Palm Springs California Things To Do
Travel + Leisure

Palm Springs California Things To Do

Palm Springs California Things To Do

From its heyday during the golden age of Hollywood in the 1930s to the height of its Midcentury Modern design in the 1950s, Palm Springs California has attracted the glitterati of nearby Los Angeles to its desert oasis. Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin are just some of the names associated with the city. Today its allure centers on those escaping colder climates for a few blissful, sun-filled days enjoying the golfing, swimming, shopping, and festivals that still keep the city famous. We hope that this Palm Springs California Things To Do post inspires you. 
Palm Springs California Things To Do

Palm Springs California Things To Do

All that sunshine

Palm Springs, California is a desert oasis known for its stunning scenery, mid-century modern architecture, and abundance of outdoor activities. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, scant rain, and a center designed for pedestrians, Palm Springs is an eminently walkable city. Charming shops and sophisticated galleries sit side-by-side with clothing boutiques and restaurants on both Indian Canyon and Palm Canyon Drive, perfect for a day's retail therapy. Stroll the palm-lined thoroughfares to catch a glimpse of some of its historic buildings. Dozens of architects descended on the city during the Fifties, crafting everything from city hall to the visitor's center to banks, libraries, motels, and homes in sleek desert simplicity, and in many ways, Palm Springs has come to exemplify the Midcentury style.

Palm Springs California Things To DoHistory of Palm Springs

Two thousand years ago, the area was peopled by the Cahuilla, a Native American tribe living in nearby Tahquitz, Indian and Andreas Canyons. Their petroglyphs can still be seen on the rock walls of these canyons and make a fascinating goal for an afternoon of hiking. The first white people to enter the area were emissaries of the Mexican government in the early 1800s. Soon afterward the Southern Pacific Railroad drew settlers to California, many of whom came to the area for the healthful benefits of its dry air and nearby hot springs. During the 1930s, desperate Hollywood stars flocked to Palm Springs as a refuge from the gossip of Los Angeles and cemented the city's reputation as a haven for the wealthy and famous.

Palm Springs California Things To Do

Festivals & day trips

With its reliably beautiful weather, the area is perfect for hosting festivals, among them the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Coachella Music and Arts Festival. The film festival keeps the city's ties to Hollywood alive and consistently invites new acting, producing, and directing talent from America and abroad. This film festival takes place in January, features independent and foreign films, and draws more than 100,000 visitors. 

Spa and Wellness Month in the Palm Beaches Florida

Coachella is located in nearby Indio and is held in April. Its music is a mix of electronic, indie, rock, and hip-hop, and its art is often avant-garde and memorable. Past crowds have numbered more than a quarter of a million, and their influence on festival fashion and music has wide-reaching cultural effects. Smaller festivals are scattered throughout the year, and visitors can check event dates to see what is happening during their stay.

The Modernism Week festival takes place in February and celebrates mid-century modern architecture and design.

Palm Springs California Things To Do

Fabulous Restaurants in Palm Beach County Florida

There are other resort cities and sites of interest within an hour's drive or less from the city, making an ideal half-day excursion. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is an area of stunning beauty nearly a million acres in size and encompassing many desert ecosystems. The cities of Indian Wells, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage are within a half-hour's drive, and many of them share the exclusivity of drawing Hollywood's brightest stars. They also offer sublime golfing, delicious eateries, and boutique shopping.

Palm Springs California Things To Do

What To Do in Palm Springs

Palm Springs, California is a desert resort town known for its stunning scenery, mid-century modern architecture, and abundance of outdoor activities. There are few cities as iconic as Palm Springs California. Its architecture and lifestyle are a legacy it shares with the rest of the world, and its impact on filmmaking and fashion will continue to dominate into the future. With its California sunshine, stark natural beauty, cultural resonance, and sites of interest, it makes the perfect getaway at any time of year.

Outdoor Activities

  • Hike or bike through Joshua Tree National Park: This national park is home to iconic Joshua trees, rock formations, and stunning desert vistas. There are trails for all levels, from easy nature walks to challenging hikes. Explore the otherworldly landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, just a short drive from Palm Springs. Hike among the iconic Joshua trees, climb towering rock formations, and soak in the panoramic views.
  • Take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Ascend to the top of Mount San Jacinto for breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley. Enjoy hiking, dining, and sightseeing at the top. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you from the desert floor to the top of Mount San Jacinto, where you can enjoy stunning views of the Coachella Valley and beyond.
  • Explore the Indian Canyons: The palm-fringed Indian Canyons are a sacred place for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. There are hiking trails, waterfalls, and swimming holes to enjoy. Hike through the palm-fringed canyons of the Agua Caliente Reservation, a peaceful escape from the desert heat. Swim in hidden waterfalls, visit ancient petroglyphs, and learn about the Cahuilla Tribe.
  • Go stargazing: Palm Springs is a dark-sky community, making it a great place to stargaze. Visit the Mount San Jacinto State Park Observatory or find a secluded spot in the desert to enjoy the Milky Way. The clear skies above Palm Springs make it a perfect place for stargazing. Take a guided tour or find a dark spot and look up at the Milky Way.
  • Take a jeep tour of the San Andreas Fault: This tour takes you along the San Andreas Fault, the boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. You'll learn about the geology of the area and see some of the fault's most dramatic features.
  • Visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens: This zoo is home to animals from the Sonoran Desert, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, and desert tortoises. There are also gardens with cacti, succulents, and other desert plants.

Cultural Activities

  • Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum: The Palm Springs Art Museum houses a collection of modern and contemporary art. Explore an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, and Jeff Koons. The museum also features a beautiful sculpture garden.
  • Explore the Palm Springs Air Museum: The Palm Springs Air Museum is home to a collection of World War II-era aircraft, including bombers, fighters, and trainers. You can even take a ride in a vintage airplane!
  • Walk the Palm Springs Walk of Stars: The Palm Springs Walk of Stars is a walk of fame featuring stars honoring celebrities who have made contributions to the city. See the handprints and signatures of celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor embedded in the sidewalks of Palm Canyon Drive.
  • Learn about the history of the Coachella Valley at the Palm Springs Historical Society: Explore exhibits on the area's Native American heritage, citrus industry, and mid-century modern architecture.
  • Explore the Coachella Valley Preserve: The 25,000-acre Coachella Valley Preserve offers hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails through the desert landscape. Be sure to stop at the Palm Canyon oasis for a refreshing dip in the natural springs.

Relaxing Activities

  • Get pampered at a spa: Palm Springs is known for its many spas, where you can enjoy massages, facials, and other treatments.
  • Go for a swim: There are many pools and hot springs in Palm Springs, perfect for taking a refreshing dip.
  • Shop at the boutiques on Palm Canyon Drive: Palm Canyon Drive is lined with shops selling everything from clothing and jewelry to souvenirs and home goods.
  • Soak in a hot spring: Palm Springs is known for its natural hot springs, which are said to have healing properties. Visit one of the many resorts or spas that offer hot spring pools and treatments.
  • Play golf: Palm Springs is a golfer's paradise, with over 100 golf courses in the area. Choose from championship courses, desert oases, and mountainside greens.
  • Shop at the Palm Springs Art Festival: This world-renowned Palm Springs Arts Festival features over 350 artists from around the country. Browse paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and more.

Tips for Traveling to Palm Springs

  • The best time to visit Palm Springs is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild.
  • Be sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, as the desert sun can be harsh.
  • Drink plenty of water, especially during the hot summer months.
  • If you're planning on doing any outdoor activities, be sure to wear appropriate shoes and clothing.

Where to stay

  • Ace Hotel & Swim Club: The hip Ace Hotel & Swim Club is perfect for those who want a cool and trendy place to stay. It has a relaxed atmosphere, a pool with poolside DJs, and a great coffee shop. The rooms are small but stylish, and there's a real sense of community here.
  • Avalon Hotel Palm Springs: Avalon Hotel Palm Springs is located in downtown Palm Springs and has a variety of room types to choose from. It has a pool, a hot tub, and a complimentary continental breakfast.
  • Casa Cody: The charming Casa Cody hotel was founded in the 1920s by Buffalo Bill's cousin, Harriet Cody. It's located in a quiet neighborhood and has a pool, gardens, and a spa.
  • Colony Palms Hotel: The boutique Colony Palms Hotel is known for its old Hollywood glamour and celebrity clientele. It has a pool, a spa, and a lush garden.
  • Float Palm Springs: Float Palm Springs is conveniently located just 5 minutes from beautiful downtown Palm Springs. 1950’s property offers spectacular views of the San Jacinto Mountains and features palm tree-filled landscapes that surround the pool and jacuzzi. An adults-only getaway, Float is a quiet retreat for those seeking relaxation but still close to all the action. 
  • Hilton Palm Springs: The modern Hilton Palm Springs hotel is located in downtown Palm Springs and offers great value for the price. The rooms are comfortable and have balconies with mountain views. There's a pool, a spa, and several dining options. 
  • Holiday House Palm Springs: The boutique Holiday House Palm Springs hotel is located in a quiet neighborhood and offers stylish rooms and suites at a reasonable price. It has a pool, a hot tub, and a complimentary breakfast.
  • Ingleside Estate: The historic Ingleside Estate Inn hotel was built in 1927 and has hosted presidents and celebrities. It's located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs and is within walking distance of many shops and restaurants.
  • JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa: The sprawling JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa has a golf course, a water park, and several pools. It's located in the Coachella Valley and is surrounded by mountains.
  • Korakia Pensione: The charming Korakia Pensione hotel is like stepping into a Mediterranean village. The rooms are decorated in a Moroccan-inspired style, and there are courtyards, fountains, and a rooftop pool. It's a great place to relax and unwind.
  • L'Horizon Resort & Spa: The L'Horizon Resort & Spa is located in a quiet cove and offers stunning views of the Santa Rosa Mountains. It has three pools, a spa, and several restaurants.
  • Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs: Sleek quarters in a posh mid-century hotel with 2 pools & a spa, plus bars & dining are featured at the Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs
  • Motel 6 Palm Springs: The budget-friendly Motel 6 Palm Springs is located just outside of downtown Palm Springs. The rooms are basic but clean, and there's a pool on-site. It's a great option for those who are on a tight budget.
  • Palm Canyon Resort: Modern, Palm Canyon Resort hotel with relaxed quarters offering an outdoor pool & hot tub, plus restaurants. 
  • Parker Palm Springs: The iconic Parker Palm Springs hotel is a must-stay for fans of mid-century modern design. Think Jonathan Adler meets Palm Springs cool, with vibrant colors, playful patterns, and stunning mountain views. It has two pools, a spa, and an excellent restaurant.
  • Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel: The contemporary Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel is also located in downtown Palm Springs and offers a variety of amenities, including a pool, a spa, and a restaurant. The rooms are spacious and have balconies with mountain views. 
  • Saguaro Palm Springs: The Saguaro Palm Springs resort is another great option for mid-century modern lovers. The bright pink exterior is impossible to miss, and the rooms are decorated in a stylish Palm Springs vibe. There are four pools, a spa, and several dining options.
  • The Weekend: Airy and stylish, The Weekend hotel is perfect for a getaway with friends or family. The rooms are spacious and have kitchenettes, and there's a pool, a fire pit, and a communal table where guests can gather.
  • Travelodge Palm Springs: The budget-friendly Travelodge Palm Springs hotel is located near the airport and offers clean and comfortable rooms. It has a pool, a hot tub, and a complimentary continental breakfast.
  • Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa: The Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa is located in a natural hot springs oasis and has a variety of pools, gardens, and hiking trails. It's also a popular spot for birdwatching.
  • Vagabond Motor Lodge: The retro-style Vagabond Motor Lodge motel is located in downtown Palm Springs and has a pool, a bar, and a coffee shop. It's a great option for solo travelers or couples.

Tips for finding a hotel in Palm Springs

  • Consider your budget. Palm Springs has a wide range of hotels, from budget-friendly to luxury. Decide how much you're willing to spend per night before you start your search.
  • Think about your location. Palm Springs is a relatively small town, but it can still take some time to get around. If you want to be in the heart of the action, stay near Palm Canyon Drive. If you prefer a quieter location, stay on the outskirts of town.
  • Think about your amenities. Some hotels have amenities like pools, spas, and fitness centers. Decide which amenities are important to you and choose a hotel that offers them.
  • Read reviews. Before you book a hotel, read reviews from other guests. This can help you get a sense of the hotel's atmosphere and whether it's a good fit for you.
  • What is your travel style?  Are you looking for a luxurious getaway or a more rustic experience?

Where to eat in Palm Springs California

  • Domo Sushi: El Paseo, Palm Desert, CA #domosushielpaseo   Instagram  |   Facebook
  • 4 Saints: The 4Saints rooftop restaurant is perched on the Kimpton Rowan Hotel's seventh floor stuns with sleek ambiance, mountain vistas, and modern Californian cuisine. Think roasted beets with pistachio butter, charred maitake mushrooms with grits, and 14-day dry-aged steaks.
  • Copley's on Palm Canyon: Housed in Cary Grant's former estate, Copley's on Palm Canyon exudes romance with an elevated American menu. Savor dishes like seared scallops with corn and chanterelles, roasted duck breast with cherry gastrique, or indulgent lobster mac and cheese.
  • Birba: Birba's tree-shaded patio is ideal for a laid-back Italian feast. Share wood-fired pizzas, fresh pasta like gnocchi with pomodoro sauce and burrata, or inventive salads. Don't miss their signature Birba pizza with prosciutto, honey, chili oil, mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes.
  • Tropicale: Festive eatery with neon-lit exterior & retro tropical interior features an eclectic menu & patio. Think tiki cocktails, Spam musubi, poke bowls, and their famous “Volcano Nachos” overflowing with chili, cheese, and all the fixings. The Tropicale is a vibrant restaurant with a retro-tropical vibe that serves up an eclectic mix of dishes, from Polynesian poke bowls to Caribbean jerk chicken. Their patio is a fun spot for people-watching.
  • FARM: FARM is an intimate, country-chic eatery with a charming patio that serves farm-to-table Provençal fare. Their breakfast menu is a must-try, featuring dishes like ricotta pancakes with lavender honey and lemon, and smoked salmon eggs Benedict. For lunch and dinner, indulge in roasted lamb Provençal, salade Niçoise, or their classic coq au vin.
  • Thai Smile Palm Springs: Thai Smile Palm Springs is a cozy spot that offers comfy booth & table seating for standard Thai fare & drinks amid simple decor. 
  • Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge: The trendy Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge is a spot that offers artful presentations and a buzzing atmosphere. Enjoy shareable plates like crispy Brussels sprouts with bacon and manchego, ahi tuna poke with avocado and wonton crisps, or their decadent grilled cheese with truffle mac and cheese.
  • Boozehounds: The Boozehounds gastropub is a local favorite for its hearty pub fare and craft beers. Sink your teeth into juicy burgers, fish and chips, or their award-winning chili. The weekend brunch is also a hit, with dishes like chorizo hash and chicken and waffles.
  • Rooster and the Pig: The Rooster and the Pig gastropub features a menu of American comfort food with a twist, like mac and cheese with lobster and truffle oil, and pork belly buns. They also have a great selection of beers and cocktails.
  • El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana:  El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana is a family-run restaurant that serves up authentic Mexican fare in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Their tacos, burritos, and enchiladas are sure to satisfy any craving.
  • Elmer's Restaurant – Palm Springs: Elmer's Restaurant in Palm Springs is a restaurant serving hearty portions of breakfast fare plus other comfort food in a diner-style setting.
  • The Willows: The Willows is an intimate restaurant that serves up globally inspired dishes with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Their tasting menus are a great way to experience the chef's creativity.
  • Billy Reed's Palm Springs: Billy Reed's Palm Springs is an old-school spot that serves ample portions of American chow amid quirky decor including a koi pond.
  • Workshop Kitchen & Bar: The Workshop Kitchen & Bar gastropub offers a menu of creative pub fare at reasonable prices. Their fish and chips, chicken pot pie, and burgers are all popular choices.
  • Wilma & Frieda:  Wilma & Frieda is an open-air cantina that boasts colorful décor, vibrant energy, and Mexican comfort food with a California twist. Savor Baja-style fish tacos, tableside guacamole, grilled skirt steak with chimichurri, or their famous frozen margaritas.
  • Lulu California Bistro: The casual Lulu California Bistro serves up classic American dishes like burgers, sandwiches, and salads. They also have a daily happy hour with discounted drinks and appetizers.
  • Azucar at La Serena Villas:  Azucar at La Serena Villas is a modern Mexican restaurant that offers fresh, healthy takes on classic dishes. Their watermelon salad and cauliflower tacos are must-tries.

Beyond the plate in Palm Springs

Palm Springs offers a vibrant bar scene as well. For craft cocktails and a buzzing atmosphere, head to The Parker's PS Bar or The Saguaro's Saguaro Corners. If you're looking for something a little more low-key, try The Well at Zenyara or The Hideaway.

Ultimate Guide to Palm Springs CaliforniaGet social with Palm Springs

Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  YouTube  |  Visit the Greater Palm Springs website to plan your trip!

We hope that this Palm Springs California Things To Do post inspires you. Happy travels!

Palm Springs California Things To Do

Thanks to A Girl's Guide To Cars, Miramonte Resort and Visit Greater Palm Springs for sponsoring A Girl's Guide to Cars Conference. This Ultimate Guide to Palm Springs California @VisitGreaterPS #FindYourOasis #PalmSprings post is sponsored. All opinions are my own. 

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28 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. It seems like this would be a nice place to do some exploring. There’s a lot of culture and history to Palm Springs so it would be fun!

  2. Amy

    Wow, this looks so beautiful!! I would love to visit now that it is so cold here. I have never seen real palm trees.

  3. I’d love to visit Palm Springs! I love your recommendations on places to stay and eat. Makes visiting much more simple.

  4. Dawn Nieves

    Palm Springs looks beautiful! I want to visit here hopefully this year! 

  5. Catalina

    Thank you for the piece of history. I love reading the history of these wonderful places. I hope to visit Palm Springs soon!

  6. It seems like this would be a great place to visit. There’s a lot to see in Palm Springs so it would be awesome!

  7. Palm Springs is an area I’ve always wanted to visit! This guide is perfect! 

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  9. I’ve always wanted to visit Palm Springs. What a great guide Stacie! Truly shared the best of it. 

  10. I am dying to visit Palm Springs actually. 300 days of sun a year? That is nuts. Looks so cosmopolitan actually. The plan trees are so iconic. 

  11. Yet to explore this besutiful place- palm springs. Definitely adding it on my California travel list. 😍

  12. Kristine Nicole Alessandra

    Palm Springs is such a dream destination for me. Since that time I read a book with its setting at Palm Springs, I was filled with wanderlust for the place. Hopefully I get to have a chance to visit!

  13. The scenery here with all the palm trees on the side of the road is quite awesome.

  14. What an interesting history lesson about Palm Springs. I’d certainly love to frolic there for a week or two. The weather sounds perfect and it’s so picturesque!

  15. Wendy Polisi

    Palm Springs is one of me favorite areas. It’s on the opposite end of the US for me, but worth the travel!

  16. Tiffany La Forge-Grau

    You had me at 300 days of Sunshine. I’m from WA and could really use less rain and more sun!

  17. Vanessa Delia

    I live in Cali and wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s such an amazing place to live!

  18. Bianca

    I have heard so much about California. I would love to visit Palm Springs someday.

  19. Heather

    I would love to visit here. Love the pics.

  20. Porsha Carr

    Born and raised in California! It’s the best place to ever be! Wouldn’t change it for the world.

  21. Kiwi

    i have yet to go to Palm Springs. I would love to visit this is a new guide.

  22. Sharon Wu

    i love this so much because i live in palm springs and have so much pride in our city!!! thank you for sharing your perspective!

  23. Elizabeth O

    Back in the days when I lived and worked in California, Palm Springs was part of my territory and I made a few trips up there. Yes, it is very beautiful and has a laid back vacation spot feel to it.

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