Palm Springs Attractions: Escape Into California’s Desert Beauty

With a location in the Sonoran Desert, Palm Springs serves as a sunny retreat anytime of year. The city is best known for golf courses and shopping, but these Palm Springs attractions should be on the bucket list, too. Keep reading to find the top things to do.

Palm Springs Attractions: 7 Things To Do on Vacation

palm springs attractions family zoo

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

One of the best Palm Springs attractions for wildlife encounters, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens ranks as a top zoo in the U.S., according to Conde Nast Traveler.

The zoo serves as a educational facility as well as protected home to dozens of animals. While visiting, enjoy an up-close look at desert landscape, a nature preserve and access to three trail loops. A few animals that reside at The Living Zoo include giraffes, goats, cheetahs, reptiles, eagles and leopards.

For the best experience, stroll nature loops open from October to May. Each range in distance and elevation change, offering easy, moderate, and difficult desert hikes. Guests should wear sun protection, bring drinking water and dress for weather. Some trails are not patrolled, so please don’t hike alone.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Ride in one of the largest rotating tram cars in the world. This tramway travels 2.5 miles over Chino Canyon and Mount San Jacinto State Park. Each ride takes 10 minutes and rotates, so visitors enjoy 360-degree scenic views.

At the top, tour Mountain Station. Here guests have access to two restaurants, a natural history museum, theaters, hiking trails and observation decks. Occasionally, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway close for maintenance, so call ahead to ensure operation.

palm springs desert vacation activities

Old Town La Quinta

Sample Old World California charm at Old Town La Quinta, one of the top destinations for dining and shopping in Palm Springs. This gathering spot sits nestled at the foot of Santa Rosa Mountains and offers shops for the whole family.

Find apparel, accessories, California wines and home décor. In between shops, receive some pampering at spas and salons in Old Town. Then dine at restaurants only found in La Quinta. Top-rated options include The Grill on Main, Old Town Coffee Company and La Quinta Brewing Company.

Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons houses three individual cannons and hiking options. Each features their own plants and wildlife, with highlights such as Native American art and artifacts, bedrock morters, and big-horned sheep. Palm Canyon measures 15 miles, while Andreas Canyon and Murray Cannon provide a shorter journey.

Visitors are welcome to explore on their own, however guided ranger-led hikes delve into the area’s history and cultural significance. Due to summer heat and weather, guided hikes only occur from October to June. In addition, hikers should bring drinking water and wear sun protection.

palm springs attractions museum

Palm Springs Air Museum

Need a break from the heat? Palm Springs Air Museum has entertained guests for over 20 years and ranks among the world’s best aviation museums, according to CNN Travel.

This living history museum features outdoor preserves, indoor exhibits, and aircraft from World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. For an added bonus, most aircraft remain in flyable condition and some visitors ride in planes as well. Each hanger also offers air conditioning, so everyone stays comfortable.

Aircraft includes 40 planes, helicopters and jets. Its permanent exhibits showcases Grumman cat planes, bombers and fighters, to name a few. While touring the museum, learn about war times, military strategies, important historical figures and significant dates.

palm springs attractions coachella

Coachella Valley Preserve

Coachella Valley Preserve offers over 30 miles of hiking trails, a nature preserve, visitor center, and native plants and animals. On the northern side, find Thousand Palms Oasis. The attraction features hiking trails through the desert. Coachella Valley Preserve guided hikes occur during October through May.

In addition to hiking, visitors share picnics, take photos, and observe wildlife such as birds, mammals and reptiles. Also note this is a wildlife reserve, not a park. Pets are not permitted, and pack necessities to stay cool and hydrated.

Palm Springs Walk of Stars

Palm Springs Walk of Stars ranks among the top Palm Springs attractions for pop-culture fans. Visitors learn about Hollywood icons and celebrities who lived and loved the Palm Springs area. To get here, head to East Alejo Road and North Palm Canyon Drive near Frances Stevens Park.

Expect to see stars dedicated to Rudolf Valentino, Shirley Temple, Buddy Rogers, Bob Hope, Ginger Rogers and Elvis Presley, to name a few. In addition to sidewalk stars, check out statues dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, Sonny Bono and Lucille Ball.

After selecting some Palm Springs attractions, book a rental home in La Quinta or Palm Desert vacation rental.