The resort city of Palm Springs is a favourite spot for folks looking for a short getaway from Los Angeles. It became popular with movie stars in the 20th century, who loved the seclusion and dry, sunny weather. Its popularity has only continued to grow, and today it is a hot year-round destination, literally and figuratively. While many spend their weekend here simply lounging by the pool or checking out its culinary scene, there are lots of other things to do in Palm Springs. Make sure to pack your sunscreen!
1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car. It travels over 2.5 miles (4km) along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During the approximately ten-minute journey, the tram cars rotate slowly, offering spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. When you arrive at the top, you are 8,516 feet (2.6km) above ground, and the temperature drops about 30 degrees from the desert floor. There are two restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, two documentary theaters and over 50 miles (80km) of hiking trails to explore. You can also camp overnight here with advanced registration!
2. Joshua Tree National Park
Palm Springs is a great base for exploring Joshua Tree National Park. A variety of trails and bouldering opportunities cater to outdoor lovers and active travelers. Hidden Valley offers a nice easy hike, and perched in the Little San Bernardino Mountains, the Keys View offers a spectacular lookout over Coachella Valley. There are also lots of moderate to challenging trails too, but make sure to prepare adequately before your visit. In the summer expect high temperatures and intense sunlight, and make sure to bring plenty of food and water even on short hikes! Cell coverage is very limited inside the park, so do inform someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.
3. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Rated one of the top 10 zoos in the US by Conde Nast, Living Desert Zoo and Gardens has been a top attraction in the Palm Springs area for more than 50 years. Part zoo and part botanic gardens, you can see animals like mountain lions, meerkats and wallabies, and also over 1,400 species of plants, including different varieties of cacti, agave and prickly pear. Try to arrive early, as the park offers little shade and temperatures often rise above 100 degrees!
4. Palm Springs Art Museum
Nestled in the heart of Downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum is an innovative and forward-thinking artistic cultural center. It contains a stunning collection of works, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Henry Moore and Marc Chagall. You’ll also find an ever-changing list of exhibits, including ones that focus on the themes and culture of the region like Native American, Modernist and Western American art. The museum also has a sculpture garden in Palm Desert as well as an architecture and design center in downtown Palm Springs.
5. Coachella Valley Preserve
Coachella Valley Preserve is more than a barren desert. It encompasses the smaller Thousand Palms Oasis preserve, which has over 25 miles (40km) of hiking paths. Along the trails you’ll spot rare wildlife, lush palm woodland oases and desert wetlands, which at different times of the year blossom with wildflowers. As with many outdoor attractions and things to do in Palm Springs, try to arrive early before the temperature gets unbearable.
6. Palm Springs Air Museum
If you’re a history buff, the Palm Springs Air Museum preserves, exhibits, and flies aircraft from World War Two, Korea, and the Vietnam Wars. Most of the aircraft are still in flyable condition! This is one of the best things to do in Palm Springs to beat the heat. And if you have kids, it’s a must-visit for the kids area, where children can sit in airplane cockpits. Many docents here are veterans who actually flew these planes, now happy to share their experiences to educate future generations. There are also permanent and temporary exhibits, artifacts, and artwork to check out in the museum!