Activities & Recommendations
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The rotating tram cars take you 8000 feet up Mount San Jacinto, past amazing rock formations as the trees go from palms to pines. The views are spectacular, and at the top you can have a meal, get a drink at the bar, hike along the numerous trails, or just take in the views of the entire Coachella Valley all the way to the Salton Sea.
Recommendation: Go up early in the day or later in the afternoon during high season to avoid crowds. If you want an amazing view of Palm Springs, take a short hike to Notch 3. The food at the Tram restaurants can be expensive and unremarkable, so consider bringing along a picnic lunch. In the coldest times of the year, there may be a lot of snow up there which will limit hiking. The tram website has a couple webcams so you can check the conditions.
There are some great courses in Palm Springs, many of them open to the public. Tahquitz Legend (across the street from the condo) is a good flat course. The Tahquitz Resort course is a bit more challenging. The Cimarron courses (the short and the long courses) are also close by.
The more premier public-play choices in the Coachella Valley are: Indian Canyon South, Escena, Desert Willow, SilverRock, and The Classic Club.
Recommendation: There are two good golf sites for making tee times. Both give you the chance to make tee times in advance at many courses at reduced rates, and super-reduced rates the day before. Use the buttons below to access them.
There are dozens of hiking trails all around Palm Springs, most of them just a few minutes away from town.
A good moderate hike with wonderful views is Tahquitz Canyon in Palm Springs. The entry is at the end of Mesquite towards the mountain off of S. Palm Canyon. There is an admission fee of $12.50 adults/$6 children under 12, and there are guides if you like.
Another great place to hike and explore is Indian Canyons in south Palm Springs. There is an admission fee of $9/$5. One of my favorite hikes is the Murray Canyon Trail just after you enter the admission gate. It starts off flat and open, then winds through a beautiful canyon to the “seven sisters” falls which run in the spring and early summer. If you take the main road all the way back, there is a trading post and many hikes through an oasis and along the creek.
Good (and free) local hikes can be found in the book “140 Hikes in and near Palm Springs” by Philip Ferranti. A copy of the book is supplied in the condo for your use. For a energetic walk with great views of the city there is the Rimrock Trail across the street from the condo, which is mostly a fire road but offers nice elevated views of the city.
Recommendation: Hiking in Palm Springs can be deceptively dangerous in warmer weather. If you are planning to hike in the warmer months, read this safety guide before you go: Hiking Safely in Palm Springs
Joshua Tree National Park
It takes about 50 minutes to drive to Joshua Tree National Park and it’s worth it. The most scenic part is the north end, accessible via Park Blvd in the tiny town of Joshua Tree. If you want to hike, Ryan Mountain takes just over an hour to the top and will reward you with the best views of the park. Or just park anywhere along the road and walk among the amazing boulders.
Recommendation: The big rocks and Joshua Trees are mostly at the north end of the park. You can enter at Park Blvd off of Highway 62 and drive across the north end til you exit at Twentynine Palms. Midway through, there is a road south that you might take as far as the amazing Cholla Garden (gorgeous, but don’t touch them). If you get hungry, Crossroads Cafe and Country Kitchen are great for breakfast or lunch. Plan at least a half day for your trip as the park is quite large and there is much to see.
VillageFest takes place in downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive almost every Thursday night. They close Palm Canyon Drive to cars and convert downtown to a walking street fair with entertainment, food, and dozens of booths selling local handmade crafts.
Recommendation: There are parking structures near the Palm Springs Art Museum on Belardo. Palm Canyon will be closed, so you will need to access Belardo from Ramon or Amado. Or park on Tahquitz Canyon Way near Sherman’s and it’s a short walk. Stroll the street fair and grab a bite at one of the booths, or make a reservation ahead of time at one of the downtown restaurants. Brickworks has a few balconies over the street that are nice (ask for availability when making your reservation). Zin American Bistro has great food and patio seating at the street level. Or for a fun after-dinner drink, go to Tonga Hut and sit on the upstairs balcony.
Palm Springs Art Museum
The Palm Springs Art Museum has a wonderful permanent collection and always some interesting temporary exhibits. It has everything from fine art to fun exhibits for the kids. The building itself is architecturally interesting and the outdoor patio is a great place to sit and relax.
Related: If you are a fan of Palm Springs’ architectural history, also check out the Architecture + Design Center which is also in downtown Palm Springs, and the Palm Springs Art Museum annex in Palm Desert. Information for all three museums can be found at the link below.
Recommendation: Thes museums are well worth the price of admission, but to assure that everyone has access, there are free days. For the PS Art Museum and the Architecture + Design Center, free admission is Thursday from 4 pm to 8 pm and the second Sunday of every month. The Palm Desert annex is always free.
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
The Living Desert is a unique zoo in Palm Desert. Their focus is on displaying the animals in natural surroundings. The collection of animals is quite good, and if you want to get up close and personal, you can feed the giraffes or ride a camel. They also have a learning center, and windows on the animal care facilities so you can see behind the scenes.
Recommendation: If you are visiting in the Summer, plan to go as early as possible since the animals will only be active in the mornings when it’s cooler. If you are a fan of desert plants, check out their nursery which is one of the best in the Coachella Valley.
The Palm Springs Air Museum
The Palm Springs Air Museum has a huge collection of aircraft, laid out by era with informational displays that really take you to another time and place. You can look, touch, and even sit in some of the planes. For the super adventurous, you can even take a ride in one.
Recommendation: Even if you don’t consider yourself specifically interested in aircraft, consider doing this. The sense of history and the experience of walking amongst these huge planes is one-of-a-kind.
Sunnylands is the historic 200-acre estate of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, whose fortunes were made publishing popular magazines such as TV Guide and Seventeen. Walter was known as a businessman and philanthropist, and in1969 he was appointed as an ambassador to Britain.
The Sunnylands estate was completed in 1966. It has welcomed eight American presidents and numerous world leaders and celebrities. The house was designed by A. Quincy Jones, a highly regarded mid-century architect, and the interiors were designed by William Haines, who pioneered the very ’60’s Hollywood regency style.
Touring the house is a step back in time. The furnishings are a snapshot of days gone by, and it’s a treat to tour the casual setting and imagine world leaders visiting and relaxing here.
The house is available for touring September through May. The tour is very popular and tickets are released two weeks in advance, so plan ahead. If you can’t get tickets, it’s worth going there just to tour the gardens. They are free to visit and very beautiful.
Spa Resort Casino & Agua Caliente Casino
If you are feeling lucky, there is the Spa Casino. A little bit of Las Vegas in downtown Palm Springs. Along with gambling, there is a buffet restaurant and a Steakhouse, both of which get good reviews from tourists and locals. There is also a spa if you need a massage after winning lots of money. There’s plenty of parking there and you can park, gamble a bit, then walk over to Palm Canyon Drive and explore downtown.
If you want a change of scenery, there is a second large casino about ten miles to the east. The Agua Caliente Resort and Casino is even larger than the Spa Casino with even more amenities and a concert venue.
Recommendation: Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.
The four most popular shopping areas in and around Palm Springs are:
Downtown: The original “village” with everything from cute boutiques to ticky tacky tourist shops. With a burgeoning central area being developed with big name shopping. The main shopping area is along Palm Canyon Drive extending from Baristo to Alejo.
Uptown Design District: Mostly design, furniture and furnishings, with a slight mid-century leaning. This area is along Palm Canyon north of Alejo.
El Paseo in Palm Desert: Because of its high-end stores such as Gucci and Tiffany, this street has been called Rodeo Drive of the Desert.
Desert Hills Premium Outlets: A huge… no, REALLY huge… shopping mall with great outlet stores. If you like shopping and bargains, this is your place.
Recommendation: Downtown, for really cool Palm Springs souvenirs, check out Destination PSP. For more affordable ones, check out Palm Springs General Store. At the Outlets, you can get even better deals with coupons from their website. While visiting the outlets, consider getting a date shake at Hadley’s, and a stop at the Cabazon Dinosaurs for some fun photos.
And that's not all...
There is a lot more to do. If you are feeling touristy, stop by the Palm Springs Visitors Center on North Palm Canyon by the Tram. Not only will be get to experience a classic Albert Frey building with a “flying V roof”, you can pick up some brochures for the many touring companies that specialize in bus tours of celebrity homes and midcentury architecture, as well as off-roading adventures in the east Coachella Valley and many other fun things.
If you want to rent a bike for the day, the best bike rental shop is Bike Palm Springs near downtown.
If you are staying during the hotter months and want to cool off and have some fun, there is the Wet ‘n Wild Water Park just around the corner from the condo. (Note: Wet ‘n Wild has sold and will reopen as a surf park in the near future). Or take a drive up to Idyllwild, about one hour away. It’s a cute mountain town with some very good restaurants and art galleries.
If you have any questions, please send me a note and I’ll get right back to you.