20 Things To Do In Palm Springs

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Palm Springs is the pinnacle of everything everybody loves about California: it has the celebrity glitz and glamour, the show-stopping shopping, the lush green palm trees and the breathtaking mountain views. An ambitious resort city, a stream of tourist-friendly events and activities keeps Palm Springs lively and colourful.

If you’re looking for a vacation destination with big-city appeal and a modern desert aesthetic, start planning a trip to Palm Springs. From enjoying the view from the Aerial Tramway to hiking the Indian Canyons, here are the best things to do in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs, California

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20 Things To Do In Palm Springs

Cars driving along Palm Springs Highway towards the mountains
Looking for things to do in Palm Springs? Here’s a list of our top 20 suggestions.

1- Marvel At The Moorten Botanical Garden And Cactarium

The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium is a privately owned arboretum specialising in unique desert plant life.

Established in Palm Springs in 1938, the botanical gardens have remained a popular spot and a beloved wedding venue.

Here you will find the world’s first-ever cactarium, which proudly displays various rare plants, from miniature succulents to towering cacti.

Admission is only five dollars per person, making the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium a must-stop for anyone wanting an up-close look at the regional flora.

Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium is at 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264

2- Take A Ride On The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Blue carriage of Aerial Tramway of Palm Springs
Riding the Aerial Tramway is one of the top things to do in Palm Springs, California.

The iconic Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was opened in 1963 and has been breaking records ever since, including its role as the largest rotating tram car in the world.

The tramway travels across three miles (1.6 km), stretching from the base of Chino Canyon and up 8500 feet (2590m) to the top of Mount San Jacinto.

While riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, you’ll catch stunning panoramic views ranging from wide-open hilly terrain to the surrounding alpine wilderness.

Once you’ve reached the end of your journey in the tram car, you’ll have an endless array of outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, bouldering and bird-watching.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is at 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262. Skip the line and book your Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Admission Ticket here.

3- Hike Through The Indian Canyons

The historic Indian Canyons is a picturesque collection of canyons in the Palm Springs area, perfect for hiking, horseback riding and picnicking.

The Indian Canyons were once home to the industrious Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and traces of their communities are still prominent, from house pits and foundations to rock art.

Indian Canyons has vast natural beauty, including attractive palm groves, unique geological formations, and wild grasses and streams.

Day-hike tickets or annual passes are required to enter the Indian Canyons, so plan your trip accordingly and enjoy the nature that awaits.

Indian Canyons is at 38520 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264. If you’re worried about getting lost, join the Palm Springs Indian Canyons Bike and Hike.

4- Take A Photo With The Cabazon Dinosaurs

Palm Springs is home to some of America’s most quirky and kitschy art attractions, and the roadside Cabazon Dinosaurs are no exception.

The Cabazon Dinosaurs are nineteen miles (30 km) from the heart of Palm Springs.

Also known as the World’s Biggest Dinosaurs, this unique roadside attraction has been featured in multiple cult classic movies, from Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure to The Wizard.

Theme park artist Claude Bell created the Cabazon Dinosaurs in the 1960s, and they have lived on ever since, often painted in unique seasonal colours to attract more visitors.

Visiting these roadside reptiles is free of charge, although going inside the gift shop located in the T. Rex’s abdomen costs $13 per person.

Cabazon Dinosaurs is at 50770 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA 92230.

5- Admire Nature At Tahquitz Canyon

Man with backpack looking at a waterfall
One of the fun things to do in Palm Springs is to go hiking.

Tahquitz Canyon is a scenic hiking destination in Palm Springs, leading to a stunning waterfall view.

The iconic Tahquitz Canyon waterfall towers at an impressive 60 feet (18m) and pours into a shimmering basin of emerald water, perfect for summer swimming.

Hiking the Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail is a short 1.7 miles (2.7 km) roundtrip, with plantlife and wildlife to admire on either side of the trail.

Tahquitz Canyon gets very hot during the summer, so bring water and prepare for an enjoyable desert hike!

Tahquitz Canyon is at 500 W Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, CA 92264.

6- Get Your Shop On In Downtown Palm Springs

Palm Springs Road, California, United States
Looking for the best things to do in Palm Springs? Well, you’ll find lots to keep you busy.

Downtown Palm Springs attracts a host of eclectic visitors with a shopping scene that is trendy, memorable, and guaranteed to have just what you’re looking for (and more)!

From one-of-a-kind boutiques to designer shops, you’ll find can’t-miss styles on nearly every street corner, with Palm Springs’s unique boho-chic aesthetic filling most stores.  

Shoppers will also enjoy the selection of vintage stores, museums, knick-knacks and souvenirs along the palm-tree-lined city streets.

Like a movie star, take a trip to Downtown Palm Springs for the retro desert shopping and dining experience of your dreams.

Downtown Palm Springs is at 268 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

7- Peruse The Palm Springs Art Museum

Featuring notable works of art from both local and international artists, the Palm Springs Art Museum is a must-see centre of art and culture in the heart of Palm Springs.

Founded in 1938 as a “desert museum”, with historical artefacts and science exhibits as the main attraction, the museum slowly shifted to a more artistic niche, leading up to its name change in 2005.

Today, the Palm Springs Art Museum is a beloved modern art hub, hosting an outside sculpture garden, visual and interactive art exhibits and art-themed events.

With friendly, informative staff and a wide variety of culturally relevant attractions, this museum is a must-visit for art and history buffs.

Palm Springs Art Museum is at 101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

8- Learn Something New On A Windmill Tour

Wind Turbines Coachella Valley
Going on a windmill tour in Coachella Valley is one of the unique things to do in Palm Springs.

If you are interested in renewable energy, solar power or are just hoping to get an up-close look at massive windmills, the Palm Springs Windmill Tours is the right stop for you.

Palm Springs Windmill Tours takes visitors to large generating wind turbines, educating them on their uses and making for a unique photo opportunity.

You can enjoy Palm Springs Windmill Tours in many different ways, from guided golf cart tours to self-driving tours, and a comprehensive VIP tour is available.

Book online in advance and prepare for an information download. 

Palm Springs Windmill Tours is at 62950 20th Ave, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

9- Check Out The Palm Springs Walk Of Stars

An empty star from the Palm Canyon Drive
The Star Walk would have to be in the top 10 things to do in Palm Springs.

You’ve likely heard of the infamous Hollywood Walk of Fame, but the lesser-known Palm Springs Walk of Stars is equally reputable.

The Palm Springs Walk of Stars commemorates historical figures who have lived in Palm Springs, including Elvis Presley, Sonny Bono, and former president Ronald Reagan. Learn more about them on this tour.

This dazzling historical landmark is located conveniently in Downtown Palm Springs and immortalises over four-hundred names.

Palm Springs Walk of Stars is at 10 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

10- Visit The Salton Sea

Scenic Salton Sea Sunset
Visiting the Salton Sea is one of the free things to do around Palm Springs.

The Salton Sea is a natural disaster with an interesting history. 

Once California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, was a desert retreat that has been abandoned due to one small factor: the sea’s water is poisonous.

The Salton Sea was created by an engineer in 1905 who attempted to divert some of the nearby Colorado River’s water flow into the Salton Basin.

However, the Salton Sea has been steadily increasing in salinity since its inception and is now home to unsafe levels of toxins within the water.

Tourism is nonexistent at the Salton Sea due to the water’s toxicity, but it has left behind many unique abandoned buildings and art installations.

Locally based artists and the small lakeside community that still remains hosts unique events on the Salton Sea.

Anyone interested in urban exploration will find a lot to love about this quirky art stop.

The Salton Sea is 60 miles (96km) from Palm Springs, or about an hour of scenic driving.

11- Gawk At Celebrity Homes 

Palm Springs is a city of glitz, glamour, and celebrity status, best taken in on a star-studded trip.

Tours are offered daily, and guests are driven through the luxurious homes and habitats of the former celebrity residents of Palm Springs.

You can book a private tour online, which features many notable stops, such as Frank Sinatra’s private residence Twin Palms.

12- Say Hi To Wildlife At The Living Desert Zoo And Gardens

Zoo visitors feeding a giraffe
Visiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is one of the things to do in Palm Springs with kids.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a zoo and botanical garden with wildlife and plantlife that are exclusive to the desert ecosystem of Palm Springs.

This unique zoo and garden experience is home to more than 500 animals and over 150 species and its wonderfully vast botanical desert exhibition.

Both children and adults will find much to love at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, from feeding giraffes and meeting rhinos to walking along one of the many maintained nature trails.

If you want a more personalised experience, book a private safari tour for an up-close look at the wonders of the Palm Desert.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is at 47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260.

13- Hike Murray Canyon Trail

There’s nothing quite like plunging into a natural cascade to cool off on a hot summer day in the Palm Desert, and Murray Canyon Trail is a waterfall hike you won’t want to miss.

Murray Canyon Trail is a moderately difficult hike, but the view at the end is worth all the effort.

This there-and-back 3.75 mile (6km) trail takes hikers through a palm-tree-lined canyon to the impressive Seven Sisters Falls at the trail’s end.

Nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts alike will not want to miss the magical desert oasis found amongst the Murray Canyon Trail.

Murray Canyon Trail is at 2019 E Murray Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264.

14- See The Sculpture Art At Robolights

Contemporary art grows quirkier by the day, and Robolights is a fine example of modern art that’s as eccentric as it is engaging.

Palm Springs-based artist Kenny Irwin Jr created Robolights in his backyard, now attracting a never-ending line of tourists and locals alike.

Robolights covers four acres (1.6 ha) of space with surprising, sparkling sculpture creations, taking the forms of robots, aliens, and even religious paraphernalia.

The Robolights attraction is open year-round, although it is most popular during the winter for its bizarre holiday light display.

Robolights is at 1077 E Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

15- Stop By The Shields Date Garden

Affectionately known as “The Date Capital of the World”, the Coachella Valley is home to some of the world’s finest dates that are best experienced at the fun and flashy Shields Date Garden.

Shields Date Garden is 22 miles (35 km) outside Palm Springs, making for a super doable day trip.

Here you’ll find multiple winding garden side paths, a popular cafe and gift shop, and the Shields Date Garden’s infamous date shakes for sale.

Shields Date Garden is at 80-225 CA-111, Indio, CA 92201.

16- Kick Back And Relax At Victoria Park

You’ll find picnic, playgrounds, and a rest stop for the whole family at the lush Victoria Park.

After long days (and nights) of enjoying the cityscapes, landscapes and skyscapes of Palm Springs, there’s nothing quite like a cosy and comfortable park for kicking back and letting loose.

With a wide grassy area for stretching your legs and scenic mountain views, Victoria Park is a breath of fresh air and calm in the city’s heart that you won’t want to miss.

Victoria Park is at 2744 N Via Miraleste, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

17- Take A Dip At Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

There’s no better place to cool off in the heat of the desert than at the lux and laidback Miracle Springs Resort & Spa.

Stay the night at this inviting desert destination, or stop by and pick up a day pass that gets you into the pool, sauna and spa areas.

With fine indoor and outdoor dining, 24-hour spa services, and stunning San Jacinto Mountains balcony views, a Miracle Springs Resort & Spa stay is like a dream vacation, all in one glitzy package.

Miracle Springs Resort & Spa is at 10625 Palm Dr, Desert Hot Springs, Greater Palm Springs, CA, 92240-2534.

18- Photograph The Palm Springs Welcome Sign

Palm Springs City Limits highway sign
Check out our list for the top things to do in Palm Springs.

Capture your trip to Palm Springs by paying a quick visit to the iconic Palm Springs Welcome Sign.

The Palm Springs Welcome Sign is set against the beautiful mountainous terrain of its namesake and is the perfect spot for a photoshoot before your vacation ends.

If you’re looking for a photo to go in the memory books or a fun record of your trip, then you won’t want to pass up the Palm Springs Welcome Sign.

Palm Springs Welcome Sign is at Palm Springs Sign, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

19- Stroll Through The Historic Sunnylands Center & Gardens

From jaw-dropping architecture to picturesque garden views, Sunnylands Center & Gardens is a spot you’ll love to tour through and want to stay in forever.

Sunnylands Center & Gardens is a short 12 miles (19 km) from the centre of Palm Springs, making it a conveniently reached stop that’s more than worth the trek.

This historic estate was completed in 1966 and has hosted many notable visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II, Barack Obama, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Frank and Barbara Sinatra were even married at Sunnylands Center & Gardens due in part to their friendship with the estate’s owners, Leonore and Walter Annenberg.

Sunnylands Center & Gardens was officially opened to the public in 2012 and remains one of southern California’s most stunning and scenic estates.

Sunnylands Center & Gardens is at Sunnylands, 37977 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270.

20- Visit The Nearby Joshua Tree National Park

Landscape of Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park
Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is one of the things to do near Palm Springs.

No trip to Palm Springs is truly complete without stopping by its nearby neighbour: the natural wonder of Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park is 49 miles (78 km) east of Palm Springs, and the route to get there is a scenic masterpiece in and of itself.

Once you’ve arrived in the national park, you’ll be privy to some of the USA’s finest rock formations, skyscapes, and unforgettable desert views.

There’s no end to the wonderful ways you can occupy your time during your visit to Joshua Tree National Park, from hiking and rock climbing to quirky shopping and dining experiences.

Joshua Tree National Park is a rugged and outdoorsy change of pace from the charm and celebrity of Palm Springs, making it the perfect day trip to spice up your vacation.

For more California ideas, see:

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Layla Hughes is a freelance writer and lover of travel, who is currently preparing to live the digital nomad lifestyle and see the US, Canada and Mexico through the windows of a converted camper van. She grew up on the Central Coast of California and attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where she worked on the study abroad committee and studied English. Her favourite travel destination is North Carolina, where she is considering settling down after her thirst for travel is satisfied.