23 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs - Arabella Stokes (2024)

23 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs - Arabella Stokes (1)

Welcome to the best things to do in Palm Springs!

Palm Springs, a desert oasis renowned for its sunny skies, stylish hotels, and mid-century modern architecture, offers an array of activities for every kind of traveler.

Whether you’re looking to explore the great outdoors, soak in the rich cultural heritage, or simply unwind in luxurious comfort, this vibrant city in the heart of the Coachella Valley has something special for you.

From the thrill of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the tranquil beauty of its natural landscapes, get ready to discover the best things to do in Palm Springs that will make your visit truly unforgettable.

Let’s dive in.

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Palm Springs Essentials

23 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs - Arabella Stokes (2)

Top Tours & Experiences In Palm Springs

1. Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs lies in the Coachella Valley at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains, and you can see it all by riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

In fact, this is known as the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world!

The 10-minute ride takes you from the valley floor to the top of the mountains, and your adventure continues once you reach the summit.

At the top, Southern California’s second-highest mountain range offers numerous hiking, recreation, and sightseeing with over 50 miles of trails.

You can also enjoy a meal with panoramic views at the Pines and Peaks restaurant.

Just dress appropriately, as the weather at the top is usually 30 to 40 degrees colder than the desert.

Standard round-trip tram tickets cost around $28.95 for adults.

And $16.95 for children younger than 10.

You can buy your tickets online or in person, though you should get them online as ticket lines fill up quickly.

Click here to check the availability on Viator.

2. Explore Joshua Tree National Park

23 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs - Arabella Stokes (3)

An oasis in the desert, Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination for active travelers.

The park features numerous amenities such as hiking trails, climbable boulders, craggy peaks, cacti, and yucca gardens with many excellent places for sunset photo-ops.

Plus, there is a breathtaking lookout if you can make it up the mountains.

Joshua Tree National Park covers a vast expanse of desert land and interweaves two distinct ecosystems—the Mojave and the Colorado—each home to unique flora and fauna.

The park’s namesake, the Joshua Tree, dots the landscape of the Mojave section, creating surreal and photogenic scenes, especially at dawn and dusk.

Visitors to the park can take advantage of the numerous hiking trails, which range from easy walks to challenging hikes, like the trek to Hidden Valley.

Rock climbing enthusiasts find a paradise in Joshua Tree, with over 8,000 climbing routes, 2,000 boulder problems, and hundreds of natural gaps to explore.

Bird watching and stargazing are also popular for those who prefer a less adrenaline-fueled visit, thanks to the park’s vast open skies and minimal light pollution.

Because it is in a desert, park rangers recommend bringing plenty of water.

You can also bring food to eat at one of the numerous picnic tables throughout the valley.

Want to take a guided tour have everything planned for you?

I recommend this highly-rated Joshua Tree National Park Off-Road Tour.

Click here to check availability in Viator.

3. Grab coffee at La Jefa

Nestled in the vibrant heart of Palm Springs, Cafe La Jefa emerges as a beacon for coffee aficionados and food lovers alike.

This modern, Latin-influenced coffee house and restaurant are where tradition meets innovation.

Every sip of their specialty coffee and tea, partnered with SISTERS COFFEE, carries the essence of a deep-rooted love for craft and community.

Their menu, a harmonious blend of healthy, organic offerings, is a testament to the creative collaborations with local artisan chefs.

Whether you choose to unwind on the spacious outdoor patio, enveloped in a refreshing mist, or inside the eclectic cafe, Cafe La Jefa promises an experience designed to inspire.

Located in the newly renovated Flannery Exchange, it’s the perfect spot for a fulfilling start to your day, a productive work session, or a relaxed gathering among friends.

4. Visit The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

47900 Portola Avenue

Located just outside Palm Springs, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens has all the sights you expect from a city zoo, including rhinos, bighorn sheep, giraffes, and meerkats, but with a flair only the Sonoran Desert can provide.

As such, the gardens showcase over 1600 species of cacti, prickly pear, agave, and other desert plants.

Thanks to its mission of conservation and education, the Living Desert offers a rare opportunity for up-close encounters with some of the world’s most endangered animals.

The park also provides interactive experiences like giraffe feeding, camel rides, and animal presentations, allowing visitors to learn more about these magnificent creatures and their habitats.

For those seeking an even more immersive experience, the park offers special programs such as the Behind-the-Scenes Tour, where guests can go behind the scenes to see how the zoo takes care of its animals and learn about their conservation efforts.

Zoo passes start at around $79 for adults and $49 for children under 12, including general admission, a guide, and a shuttle.

Although, you will want to pay the extra $8 to feed the giraffes.

You can also sign up for a two-hour guided tour or one of the three trails if you visit between October and May.

5. Hike Indian Canyons

38520 S. Palm Canyon Drive

Located on the reservation lands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Indian Canyon trails offer not one but three different canyons.

Besides hiking and horseback riding, each canyon offers unique outdoor activities and forays into Native American culture.

Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon really shines with its Trading Post, a lively marketplace full of stunning Native American artwork and pottery.

It’s a great spot for visitors to dive into the rich cultural heritage of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, checking out and buying authentic, handcrafted pieces.

This cool feature of Palm Canyon doesn’t just make the visit more enjoyable; it also helps keep Native American traditions and crafts alive and kicking.

Andreas Canyon

Andreas Canyon is the perfect chill spot for nature lovers and folks looking for some peace and quiet.

It’s famous for its calm and stunning scenery, making it ideal for a picnic and some wildlife spotting.

Its lush greenery and easy-to-walk trails make it great for families or anyone wanting to unwind in nature.

You’ll also get to see some rare plants and animals, adding a cool learning twist to your visit. Definitely a must-visit for those who dig being eco-friendly.

Murray Canyon

Murray Canyon is a fantastic spot for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

With its diverse ecosystem, the canyon is a hotspot for various bird species, making it perfect for birdwatching.

The stunning Seven Sisters Waterfall is a must-see for visitors, rewarding those who venture through the scenic trails.

The cool mix of awesome birdlife and the waterfall’s charm make Murray Canyon a standout place.

A great destination for those who appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the great outdoors.

The Indian Canyons can be your gateway to the other activities in the area, but you should take the usual precautions for hiking in a desert.

Bring lots of water and sunscreen, especially during the summer.

You also want to wear comfortable closed-toe shoes.

6. Relax at a spa

23 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs - Arabella Stokes (4)

Palm Springs is world-renowned for its luxurious spas, offering serene retreats that promise relaxation and rejuvenation amidst the beautiful desert landscape.

These oases provide an array of treatments, from traditional massages and facials to unique desert-inspired therapies.

Two Bunch Palms Spa Resort

Nestled away in Desert Hot Springs, Two Bunch Palms Spa Resort is famed for its healing mineral waters and eco-friendly initiatives.

This spa offers a range of wellness treatments, including mud baths, mineral water soaks, and a selection of holistic therapies designed to harmonize body and mind.

The Spa at Desert Springs

At the Spa at Desert Springs, located in the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, guests can indulge in treatments that blend ancient techniques with modern wellness technology.

Options include rejuvenating facials, therapeutic massages, and body treatments, all aimed at enhancing your well-being during your stay in Palm Springs.

Azure Spa and Salon at Riviera Palm Springs

Azure Spa and Salon at Riviera Palm Springs offers a luxurious spa experience with a suite of services including massages, body wraps, facials, and salon services.

Its treatments are designed with a nod to Palm Springs’ iconic mid-century style, incorporating natural and locally sourced products.

7. Explore Palm Canyon Drive

To enjoy city life, stroll down Palm Canyon Drive.

This pedestrian-friendly destination features numerous restaurants, theaters, locally owned shops and galleries, and designer boutiques.

It’s also the home of the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, which features over 400 granite squares embedded in the sidewalk.

You’ll find over 50 concrete benches along the drive for resting and people-watching.

Sprinkled with color and wonderful designs, these benches display the work of numerous local artists.

You may even catch these artists at work during VillageFest, a local fair that runs every Thursday evening.

Related: Palm Springs Instagram Captions

8. Visit Palm Springs Art Museum

101 N. Museum Drive

Located near Palm Springs’ downtown area, the Palm Springs Art Museum houses a fantastic collection of over 12,000 pieces of contemporary art from famed artists such as Thomas Moran, Edward Curtis, Henry Moore, and Dale Chihuly.

In addition to its permanent collection, the Palm Springs Art Museum actively rotates a diverse array of special exhibits that appeal to a wide range of artistic tastes.

Recent showcases have included an exploration of modernist photography, a stunning collection of Native American art, and a deep dive into the works of local California artists.

The museum is also known for its engaging installations, which often feature interactive elements, making art both accessible and immersive for visitors.

One highlight is the digital art exhibit, which merges technology with creativity to produce captivating visual experiences.

Plus, the museum dedicates spaces for performances and lectures, enriching the cultural landscape of Palm Springs with events that complement the artistic displays.

Each visit to the museum offers something new, making it a dynamic destination for art lovers and casual visitors alike.

Called a “cultural oasis,” the small museum has three locations and a campus full of architectural wonders.

You should be able to walk through each location in an hour or two.

You can even visit for free if you stop by on Thursday evenings.

9. Admire mid-century modern architecture

23 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs - Arabella Stokes (5)

If you love to see mid-century modern architecture in action, there are some spots you don’t want to miss around the city.

Want to take a guided tour to have everything planned for you?

I recommend this highly-rated South Palm Springs Architecture, History and Bike Tour.

Click here to check availability in Viator.

The Pink Door House

One of Palm Springs’ most iconic landmarks, The Pink Door House, exemplifies mid-century modern architecture with its striking color, clean lines, and historical significance.

This private residence captures the essence of Palm Springs’ architectural beauty and is a must-see for enthusiasts.

Elvis & Priscilla’s Honeymoon Hideaway

This iconic Palm Springs home is where Elvis and Priscilla Presley enjoyed their honeymoon.

The house is a spectacular example of mid-century modern architecture, featuring period furnishings and Elvis memorabilia.

Tours are available for fans and architecture enthusiasts alike.

Swiss Miss Houses

The Swiss Miss Houses of Palm Springs are distinguished by their high, peaked roofs reminiscent of Alpine chalets, blended seamlessly with mid-century modern design principles.

These unique structures are a testament to the city’s architectural diversity, attracting design enthusiasts from around the globe.

10. Explore Tahquitz Canyon

500 W. Mesquite Ave.

If you want more Native American culture and history, you should head to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ Tahquitz Canyon.

The canyon is two miles from Palm Springs and has numerous trails and the 60-foot Tahquitz waterfall.

You can also enjoy the various rock art, flora, and fauna that dot the landscape.

Just pack plenty of water, as the temperatures in the canyon can rise into the 100s.

Besides the outdoor activities, you can stop by the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center and the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum for souvenirs, movies about the canyon, and guided walks.

You can even stay at one of the three resorts in the canyon.

11. Play a round of golf

If you love the outdoors but want something more civilized, you can play a round of golf at the Palm Springs Golf Courses.

Over 100 courses have been designed by celebrity architects Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, and Jack Nicklaus.

Regardless of the course, you will be surrounded by stunning mountains, towering palm trees, and desert vistas.

Some of the more notable courses include:

  • Indian Wells Golf Resort – 36 holes
  • Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort – 18 holes

12. Visit Sunnylands Center and Gardens

37977 Bob Hope Drive

The Sunnylands Center and Gardens is a 15-acre, world-renowned, curated desert landscape.

Former ambassador Walter Annenberg carved it out of his Rancho Mirage estate, and the botanical gardens have hosted world leaders, Hollywood stars, and other very important people.

The Gardens feature a 9-acre garden with reflecting pools with over 50,000 exotic, arid-adapted plants on display.

There is even a 1.25-mile walking trail that meanders through the site.

You can enjoy the place at your own pace with the free downloadable audio tours or join one of the guided ones.

The estate also includes 11 human-made lakes and a 9-hole golf course.

Because tickets for the tours sell out quickly, you should buy them well in advance.

Either way, there are plenty of beaches to rest and marvel at the precision of the gardens.

13. Enjoy a co*cktail at Seymour’s

Upon entering Seymour’s through its discreet, unmarked side entrance, visitors are immediately enveloped in its lush, inviting interior.

They feel as though they are stepping into a secret Palm Springs institution that has been part of the city’s fabric for generations.

The co*cktail menu, meticulously curated by partner Steen BojsenMoller, strikes a fine balance, offering sophisticated choices without a hint of pretense.

Beyond its charming interior, Seymour’s extends its warm hospitality to a spacious outdoor patio.

This area is fully equipped with comfortable lounge seating and a bocce ball court, providing a perfect setting for an engaging and spirited night under the desert stars.

14. Visit Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

67616 Desert View Ave.

Native American history comes alive at the Hopi-inspired Cabot’s Pueblo Museum.

This modern reconstruction of a four-story, 35-room pueblo offers a distinct view into how the Hopi lived in the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas.

Come and see the meticulous craftsmanship built using reclaimed and discovered materials, such as abandoned cabins, to craft adobe-style sun-dried bricks.

To see all the Native American arts and artifacts, you can take the self-guided, 45-minute audio tour.

The tour will guide you through the history of each artifact and souvenir in the museum.

You may even meet Waokiye, the colossal, 22-foot-tall redwood sculpture that serves as the museum’s centerpiece.

15. Have brunch at Norma’s

Norma’s, right in the heart of Palm Springs, is the go-to spot for an epic brunch experience.

Famous for its delicious menu, Norma’s dishes out everything from your beloved breakfast classics to some really creative eats that’ll wow your taste buds.

The place is bright, fun, and welcoming, making it the perfect spot to kick back and enjoy the desert sunshine.

Dive into their famous pancakes smothered in maple syrup, try one of their rich, gourmet omelets, or sip on a refreshing mimosa.

16. Browse The Shops at 1345

The Shops at 1345 are your go-to spot whether you’re just killing time or looking for that perfect something.

Right in the middle of Palm Springs, this cool mix of boutiques and galleries gives you a shopping vibe that’s all about the city’s unique flair.

You can check out everything from the latest fashion and retro clothes to one-of-a-kind home stuff and local art.

Each store has its own vibe and special finds, making sure there’s something for everyone.

The place is open-air, so you can easily wander from one shop to the next, enjoying the laid-back feel.

Whether you’re on a mission for something specific or just out for some inspiration, The Shops at 1345 are the perfect place to spend an afternoon in Palm Springs.

17. Spot the Cabazon Dinosaurs

50770 Seminole Drive

For something out of the ordinary, Cabazon Dinosaurs offers something for the whole family.

The quirky roadside attraction houses a 100-ton Brontosaurus and a T. Rex sculpture.

Both statues are available for photo ops and general tomfoolery.

You can even let your kids climb over them.

The nearby museum and gift shop offer some interesting facts and a few souvenirs.

But the real highlight is the creationist museum, featuring a wide variety of exhibits dedicated to teaching children about dinosaurs and their relation to biblical stories.

18. Have dinner at Bar Cecil

Inspired by the legendary Cecil Beaton, Bar Cecil is the new go-to spot in Palm Springs.

This place mixes sophistication with a cozy vibe, serving meals that feel both fancy and friendly, much like Beaton’s famous flair for blending art with social buzz.

The menu is a fun mix of the latest in food trends, with dishes that are as easy on the eyes as they are on the palate.

Every dish is carefully crafted, mixing classic tastes with bold, new twists.

The decor is a tribute to 20th-century cool, decked out with art and objects that scream creativity and chic.

Whether you’re in for a big night out or just hanging with friends, Bar Cecil sets the scene for a meal you won’t forget.

19. Visit Robolights

Right in the heart of Palm Springs, there’s this amazing place called Robolights.

It’s basically a regular home turned into a mind-blowing art installation by the super-talented Kenny Irwin Jr.

Imagine a place bursting with millions of colorful lights and tons of recycled stuff turned into cool robotic sculptures and fun scenes.

If you hit up Robolights during the holidays, you’re in for a treat that’s way different from your usual holiday vibes.

It’s like stepping into a neon-lit world that’s a mix of future vibes and pure holiday joy.

The whole place is an invitation to explore and let your imagination run wild, making it an unforgettable visit for anyone, no matter how old you are.

What makes Robolights super special isn’t just how awesome it looks but the way it turns everyday items into incredible art, making you think a bit about consumerism and creativity.

20. Moorten Botanical Garden

1701 S Palm Canyon Dr.

The privately owned Moorten Botanical Garden is a 1-acre botanical garden and plant nursery.

Once the purview of the rich and famous, this now publicly accessible garden features over 3,000 prickly varieties of cacti and other desert plants from around the world.

The meandering nature trail will take you past all of them, including the site’s dozen biodomes.

The museum provides an interesting way to escape the surrounding development.

Besides the nature walks, you can buy some of the plants you see on display, essentially serving as living souvenirs.

The knowledgeable staff will even provide gardening strategies and tips.

21. Visit Palm Springs Air Museum

745 N. Gene Autry Trail

You will love the Palm Springs Air Museum if you love military history buffs.

The museum has an extensive collection of aircraft from the World Wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Notable exhibits include the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Grumman F7F Tigercat, PBY Catalina Flying Boat, and the Douglas DC-3 Skytrain.

The museum will even let you climb into some of the co*ckpits and fly them.

The museum is arranged like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, making it a great place to beat the heat and learn from history.

There is even a children’s area where your kids can run around airplane co*ckpits.

22. Shop at Mojave Flea

Mojave Flea in Palm Springs is an awesome spot where you can find a cool mix of local artisan goods, vintage stuff, and handmade items.

The vibe there is super eclectic, so every trip is like a new adventure.

You’ll find everything from trendy jewelry and clothes to unique home decor and tasty artisanal foods.

Mojave Flea is all about showcasing the creativity and diversity of Palm Springs and the nearby areas.

Whether you’re looking for that perfect gift, adding something special to your collection, or just window-shopping for ideas, the friendly vendors and the lively atmosphere make shopping at Mojave Flea a unique experience.

Right in the city’s heart, it’s the perfect place to dive into the local scene, and snag finds that have their own stories.

23. Explore Coachella Valley Preserve

29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Road

Located 10 miles east of Palm Springs, the 20,000-acre Coachella Valley Preserve is more than just a barren desert and brush.

It offers numerous hiking and horseback riding trails and natural wonders, including the smaller 880-acre Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve.

The distinct biodiversity and interesting land make it one of the most interesting places in Palm Springs.

The captivating trails through the Indio Hills let you see rare wildlife, lush palm woodland oases, and desert wetlands.

Depending on the time of the year, you can gaze upon Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizards, cactus wren, white-crowned sparrows, and several different types of wildflowers.

The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts.

With its lush green palm trees and refreshing water, it’s the perfect spot to take a break from the heat and admire nature’s beauty.

The preserve’s entrance is free, but you may want to get there early, as the small parking lot fills up quickly.

Posted By: Arabella · In: travel

23 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs - Arabella Stokes (2024)


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