10 Best Things To Do In And Around Palm Springs, California

things to do in palm springs california
Contributing Writer
| 5 min read

Sun, hot springs, beautiful natural features and rich Native American culture. There’s a reason why the name Palm Springs resonates far beyond its Californian setting. But where should you spend your sun-kissed visit to this city in the Sonoran Desert?

1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, CA 2-7-14 (16483647985)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user inkknife_2000 used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Enjoy spectacular views on the world’s largest rotating aerial tramway. During the 10 minute journey you’ll be treated to sublime vistas, while the rotating cars will ensure you enjoy a true 360 degree panorama, no matter where you stand.

And, of course, the tramway is not just an attraction in itself, but a gateway to a range of other activities - including hiking, guided nature walks and cross-country skiing. The area’s myriad of outdoor activities and the tramway’s breathtaking views ensure the site is incredibly popular - some 18 million people have travelled on it since 1963.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Address: One Tram Way, Palm Springs, California, 92262

Price: Adults 25.95 USD; Children (age 3 to 10) 16.95 USD; Seniors (age 65 and over) 23.95 USD. Summer passes and annual passes are also available

Contact: +1 8885158726; +1 7603251449 or pstramway@pstramway.com

Website: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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2. Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion

Palm Springs Art Museum / Sana Fe Federal Savings and Loan Building
Source: Photo by Flickr user Gary Bembridge used under CC BY 2.0

Celebrate striking architecture and design during a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Center in the downtown area. The Edwards Harris Pavilion houses a range of permanent and visiting exhibitions exploring the works of prominent architects - including Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind and Richard Neutra.

The center is one of a number of sites operated by the Palm Springs Art Museum - including the main building, in Museum Drive, and a satellite facility in Palm Desert. Between them they hold large collections of contemporary art, photography, design and architecture. Native American art is also housed within the collection.

Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion

Address: 300 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Price: 5 USD (general admission). Entrance is free at some times. Check website for details

Opening Hours: 10am to 5pm (Sun, Mon, Tue, Fri and Sat); 12pm to 8pm (Thurs); closed on Wednesdays

Contact: +1 7604235260

Website: Palm Springs Art Museum

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3. Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum (307197744)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Edward O'Connor used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Fans of aviation will love Palm Springs Air Museum, which boasts a wide range of historic and iconic aircrafts from World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Famous and iconic aircraft like the Flying Fortress, the P-51 Mustang, the Spitfire, the Catalina flying boa and the Cobra helicopter are just some of the big names within the collection.

And this living history museum doesn’t just preserve historic aircrafts - many are still in full working order and take to the skies. Those looking to join the pilots for a nostalgia-fueled flight are in luck as well, with the museum offering trips in its P-51 Mustang (from spring 2018) and C-47 Skytrain - although the latter requires at least five paying tickets before it will fly.

Palm Springs Air Museum

Address: 745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, California 92262

Price: Adults 17 USD; Seniors (age 65 and over) 15 USD; Retired military (with ID) 15 USD; Youths (age 13 to 17) 15 USD; Children (age 6 to 12) 10 USD; Children (age five and under) free

Opening Hours: 10am to 5pm every day (except February 18, Thanksgiving and Christmas)

Contact: +1 7607786262

Website: Palm Springs Air Museum

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4. Festivals

Program - Palm Springs International Film Festival
Source: Photo by user Joe Wolf used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Festival-goers are spoilt for choice, with the Palm Springs area being home not only to a major international film festival but also one of the world’s most famous music festivals in the form of Coachella. The Palm Springs International Film Festival has been packing in movie lovers for more than a quarter-of-a-century. The brainchild of famous singer Sonny Bono, the festival was first held in 1990 and was an immediate success - pulling in more than 17,000 filmgoers.

Since then it has hosted world and US premieres by such famous directors as Steven Soderbergh and Luc Besson and welcomed such legends of the big screen as the late Jimmy Stewart (in 1992) and Frank Sinatra (in 1993). Other legends of cinema to have attended the festival, which runs in January, include Clint Eastwood and Dustin Hoffman.

Palm Springs International Film Festival

Contact: +1 7603222930; +1 8008987256 (toll free in USA) or info@psfilmfest.org

Website: Palm Springs International Film Festival

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5. The Indian Canyons

Palm Springs - Indian Canyons - East Fork Trail (12.2010) - panoramio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Martin Haeusler used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Those looking to explore the desert’s spellbinding landscape will enjoy a visit to the Indian Canyons - a series of canyons that lie within Native American land. They contain more than 60 miles (100 km) of hiking trails that appeal to a wide range of abilities - from the easy 1.2 mile (2 km) Andreas to the strenuous 12.3 mile (20 km) trek of the Hahn Buena Vista.

Other attractions include the Palm Canyon, which boasts the largest California Fan Palm oasis in the world and provides a striking contrast to the barren gorges that lie beyond. Another beautiful oasis can be found in Andreas Canyon, which boasts more than 150 different species of plants. And those looking to get away from the more popular spots could consider the moderate hike from Andreas Canyon to Murray Canyon, which is home to rare endangered species like the Least Bells Vireo bird and the Peninsular Big Horn Sheep.

Indian Canyons

Address: 38500 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California 92264

Price: Adults 9 USD; Seniors 7 USD; Students 7 USD; Children (age 6 to 12) 5 USD; Military (with US military ID) free; Equestrian 11 USD

Opening Hours: 8am to 5pm daily (October 1 to July 4); 8am to 5pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only (July 5 to September 30)

Contact: +1 7603236018

Website: Indian Canyons

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6. Tahquitz Falls

things to do in palm springs california | tahquitz falls
Source: instagram

Another noted natural landmark, the Tahquitz Falls also lies within land belonging to the Cahuilla Indians Reservation. Located within Tahquitz Canyon, the season waterfall is very popular with visitors to the area. Those who visit will also want to keep their eyes out for ancient rock art and irrigation systems within the canyon. A visitor center at the entrance to the canyon also explores the history of the area, the culture of the people and showcases a number of Native America artifacts.

Tahquitz Falls

Address: 500 West Mesquite Avenue, Palm Springs

Price: Adults 12.50 USD; Children (age 6 to 12) 6 USD; Military (with US military ID) free

Opening Hours: 7.30am to 5pm daily (October 1 to July 4). 7.30pm to 5pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only (July 5 to September 30). Last hiker on trails is at 3.30pm

Contact: +1 7604167044

Website: Tahquitz Falls

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7. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Toohool used under CC0

Explore more of the history of the area’s Native Americans at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in South Palm Canyon Drive. The center celebrates the rich culture of the wider Cahuilla people, who are scattered among nine reservations within California, and the Agua Caliente tribe whose identities are rooted in the Palm Springs area and its various canyons. The museum features a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions - including traditional skills such as basket weaving - and an array of artifacts from the area.

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

Address: 219 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Price: Free

Opening Hours: 10am to 5pm from Wednesday to Sunday (September to May); 10am to 5pm from Friday to Sunday (June, July and August)

Contact: +1 7607781079

Website: Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

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8. Wet 'n' Wild Palm Springs

Given the area’s desert setting, it’s little surprise that the mercury can soar as high as 51°C (123°F) in the summer months, and averages a high of 31.7°C (89°F) across the whole year. So when the heat gets too much why not cool off at the Wet ‘n’ Wild Palm Springs waterpark?

It boasts a wide range of slides, raft rides and family attractions, including the Tidal Wave Tower, which stands seven stories tall, the Lazy River and Riptide Reef - an 800,000 gallon capacity wave pool. It also hosts occasional outdoor movie screenings, allowing you to check out the latest family-friendly releases while lounging in the pool.

Wet 'n' Wild Palm Springs

Address: 500 South Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92264

Price: Adults 39.99 USD; Children (age 3 to 11) 29.99 USD; Seniors (age 62 and over) 29.99 USD.

Opening Hours: Varies. Check website for details

Contact: +1 7603270499

Website: Wet ‘n’ Wild Palm Springs

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9. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Get up close to desert wildlife from continents around the world at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Species from North America, Africa, Asia and Australia can all be found at this zoo, which was set up in 1970 and works to conserve and preserve desert ecosystems. Animals you will see during a visit include camels, giraffes, roadrunners, zebras, birds of prey and big cats like the Cheetah, Jaguar and Mountain Lion.

More than 1,400 different species of plants from North America and Africa also feature, with plans to introduce flora from Australia and South America in the future. It also hosts a number of special events, such as safari nights and talks from conservationists.

The Living Desert

Address: 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, CA

Price: General 19.95 USD; Seniors (age 62 and over) 17.95 USD; Children (age 3 to 12) 9.95 USD. Under threes go free

Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm daily (October 1 to May 31) with last admission at 4pm. 8am to 1.30pm daily (June 1 to September 30) with last admission at 1pm

Contact: +1 7603568005

Website: The Living Desert

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10. Cabazon Dinosaurs

2014, Brontosaurus - panoramio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Chris English used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’ve already seen real world wildlife wonders then why not turn your attention to something a little more fantastical, in the form of the Cabazon Dinosaurs. These huge roadside interpretations of an Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus are iconic - having featured in a number of pop culture touchstones such as Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. What’s more you can actually venture inside them - those entering the site’s T-Rex, Mr Rex, can climb all the way to his mouth, while the Apatosaurus - known as Dinny - is home to a gift shop.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Address: 50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, CA 92230

Price: General (age 13 to 54) 12 USD; Children (age 3 to 12) 10 USD; Under threes go free; Seniors (age 55 and over) 8 USD; Military (with ID) 8 USD

Contact: +1 9519228700 or info@cabazondinosaurs.com

Website: Cabazon Dinosaurs

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Desert wonders await

From beautiful desert landscapes to family-friendly waterparks, and from rich Native American culture to iconic festivals, the Palm Springs area has something for every traveller to enjoy.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Philip, a writer and photographer situated in the heart of the picturesque Scottish Highlands, is a seasoned professional journalist with a rich portfolio of contributions to various newspapers,...Read more

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