13 Things to Do in Palm Springs from the Viewpoint of a Resident
Updated: Apr 3
One of the reasons I developed the Palm Springs Insider Guide was that visitors assumed we were a place where we only had golf courses and swimming pools. Frankly, until I moved here 11 years ago, I also envisioned Palm Springs as a place where I could expect warm weather and many seniors.
Smiling, for Palm Springs, is so much more. As I have learned, you will see many activities for all members of the family within the city limits. Below are some of my favorite things to do in Palm Springs.
Where is Palm Springs Located?
I have learned there is a Palm Springs, Florida. The subject of this article is Palm Springs, California, located in the southern part of the state, 2.5 hours from Los Angeles and 2.5 hours from San Diego. An International Airport with direct flights from many cities is five minutes from downtown.
Most people do not understand that we are in Coachella Valley, which is 45 miles long and extends from the San Bernardino mountains to the Salton Sea. The Valley has nine independent cities, all with their own city governments.
Thus, when we learn we have an acquaintance coming to Palm Springs, we ask them the address of the hotel where they will be staying because it could be 45 miles away, not in Palm Springs.
1. Where Do I Stay in Palm Springs?
With over 72 small boutique hotels (hotels with under 50 rooms) within the city limits, it can get quite overwhelming how to start your search for a place to stay. I suggest you head to the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels site, where you can search for the environment you want for your vacation.
Thankfully, many of our hotels from the 50s and 60s were not torn down and have now been updated. Yet still, maintain the charm the movie stars learned to appreciate on their journeys from Hollywood. As an added incentive, many hotels are easy to walk to the bustling downtown.
2. Stroll Down Palm Canyon Drive
Gone are the days when there were empty storefronts. Our independent store owners are thriving. Peepa's offers an array of gifts, Destination PSP offers everything Palm Springs, and Kimbals has women's clothes sure to be perfect for any event when you want to add a bit of sparkle.
You can be sure to find that unique souvenir or gift for your grandchildren, pet sitter or birthday gift.
3. Museum Way and Park Showcase Eclectic Art
Our newly opened park in downtown Palm Springs is a community gathering place. Large palm trees, plenty of seating, and an amphitheater provide a place to listen to music or take a refreshing break from exploring downtown.
No visit is complete without seeing the 25-foot Marilyn statue standing tall beside the park. Nearby view of the famous "Babies" in what is affectionately called the sand pit. Across from the sand pit, the graffiti park is constantly changing.
4. Palm Springs Art Museum
I've been to many art museums, but I have to say I believe the Palm Springs Art Museum is one that you will want to return to again and again. You feel good the minute you walk in; that feeling does not disappear as you walk through this spacious museum.
Be sure to stop at their outstanding store. Plus, I suggest you head to their website to see if there are any special exhibits or lectures when you are in the area.
5. Architecture and Design Center in Downtown
The Architectural Design Center is definitely worth a stop. It is under the auspices of the Palm Springs Art Center and honors the international architects known as the fathers of Modernism in Palm Springs. Many of the structures they designed are opened during our Modernism Week. This event attracts thousands of people at the end of October and a 14-day event in February.
6. Windmill Tours in Palm Springs
If you flew in, you passed over the giant field of windmills. If you drove in, you went by them. An interesting factoid, they are located in the continuously windiest area in the world.
Few people realize that one can learn about windmills by driving through a predetermined route and learning how they operate and provide power to our area.
Contact the Palm Springs Windmill Tour for directions and pricing. This tour is an activity the family will enjoy.
7. View Coachella Valley from Palm Springs Ariel Tramway
At least once in a lifetime, I suggest you make reservations and take the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway ten minutes up the mountainside to 8500 thousand feet. The car turns as you ascend. Thus, you see the outstanding view and the changing fauna that changes as you view the rugged landscape.
My tip: Go up at about 4:30 p.m. when it is light and have a cocktail or a bite at one of the two restaurants. Then come down when it is dark. That way, you get two entirely different views of the Coachella Valley below.
8. Learn about Cacti at Moorten's Botanical Gardens and Cacturium
Tucked away near the curve on South Palm Canyon Drive is Moorten's Botanical Gardens. This family-owned one-acre is a quiet oasis where you can browse and admire an array of our desert cacti.
Marked paths lead through the garden and to the Cacturium, believed to be the only one of its kind, for ancient cacti thrive under the watchful care of the Moorten family.
9. Agua Caliente Casino
The newly updated Agua Caliente Casino has a variety of gaming opportunities. If you love the new giant screen slot machines, you will find many opportunities to find one that catches your fancy.
Check out their website for entertainment. If you are hungry, you will find excellent food. Then order your favorite craft beer or cocktail to accompany it.
10. Five-Star Luxury Spa
The Agua Caliente Tribe proudly opened its Sec-he five-star spa. There is a genuine excitement for the first time in 10-plus years; we now have hot mineral springs in our city.
Before or after a treatment, you can access mineral hot springs, salt caves, outdoor pools, quiet rooms, and co-ed lounge rooms. Get a day pass, bring a friend, and relax in this beautiful new oasis in the middle of downtown.
11. Ride Horses Through the Canyons
If you ever want to ride a horse through some beautiful canyons, you can make arrangements to ride one at SmokeTree Stables. Children 7 years and older can ride; thus, it makes a great family outing.
This stable has been family owned and operated since 1927. If you have never ridden a horse, they can gladly accommodate you. All tours are guided through the canyons. Reservations are a must and can be made on their website.
12. Spring Air Museum
The Palm Springs Air Museum is not to be missed by aviation enthusiasts and is located adjacent to the Palm Springs International Airport. It is considered one of the largest collections of flyable and static aircraft, helping tell the history of 100 years of military history.
A visit is even made more delightful because no ropes keep you from touching the aircraft. The volunteers here often have flown some of these planes, so you can be sure to get some personal stories.
13. Restaurants have a Variety of Cuisine
Dining in our community is a culinary experience. Because there is such a variety, you will find family restaurants and upscale places to celebrate wins or special occasions. We, locals, seek out Happy Hours, for we are fortunate to have so many patios to enjoy our early evening weather.
Once you discover a restaurant you are interested in, I suggest you make a reservation for people are figuring out our talented chefs are creating superb food.
Palm Springs Insider Guide Provides Information on Coachella Valley
Writing this article caused me to think about the things we have in Palm Springs and reminded me why I decided to start the Palm Springs Insider Guide. On my site, I also write about trips from our city, for we residents explore other California destinations.
Yes, I often head down to the other eight cities in Coachella Valley, so you will find information about their attractions which I often experience and continue to enjoy.
Kathy Condon is an award-winning author and journalist for numerous publications. She has been a resident of Palm Springs for 11 years and travels the world writing about her experiences. firstname.lastname@example.org www.PalmSpringsInsiderGuide.com