It might be known as the Golf Capital of the World, but Palm Springs, California has a lot more to offer than its over 100 golf courses. This scenic Cali city has been home to countless stars through the years too, including Bing Crosby, John Wayne, and Frank Sinatra. Rumor has it that stars flocked to Palm Springs as a safe haven from the prying eyes of the media, as well as the public.
Now the city might not be a hiding place for the Hollywood elite, though it still encapsulates what made it special nearly 100 years ago. Palm Springs, sandwiched between green mountains and a desert, is still very much a hidden gem. It might not be an oceanside city, but it is nonetheless a fabulous spot to visit in sprawling California.
Here are 30 things to do in Palm Springs that will make you fall in love with this town too.
PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
Maybe not for the faint of heart or those with significant fears of heights, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you two and a half miles up into the heart of Mt. San Jacinto State Park.
The Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car, which gives you 360-degree views of the majesty all around you on your ten-minute journey into the San Jacinto Mountains. If it’s your first time visiting the park, stop by the San Jacinto State Park Visitors Center before getting into the tram.
Details: 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Website
PALM SPRINGS ART MUSEUM
Originally named the Palm Springs Desert Museum when it was founded in 1938, the Palm Springs Art Museum has a vast and varied collection of pieces from both modern and contemporary artistic styles. Its unique combined collection has 3,000 sculptures, prints, and paintings, 2,000 photographs, as well as a staggering 40,000 negatives/contact sheets/photo objects.
Some of their one-of-a-kind work includes a glass sculpture by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, in addition to works by renowned artists such as Marina Abramović and Anish Kapoor. The museum also has rotating exhibits that feature a range of artists from various disciplines.
Details: 101 N Museum Dr., Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Website
Made up of three different canyons: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon, each of these gorgeous areas include a range of hiking trails for various activity levels. Murray classifies itself as an easy to moderate trail, with both foot and equestrian paths where guests might even see the endangered Peninsular Big Horn Sheep or Least Bells Vireo bird.
Andreas’ foot trail is a great place for birdwatchers or anthophiles, as the area is rich in plant varietals, in addition to a multitude of bird species. Whereas the moderately-rated Palm is a 15-mile trek through the iconic desert, gorges, plants, and animals that live among this winding trail. There are spaces along Palm to picnic, as well as a horse riding trail.
Visitors along the trail can also stop by the Trading Post for souvenirs, snacks, and maps.
Details: 38520 S Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA 92264 | Website
THE ALEXANDER ESTATE
Most famously known for being the place where Elvis and Priscilla Presley honeymooned in 1967, The Alexander Estate sold in April 2021 to a developer. Although tours are no longer available, the home is now available to rent.
The home was built in the early 1960s by Robert Alexander for his wife Helene and, because of its unique style, it became an architectural marvel. “Look Magazine” called it The House of Tomorrow in 1962, according to Palm Springs Life.
Details: 1350 Ladera Cir, Palm Springs, CA | Website
PALM CANYON DRIVE
Downtown Palm Springs is lovingly referred to as Palm Canyon Drive. This colorful area of the city is where visitors can find the Palm Springs Walk of Fame, as well as countless shops. There are even nearly a dozen art galleries just in this part of town! With tons of salons and spas to choose from, as well as food to be eaten, it is easy to spend a whole day just in this strip of Palm Springs.
Here is where you can also find the Palm Springs Historical Society. The PSHS offers walking and biking tours throughout the week, in addition to the historical locations they upkeep. Their museums are free to tour.
PALM SPRINGS WALK OF STARS
Located on Palm Canyon Drive, the Palm Springs Walk of Stars memorializes over 400 celebrities who came to the city. The earliest stars were placed in 1992, with the likes of Bob Hope and Ginger Rogers.
Some of the latest inductees include Dionne Warwick, Pierre Cardin, and Arnold Palmer. (Given the city’s big ties to golf, Palmer is really a natural fit.)
Details: Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Website
Even if you’ve never been to Palm Springs, you’ve probably seen The Cabazon Dinosaurs. They are considered among the most iconic roadside attractions in the country.
Built in 1975, these massive dinos have been greeting visitors and making film appearances for decades. They were featured in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, for example, and Mr. Rex even has a likeness in Fallout: New Vegas. Obviously, these dinos have names too! Namely Mr. Rex and Dinny.
Visitors can see all these dinos at Cabazon Dinosaurs with a paid ticket entry. They also have a dino dig and fossil painting on-site as well.
Details: 50770 Seminole Dr., Cabazon, CA 92230 | Website
SHIELDS DATE GARDEN
While this location would be a cute spot for a date, it’s quite literally a date garden — as in, they grow dates. Since 1923, Shields Date Garden has been a place making the date great again.
The Shields Date Garden walk goes through their 17-acre date grove, as well as a botanical garden featuring 23 handmade statues depicting the life of Jesus Chris. The garden opened in 2012 with the statues being relocated from a biblical garden in Canada.
Dating back just a few years ahead of the garden, the Cafe at Shields opened in 2010. They offer a California cuisine-inspired menu with a variety of options for a range of dietary needs.
They even have an on-site theater from 1953. You can even still see the film they first aired in the theater “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date,” in all of its (probably not scandalous) glory.
Details: California 111, Indio, CA 92201 | Website
COACHELLA VALLEY PRESERVE
Besides being known as the valley home of the massive Coachella Music Festival, the Coachella Valley Preserve is a protected 20,000 acre sanctuary. The preserve houses many rare species of animals, including The Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, the Coachella round-tailed ground squirrel, and the giant palm-boring beetle.
The area is popular for hiking, as well as photography, though officials warn it gets dangerously hot in the summer months. Keep in mind it is a desert area.
THOUSAND PALMS OASIS
Within the Coachella Valley Preserve is the Thousand Palms Oasis, which sits at the San Andreas Fault. The area is an oasis in the otherwise dry desert, as water springs up from the ground creating a lush region of this preserve.
Guests can drop by the visitor’s center, also known as The Palm House, to learn more about the area or just enjoy the palm forest with its cooler temps than the rest of the preserve.
Details: 29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Rd, Thousand Palms, CA 92276
SAN GORGONIA PASS WIND FARM
Palms Springs notes that visitors might recognize the windmills of the San Gorgonia Pass Wind Farm from Mission Impossible III, when a helicopter chase showcased them. There are over 2,300 wind turbines creating renewable energy on the outskirts of the city. You can even purchase a self-guided driving tour to check out these massive wind-catching marvels.
PALM SPRINGS WINDMILL TOURS
Palm Springs Windmill Tours has been offering tours of the windmills since 2014. Their self-driving tours are guided with tons of information about the country’s first commercial wind farm.
The company says the tour takes about 90 minutes. They also offer VIP Chartered Tours, where visitors can see the wind farm while being driven in the tour company’s electric vehicle. Those tours last about two hours.
Details: 62950 20th Ave, Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Website
THE LIVING DESERT ZOO & GARDENS
Opened in 1970, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a conservation-dedicated non-profit that has been teaching the public about the need to protect nature for decades. They are home to a wide variety of animals who call the deserts of the world home, including the addax, chacoan peccary, and peninsular pronghorn. Say those three times fast!
With the exception of Christmas Day, the zoo is open every day, though their hours do change seasonally. In addition to zoo admission, they also offer private tours and giraffe feeding options as well. They even offer worldwide trips through their Living Desert Travel Club, so guests can experience the power of nature for themselves where the animals come from.
Details: 47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260 | Website
DESERT ADVENTURES RED JEEP TOUR
Regarded as a Travelers Choice by TripAdvisor, Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours have been a fan favorite for decades. Thrill-seekers, and even those who aren’t, can both enjoy one of the tour options afforded to guests by Desert Adventures. For example, there are a variety of Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours available depending on what you want to see.
One tour explores Painted Canyon, while another traverses the rocky road along the San Andreas Fault Zone. For the less Jeep-inclined tourists, or just those with a touch of motion sickness issues perhaps, the company also has walking and hiking tours as well. One tour is of Joshua Tree National Park, which includes lunch.
Details: Desert Adventures, 74794 Lennon Pl Ste B, Palm Desert, CA 92260 | Website
PALM SPRINGS AIR MUSEUM
Featuring exhibits of largely flyable aircraft from WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam wars, the Palm Springs Air Museum has been showcasing military flying prowess since 1996.
Because so many of the aircrafts are still in operating condition, the museum does fly them and guests can even take part in those flights. Depending on the aircraft visitors want to ride in, the excursion can be several thousands of dollars.
Details: 745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Website
CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY MUSEUM OF THE DESERT
A beloved space where learning meets fun, the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert has exhibits that encourage children to interact. With indoor as well as outdoor learning spaces, the CDMD encompasses a range of opportunities for visitors to get hands-on in their learning.
Whether that means exploring the Discovery Garden or hanging out at the Tortoise Habitat on the outside, and then venturing inside to build a racecar before going to check out the latest traveling exhibit, this is a fun-filled spot for the entire family to work together.
Details: 180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110 | Website
The Joshua Tree area is cartoon-like enough, though the Crochet Museum brings it to a whole other level. This free museum features, you guessed it, crocheted objects.
Created by artist Shari Elf, this museum is crammed inside an old Foto-mat booth. It showcases some familiar faces, like Bert and Ernie from “Sesame Street,” with some not-so-familiar faces, like museum mascots Bunny and Buddy. Elf’s museum used to be located in her studio space in Missouri, before moving to the Palm Springs area.
Details: 61855 CA-62, Joshua Tree, CA 92252 | Website
COVERED WAGON TOURS
See the desert as pioneers did from the back of covered wagons. With Covered Wagon Tours, guests can set off on a journey they won’t soon forget when they board a wagon to see the desert terrain. They will hear the music of folk musician John Malcolm Penn, who is the main musical entertainer here, and learn from Native actor and cultural entertainer, Sam Bearpaw.
Though the real draws to this wagon excursion are obviously the teams of mules who bring passengers safely through the canyons.
They offer two tours: the Covered Wagon Adventure and the Covered Wagon Adventure with BBQ. The BBQ option is three and a half hours versus the other at two hours. Also, the BBQ tour is the only one of the two that includes the live entertainment portion.
Details: Washington St 2.5 miles North of Dell Webb’s, Palm Desert, CA 92211 | Website
COYOTE RIDGE STABLE
Started by Sue Lund and Sally Ellis, who volunteer with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Mounted Search and Rescue, Coyote Ridge Stable is a horseback tour experience.
Their five different tour options offer different skill levels, times, and experiences for visitors. From the one-hour Quail Canyon tour for all skill sets, to the Adventure tour at two, three, or even four-hour rides for advanced riders, they do have something for everyone.
Details: 50639 Panorama Dr., Morongo Valley, CA 92256 | Website
RANCHO MIRAGE LIBRARY AND OBSERVATORY
As well as being a local library, the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory is a campus dedicated to learning. The observatory opened in 2018, offering astronomy-centered programming, tours, and even opportunities to use their CDK700 Telescope.
Rancho Mirage has entertainment offerings throughout the year in addition to its educational programming.
Details: CA-111, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 | Website
TAHQUITZ CANYON AND WATERFALL
Part of the Indian Canyons, Tahquitz Canyon and Waterfall is one of the most important areas of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
Tahquitz has a seasonally active 60-foot waterfall, as well as ancient man-made artifacts, like irrigation systems. The Tahquitz Canyon Visitors Center offers both educational and cultural programming, artifacts displays, and a theater where guests can learn more about the area.
Details: 500 W Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, CA 92264 | Website
MOORTEN BOTANICAL GARDEN
Actor Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten and his wife Patricia purchased the land that would become Moorten Botanical Garden in 1938. They took a love of plants, specifically the cacti variety, and developed a way to showcase their passion. According to the garden website, they were even asked by Walt Disney to help cultivate the foliage for Frontierland at Disneyland. The site adds that they also did outdoor landscaping for the likes of Red Skelton, Jimmy Van Heusen, Frank Sinatra, and even Bing Crosby.
Now visitors can still see the Moorten’s home, called Cactus Castle, from the garden. There are thousands of plants in this cozy one-acre garden space. Tours of the garden are available with a recommendation to book ahead of time.
Details: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA 92264 | Website
SUNNYLANDS CENTER AND GARDENS
Sunnylands, the 200-acre winter home to Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg, was a place where leaders in different sectors from around the world visited. In 2001, the Annenbergs set up a trust to keep their estate as a place where leaders can continue to meet. The estate itself is available for the public to tour. However, the most publicly available portion of the space is the Sunnylands Center and Gardens.
Established in 2012, the 15-acre center site includes a desert art garden, cafe, gift shop, and permanent exhibitions on the history of the property, as well as the Annenbergs themselves. There are also visiting art exhibitions at the center as well. Within the garden, there are more than 70 species of plant life that are either native, or can tolerate the desert environment.
Details: 37977 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 | Website
AGUA CALIENTE CULTURAL MUSEUM
Located in downtown Palm Springs, the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum celebrates the history of the native people of the area. In preserving the culture, both ancient and modern, of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the museum gives respect to the Native Americans who originally settled the area around what is now Palm Springs.
The Spa at Séc-he showcases the Tribe’s connection to the ancient Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring, while also being home to a gathering place, garden, and oasis trail.
Details: 19 S Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Website
CABOT’S PUEBLO MUSEUM
Cabot Yerxa, born in 1883, was an artist, businessman, and activist dedicated to helping Native Americans. He built the Pueblo with the intention of making it a museum of his collection of Native American art and artifacts, with further space to showcase his own art, in addition to souvenirs he collected in years of traveling. He is also known as one of the three men who founded the city of Desert Hot Springs.
The Pueblo was built starting in 1941 by hand, using found and reclaimed materials. Cabot even used lumber from his original 1914 homestead. Inspired by The Hopi Tribe, its design is unique at four stories tall with 35 rooms, 150 windows, 20 rooflines, and 65 doors. Tours of the grounds, as well as the Pueblo, are available.
Details: 67616 Desert View Ave, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240 | Website
WABI SABI JAPAN LIVING SAKE TASTING
Named for the Japanese notion of “impermanence and imperfection,” Wabi Sabi is a Japanese import shop in Palm Springs. What they are particularly known for, however, is their sake tasting. That’s right, Wabi Sabi Japan Living sake tasting happens daily at their in-store bar.
Should you inevitably fall in love with one of the flavors, feel free to buy a bottle (for three) to take home with you from their vast sake selection.
Details: 300 N Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Website
BIKE TOUR THE MCM HOMES
Made popular from the 1940s to the 1980s, the mid-century modern style makes itself seen in wide, open, light-filled spaces. The metamorphosis of MCM in home architecture is often referred to as an off-shoot of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Many MCM buildings can be seen throughout Palm Springs. These buildings are quite obvious once you get the hang of figuring them out.
While visiting Palm Springs, you can take a bike tour of the MCM homes or other buildings. There are many offerings for guided bike tours or rent a bike and grab a self-guided tour here. Going on your own has the advantage of sightseeing at your own pace.
DESERT HOT SPRINGS
Near Palm Springs is the town of Desert Hot Springs, which calls itself California’s Spa City. Their myriad of accolades includes having some of the best water in the country, so they take preserving groundwater resources very seriously.
Desert Hot Springs is home to ten hotels and spas that make use of natural mineral water, including Sagewater Spa, Bubbling Wells Oasis, and the clothing-optional, Mi Kasa Hot Springs Resort.
AWESOME DAY TRIP FROM PALM SPRINGS
THE SALTON SEA
Palm Springs may not be oceanside, but it does have a nearby large body of water. The Salton Sea is one of the world’s largest inland seas, as well as one of the lowest spots on the planet at 227 feet below sea level.
Salton is a place where fishermen can often be found, as well as watersports fans, animal watchers and birders. Also, the water is toxic — so don’t swim in it or let your pets swim in it.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Famous for its whimsical, windy trees, Joshua Tree National Park is a place where two ecosystems from the Mojave and Colorado Deserts come together to create a unique natural place.
In addition to the countless plants and animals living in the park itself, the land has a history of human civilization dating back over 5,000 years. The park’s museum collections help preserve that story as they protect over 241,000 objects, while also maintaining over 838 archeological sites, 160 historical structures, and five cultural landscapes.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CALIFORNIA
- PALM SPRINGS HIKES: 17 Best Trails For Hiking In Palm Springs
- REDWOOD NATIONAL FOREST: 12 Best Hikes in Redwood National Forest
- MORRO BAY: Kayaking to a Desert & Other Amazing Things to do in Morro Bay, CA
- JOSHUA TREE: 15 Things To Do In Joshua Tree (In & Out Of The National Park)
- CATALINA ISLAND: 20 Phenomenal Things To Do In Catalina Island
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