The sheer number of things to do in Palm Springs makes it one of the most popular travel destinations in Southern California. Only 100 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs an ideal warm-weather place to escape to.
Known as a resort city, Palm Springs allows visitors to experience the purest form of rest and relaxation in the low desert. From couples massages to soaking in hot springs and dinner with live jazz music, Palm Springs is sure to be the retreat from suburbia you’re looking for.
I’ve made hundreds of trips to Palm Springs over the years and truly think it’s one of the best cities in California. Let’s dive into my list of the best things to do in Palm Springs! Oh, but first, if you need accommodation, check out my guide to the top places to stay in Palm Springs.
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31 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs
Rent an e-bike and explore the area, attend a pop-up silent disco event, or catch a show at the Camelot Theater.
Downtown Palm Springs is a major draw with its fine-dining restaurants, elegant high-end boutiques, and the bulk of most Palm Springs activities.
Downtown Palm Springs is the lively hub of the city for entertainment. If you’re a fan of nightlife activities, then the bars and clubs of Downtown Palm Springs are the places to be. If you prefer solitude on your Palm Springs getaway, then mosey on over to one of two serene sculpture gardens on Highway 111.
The special events on Mainstreet Palm Springs are endless. Rent an e-bike and explore the area, attend a pop-up silent disco event, or catch a show at the Camelot Theater for the best Downtown Palm Springs experience.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Enjoy the scenic views of the San Jacinto Mountains and take amazing vacation photos.
No trip to Palm Springs is complete without a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The tramway is a fun activity for the whole family but is not suited for those afraid of heights.
The ride itself is about 10-15 minutes long and has scenic views of the San Jacinto Mountains and the Palm Springs Valley the entire way. This is a great spot to take vacation photos or you can have a professional take your photo before the tramway entrance.
Many visitors visit the restaurant at the top and soak in the views with a hot cup of coffee or a satisfying burger. I like hiking to the top of San Jacinto from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway exit. The trail is 6 miles and 2,318 feet of gain to one of the highest mountains in California.
Palm Springs VillageFest
Enjoy the street performers dancing or snag an ice cream cone at this family-friendly event.
As someone who only lives an hour from Palm Springs, I grew up attending the VillageFest. This Thursday night arts and crafts market is one of my favorite things to do in Palm Springs.
The Palm Springs VillageFest happens every Thursday from 6 pm-10 pm in the downtown area. Even if you don’t buy anything, this is still a fun excursion for the whole family. Enjoy the street performers dancing or making live graffiti art or snag an ice cream cone and watch the passersby.
🛎️ Need a room? The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel is one of the closest hotels to the VillageFest. This is the best accommodation within walking distance of the event.
Palm Springs Air Museum
Get an up-close look at the fighting planes and bombers of Vietnam, WWII, and Korea at one of the top rated air museums in the U.S.
Aviator fanatics congregate at the Palm Springs Air Museum. This museum is rated as one of the top air museums in the United States and gives visitors an up-close look at the fighting planes and bombers of Vietnam, WWII, and Korea.
The air museum employs workers and volunteers who are veterans, giving visitors prime, first-hand information about their personal war experiences. This Palm Springs activity should be high on the itinerary for history lovers of all ages.
The airplane simulators and the on-site cafe are major bonuses when visiting the Palm Springs Air Museum. This museum offers visitors a rare chance to see actual fighter planes from major historical wars, a chance not offered in many other places.
Palm Springs Art Museum
Browse the art exhibits at this historic museum that was founded in 1938.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 322-4800 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm Friday-Sunday, 12 pm-8 pm Thursdays, Closed Monday-Wednesday | Entrance: $16, adult, $14, seniors over 61, $8, teachers & students, Free, children 18 and under
Founded in 1938, the Palm Springs Art Museum is an attraction that is nearly as historical as the town itself. This is one of the top things to do in Palm Springs for art and museum lovers.
In addition to art, the museum also features art exhibitions and theater performances. The permanent art exhibits showcase contemporary art and glass exhibits while featured exhibits house a wider variety of art styles.
The Palm Springs Art Museum is free for all ages on Thursdays after 5 pm, so I recommend going during that time if you are traveling on a budget. The museum also offers guests a high-end bistro so you can indulge after you’ve worked up an art-browsing appetite.
Palm Canyon Drive
This famous area is a hub for restaurants, pubs, art galleries, shopping, and every other metropolitan necessity.
📍 Google Maps | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free
Palm Canyon Drive is famed for its palm tree-lined streets, after which the California city was named. It is also home to the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, commemorative plaques with celebrity names who either lived in Palm Springs or would frequently escape the bustle of LA to the desert town.
This area is in the historic heart of Palm Springs and can’t be missed while you’re in town. It’s a hub for restaurants, pubs, art galleries, shopping, and every other metropolitan necessity. This is the perfect place to go window shopping and spend the day exercising your credit card.
This street is closed to cars for VillageFest every Thursday night from 6 pm-10 pm. It remains walkable, however, which is the best way to experience Palm Canyon Drive.
Joshua Tree National Park
The popular National Park with the largest concentration of Joshua Trees in the world that’s famed for its rock climbing routes.
Less than an hour away, Joshua Tree National Park is a top excursion from Palm Springs. It is one of only nine national parks in California and holds the largest concentration of Joshua Trees in the world.
Most people make a short side trip to Joshua Tree from Palm Springs but there are many campsites, hotels, and rental homes near the national park as well. The accommodation options in Joshua Tree are endless.
There are so many things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, but it’s famed for its rock climbing routes. Of course, non-climbers find entertainment in the many hiking trails and informative nature exhibits around the park. Be sure to stop by the Coyote Corner on Park Avenue for a Joshua Tree souvenir on your way out!
Coachella Valley Preserve
See some of the coolest sand dunes in California at this Nature Preserve.
The Coachella Valley Preserve is a 17,000-acre sanctuary of native California desert plants and wildlife. Only 10 miles east of Palm Springs, this protected area of bluffs and mesas also has some of the coolest sand dunes in California.
Hike to one of the area’s palm oases or visit the visitor’s center to learn about the geologic forces that shaped the preserved ecosystem. This makes a great day trip from Palm Springs and is the best area to visit if you want to hit the hiking trails.
Keep an eye out for the fringe-toed lizard, found nowhere else in the world. Also, keep in mind the time of year you visit California and the summer temperatures in Palm Springs.
If you are visiting Coachella Valley Preserve in any of the non-winter months, make sure to bring enough water on the hiking trails and avoid excessive exercise if temperatures exceed 100 degrees.
Hike Mt. San Jacinto
Enjoy view of the whole San Jacinto State Park and the Mt. San Jacinto Mountains from the summit.
San Jacinto is one of my favorite things to do in Palm Springs. While the mountain trail is also accessible from the Idyllwild side, the trail from Palm Springs is less steep and more favorable among many mountain hikers.
Take the famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to begin your hike from the cafe at the top. The 6-mile trail winds through pines until the 10,834’ summit. The first tram is at 8 am and the hike usually takes beginners 6-10 hours, so plan your day accordingly.
There are views of the whole San Jacinto State Park and the Mt. San Jacinto Mountains from the summit. This mountain hike is one of the best things to do in California.
👉 Pro Tip: You will likely be out all day on this hike. It’s best not to arrange other plans for the same day and make sure you pack enough food and water for at least 6-8 hours.
Palm Desert Trip
This Coachella Valley town is home to many golf courses, resorts, and country clubs.
Only 30 minutes from Palm Springs, Palm Desert offers its own desert character to visitors. This Coachella Valley town is home to many golf courses, resorts, and country clubs.
There are also other forms of entertainment offered in Palm Desert like The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens. Visit desert-dwelling wildlife such as cheetahs and camels from around the world. You can also catch a music, comedy, or dance performance at the McCallum Theatre.
Visitors can pick their option of either a five-star resort or a rustic cabin campground in Palm Desert. You will find affordable accommodation options in this desert town if you are traveling on a budget.
With more than 20 courses, going golfing in Palm Springs is a golf lover’s dream.
Palm Springs is a golf haven. If you love the sport, odds are you’ve either golfed in Palm Springs, or it’s on your to-do list.
There are upwards of 20 golf courses in Palm Springs and the surrounding areas, so golfers can choose the best one to suit their needs. Almost all courses in the area have incredible, 360-degree views of the towering San Jacinto Mountains.
Each January, some of the top golfers in the world play at a 4-day PGA tournament in Coachella Valley. Although you may be a novice and don’t qualify to play in the competition, watching the professionals do what they love is equally fun but without the pressure.
Pack a lunch and enjoy the picturesque hiking and horseback riding trails.
Indian Canyons is a group of canyons in Palm Springs with picturesque hiking and horseback riding trails. Be sure to pack a lunch because there are various picnic tables scattered throughout the desert oasis, the perfect opportunity for a lunchtime social media photoshoot.
Hike to Palm Canyon, a quintessential Palm Springs hike and one of the most popular trails in Indian Canyons. The entire trail is 15 miles long, with most hikers choosing only to section hike parts of it. Discover native flora and fauna along the way and learn which were the most important to the natives of the area, the Cahuilla.
Andreas Canyon is another popular hiking area in Indian Canyons. With over 150 species of plants packed in only 0.5 miles, it’s safe to say that this area is strikingly beautiful.
Living Desert Zoo
Don’t miss out on feeding the giraffes at this non-profit zoo and botanical garden.
Located in Palm Desert, the Living Desert Zoo is a non-profit zoo and botanical garden. With over 500 animals, this zoo is one of the best things to do in Palm Springs with children.
The Living Desert helps preserve the desert ecosystem and has been focused on conservation for the last five decades. A family favorite activity at the zoo is feeding the resident giraffes- an activity not to be missed!
Desert Hot Springs
Take a day trip and enjoy a soak in the healing warm waters of the natural hot springs.
A day trip to Desert Hot Springs is a must during a Palm Springs vacation. Many inns and resorts around the city have pools and spas filled with natural hot spring water that’s fed from under the town.
Desert Hot Springs provides visitors with the ultimate relaxation. Soak in the healing warm waters and feel your muscle aches subside. Besides hot tub relaxation, you will also find an eclectic mix of boutiques and eateries in town.
Some of the top hot springs hotels include Tuscan Springs Hotel & Spa, The Good House, and Mi Kasa Hot Springs. The best time to visit Desert Hot Springs for thermal water is in the winter, late fall, and early spring months.
Tahquitz Canyon Hike
Hiking here is one of the most popular activities in Palm Springs thanks to the waterfall, rock art, and beautiful flora found along the route.
The Tahquitz Canyon hike is one of the most popular things to do in Palm Springs. The hike features a waterfall, rock art, and beautiful flora along the way.
This hike is especially refreshing in the summer months. Starting at the visitor center, hike through shaded palm oases to reach a 60-foot waterfall. Historically a Cahuilla Native American area, you may just run into an archaeological feature on your hike.
Check with the official Tahquitz Canyon website before you go to monitor the waterfall levels. California is a dry desert so there are some seasons when the waterfall is completely dry. If you are set on taking a swim, try visiting the area in the spring.
Palm Springs Visitor Center
Learn everything you need to know about Palm Springs at this visitor center with an iconic roofline.
Get all of your visitor questions answered at the hard-to-miss Palm Springs visitor center. The huge triangular roof is an iconic landmark that welcomes hundreds of visitors each day.
You can also purchase Palm Springs souvenirs, maps, and gifts from the visitor center gift shop. This is a must for first-time Palm Springs visitors so they can be up to date with all of the need-to-know travel information.
Ask the employees about the best golf courses, their favorite restaurants, and the best hikes around town. Traveling to a new city for the first time can be overwhelming but the folks over at the Palm Springs Visitor Center make it a priority to make you feel at home.
You can’t visit Palm Springs without spending some time lounging poolside at a luxury resort.
Known for its world-famous resorts, Palm Springs trips are only complete once you’ve lounged by a resort pool. This is one of the best things to do in Palm Springs, especially in the summer when temperatures are well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Palm Springs has no shortage of 4 and 5-star resorts but you will also find more affordable options in the area. Some of the more luxurious resorts are equipped with full spas and classy bistros in-house.
🛏️ Looking for a luxury hotel? The Ritz Carlton is the highest-end resort in Palm Springs. The pool is immaculate, there are two restaurants in the hotel and views of the mountains from every room. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort is another popular resort option.
Moorten Botanical Garden
Enjoy 1 acre of serene botanical gardens in California’s low desert.
Enjoy 1 acre of serene botanical gardens in California’s low desert. The main focus here is cacti and other desert plants, being that they thrive in Southern California’s scorching summer heat.
This is one of the best places to take photos in Palm Springs, so visit Moorten in your best dress. Many couples take wedding or engagement photos among the prickly pear and cholla of the botanical gardens.
Guided tours are available at the botanical gardens but they fill up quickly, so you will want to book in advance. Plants are also available for purchase, so make sure you visit Moorten with some cash.
Take in the views from above over one of the steepest canyons in the U.S.
In close proximity to San Jacinto State Park, Chino Canyon is a dense outcropping with thick palm tree oases and huge boulders.
This 5.5-mile-long canyon is one of the steepest in the United States. Soak in the views on your way to the San Jacinto Aerial Tramway and keep an eye out for the bighorn sheep that scale the canyon cliffs.
There are small hikes and waterfalls along the way and birds of prey soaring overhead. Chino Canyon is a good spot for bird-watching with the family or going on a picnic date with a loved one.
Thousand Palms Oasis
A popular Palm Springs spot for hiking, bird-watching, or picnicking.
Head to this nature reserve if you are set on hiking, bird-watching, or picnicking while in Palm Springs. As the name implies, there is an abundant supply of palms at Thousand Palms Oasis, making this spot a Palm Springs favorite.
Nestled at the feet of the Indio Hills, the Thousand Palms Oasis preserve encompasses over 20,000 acres of desert wilderness. Entrance is completely free for visitors and the area boasts a visitor center, the “Palm House,” that’s filled with informational goodness.
The area offers an equestrian center so you can take your little ones horseback riding through the rolling desert hills. There may even be watering holes in the spring months, so be sure to bring a bathing suit and towel if you visit at this time.
Coachella Music Festival
See some of the world’s biggest artists at this annual California music festival.
The Coachella Music Festival is one of the biggest in California. Technically located in Indio, Coachella is only 40 minutes from downtown Palm Springs.
While the festival has risen in popularity in the past few years, it has actually been around since 1999. Today, you can see some of the world’s biggest artists at this annual California music festival.
Usually a three-day festival, you can stay at Coachella’s Safari glamping campgrounds and experience a California desert luxury. Safari has canvas tents, yurts, and mini cabins available for festival-goers that are equipped with two double beds, clean towels, air conditioning, restrooms, and a pool lounge area.
Stagecoach Music Festival
Country music fans will love this annual music festival that takes places in the spring.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (562) 431-6299 | Hours: Seasonal
Country music lovers come to Stagecoach from all over America. This is one of the biggest music festivals in Southern California, right behind Coachella.
Stagecoach Music Festival is one of the best things to do in Palm Springs for those who love to dress up and dance the night away at festivals. The annual music festival typically occurs the last weekend in April, so arrange your Palm Springs trip around that time if you are a country music fanatic.
Technically located in Indio, Stagecoach Music Festival hosts some of country music’s biggest stars. From Carrie Underwood to Luke Bryan and Billy Ray Cyrus, your favorite performer is sure to be there.
Check out the house rentals in Indio, the best accommodation option for multi-day festival goers.
Purple Room Supper Club
Listen to live music or comedy at this old-timey dinner club.
The Purple Room Supper Club is an old-timey dinner club in Palm Springs CA. Listen to live music or comedy as you experience some of the finest dining in town.
Opened in the 1960s, celebrities and travelers alike congregate at the Purple Room for the ultimate entertainment night out. Experience the elegance of the era with live music from the 60s and earlier.
This is one of the best things to do in Palm Springs CA on date night. The dimly lit atmosphere is incredibly romantic and is the perfect place to fall in love all over again. Be sure to try one of the house specialty cocktails and order a rideshare home to be extra cautious.
Brush Up on Tennis Skills
Palm Springs is also known for its top-of-the-line tennis clubs and for hosting the world-famous Paribas Open.
Besides being a golf haven, Palm Springs is also known for top-of-the-line tennis clubs. Every March, the world-famous Paribas Open is hosted at the Indian Wells Tennis Center in La Quinta, only 20 miles east of Palm Springs.
If you prefer to brush up on your tennis skills rather than watching the professionals, you’re in luck. There are tennis courts everywhere you look in Palm Springs, in country clubs and even in public parks.
You will also find plenty of pickleball courts around the area, a sport that has been quickly rising in popularity over the past few years. Don’t forget to pack your tennis racket before you head to Palm Springs.
Agua Caliente Casino
Sure, you can gamble at this Palm Springs casino, but you can also enjoy the 5-star spa and refreshing outdoor pools.
This Palm Springs casino is much more than a place to gamble. Agua Caliente Casino is also an acclaimed hotel with a 5-star spa and refreshing outdoor pools.
This is the best thing to do in Palm Springs for the adults in the group, as no one is permitted to gamble in the U.S. under 21 years old. A trip to the luxurious Palm Springs casino may just result in a lucky payout, making this destination a must on your trip.
Some of the best Palm Springs restaurants inhabit the Agua Caliente Casino like The Steakhouse and Java Caliente. I recommend The Steakhouse porkchop, a mouthwatering delicacy.
Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
This cultural museum pays tribute to the Cahuilla natives who have inhabited the area for hundreds of years.
This cultural museum pays tribute to the Cahuilla natives who have inhabited the area for hundreds of years and is the best way to get to know the history of the city.
A new cultural plaza is currently being constructed that will be a hub for cultural tourism in the future. You can find this plaza at the corner of N. Indian Canyon Drive and E. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Downtown Palm Springs.
Witness cultural handicrafts like woven baskets and ceramic pottery at the museum’s Native American exhibits. This is the best thing to do in Palm Springs with the whole family to learn about the rich history of the area.
Take a short drive from Palm Springs to visit the second-largest desert city in Coachella Valley.
Cathedral City is a short drive from Palm Springs and is the second-largest desert city in Coachella Valley. This day trip is recommended for individuals who have multiple days in Palm Springs and want to get acquainted with the surrounding area.
Backdropped by the San Jacinto Mountains, Cathedral City is a desert oasis with Spanish-style architecture. Enjoy the town’s abundant display of art from street sculptures to galleries, Cathedral City displays creativity at its best.
There are also fun annual Cathedral City events like the Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Food Truck Fiesta. Check to see when these events are beforehand so you don’t miss out on the local fun while you’re in town.
You won’t believe you’re in California and not Utah with a trip inside the sandstone slot canyons of Ladder Canyon.
Painted Canyon to Ladder Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in California. Enjoy a 4.5-mile roundtrip trek through the Mecca Hills Wilderness just outside Palm Springs.
You won’t believe you’re in California and not Utah with a trip inside the sandstone slot canyons of Ladder Canyon. Climb up steep ladders next to canyon waterfalls on this Southern California hike for a true adrenaline rush.
Plan 2-3 hours to complete the hike and make sure to bring plenty of water, especially in the summer months. In addition, 4-wheel drive is not required but it is highly recommended, as you will be driving on a dirt road to reach the Ladder Canyon trailhead.
San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour
Experience the palm oases of Palm Springs from a unique perspective with a jeep tour over the iconic San Andreas Fault.
Experience the palm oases of Palm Springs from a unique perspective with a jeep tour over the iconic San Andreas Fault. Be prepared for a bumpy ride as you traverse rocks and trudge through muddy canyons.
Your tour guide will not only take you to remote parts of the Palm Springs Mojave Desert, but they will also inform you about native flora and fauna as well as geological history.
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
There are over 1,200 wind turbines at the farm, making it one of the biggest wind energy farms in California.
When California locals think of Palm Springs, we automatically think of the giant windmills that mark the entrance to the city. A trip to the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm will provide you with some of the best Palm Springs photos next to the white giants.
There are over 1,200 wind turbines at the farm, making it one of the biggest wind energy farms in California. You can explore the iconic windmills on your own or book an informational tour with a Palm Springs local.
Don’t miss one of the most iconic roadside attractions in Southern California.
Visiting the Cabazon Dinosaurs is the best thing to do in Palm Springs with small children. The dinosaurs are one of the most iconic roadside attractions in Southern California and have become a staple on the I-10 freeway in their almost 50 years of existence.
You can visit the museum and roam around a land of dinosaurs for only a small fee. Say hello to the giant famous dinosaurs, Mr. Rex and Dinny, who are usually dressed up decoratively for the holidays.
The Cabazon Dinosaur exhibit is on the way to Palm Springs and is a great stop to switch drivers, stretch the legs, or have a roadside snack.
FAQs About What to Do in Palm Springs
Is Palm Springs worth visiting?
Palm Springs is a top California travel destination. You will find something for everyone at Palm Springs from shopping in Downtown Palm Springs to recreational activities to relaxation. It’s a prime location to visit in the winter months for its warm weather.
What is the best month to visit Palm Springs?
The best months to visit Palm Springs are December-April. The weather is the most agreeable at this time and the winter months are actually the peak tourist season in Palm Springs.
What makes Palm Springs famous?
Palm Springs is famous for many things, with its year-round warm weather at the top. It is also famous for being a resort city, lined with spas and country clubs with golf courses. Palm Springs has been a top destination for movie stars to escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood since the early 1900s, many of which still own homes in the area.