Top Things to Do in Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs is an oasis of beauty, culture, and adventure located in the heart of Coachella Valley. This Southern California area in the Sonoran Desert is well-known for its spectacular sunny climate, golf courses, and extravagant eateries.

With its mix of modern amenities and rustic, beautiful outdoor spaces, Palm Springs is a great day trip from La Quinta, where luxurious vacation rentals can be found. This valley area is also home to a number of lively surrounding towns, including Indio, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and Indian Wells, which are all easily accessible from Palm Springs.

Whether you're looking for a relaxing day at the spa or an outdoor escape, there are many fun things to do here. Experience the best the desert offers with this guide to the top things to do in Palm Springs.

What To Do in Downtown Palm Springs

Photo Credit: Matt Gush

From its stunning desert landscapes to its relaxing spas, the Palm Springs area offers endless possibilities. Many people flock from urban areas like San Diego and Los Angeles for a getaway in this beautiful desert oasis.

From exploring the city's vibrant art scene to catching the cacti blooming, there is something to delight everyone in this cosmopolitan desert town.

Here are the top things to do in Palm Springs.

Tour the Palm Springs Art Museum

Photo Credit: S. Witchayakul

Located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum boasts three stories full of incredible art exhibits.

The museum permanently houses artifacts and art from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, with collections that range from modern and contemporary works to Native American, Mesoamerican, and Classic Western styles.

The lowest level of the Palm Springs Art Museum is home to the Annenberg Theatre, an intimate space where you can watch lectures, films, and even dance and musical performances.

If you're a patron of the arts or simply looking for something unique to do, a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum is one of the top things to do in Palm Springs while getting a taste of the area’s culture.

Stroll the Palm Springs Walk of Stars

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If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the city, the Palm Springs Walk of Stars is a must-see. Located along the palm tree-lined Palm Canyon Drive, the walk honors and immortalizes 440 celebrities, presidents, screenwriters, and other prominent people who greatly impacted the Palm Springs community.

Some of the stars along the walk include Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley, and Marilyn Monroe. The walk of stars is a unique and fun way to explore the area’s history and see some of your favorite celebrities up close. It’s also a great place for a photo opportunity!

Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Photo Credit: Kate Scott

One of the top things to do just outside of the Palm Springs Downtown area is to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The vistas of the Coachella Valley below from the observation decks are stunning, and the crisp mountain air is refreshing after a day in the desert heat.

This iconic gondola ride will take you up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon to the stunning 8,516-foot summit of San Jacinto Peak. As you ascend, you'll be treated to spectacular views of the desert below, as well as the surrounding mountains of the San Jacinto mountain range.

The ride takes about 10 minutes in total, and at the top, you can explore Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness. The park offers over 50 miles of hiking trails and is a perfect destination for picnicking, bird-watching, and exploring.

For breathtaking views and an escape into nature, be sure to take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Catch a Show at McCallum Theater

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Located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, The McCallum Theatre is home to the finest in music, theater, and comedy.

From Broadway to the Blues, this 1,127-seat theater hosts some of the best entertainers in the industry. The theater was originally opened in 1988 with Gerald Ford on the Board of Directors and Bob Hope as one of their biggest donors.

Their mission is to make the performing arts available to as many visitors as possible. The venue boasts state-of-the-art sound and lighting, plush seating, and incredible acoustics; it's the epitome of luxury. The historic building itself even has a unique charm to it.

If you want a memorable evening in one of the most beautiful venues in the desert, consider attending a show at the McCallum Theatre.

Attend the Palm Springs Villagefest

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The Palm Springs Villagefest is a great way to experience the spirit of Palm Springs.

Every Thursday night, the streets of Downtown Palm Springs are transformed into a lively street fair with 180 different vendors. Visitors can browse works of art, shop for unique gifts, sample delicious food, and enjoy live music.

There are also a variety of activities and events, like a farmer’s market, outdoor movie screenings, and summer concerts.

Whether you're looking for the perfect souvenir or just want to enjoy the city's atmosphere, this weekly event is one of the top things to do in Palm Springs. It’s also one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture and community.

Fly A Vintage Airplane at the Palm Springs Air Museum

Photo Credit: Steve Cukrov

Visiting the Palm Springs Air Museum is another must-see attraction in Palm Springs; whether you are an aviation enthusiast or not, this stop has something for everyone.

The museum features a fascinating collection of vintage aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, as well as various related artifacts and memorabilia. The Palm Springs Air Museum is particularly unique because they have these planes on display, and many are still in fully flyable condition!

Here, you can explore the planes up close at the museum while learning about their history and how they were used during the war. You'll also find exhibits on the history of Palm Springs and the surrounding area, which offer a unique perspective on the area's development.

One of the unique features of the Palm Springs Air Museum is that they offer visitors the opportunity to fly in a vintage plane! A fully functioning flight simulator will allow you to experience the thrill of flying an aircraft.

You can choose to take flight in six different planes: The C-47 Skytrain, PT-17 Stearman, T-6 Texan, T-28 Trojan, P-51 Mustang, and the T-33 Shooting Star. Each of these vintage warbirds played a pivotal role in either WWII or the Vietnam War, and a ride in any of them is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Exploring Nature Around Palm Springs

Adventure in Tahquitz Canyon

Photo Credit: Dennis Grice via Flickr CC2.0

Paying a visit to the Tahquitz Canyon should be top of the list for an outdoors enthusiast in Palm Springs. Located in the sprawling Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, Tahquitz Canyon has a unique ecosystem. The canyon is a naturalist’s dream.

It is home to various native plants and animals, including bush flowers, succulents, tarantulas, and bighorn sheep. There are multiple ways to explore the Tahquitz Canyon and its unique rock formations, including a jeep tour or hike.

The park is open year-round. However, the best time to visit the Tahquitz Canyon is between October and May when the weather is at its most comfortable. You can purchase day hike tickets at the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center.

Tahquitz Canyon Trail

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If you opt for hiking, the Tahquitz Canyon Trail is a 1.9-mile loop with a 350 feet elevation gain. The hike is considered moderate in difficulty due to its lack of shade and deep rocky steps.

Along the trail, you'll pass by sacred rocks with carvings, elevated water crossings, and even smaller waterfalls. However, the Tahquitz Canyon Falls are by far the highlight of this hike- the 60-foot falls cascading into a refreshing pool of water are a welcome and beautiful sight. You can even swim in the pools and climb on the surrounding rocks.

The nearby Murray Canyon Trail is also a great option. You can also stop by the Palm Springs Visitor Center for more information about the surrounding trail systems in this area and beyond.

Visit the World’s Largest Desert Fan Palms


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Palm Springs is the perfect environment for the Desert Fan Palm to thrive. Unfortunately, only 158 of these Desert Fan Palm groupings can be found in North America.

Five of these spectacular Desert Fan Palm areas can be found in Joshua Tree National Park, while others can be seen in the Coachella Valley Preserve and off the Palm Canyon Trail.

What makes these plants so unique?

Because these impressive palms require a constant supply of water, they often occur along fault lines, where layers of impermeable rock force underground water to the surface. In the sparse dry environment of the desert, these palm oases are a luxuriant gift of shade and a unique sight to behold.

The Palm Canyon Trail is the closest area to find the awe-inspiring Desert Fan Palm just outside Palm Springs. It is located in the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. A steep hiking path will take you past the 3,000 other native palms, a Trading Post and Hermits Bench.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride

Photo Credit: Joseph Sohm

One of the most unique and thrilling things to do in Palm Springs is to take a hot air balloon ride and soar above the Coachella Valley. The experience is amazing from the moment you take off to the moment you touch back down, and the views of the desert landscape and surrounding Santa Rosa Mountains are breathtaking.

From above, you can admire the stunning mountain peaks, panoramic views, and the familiar sights of La Quinta and Palm Springs with a whole new perspective.

Balloons Above is a great hot-air balloon excursion company located just outside Palm Springs near La Quinta. If you take off at sunrise, you're in for even more of a treat. The soft glow of the morning sun against the Santa Rosa Mountains and Coachella Valley is a truly unforgettable sight.

Moorten Botanical Garden

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The Moorten Botanical Garden is a family-owned arboretum designed to share the beauty of the desert’s many species of plants in the setting of a stunning botanical garden.

First founded in 1938, the Moorten Botanical Garden holds the world’s first “Cactarium” title. Within the botanical gardens, you’ll find thousands of species of desert plants, trees, and cacti. In total, the Moorten Botanical Garden houses over 3000 different species of plants from all over the world.

To explore the botanical gardens, you can walk along a lovely, perfectly-curated nature trail that winds through the various desert habitats and plant exhibits. Feel free to wander at your leisure or to book a guided tour to learn more about the different plant species.

At the end of your walk, you can visit the garden nursery, where you can purchase and take home any of the unique desert plants.