Palm Springs, California is a fantastic destination for a family vacation. With so many things to do, it’s easy to fill up every day with lots of fun. Here are our suggestions on things to do, where to stay, and where to eat while visiting Palm Springs.
The kids and I have been to Palm Springs a few times and it’s always a wonderful time. On our last trip we did a mix of free activities and paid activities while we were in the area.
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Family-Friendly Activities in Palm Springs
Palm Springs Air Museum
Palm Springs, California is the home of a tremendous air museum. They have one of the largest collections of World War II planes in the world and many of the planes still fly! Some of the planes here are the F-4 Phantom, F-18 Hornet, B17 Flying Fortress, P63 Kingcobra, P51 Mustang, P40 Hawk, and many more.
What makes this museum even more of a treasure is their staff and volunteers, which is made up of veterans and former pilots. If you can, sign up for a guided tour with one of them. Their knowledge is endless and their storytelling truly captivating. They will tell you about the aircraft and then tell you about the famous men that flew it. Some of the stories you will know from history class and other stories are so funny you will be repeating them to all of your friends. If you cannot get a tour, find a volunteer and ask if he knows any stories behind the planes.
They even have an area just for kids. Where kids can make an airplane, helicopter or a parachute. They can play dress up, pretend to fly an airplane or color. The museum often has other kid events going on that you can find on their website.
I highly recommend visiting the educational air museum in Palm Springs. I was only able to stay 2.5 hours and I could have spent double that in here. If you are active duty you and your family may get a discount. General admission is $17, kids $10, and 5 and under are free.
Touring the San Andreas
Take a jeep tour of the San Andreas fault with Desert Adventures. On the tour, we learned the history of the area, about the Native Americans that lived there, the plants, current day farming techniques, and so much more.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tramcar. It reaches 8,500 feet in 11 minutes after starting out at 2,643 feet. Once at the top, you can explore the gorgeous mountain wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. There are over 50 miles of hiking trails, including guided nature walks.
The tram itself is circular and the floor rotates 360 degrees; allowing you to see views in all directions. As you ride up you get an up-close view of Chino Canyon. You can also see all of Palm Springs and the surrounding areas.
Once at the top we explored the pristine mountain wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Although they have over 50 miles of hiking trails, including guided nature walks. We did an easy self-guided nature walk along a ¾ mile loop. I was worried about hiking alone with the kids, but once I got there I realized there was nothing to be worried about. The trails were clearly marked and easy to hike. The trail going down was handicap accessible. It was also much cooler up there; only in the seventies!
At the top is a visitor center with multiple gift shops, restaurants, exhibits, and a theater. The cost of going is Adults – $25.95, Children – $16.95, Seniors – $23.95. Children under three years old are free. Watch their website for military appreciation days when military receive free admission.
Knott’s Soak City
At this water park, there is an interactive four-story funhouse, lazy river, wave pool, body slides, and tube slides. To be honest, this barely made my list. Unless your child is 42” tall I would skip. If you have older kids though over 42″ tall you are good to go and this is an excellent activity on a hot day.
The Living Desert Zoo
This zoo has giraffes, zebras, camel rides, a playground, and more. It is almost all outside; so, consider the weather before going.
Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert
The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert is a small children’s museum but packed with awesome things for kids to do like rock climbing and playing pretend. I thought it was excellent and definitely worth going to.
Joshua Tree National Park
Short and sweet and easy enough for even the clumsiest of hikers is Arch Rock Trail inside Joshua Tree National Park. The hike is just under a half-mile long with little to no incline. The hike gets its name from the arched rock formation that you’ll see early in the hike.
The hike should take you about 15 minutes. However, if you take your time to enjoy the scenery, as well as, the informational signs that explain the geological background of the arch creation, it will take closer to 30 minutes. You are allowed to climb the arch.
8 Free Activities In Palm Springs
Now everyone knows not all free activities are worth doing, but we found eight of them that were definitely worth checking out. Here are our family’s favorite free activities in Palm Springs or nearby.
1. Palm Springs VillageFest
In downtown Palm Springs every Thursday from 7-10 PM: there is a large street fair with over 175 booths including impressive entertainment that the entire family will enjoy. While you are in downtown, stroll around and enjoy their famous downtown. I recommend popping into Great Shakes and getting everyone a treat, especially if it’s a hot day.
2. Coachella Valley Preserve
At the Coachella Valley Preserve you will find 28 miles of hiking trails leading to a wide range of habitats. Trails range from easy to moderately difficult. The Preserve is open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. May through September and from 7:00 am to 5:00 p.m. October through April.
3. Palm Springs Art Museum In Palm Desert
This art museum offers free admission on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. They have ongoing and temporary exhibitions of sculpture, painting, and photography.
4. Santa Rosa And San Jacinto Mountains
A visit to this scenic national monument and the visitors center for free. Here you will enjoy beautiful palm oases, snow-capped mountains, a national scenic trail, and wilderness areas.
5. La Quinta Park
The La Quinta park offers a free splash pad for kids and has a free skate park. Splash pad hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Sunday (May through October ONLY).
6. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
At this museum admission is always free and you can learn about the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Native cultures.
7. El Paseo Art Walk
The El Paseo Art Walk is held on the first Friday of each month in the renowned El Paseo shopping district and is free.
8. Cabazon Dinosaurs
Cabazon dinosaurs are a little far out to make our list, but if you are going to be driving near there you must stop. Although you have to pay to go into the area and see the full exhibit, you can take pictures with two of the dinosaurs for free. Chances are this will be one of the most unique road stops you will ever make!
Palm Springs also has a discount card, the Chill Pass. The Chill Pass has deals on attractions, restaurants, hotels, and more. Some of the activity deals are buy one get one, so although not free it’s heavily discounted.
Where to Eat in Palm Springs
Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill – Awesome food and atmosphere. They too had nice high booths so no one could see my kids going nuts. My carne asada tacos were some of the best I’ve ever had.
Great Shakes – You cannot have a family vacation without finding amazing milkshakes. (Well, we can’t!)
Las Casuelas Nuevas – This place was fantastic. Cool atmosphere and great food. Chips and salsa were complimentary.
In-n-Out – You cannot visit California and not have In n Out. We usually have it once a day!
Where to Stay in Palm Springs
There are lots of family-friendly places to stay in Palm Springs. I have only stayed a few places and currently can only recommend one.
Omni Rancho Las Palmas – This is our favorite place to stay. They have a lazy river, splash pad, large rooms, and more. Their spa is fantastic too!
Korakia Pensione – Located in the heart of Palm Springs, California is a small adults-only resort. The Moroccan- inspired desert oasis destination has 28 rooms and villas dubbed as “one of the sexiest hotels in America” by The New York Times. When you stay here you get free breakfast, afternoon tea, pool, loaner bikes, bocce ball, and yoga. Check availability and rates.
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