazing panoramic photographs are guaranteed among the many things to do in Palm Springs.

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens | Palm Desert, CA

Walking on foot and immersing yourself in what a natural habitat of wildlife looks like is an amazing experience.

The animals roam around freely, like in their very own homes. And there are a plethora of desert species to witness here.

You can forget you are in the USA because you will meet natives of the African and American deserts.

So prepare yourself to see the majestic Mountain Lions, the sleek and dangerous leopards, the cute zebras, warthogs, bighorn sheep, see how exactly a coyote looks like, or feed the giraffes; the list can only continue because it’s a collection of more than 450 animals in their natural setting.

Botanical gardens showcase desert plants and bring about an image of the diverse ecology from Baja California’s Viscaino desert and the Madagascar deserts.

3. Indian Canyons

While planning an itinerary to Palm Springs, California, you’d better pack some extra khaki shorts. Palm Springs is a desert oasis home to lush canyons and diverse ecosystems.

Whether you wander through the Palm Canyon, set your eyes on the Murray Canyon, or go further beyond the Andreas Canyon, you will be left mesmerized and in awe.

With their voluptuous skirts lined along the streams, the incredible and exotic desert flora, and wandering through the beaten path, the Fan Palm Trees see some endangered wildlife like Peninsular Big Horn Sheep, mule deer, and other animals all in their original habitats.

That’s not all. If you think your day ends here, you better hang in there.

Awaiting you at the Tahquitz Canyon, located at the San Jacinto Mountains, is a beautiful waterfall enveloped by the surrounding hiking trails, where you can play and splash around and treat your tired feet with some cool mountain water.

It is a place of cultural importance with its history of the Cahuilla Indians, who inhabited the place for some 5000 years.

It is preserved by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, owing to which you must pay entrance fees before you enter this natural preserve.

A scenic view of mountains and greenery with a waterbody.
Source: shutterstock

4. Coachella Valley Preserve

The Coachella Valley Preserve is a wide desert land covering 17,000 acres, 10 miles east of Palm Springs.

One of the desert land’s peculiarities, you can see here, is the Coachella Valley- Fringe-toed lizard, which does not have any natives other than this place.

However, the preserve is not recommended for its apparent mundane topography. It is the home of many oases. The most famous is the Thousand Palm Oasis. Water that seeps out of the Andreas fault due to the underground pressure is the oasis’s source.

Other oases include Willis, Hidden Horseshoe, and the Indian Palms.

The preserve is very popular for its hiking facilities like the Mccallum, Hidden Palms, Moon Country, Pushawalla Palms, and Willis Palm trails.

5. Joshua Tree National Park

Our planet Earth has some magnificent pieces of art.

Joshua Tree National Park

Just like the two seas meet or fail to meet and run parallel with a striking contrast in their natures. We have two desserts here, and their intersection point is the Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.

The Colorado and Mojave deserts have contradictory natures due to their elevations, resulting in distinct ecosystems and varying landscapes. Nevertheless, it is a beauty to the eyes and an endpoint of our intellect.

The Colorado desert, which makes up the eastern part of the national park, is a sterile desert area settled below 3000 feet. Enduring journeys comprise creosote bushes littered all over the region and occasional ocotillo and cholla cactus emerging from the coarse sandy ground.

The Mojave desert, which enjoys a higher elevation, brims with desert vegetation and the most peculiar giant yucca trees called Joshua trees. The giant rock formations and the cactus gardens have made the park’s name travel far and wide.

While spring can be an awesome time to visit the place when the desert flora is all set to showcase its beauty, early morning hikes or mountain bikes are most recommended.

6. Palm Springs Air Museum

Address: Parking, lot 745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262, United States.

Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs, California, is indisputably a historical town with great cultural significance.

The indigenous Cahuilla people have left their mark. You will discover some more history of great reverence at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

You can come here for an easy day out and get to witness the amazing aircraft from WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Out of the 46 Vintage Warbirds, some are still in flying condition.

You can have the privilege of sitting in a B-17 bomber and filling your Instagram stories with pictures of your take-off. The museum has some amazing informative artifacts, artwork, and a WWII Educational Resource Library.

The volunteers and docents, veterans of their times, treat you so warmly, and you can see fascination gleaming in their eyes as they explain the details of every aircraft.

Its location is perfect at the Palm Springs International Airport, so while listening to a story of WWII aircraft, you can simultaneously witness an airplane taking off in the background.

7. Palm Springs Art Museum

Address: 101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, United States

Located in downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum is the heart and soul of this resort town.

A Visit To The Palm Springs Art Museum

For many reasons, visiting Palm Springs and witnessing this art capital of the entire Coachella Valley is mandatory.

Here, you can find all art forms, from contemporary to fine arts, native to classic Western. You can find American mid-twentieth-century architecture, American photography, glass studio arts, and some amazing outdoor sculptures.

The Annenberg Theater, a 440-seat assembly room, is a prime feature of this Art Museum, where many plays, musical programs, concerts, and other performances are held quite frequently.

8. Golf

It is a crucial segment of the tourism sector and a well-invested one, too. It is doing amazingly well at attracting visitors.

With perfect weather suitable for outdoor activities and more than 100 golf courses, Palm Springs, CA, serves the complete hygge visitors seek.

With lush green golf fields laid across the towering mountains and some amazing field designs by renowned architects like Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, and Greg Norman, golfing is among the favorite activities of Palm Springs visitors.

9. Palm Springs Windmill Tours

Windmill Farm Tours - Palm Springs CA

Driving through a maze of life-sized turbines in the middle of nowhere in a desert can be an experience of its own.

The guides provide you with a fun, educational, self-driving tour about the role of wind turbines in reversing the catastrophic cycle of energy consumption led by humans.

The tour starts with a huge area stacked with non-operating wind turbines, a collection of some failed and some successful ones. Then, you enter a large field of rotating turbines in one of the windiest landscapes of Southern California.

10. Moorten Botanical Garden

Address: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264, United States

Moorten Botanical Garden is no less than a trouvaille, a wayfarer could find amid a desert.

It is a vision started by Patricia and Chester Moorten, which has flourished and is open for visitors at the southern end of Palm Canyon Drive.

A vast collection of desert flora with natives belonging to Arizona, Baja California, Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, South Africa, South America, and Texas are found in this family-owned garden.

A vast collection of nearly 3,000 species of desert cacti can be found here. Whether it’s the dainty cacti spotted along the trails or the Giant Golden Barrel cacti, you will surely visit something you must have never witnessed before.

The wide variety of cacti, succulents, and bromeliads is going to bring you to your wit’s end. The entire garden is well paved and well laid out, and the hummingbirds are like a cherry on a cake that does not fail to enchant you.

Spring should be an ideal time for visiting this botanical garden when the desert flora is in full bloom, showcasing its vibrant colors.

A botanical garden with many plants and trees of different varieties.
By: Jillian Cain Photography on Shutterstock

11. Palm Springs Visitor Center

Address: 2901 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, United States

Learning about so many things to do in Palm Springs, by now, must be on top of your must-visit- places. But with so many attractions and activities, planning your trip can become a bit overwhelming.

So, to sort that out, a quick stop at Palm Springs Visitor’s Center is highly recommended. The first glimpse will leave you impressed with the space-age retro design of the building.

Originally built as a gas station by Albert Frey and Robson Chambers. Today, it is a primary hub for gaining information regarding accommodation, restaurants, places to visit, dining, and shopping.

12. Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

The infamous, gorgeous, and historical Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway attracts many visitors yearly. The beginning of this exciting story takes you to Palm Springs socialites Robert and Helen Alexander, who owned the estate, which was then known as Las Palmas Estate.

However, the story takes a twist when, in 1967, Elvis and Priscilla Presley took this house on lease, and this was their honeymoon house.

Inside ELVIS PRESLEY's Honeymoon Hideaway PALM SPRINGS

The estate is known far and wide after the Presleys’ name. They have left a mark here with the numerous Elvis memorabilia, thoroughly enjoyed and cherished by Elvis’ fans.

Today, the Alexander estate is called ‘House of Tomorrow,’ featuring many TV channels for its exemplary mid-century modern design.

Interestingly, all the rooms in this two-story estate are circular.

13. Witness the Charm of Downtown Palm Springs

Walking the streets of downtown Palm Springs does the job for a tourist who wants to immerse in the essence of the visiting place.

Palm Canyon Drive in the heart of downtown Palm Springs can be scaled on foot. As we all know, Palm Springs is about tourism; it entertains its visitors in multiple ways.

The laid-back, relaxed vibe is a perfect background with loads of shopping options from local stores to high-end brand names like H&M, Sephora, MAC, West Elm, Free People, and Keihl’s.

The dozens of restaurants, bars, and hotels lined the main street, and art galleries, antique shops, and souvenir stores, all to keep your spirits high and bags full.

The Villagefest is held every Thursday night at Palm Canyon Drive, transforming City Street into one big open pedestrian street fair.

The city is brimming with life, with vehicles prohibited from Palm Canyon Drive to Belardo Road. One can find all sorts of booths, from food-selling vendors to dates to the farmers’ markets, along with many craft things.

tulips at the cincinnati zoo and botanical garden
Source: Shutterstock

14. Date Farms

It shouldn’t surprise that Palm Springs is a primary harvester of juicy desert fruits filled with nutrients to the brim in the USA.

It produces more than 90% of dates in the entire USA.

And what would it be like to visit these date farms personally, enjoying the many varieties they are sold in and the famous date shake, a trademark of Shields Date Garden?

The Shields Dates Garden is located in Indo, a 30-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs.

Come here to buy dates, and in return, you’ll get a guided tour of the date groves and watch a kitschy movie about date farming.

Closing Thoughts

17 Things to Do in Palm Springs

There are many other things to do in Palm Springs; you can only take so much from this treasure chest and always come back to claim what was left before.

The endless trails and the Palm Canyon Drive, brimming with colors of life, are an ideal choice for bike lovers. Whether walking hand in hand along Palm Canyon Drive, visiting the Palm Springs Historical Society or taking a hot air balloon ride—the place is perfect for a romantic getaway. 

Last Updated on March 1, 2024 by Sathi Chakraborty

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