AvantStay Picks: 33 Things to do in Palm Springs
Desert oasis. Party town. Festival hotspot. Tranquil sanctuary. Culinary destination. Palm Springs is all of these things and more. That’s why it’s an ideal destination when you and your crew need to press pause on the day-to-day and spend time recharging by the pool. And be sure to pack your sunscreen and a stylish pair of shades. Palm Springs is a mecca for sun worshippers or anyone longing to feel a few rays on their shoulders before tucking themselves away in a cabana with a colorful drink in hand.
The arid getaway’s aesthetic evokes the Hollywood glamour of yesteryear with its glassy mid-century modern houses and breathtaking Spanish villas with red Terracotta tile roofs tucked away in the hillsides.
This picturesque locale truly comes alive in the summer with festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach kicking its already vibrant party scene into overdrive. Of course, if your vibe is more low key, Palm Springs is the perfect place to spend time not doing much of anything besides relaxing by the pool with your favorite people.
ADRENALINE PUMPING ACTIVITIES
- Catch a thrilling ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway in a glassed-in vessel that rises 2.5 miles straight up Chino Canyon in 10 minutes flat. Views from the top are astounding, and there are hiking trails, dining options, and a museum to visit.
- Gaming tables, live entertainment, and slot machines tempt adults at the Agua Caliente Casinos in both Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage. Profits support the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians, keeping their community and culture vibrant into the 21st century.
- Attend the country’s largest rave party: Coachella. Held annually in Indio, a town about 30 minutes from Palm Springs, one pricey ticket gets you several days of top-rated musical entertainment for the young and young at heart – and the hungry. For festival pass holders, Outstanding In The Field sets a long table in the tranquil hideaway of the VIP Rose Garden. This intimate area allows you to take refuge (and a seat) at the festival while you mingle with other guests over a full-service, four-course, family-style meal, a cocktail, and some regional wine. Dinner is served around sunset. Tickets for this dinner are priced separately and seating reserved.
- Hike at any of the group of trails at Indian Canyons. Just nine miles south of town, these easy and well-marked hiking paths run along a stream bed and boast shade from the heat, thanks to giant palm trees. Tahquitz Canyon in particular is one of the most beautiful and culturally sensitive areas of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation and home to a spectacular, seasonal 60-foot waterfall, rock art, ancient irrigation systems, native wildlife, and plants. This Canyon is sacred to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
- Put the pedal to the metal, or better yet, rent an electric bicycle at Bike Palm Springs. With flat terrain and multiple bike paths, Palm Springs is ideal for this mode of transportation. City maps, bike locks, and helmets come with the hourly rental cost.
- Crazy for country music? You’ll want to attend Stagecoach Festival, the country’s largest country music festival, held over three days in April in Coachella Valley. Other festivals hosted here range from pedigree dog shows and polo matches to BBQ competitions and Cabazon Indian Pow-Wows.
- Take the wheel at the BMW Performance Center for a fun thing – and an unforgettable experience. This is a great way to sample several BMW vehicles. Take the wheel of a BMW X vehicle as you follow an instructor through a challenging off-road course. Then, head to the track and rotate between various BMW vehicles, driving each through tight corners and fast straightaways. Finally, buckle up in the passenger seat for a hot lap with an instructor as they drift and accelerate around the track.
- Take a Red Jeep Tours open-air jeep ride for an engaging, entertaining, and educational journey with a highly-trained naturalist tour guide at the wheel.
FIND YOUR ZEN
9. Catch the sunrise from the Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, a major attraction located about 40 miles from Palm Springs. Take the quarter-mile trail to a 10-acre patch containing more than 20 varieties of cacti, with evocative names like Groundcherry and Cheesebush, and watch the desert sky come to life.
10. Savor sunset at the lounge in The Ritz-Carlton’s State Fare Bar and Kitchen in nearby Rancho Mirage (just turn up Frank Sinatra Drive). Located on a bluff 700 feet above the valley, there is no better place to sip a cocktail and build your own pizza while the sky turns pink and purple in the distance.
11. Stargaze at the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory. This is a complimentary night-time activity that will thrill adults and kids alike. Located adjacent to the town’s public library, there’s a full-time astronomer onsite nightly.
12. Take the plunge in Desert Hot Springs. Thermal mineral waters have sprung up from the earth surrounding the San Andreas Fault for hundreds of years. Dozens of local resorts offer day passes to soak in the waters which are known to cure joint aches and arthritis, migraines, depression, and low energy. Try hidden gem Sagewater Spa and finish your visit with one of their signature aloe body wraps.
WHERE TO GAWK
13. Book a Celebrity Homes guided tour with Palm Springs Celebrity Tours and gawk at the residences of Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, Elvis, Sinatra, and Dean Martin from the comfort of a Land Rover. Guides will spill juicy details of the owners’ lives (and loves) here along the way.
14. The Palm Springs Historical Society provides a handful of well-priced, in-depth tours by foot or by bike, including the storied Las Palmas neighborhood to see where Judy Garland, Gene Autry, Lena Horne, Kirk Douglas, and Dinah Shores lived and played.
15. Take a walking tour of Palm Springs. Download the GPSmyCity app on your phone and follow the map for sightseeing at its best. You’ll log about 4.5 miles and will see a lot in those three hours.
16. Get cultured at the Palm Springs Art Museum, whose collection includes 12,000 modern and contemporary works. It’s free on Thursdays, second Sundays, and for those under 18.
17. Be awed by an architecture tour. There are numerous local operators to choose from, including Palm Springs Mod Squad, and you can customize tours by your interest level, budget, and available time.
18. Scope out Sunnylands, a 200-acre property built by Walter and Lenore Annenberg. Tour their historic estate, ride a shuttle around the extensive grounds, learn about native birds, and stroll through a garden whose colorful blooms were inspired by the couple’s Post-Impressionist art collection. Advance tickets required.
19. Treat yourself to a visit at the Palm Springs Air Museum, home to one of the world’s largest collections of flyable aircraft from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, displayed in a hangar that lets you get up close and personal with the planes. Here, you’ll have access to exhibits, activities, air shows, and the opportunity to take a one-hour ride in one of four vintage airplanes, priced from $200 to $5,000.
20. Get childish at The Children’s Discovery Museum with more than 80 interactive exhibits in three galleries.
21. Moorten Botanical Garden is a privately-owned arboretum created to share the beauty and extraordinary varieties of desert plants with visitors. The Moortens are desert plant specialists happy to invite you to their residence estate. There’s something of interest for everyone here, with glistening crystals, colorful rocks, ancient fossils, and pioneer and gold mining relics. Classic collections on display include more than 3,000 varieties of plants designed in concentrated habitats along a nature trail.
22. The Shag Store is an art gallery and retail space located in the Palm Springs Uptown Design District, dedicated exclusively to the artist Josh Agle Shag and his distinctive artistic style that draws on his sly sense of humor. The store offers prints, original art, merchandise, and unique products that capture the spirit of desert modernism.
23. The best place to catch a breeze may be on a Windmill Tour. These giant wind turbines are an iconic symbol as you arrive in the Coachella Valley. Take a self-driving windmill tour or off-road bike tour to explore the evolution of wind turbines on a private wind farm. The tour allows you to exit at each stop and guides you with a curated video.
IF YOU’RE THIRSTY AND HUNGRY
24. Reserve your seat for dinner at Johannes. Named for its chef-owner, who hails from the Tyrolean Alps, this stylish downtown outpost is ideal for indulging in Austrian classics like wiener schnitzel or Jager beef steak.
25. Splurge at Le Vallauris on Tahquitz Canyon Way. Its terrace was constructed around a stand of mature shade trees to keep diners cool. Try the three-course prix fixe menu for $97 and peruse the options on the 22-page wine list. If you prefer to dine al fresco, the garden patio is perfectly romantic, situated among Lupe Ficus trees and the scent of the sweet desert air.
26. Quaff a cold one at La Quinta Brewing Company Taproom. This local microbrewery offers a dozen or so beers that rotate seasonally. Look for Poolside Blonde, Even Par, or Sundaze Session IPA. Go at Happy Hour most weekdays from 3-5 pm to enjoy $2 off per glass.
27. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge is located in the fashionable Uptown Design District of Palm Springs and is open for lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch. Dishes like the Five Spice Duck Confit with Jerusalem artichoke puree, port, and damson sauce and dessert of Brandini Toffee S’Mores Fondue with house-made marshmallow, locally-made Brandini toffee, Callebaut chocolate, graham crackers, and mixed berries are sure to get your mouth watering.
BEST SPOTS TO SPEND YOUR DOLLARS
28. From quirky independent boutiques to designer outlets, Palm Springs has an amazing variety of things to buy. Relax and stroll northbound on Indian Palms Street, then southbound on Palm Canyon Drive. Don’t miss the chance to scoop up a new warm-weather frock at Elizabeth & Prince, Revenge Boutique, Oooh La La consignments, and Blonde.
29. For him, try on the Wil Stiles men’s department, referred to as a “steroid boost in the sport of competitive dressing.” Mod-patterned, cotton short-sleeved shirts reminiscent of Piccadilly Circus sell for about $140.
30. Save your skin. The Palm Springs dry air and sunshine calls for a stop into one of the dozens of day spas scattered throughout Palm Springs. Be sure to treat yourself to a skin tune-up. Peruse the selection of serious facials at Organic Glow Skin Studio, with treatments that range from $50-$100.
31. The Palm Springs VillageFest in Coachella Valley is the place to be on Thursday nights. This street fair features arts, crafts, food, and entertainment within the beautiful downtown Palm Springs
PLACES TO GOLF
32. The golf course at Rancho Las Palmas Country Club requires membership, but if you like your bogey with a side of palm trees, lakes, rolling terrain and views of the San Jacinto Mountains, you’ll want to sign up. These three 9-hole courses were designed by the best in the business. Call for tee times and get there early to enjoy a breakfast of Brioche French Toast or Tofu Scramble at the club’s onsite restaurant, BluEmber.
33. If you’re booked to stay at AvantStay’s Fowler rental in Coachella Valley, golf is just beyond this vibrant home. In fact, it overlooks the famous Nicklaus Tournament Golf Course and Santa Rosa mountains. You don’t have to be a member to play golf on this 2,000-acre golf and lifestyle community in La Quinta, and you might even spot a few high profile celebrities, PGA tour pros, and quite possibly a president, since many have enjoyed this golf course with 109 holes of championship golf on six legendary courses.
If you’re in need of an exciting getaway in a warm, spirited city, Palm Springs is the perfect vacation spot for you. From highly anticipated events like Coachella & the Stagecoach Festival to breathtaking gardens and sprawling golf courses, this place is sure to introduce you to something new. See for yourself by booking with one of AvantStay’s Palm Spring properties.