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As a popular Southern California destination and weekend getaway from Los Angeles, the city of Palm Springs has a lot to offer tourists. From golf courses to spas, hot springs, interesting architecture, great shopping district, and lots of hiking opportunities nearby, this is a top spot to beat the cold weather and indulge in some much-needed relaxation time. Here are our favorite things to do in and around Palm Springs, California.
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Shopping is one of the main reasons that people visit Palm Springs, and the best place to go for it is Palm Canyon Drive. This is where lots of shops, galleries, and restaurants are located, as well as top museums and attractions too. You can find clothing, books, gifts and lots more when you walk down this beautiful street that’s lined with palm trees. Ruddy’s General Store and the Palm Canyon Theatre are also along this street. This is also the home of Villagefest, which features booths with handcrafted items and food vendors between Baristo and Amado. Check it out from 6-10pm October through May and from 7-10pm June through September. You can even bring your dog along to Villagefest.
Mount San Jacinto State Park is a great place to hike, camp, and have fun in the snow. You can reach the park by hiking in or taking the Palm Springs Tramway. Camping is allowed for trailers and motorhomes up to 24 feet long. You can pick up a free wilderness permit at the park’s headquarters, ranger station, or campground. This is the second highest mountain range in Southern California, with the summit of Mount San Jacinto standing at 10,834 feet of elevation.
It’s also fun to visit the Coachella Valley Preserve when you’re in the Palm Springs area to get a sense of what the desert looks and feels like. This preserve spans over 20,000 acres and is home to the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, which is strikingly lush and green in contrast to the surrounding desert. You can stop by the visitor center near the park entrance and pick up a trail map for hiking. This natural area is about 17 miles from the town of Palm Springs but well worth a visit during your trip. There are no admission fees to visit this beautiful place, but donations are appreciated.
To really learn about desert environments and habitats, stop by the Living Desert, which is a botanical garden and zoo wrapped into one attraction. Here you’ll find many different kinds of plants and animals that call the desert home. Since the temperatures really heat up here in the summer, it is advised to visit the Living Desert in the morning. The adult general admission price is $19.95, $9.95 for children ages three to 12, and free for kids under three. The Living Desert is open from 9am to 5pm between October and May and from 8am to 1:30pm between June and September.
For excellent views of the Palm Springs region, consider taking a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. When aboard, you’ll get to see the beautiful mountains and valleys to the top at 8,516 feet. The tram takes visitors for a 2.5-mile ride that lasts about 10 minutes. Up here, you can go for a hike or even snowshoe or cross-country ski if there is snow on the mountain. There’s also a restaurant called Peaks at the top that serves dishes with local ingredients and offers stunning Coachella Valley views. Tram tickets are $25.95 for adults and $16.95 for children ages three to 10.
Tahquitz Canyon is only a couple miles from downtown Palm Springs and a great place to learn about Native American culture. The canyon was inhabited by Agua Caliente Cahuilla Native Americans for many generations. This is also a favorite destination among outdoor enthusiasts because of the hiking trail and 60-foot waterfall along it. The admission price is $12.50 for adults and $6 for children ages six to 12.
Anyone with an interest in military history or traveling with kids should definitely check out the Palm Springs Air Museum. At this museum, you’ll find World War II planes and learn about aviation history. It’s also a fun place to find relief from hot temperatures and let children play with interactive exhibits. You’ll also find a theater, education center, aviation artwork, and gift shop here. This museum is a few miles east of Palm Springs’ city center and by the Palm Springs International Airport. Adult admission is $17, youth admission 13-17 years is $15, and children admission six to 12 years is $10. The museum is typically open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Palm Springs has been a long-time haven for artists, so make sure to stop by the Palm Springs Art Museum during your trip. This museum has been around since 1938 and features everything from graphic art to architecture, pop art, and impressionism. The museum is fairly small but still worth a visit if you have a couple hours to spare on your Palm Springs vacation. Stop by on Thursdays from 4-8pm to take advantage of free admission. It’s in the downtown area and easy to check out other shops and museums while you’re in the area as well.
One of the most popular attractions in the Palm Springs region is Joshua Tree National Park, which offers great hikes, rock climbing routes, and camping. The park is less than 40 miles from Palm Springs, so it’s easy to take a day trip here when you stay in town. Around 1.4 million people visit this park each year, so be prepared for some crowds, especially if you visit between October and May. Pets aren’t allowed on any park trails except the Oasis of Mara Trail, so it’s best to leave your pup at home for this adventure. In addition to hiking, Joshua tree is also a popular spot for mountain biking, horseback riding, photography, and camping.