Palm Springs things to do. Complete guide plus hotels and restaurants

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Palm Springs sounds cool when it is time to plan a trip and choose a destination, but someone is still asking if it worths a visit. So, I want to start trying to answer this doubt. If you are going to the USA for the first time, maybe you need to choose the cities to add to your itinerary. Well, even in this case, I would suggest you consider this town among the various destinations. Why? Because it is not far from other famous localities, it has a lot to offer to travelers, and it is amazing. Palm Springs things to do. This is my guide, so together with my impression, I will give you an overview of the activities you may like. It will be helpful because you will understand that the variety of things to do is huge.

California is a big state, full of places to visit, but stay there can be a good strategy to visit the main destinations all around. If you are from the USA, well, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss the chance to see it if you didn’t do it before. Did I fall in love with it? Yes, but trust me, this is not going to influence too much my advice. Then, it is easy to find enthusiastic people about Palm Springs California. Especially after the movie was released in 2020, and the others made in the past.

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Palm Springs things to do and to see

If you don’t believe me, I can convince you easily by listing all the places to visit and the activities to do. Even do the town is not so big, with less than 50,000 inhabitants, there are attractions for any taste. Cinema lovers can enjoy one of the favorite destinations of Hollywood stars since the 1920s. But let’s proceed step by step. What are the Palm Springs things to do?

You can’t go to the seaside because the town is located in the middle of California’s desert, like an oasis, but this peaceful place is populated by rich people, it is not only a good locality for relaxation and to play golf. In the past, it was common to meet Frank Sinatra on the road because he was spending his breaks there and Elvis Presley chose it for his honeymoon. Now it is still easy to meet VIP walking, but there is more to do.

Palm Springs California: an overview

This destination may be the main one for your trip if you are not for the first time in California, otherwise, it is just a starting point or better the place for your stay. You can go from there to have some day trips all around, out of it. Palm Springs is full of golf courses and it shows a lot of interesting buildings, good examples of the various periods’ architecture.

Modern style is the main one and you can see many characteristic constructions realized in the 1990s. You have to know that National Trust for Historic Preservation mentioned the town as one of the best USA destinations for modern architecture. This is already a good reason to see it. If this theme is part of your tour, you have to start from Visitor Center (2901 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs). It was designed by Albert Frey on the finds of a gas station. 

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The town is the main center of Coachella Valley and it is located on Highway 111 that connects it to Cathedral City and Palm Desert. So if you are traveling by car or by bus from Arizona to California or vice versa, it can be a perfect stop for a few days. Or, I repeat it, your landmark to go to Los Angeles, 106 miles far (around 170 kilometers), or to Blythe, on the border with Arizona, 118 miles far (around 190 kilometers).

Relaxation and exploration

If you like nature you can’t miss Joshua Tree National Park, just 3,1 miles (5 kilometers) from Palm Springs downtown, and then take a tour around Sonora desert, with lovely cities like Palm Springs, all quite particular and original. If you want to alternate relaxation and some explorations, you can plan a week or even more in the area. Then you can stay in town for a break, so you walk, you make some visit, you enjoy a pleasant atmosphere and also climate. Then you go on the road again to reach the next destination. It is a good idea for a break before or after a visit to Los Angeles and its chaos.

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Go shopping and calm sightseeing in Palm Canyon Drive, taste some food on the way, and take a tour of Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Follow my tips for the accommodation and you will also enjoy a Jacuzzi. These are some of the activities you can do to have a break during your travel using the town for rest.

Historical notes

Maybe you already found some reasons to visit Palm Springs California, but we are still at the beginning. Crossing the desert to reach the town you will be fascinated, as it will happen walking in the middle of the palm forest admiring nature and blu sky. It is a good idea also to learn something about its history. You can notice something curious and interesting at the same time. According to the research, we know that in 1400 it was already settled. In the area, there were indigenous tribes called Cahuilla.

Then the first Spanish explorers went there and named the place Agua Caliente (Hot Water) because of thermal sources present. The actual name, Palm Springs, has origin in the 19th century when under two groups of palms the community discovered a hot spring. That’s why at the beginning of the last century it became a holiday resort for people who needed a hot and dry climate. From the 1920s to the 1960s it was the favorite destination for VIPs searching for relaxation. Even do now it is not the main place for stars, some of them pass from the town.

The second part of the last century brought the small city to be the ideal place to live for retirees. They wanted to spend the last years between well-kept golf courses and luxury clinics. But the town of palms increased again its popularity ranking. Young hipsters and gay couples made it again a trendy destination and people come from all over the world to visit it.

Main attractions

The best way to visit the town is to live it like a local. Yes, the verb to live is correct. Imagine being a wealthy Californian and organize a few days or a week over there. You are quite close to Los Angeles but far from the chaos. You have the chance to play golf, but if you don’t know how to do it, don’t worry, it is plenty of activities to do. All the Palm Springs things to do can easily meet your taste and goal for any type of vacation. Go around, drink something fresh, and enjoy life, this is what you should do.

North Palm Canyon Drive is the place for shopping, especially to enter famous and trendy clothes shops. There are also many furniture and accessories boutiques. Luxury is the main keyword. Thanks to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway your view over the town will be amazing. The ticket costs around 25-26 USD but it worths it. The Tramway goes up to the mountains and it is refreshing. From there the panorama includes the desert.

Then a trail will take you to the top of Mount San Jacinto State Park. It is around 5,6 miles (9 kilometers). During winter time people do cross country skiing. In Spring and Summer, there are many pathways for hiking and trekking you can use while birds and squirrels are watching you. There is a pleasant vanilla scent all around because of the presence of Jeffrey Pine. They can live on the mountain, over 3,300 meters above the sea. Tramway gets to 2,500 meters. The contrast between this green nature and the desert is impressive and surprising.

Going to South East you reach Tahquitz Canyon with its waterfall and rock carvings. In the Southern part, there are also Indian Canyons perfect for an outdoor excursion during your stay. It is not hard to visit them by yourself, but there is also the chance to reserve guided tours direct to the place. During the hot season, you will need refreshment, so the aquatic park of Knott’s Soak City will allow you to win the high temperature and have fun at the same moment. If you like art, the Palm Springs Art Museum will show you its collections full of artworks made by American artists.

Are these attractions good reasons to visit Palm Springs California? At the end of your trip, you will want to stay more, believe me. A short visit isn’t enough to see everything, but I have more to mention here, like the cool museums they have. You should add the place to your itinerary.

Museums

In the town, there are fascinating museums like the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, which has the goal to preserve the spirit of natives. The collections include baskets, ceramics, various tools used by ancient tribes to realize objects. Cahuilla was using bones, stones, and canes. I have already mentioned the Palm Springs Art Museum. In the rooms, you can see native art, 19th-century American paintings, modern art, and sculptures.

For nature lovers, and especially for people who like to discover plants and flower varieties a stop at Moorten Botanical Gardens is a must. There you can admire many species from the desert and others from different worldwide countries. There is something more than palms to discover. If you stay a few days in the place, you have to go to Palm Springs Air Museum with its planes. Retired Marines will guide you to explore all the collections, telling you all the information and great stories about those planes. Some of the ones exposed in hangars can be visited inside, so you can go on and imagine being a pilot. Among volunteers of the museums, there are pilots too, so they can share their feelings in the air while they were using those planes.

Stars’ villas

Take a walk in Palm Springs is always pleasant. Even if in summer the temperature is quite hot. Anyway, palms and villas can surprise you, especially the ones where some VIP and stars lived or are leaving. But you need help to know what are the most interesting ones. So go to the visitor center, do you remember the one I mentioned? Well, that great example of modern architecture with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof. Ask for a map in the office and start the tour.

The important constructions can reserve some surprises for your visit. Let’s see the most important ones. Alexander Estate has the name of its architect, Robert Alexander, but the house became famous thanks to Elvis Presley. He spent in the villa his honeymoon after the wedding with Priscilla Beaulieu celebrated in Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra House was built for him. “The Voice” wanted a curious pool with the shape of a grand piano. You can see it only if the gate is open, but there is the chance to rent it for a minimum of three nights.

Events

On Palm Canyon Drive, which crosses all the downtown, you can see amazing boutiques, bars, and restaurants located in Colonial Hispanic style buildings. The material used for most of them is adobe, a mixture of sun-dried clay, sand, and straw which, together with the abundant number of palm trees present, gives the houses in the area a very characteristic appearance. There is also a curious giant statue of Marylin Monroe. Take a look at Trina Turk, a famous shop that offers vintage colorful clothes. Buy something to wear while you are there. Why? You will be like a local with the Californian chic style.

In town during the year take place a lot of different events. one of them is called Villagefest. You can attend it from June to September each Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. A lot of stalls and street artists animate the center. They expose many things. There are even representatives of different religions to give you tips and recommendations.

Traveling with kids

What are Palm Springs things to do with kids? This is the right question because you can go there with your family. Well, don’t worry, there are cool attractions for them. They will have fun also visiting some of the already mentioned places. Let me give you some itinerary ideas.

The Tramway to go to Mount Jacinto will be exciting for them and also the Palm Springs Air Museum will amaze them. They will get crazy to see planes and also to listen to interesting stories told by former pilots. Retired Marines are not only giving technical information but they like to tell curious and fabulous stories to kids. Then there are a bar and a playground ready to welcome them inside the museum. They can draw planes and pilot them through the simulator.

Walking around the city you can stop at Victoria Park because there is a huge playground that makes them happy. Even in summer is good to go there, there are shaded areas, public toilets, and fountains with fresh water. Animals are always the best attraction for ids, that’s why you should go with them to Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. It is just a few miles far from downtown.

Surroundings

I wrote that Palm Springs can be your starting point to visit the state. So, let me giving you some ideas for day trips. From there you can reach Los Angeles in about an hour. Of course, it is a big city and you will need to choose what to see. Pasadena is a cool place for a tour and it is quite small, then it is a bit closer than L.A. Even closer you can find San Bernardino. In half an hour driving you can get to the Salton Sea, a salted water lake on the border with Mexico.

San Diego is not far too, about one hour drive to the South West. It has a wonderful bay. If you want to spend time on a beach and enjoy the sea, there are a lot of cool destinations on the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles. A bit forward from L.A. there is Santa Monica, full of entertainment and attractions for beach lovers. Driving to the North at a small distance, less than half an hour, you can find another amazing natural place, San Gregorio Mountain with San Bernardino National Forest at its feet.

Palm Springs restaurants

In the town, you won’t stay without food. There are many delicious dishes you can taste in some of the most appreciated local restaurants. Among the historic restaurants, the ones used by Rat Pack (the group of stars made by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford e Joey Bishop), Melvyn’s is the most known. It has a dance floor and they organize cool jazz concerts on Sunday afternoon.

On Palm Canyon Drive you can taste a superb sandwich stopping by Sherman’s Deli & Bakery. Sandwiches are big and they prepare any type of stuff, maybe this is the reason for its popularity in town. If you want just a snack you can also try Sandwich Spot, they offer some of the most original and fabulous sandwiches to be eaten on the shared patio. Also, Trio has a patio and very good food.

Great recipes and a design setting are the ingredients at Eight4Nine. While Lulu California Bistro is famous even for cocktails. It is a good idea to visit it, especially during the hot season to find something fresh and pleasant. Not far from there you can find Tommy Bahama, famous for its large outdoor dining space with comfortable misters. Asian food is your passion maybe. Well, you can’t miss dinner at Roly China Fusion. Then you should try Mexican flavors at Tac/ Quila.

A huge variety of beverages, amazing views on Palm Springs, and tasty food are the main features at Bongo Johnny’s. Are you searching for emotions with food? You will love Brickworks American Bistro and also its balcony with a stellar panorama of the mountains on one side and Palm Canyon on the other.

While you are at Indian Canyon, you should stop by Bill’s Pizza, ready to offer signature pies. What about fish in the desert? You won’t regret it after a meal at Fisherman’s Market & Grill. Try the nightlife at Wang’s in the Desert. Then a good cocktail is always pleasant to go to Bit of Country.

Palm Springs hotels

You know where to go to eat, but I guess you want to reserve a room and maybe you need some tips. Well, I have some. I can give you a list of the best Palm Springs hotels, but also suggest the one I tried. It is a luxury hotel where you can stay for a cheap price thanks to special packages. But let’s proceed step by step. Here you can find all the accommodations and the prices, but I have something more for you.

Keep in mind that summer has lower rates but it is very hot. It could be better to visit Palm Springs California in winter, Spring, or Autumn, but the choice is up to you. If you like to live in the 1950s atmosphere there are two nice places. Del Marcos Hotel is representing very well the favorite settings of stars in that period, but they do not accept kids, so it is not for families. You need to be at least 21 years old.

In the alternative, especially for families, there is Horizon Resort, which reminds the gold period of Rock Rats. A good hotel for the elegant setting is Regency Hyatt, located at Indian Wells, a few miles from Palm Springs downtown.

Desert Oasis

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If you would like to have a luxury vacation in Palm Springs without spending a huge budget, you can consider Desert Oasis by Welk Resorts. It is perfect for the retreat to serenity and tranquility. From rooms, you enjoy breathtaking views of the San Jacinto Mountains. It is located out of the town, in Cathedral City, but the downtown of Palm Springs is very close. They also accept kids, but this hotel is ideal also for couples and solo travelers. They count on many facilities from pool to restaurant. Guests can use the championship golf and tennis at the adjacent Cathedral Canyon Golf and Tennis Club. The amenities are settled to make customers feeling like at home. It is the ideal accommodation to explore the area, mixing tranquillity with fun and explorations.

Why I chose to stay at this hotel. The price convinced me, but it is not the only element of my evaluation. Before I want to focus on the features then I will tell you more about the offer. The location is very good, especially for the views and the short distance from the main attractions. Then they have a huge pool where to stay even enjoying a cold beverage from The Palm Terrace Cafe. It is possible to swim in the adults-only lap pool. Then I love playing tennis and the court close to the hotel allowed me to make some matches in the early morning before my tours.

Room

desert oasis hotel room

The One Bedroom Villas at Desert Oasis is well settled and equipped to give to the traveler all that he/she needs. It’s perfect to get relaxed. Comfortable furnishings make the stay pleasant also thanks to the King Bed and Queen Sleeper Sofa. They count 800 square feet of space and large walk-in closets and private patios or balconies. It depends on each room. Plus they have a restaurant offering gourmet meals, you can consume them in the full kitchen in the room.

Restaurant

Palm Terrace Cafe represents a luxury desert getaway giving the chance to try poolside dining. You can go there during the day or the evening even just for a fresh cocktail or beer and some snacks. They have menu items for any culinary desire and habit. This is something useful when after a long day of tours you want some rest without renouncing to good food or a relaxing drink.

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The last aspect I want to share about Desert Oasis concerns the price. Or better I should say the offer. Welk Resorts are luxury structures, but thanks to BookVIP, it is possible to get special prices, so for a cheap rate you can have a king stay. Well, even this element influenced my choice. From time to time the specific price can vary a bit, but you can directly check it here. Use this as an example of convenience.
Palm Springs things to do are a lot, but by choosing the hotel you can have one more reason to stay there and explore California.

Palm Springs weather

The right question, at this moment, is: when is better to go there? Well, to choose is good to learn something more about the climate. The town is located in the middle of the Californian desert, so the climate is hot and try. The place counts more than 300 sunny days in a year. While winter is quite short, with an average temperature around 68°F (20°C) in December and January. That’s why it is a great winter destination. In February the temperature can be around 77°F (25°C). Anyway, lower temperatures during the cold seasons are around 41°F (5°C). From April the climate starts to be hot, the average temperature passes 86°F (30°C). In July and August, it is common to register more than 104°F (40°C), but in summer it is anyway never under 77°F (25°C).

According to my preferences, California isn’t a perfect destination for summer, but it is great during the cold season or even in Spring and Autumn. Coachella Valley is too hot from June to September, at least the first part. Of course, if you go up to the mountains, starting from Mount Jacinto, the temperature is fresher. But if you are not scared by hot weather, well, during summertime it will be more full of entertainment and there will be many tourists all around. You will find peaceful places anyway.

How many days spend in Palm Springs?

The town is not big, but you can use it for accommodation and plan some day trips around other cities. You can have a tour of the downtown in a day, but if you want to enjoy mountains, parks, and museums, you may need at least 3 or 4 days. It depends on your goals and your itinerary. You shouldn’t miss the Joshua Tree National Park and the Indian Canyons, so you will need time for that. Trust me, spend a long weekend or a week there is a good idea. I guess Palm Springs things to do will fill easily your travel agenda.

How to get there

Palm Springs is well connected and if you are driving it will be easy to get there. From Los Angeles follow Highway 111 to South starting from I-10 East. From Las Vegas go to I-15 and then go on I-215 to South. From San Diego go to I-15 North and then on CA-74 East. Arriving in the town you will see a large expanse of wind turbines. At sunset the landscape is wonderful.

Palm Springs Municipal Airport is located 2 miles (3 kilometers) east of downtown Palm Springs. It is well connected with the main USA and Canada cities. You can use the plane from Toronto, Vancouver, Boise, Everett, Portland, Reno, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Bellingham, Eugene, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Denver, Oakland, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York JFK, Houston, San Francisco, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg. This list is helpful if you are living in the USA or Canada. If not, well, it can inspire your itinerary across the country. Especially if you have more than one week of vacation. You just need to find a flight at the best rate.

Insurance

To avoid any risk, especially eventual changes in rules to pass borders or restrictions due to emergencies, you should have insurance. Plus it is useful to be guaranteed in case of health problems, luggage loss, last-minute changes, and so on. Before starting my journey, each time, I subscribe to travel insurance by Ekta. It has tailor-made offers according to different needs, it has a low cost, and I can do all processes online.

Travel insurance will provide you with comprehensive travel protection. An insurance policy for those traveling abroad is a document required to obtain a visa and travel abroad, as well as a guarantee of protecting your health while traveling in case of unforeseen situations.

Cool things about the town

Before letting you organize a trip, I want to share some cool things you should know and consider about Palm Springs.

1. Modernism icon

The town was always proud to be a modern place, with new buildings in a period dedicated to preservation. Now you can see villas made in the 60s and even before, but the interesting part is that the renovation is part of the policy. You will see the visitor center, it was a Tramway Gas Station realized in 1965. In 1998 it was totally renewed and reinvented with the hyperbolic roof getting ready to welcome travelers. At the Art Museum, you can look at pictures and drawings about architecture, some coming from movies needs. This modernist icon is also celebrated by the Modernism Week that each year takes place there.

2. Always summer

If you like very hot temperatures, you will be happy like lizards there. But if you prefer warm temperatures like between spring and summer, well, go to Palm Spring from November to April. You will have great weather there and you will really enjoy the place. Desert, mountains, parks, golf courses waiting for you, but in that period you won’t have a lack of energy because of temperature.

3. Hotels restyling

Even the historical hotels change their face, at least in part. Modern equipment and design are everywhere, also in the places considered icons of different Palm Springs periods. Renovation is the keyword, so the setting is going to change frequently combining tradition and modernity.

Conclusion

What will you do? Did you find enough Palm Springs things to do? I hope this article can inspire you and especially support your trip organization. I am pretty sure that after a visit you will become part of the club of Palm Springs lovers. There is no need to convince you, you just need to take a loot to the town and you will be happy about your Californian journey.

If you liked the post, share it. You will help me in a spread about my blog but especially you will give the chance to your friends to get information about this amazing destination. Do you need help to pack? Well, use my lists and also my shopping pages on the site and on Amazon to find all that you need.

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