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Ever wondered where the allure of Old Hollywood meets the tranquility of hot springs, surrounded by the iconic palm trees of Southern California? Look no further than Palm Springs, a desert oasis renowned for its glamorous past, with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Clark Gable adding a touch of nostalgia to the city’s charm. Celebrated for its world class golf courses, mid-century modern homes, and palm lined streets, Palm Springs provides a diverse and dynamic escape for those seeking a fun and rejuvenating getaway with plenty of things to do.
In this post, I’ve narrowed down the best things to do in Palm Springs to a list of 10, covering the top experiences that make this desert oasis truly unforgettable.
Enjoy Downtown Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs beckons with a vibrant tapestry of experiences, centered around the bustling Palm Canyon Drive. Stroll along this iconic street, lined with chic boutiques, art galleries, and an array of dining options, offering a taste of the city’s eclectic charm. For a touch of glamour, visit the statue of Marilyn Monroe on Tahquitz Canyon Way, immortalizing the iconic scene from “Some Like It Hot”. As the sun sets, Thursday evenings come alive with the Palm Springs VillageFest, a lively street fair featuring local artists, live music, and delectable street food- a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
The Palm Springs Visitor Center welcomes visitors to the iconic Tramway gas station at 2901 North Palm Canyon Drive. It’s a must-see for architecture lovers and also a fantastic place for visitor information for Palm Springs and the surrounding area.
Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum
Situated in the heart of Downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum is a cultural gem that captivates art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. The museum boasts a diverse array of art exhibits spanning contemporary, modern, and Native American art, offering a journey through various artistic expressions.
Unique attractions include thought-provoking installations, sculptures, and an impressive collection of desert-inspired art. The museum’s location in downtown Palm Springs adds an extra layer of charm, inviting patrons to seamlessly blend art appreciation with the city’s lively atmosphere. There are plenty of installations to enjoy outdoors within the museum’s vicinity, and on Thursdays from 4 pm to 8 pm, admission to the Palm Springs Art Museum is free.
Enjoy a Bike Ride
With over 40 miles of trails, bike riding is a fantastic way for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the beauty of Palm Springs and get some exercise while at it. From a self guided 13-mile city tour to a 3-mile downtown loop, there are plenty of trail options for all kinds of riders. This City of Palm Springs Bicycle Map is a great resource for finding bike paths. If you’d like to join a group tour, check out Bike Palm Springs for rentals and guided tours showcasing the town’s history, architectural delights, and famous attractions.
There are hundreds of trails and miles of scenic vistas to explore in Palm Springs and around the San Jacinto Mountains. The diverse range of trails, from serene canyons to challenging peaks, caters to both casual strollers and avid hikers, providing a perfect blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Enjoy waterfalls, date palms, and desert oases along the many canyon trails, but watch the temperatures, bring plenty of water, and avoid hiking in the hot summer sun. The best time to hike in the Palm Desert is fall through spring.
Here are some of the best hiking areas in Palm Springs:
Indian Canyons in Palm Springs offer a captivating desert oasis experience with over 60 miles of diverse trails, including Murray Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Palm Canyon. Visitors can explore picturesque landscapes featuring lush palm groves, ancient aguas frescas, and unique rock formations. Murray Canyon, known for its serene atmosphere, leads to a secluded waterfall. Andreas Canyon showcases vibrant flora and the tranquil Andreas Creek. Palm Canyon, the largest canyon, offers a breathtaking botanical reserve. There is a $12 entrance fee to the canyon. Make sure to check their opening times before visiting.
Situated within the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation, Tahquitz Canyon offers a captivating blend of nature, culture, and a memorable hiking adventure.
Visitors can explore a spectacular seasonal 60-foot waterfall, ancient rock art, and indigenous wildlife along the strenuous 2.0 mile loop trail, one of the most culturally sensitive and beautiful areas on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation.
During the spring months, the canyon comes to life with vibrant flora, including wildflowers and native vegetation. Hiking in Tahquitz Canyon during this time offers a picturesque experience, with the refreshing presence of waterfalls, diverse plant life, and the opportunity to explore the area’s rich cultural and natural heritage.
A visit to Chino Canyon, home to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating aerial tramway, is one of the best things to do in Palm Springs. Ascend to the mountain station on the tram for breathtaking views of Coachella Valley while getting close to Jacinto Peak. The canyon offers hiking trails, nature walks, and winter snow activities.
Take a Walking Tour
If walking is more your speed, your in luck, the Palm Springs Historical Society offers a variety of entertaining walking tours for an immersive exploration of the city’s rich history and architectural gems. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours weave through palm-lined streets, uncovering tales of Old Hollywood glamour and mid-century modern architecture. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, be prepared to discover the city’s vibrant past while enjoying the scenic beauty of Southern California’s desert oasis.
Enjoy Moorten Botanical Garden
Established in 1938 by Patricia and Chester Moorten, the Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs is a living museum showcasing over 3,000 desert plant species from around the world. Its history reflects a passion for desert flora and a commitment to education.
Visitors can expect to explore diverse cacti, succulents, and other arid plants in a charming, family-owned setting. The garden offers a unique opportunity to learn about desert ecosystems and experience the beauty of their dry landscapes. Guided garden tours are available with advanced booking, or enjoy a self-guided tour at your own pace, asking the staff as many questions as you want.
Visit Joshua Tree National Park
Just under an hour from downtown Palm Springs, nestled in the Mojave Desert, is Joshua Tree National Park. It is an enchanting park full of surreal landscapes where rugged rock formations and iconic Joshua Trees intertwine to create a mesmerizing panorama. Enjoy the park as a day trip from Palm Springs, with a scenic drive admiring the jumbo rocks, cholla cactus, and desert Oases against a backdrop of stunning desert vistas.
Hiking trails meander through the park, offering outdoor adventurers a chance to explore the diverse ecosystems and discover the park’s distinctive geological features; it’s also a fantastic place for beginner rock climbers to improve their skills. A Day trip to Joshua Tree National Park promises an unforgettable day of awe-inspiring scenery, diverse wildlife, and the thrill of outdoor exploration!
Visit Palm Springs Air Museum
This living history museum is known for its vast collection of meticulously restored aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War eras. At the Palm Springs Air Museum, aviation enthusiasts can marvel at the restored planes, enjoy thrilling flight exhibitions and even take a ride in vintage warplanes.
The museum offers interactive exhibits showcasing the history and heroism of aviation. It’s a unique opportunity to explore military aircraft up close and gain insights into aviation’s pivotal role in history. Many of the museum guides are veterans willing to share their experiences and sacrifices for the education of future generations.
Learn at the Living Desert Zoo
As one of the best zoos in the country, the Living Desert Zoo hosts more than 150 species and houses a diverse collection of over 500 animals, drawing in over half a million visitors each year. Its unique and educational offerings, combined with its diverse array of wildlife, including desert-adapted animals from around the world, allow visitors a unique and fascinating experience.
The zoo offers engaging exhibits and educational programs focused on conservation and desert ecosystems. Guests can enjoy interactive encounters, animal feedings, and guided tours to learn about the importance of preserving biodiversity and the unique desert-dwelling species it hosts.
With more than 130 world-class golf courses set against breathtaking desert backdrops and mountain views, it’s no wonder the Palm Springs and Palm Desert Resort area is often referred to as the “golf capital of the world.” The title might be up for debate, but Palm Springs is a strong contender with its exceptional courses offering diverse challenges for players of all levels. With abundant sunshine, dry heat, mild winters, and meticulously manicured greens, golfing in Palm Springs is a year-round delight.
Retreat with a Spa Day
If a blend of relaxation and rejuvenation in a luxurious desert setting sounds good, you are in for a treat. Palm Springs is known for their world-class spas, which often incorporate desert-inspired elements into their services creating a unique and revitalizing atmosphere perfect for those looking to unwind and pamper themselves. For a luxurious experience, consider these top-rated spas: Spa Desert Springs at the JW Marriot, The Spa at the Ritz Carlton, or Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage.
Indulge in soothing massages, rejuvenating therapies, and mineral-rich hot springs for a perfect day of relaxation and pampering!
This list of the Top 10 Best Things To Do in Palm Springs barely scratches the surface of all this scenic town has to offer. Palm Springs will captivate you with its sun-soaked charm while offering a perfect blend of relaxation and outdoor adventure.
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