I loved Palm Springs! This surprised me a bit because I always thought what is there to do in Palm Springs besides golfing and shopping – not much else? Wrong! Whether you need a weekend getaway or want to escape a colder climate for the entire winter, there are tons of things to do in Palm Springs.
Traveling solo could be overwhelming to some but this comprehensive travel guide will help you find the best places to eat, drink, shop, enjoy the outdoors, and find a place to stay. Plus learn about all the attractions and best things to do!
You can put together your own Palm Springs itinerary from this guide.
Here are the best things to do in Palm Springs.
Celebrities from Hollywood bought homes in Palm Springs since the 1920’s. Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace, Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley made a home in Palm Springs.
Book your trip and find out why so many celebs chose to stay and play in Palm Springs.
This post contains compensated links and I may receive a commission for purchases made through links. See my disclosure about affiliate links
Why travel to Palm Springs?
You will love the choices in Palm Springs! If you are wondering what to do in Palm Springs there’s a great mix of activities from cultural experiences, hiking, art museums, shopping, spas, golfing, mid-century modern architecture, enjoy relaxing by the pool or soaking in a hot tub.
Palm Springs really is a great place to get away and rejuvenate.
You can golf and shop plus enjoy excellent hiking right from downtown. Learn about the history and culture of the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians at the cultural museum or on a guided hike at the Indian Canyons.
Visit world class art museums, explore exceptional mid-century modern architecture, or relax at the pool all day.
READ MORE: 52 Best Solo Travel Quotes
Getting to Palm Springs
When I was looking for a warm place to stay in December before flying to Calgary Alberta, I chose Palm Springs again for my winter escape. Palm Springs travel is super easy because there are so many flights available.
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The southern California desert is the perfect getaway location for Canadians because there are non-stop flights to Palm Springs from:
- Calgary (WestJet and Air Canada)
This makes it so easy to escape winter! For cheap flights from Edmonton AB direct to Palm Springs you can also try FlairAir Canada’s newest discount airline.
There are several US cities with non-stop flights including:
- New York City
- Portland Oregon
- Salt Lake City
From the moment you set foot in PSP airport you will know you made a good choice traveling to Palm Springs!
Where to stay in Palm Springs
I sometimes use apartment booking sites so that I can book a whole condo and have a kitchen. Sometimes there are not many short-term apartment rentals in Palm Springs around downtown so it’s better to stay in a hotel. I’ve listed a bunch of options for you.
Check now for the latest Palm Springs hotel deals! Find the best hotels in Palm Springs from Boutique Hotels to Luxury Resort Hotels.
Budget hotels downtown
- Andalusian Court – I visited this hotel during the Walk of the Inns event in December and fell in love with the fairy tale decor. Spanish revival designed villas Check out photos of the villas and most up-to-date deals here
- Avanti Hotel – Eco-friendly boutique hotel, complimentary happy hour, breakfast bar, and bicycles, and Avanti Hotel is Pet Friendly! Take a look, read the reviews and book your vacation here
- Best Western Plus Las Brisas Hotel – great location for downtown Palm Springs. Find out the latest deals and book your room now
- Casa Cody Bed and Breakfast – highly rated and very popular hotel in Palm Springs – read the reviews book your hotel room at Casa Cody now
- Del Marcos Hotel – This 17-room modernist design hotel is located near the historic Tennis Club neighborhood of Palm Springs Check for availability and lodging rates here
Mid-range hotels downtown and design district
- ARRIVE – Hip hotel located in the Uptown Design District. Enjoy the modern design of this boutique hotel. Catering to young, hip, and connected clientele, you can order room service, valet, or housekeeping via your smart phone. Find ARRIVE room rates and deals here
- Avalon Hotel and Bungalows conveniently located downtown a block away from S Palm Canyon Drive. This was one of my favorites on the Walk of the Inns event – check out Avalon Hotel deals
- The Colony Palms Hotel is a long time favorite. Enjoy this luxury boutique hotel located one block from the design district – shopping, dining, or just chillin’ and people watching are steps away. Get the latest hotel and spa packages
- Kimpton Rowan in the heart of downtown has a modern vibe with a spectacular rooftop pool and bar – book Kimpton Rowan now
- The Willows Historic Inn provides an elegant and luxurious escape in one of the oldest historic sites in Palm Springs – if walls could talk! Only 8 guest rooms – will you be one of the lucky few?
- Desert Riviera Hotel – one of the top hotels in Palm Springs – book Desert Riviera now!
- JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa – enjoy all the luxury with JW Marriott – check availability and find the latest deals here
- La Maison Hotel – 5 star hotel in Palm Springs – book La Maison Hotel now
- Parker Palm Springs – luxurious resort with 3 swimming pools, wellness spa, tennis courts, and 2 restaurants on site – check availability and find room rates here
- The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage – Ritz-Carlton luxury in the desert – book Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage here
Long-term stays and RV parks
Spending the entire winter in Palm Springs is an option for some people, such as retirees or digital nomads.
Accommodation options for long-term stays include AirBnB, VRBO, RV park, condo or house rentals booked through an agency or you can find them on Craigslist or even Facebook groups. In addition some hotels offer monthly rates.
Happy Traveler RV Park is located at 211 W Mesquite Ave. Monthly rates for peak and off-peak season. If you stay 5 months or longer the peak rates do not apply. Phone for latest rates: 760-325-8518
Things to do in Palm Springs
Golfing and shopping are two of the main activities for many visitors to Palm Springs. Other folks enjoy the art and cultural museums, relaxing by the pool, or hiking the trails.
There is plenty to do and I felt comfortable going out by myself in Palm Springs.
Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
- 219 S Palm Canyon Dr
- Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 10 – 5 pm (Closed: Monday and Tuesday)
To learn about the original inhabitants of Palm Springs, the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians, visit the excellent (and FREE) Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.
The exhibits change every few months. This is a small museum in the downtown area so it’s easy to access and you can see the exhibit in about an hour.
The museum staff are friendly and helpful so ask questions and engage in conversation with them.
There is a gift shop at the museum where you can purchase souvenirs and Me Yah Whae magazine of the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians.
Palm Springs Art Museum – 3 locations
There are two locations in downtown Palm Springs and a third location in Palm Desert.
Check the main website for current exhibits and info for all three locations.
Architecture Design Center – 300 S Palm Canyon Drive
Explore architecture and design exhibits in a space that is not overwhelming in size. In December 2017 there was an excellent exhibit of Albert Frey and Lina Bo Bardi architectural drawings, models, design plans, and photos of completed structures.
- FREE admission every Thursday from 4 pm to 8 pm
- FREE admission second Sunday of every month
- Regular admission fee is $5 (save your ticket to get $5 off at 101 Museum Drive location)
- Free admission to active military and their families with I.D.
- Free admission to individuals aged 18 and under
Palm Springs Art Museum – 101 Museum Drive
This is the largest of the 3 locations. Established in 1938, the permanent collection includes a large number of significant art works by contemporary artists.
Also at this location you will find The Annenberg Theater, a 430-seat performing arts center with exceptional acoustics.
- FREE admission every Thursday from 4 pm to 8 pm
- FREE admission second Sunday of every month
- Regular admission fee is $12
- Seniors aged 62 and over $10
- Students and teachers with I.D. $5
- Free admission to active military and their families with I.D.
- Free admission to individuals aged 18 and under
Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert – 72-567 Highway 111, Palm Desert
Housed in a LEED-certified building named The Galen. Also be sure to visit the Faye Sarkowsky outdoor sculpture garden featuring 10 sculptures in a beautiful landscaped garden setting.
- FREE admission to everyone every day made possible by Helene Galen
There are a few golf courses in Palm Springs and several others in nearby Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Rancho Mirage. Do remember to pack a sun hat and your golf accessories.
- Escena Golf Club – 1100 Clubhouse View
- Indian Canyon Golf Course – 1097 Murray Canyon Dr
- Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort – 1885 Golf Club Dr
For souvenir shopping in Palm Springs make sure you check out the weekly Villagefest Thursday market from 6 pm – 10 pm October through May, and 7 pm – 10 pm June to September.
You will find dozens of vendors along Palm Canyon Drive downtown. Also many of the shops and galleries stay open late for Villagefest.
- Bazar – 125 E Tahquitz Canyon Way
- The Frippery – 664 N Palm Canyon Dr
- Iconic Atomic – 1103 N Palm Canyon Dr
- Mitchells – 106 S Indian Canyon Dr
- Revivals – 611 S Palm Canyon Dr
- Sunny Dunes Antique Mall – 507 E Sunny Dunes Rd
- Desert Hills Premium Outlet located at 48400 Seminole Drive, Desert Hills CA
- Cabazon Outlets located at 48750 Seminole Drive, Desert Hills CA
High end shops
- The Shops on El Paseo – 73061 El Paseo, Palm Desert
Classic car shopping
- Classic Car Auctions – 244 N Indian Canyon Dr
- One Eleven Vintage Cars – 355 E Sunny Dunes Rd
How many cities have hiking trails from downtown? Palm Springs does! You can visit the Palm Springs Art Museum and take the Museum Trail directly from the art museum parking lot downtown. Just remember to bring plenty of water. Hydration packs are a good option for desert hikes.
Grab a hiking trail map at the Visitor Center downtown, located in the Welwood Murray Memorial Library at 100 South Palm Canyon Drive.
There is also a visitor center at 2901 North Palm Canyon Drive which is closer to the Uptown Design District.
My favorite hikes were the guided hikes at Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon which has a beautiful waterfall. You can book your own ranger led interpretive hike and learn about the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians.
There is no extra charge to join one of the ranger led hikes. Information about hours, admission fees, and ranger led hikes is available on the Indian Canyons website.
Popular hikes in Palm Springs
Solo hiking is pleasant in Palm Springs in the cooler months when temperatures are generally between 60 and 80 degrees F (15 to 27 Celsius).
Check the weather forecast before you head out for a hike. If you aren’t comfortable hiking on your own then register for one of the ranger led hikes or find a hiking meetup group.
Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a day-bag with the hiking 10 essentials kit. Always be prepared with proper hydration, snacks, and appropriate hiking clothing for the desert. Consider buying sun protection clothing to help protect you from UV rays and the heat while you are hiking.
Please note that the Indian Canyon hikes have an admission fee
- Palm Canyon Victor trail – 3 mile loop with 250 ft gain in elevation
- Murray Canyon – 6 miles with 500 ft gain
- Andreas Canyon – 2 miles with a 50 ft gain in elevation makes this an easy hike along a creek with beautiful palm trees for the first part of the hike.
- Tahquitz Canyon – admission fee applies. 2 mile loop hike with 300 ft gain. This hike has a beautiful waterfall, a nice surprise in the desert.
- North Lykken trail – 5 miles with 1,000 ft gain
- South Lykken trail – 5 miles with 1,000 ft gain
- Art Museum trail – 2 miles with a 900 ft gain. Beautiful views of Palm Springs.
Mid-century Modern Architecture
Palm Springs is the place to see mid-century modern architecture. You can attend Modernism Week from February 16 – 26, 2023. Be sure to get tickets to the events early – some sell out FAST! Tickets for Modernism Week 2023 go on sale on November 1 , 2022 at noon PDT.
Fall Preview for Modernism Week is in October each year, for 2022 the dates are Oct 13 – 16
In 2023 Modernism Week takes place from February 16 – 26 – Book your hotel room now!
Walk of the Inns
Usually on the 2nd Thursday of December. Ask the Palm Springs Art Museum for info.
This is a FREE event and it is so much FUN to attend!
Another fun event is the Walk of the Inns fundraiser which takes place annually in early December. You get a map of the participating inns and boutique hotels and walk around visiting the historic inns of Palm Springs and midcentury modern beauties.
All the while enjoying libations and tasty treats at certain locations. Plus the event raises funds for Toys for Tots and Well in the Desert.
Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium
Open year round with shorter hours during summer. Tours available from late fall to early spring, free with price of admission. Special event hosting available, garden weddings are popular at Moorten Botanical.
Admission fee is $5 for adults/seniors; $2 for children 15 and under; FREE for children 5 and under
- 1701 S Palm Canyon Drive
- Moorten Botanical website
10 – 4 daily Thursday to Tuesday
Closed July and August
Previously the winter home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, the 200-acre estate is preserved via The Annenberg Foundation Trust.
Sunnylands provides a place for world leaders to meet and discuss important issues. Sunnylands opened to the public in 2012 with visits to the center and gardens along with small guided tours of the estate at Sunnylands.
“The greatest happiness comes from being vitally interested in something that excites all your energies.”
– Walter Annenberg
Get information and buy tickets to tour the historic estate at Sunnylands. Please note there are no tours during the hot summer months (tickets go on sale in August for the September tours).
Visits to the Sunnylands Center and Garden from Wednesday through Sunday from 8:30 to 4:00 pm. FREE and no reservation is required for individuals or small groups. For groups of 20 or more do contact the center to register in advance. Free parking onsite.
Surprisingly, you can get by without a car in Palm Springs if you are staying downtown. In December 2017, I stayed 3 weeks and rented a car only to visit Joshua Tree National Park.
Walking – You will find that walking around downtown Palm Springs is an an enjoyable way to get around in the cooler months.
Uber or Taxi – affordable options for getting around Palm Springs without a car. Taxi fare from the airport to downtown is around $15 – $20. NOTE: Uber is not allowed to pick up passengers at the airport (dropping off at airport is allowed) so you need to walk out to the street to catch Uber from the airport.
Finding a FREE parking spot downtown is usually not a problem. A new parking garage opened in 2017 near The Palm Springs Art Museum. Access from North Museum Drive (in front of the museum) or from North Palm Canyon Drive at Amado Road. NOTE: 4 hr limit for parking at this location.
There is also a large parking garage with FREE parking located at 275 S Indian Canyon Drive.
Best day trips from Palm Springs
Explore the best day trips from Palm Springs!
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is an easy day trip from Palm Springs and it’s my favorite one.
You can enjoy scenic drives with soothing vistas or get up close to intriguing landscapes while hiking the trails at Joshua Tree.
Read detailed info in my post on day trip to Joshua Tree from Palm Springs here.
Mount San Jacinto State Park Aerial Tramway
The world’s largest rotating tramcar carries passengers 2.5 miles along Chino Canyon to Mount San Jacinto State Park.
Visitors can enjoy 50 miles of hiking trails, 2 restaurants, observation deck, natural history museum, and gift shop. Read about my visit to Mount San Jacinto State Park here.
Remember to bring appropriate clothing for weather conditions as temperatures are typically 30 degrees F cooler than in the desert.
Aerial Tramway tickets cost $29.95 for adults, children $17.95, seniors (age 65+) $27.95
Address: 1 Tram Way – about a 15-minute drive from downtown.
The valley station, mountain station, and tram cars are handicap accessible.
Get more info from the Aerial Tramway website
Surreal is the word to describe Salton Sea.
Located 60 miles from Palm Springs and situated on the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea is California’s largest lake.
This inland saline lake in the Sonoran Desert of Southeastern California did not exist until the early 1900’s when the Colorado River burst through man-made irrigation controls near Yuma Arizona. For more than a year the river flowed into the Salton Basin.
In 1907 a series of protective levees stopped the flow of water. By that time the Salton Sea measured 40 miles (64 km) by 13 miles (21 km) and covered around 400 square miles (644 sq km).
The Salton Sea varies in size depending on the rains.
San Diego’s regional water agency stopped sending water to the Salton Sea in January 2018. The Salton Sea could evaporate entirely.
On June 6, 2018 voters approved $200 million to preserve the Salton Sea.
Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge
Enjoy incredible birding at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.
Salvation Mountain and Slab City
Local resident Leonard Knight created Salvation Mountain. After Leonard died in 2014, a group of volunteers has been maintaining the site. Leonard made the mountain with Adobe mixed with straw and covered it with paint to protect it from erosion.
If you take a day trip to the Salton Sea you may as well visit Salvation Mountain and Slab City while you are in the neighborhood.
Salvation Mountain address: Beal Rd, Niland, CA 92257
Slab City is about 2.5 miles from Salvation Mountain. This community of squatters as well as Snow Birds from Canada and colder regions of the USA live off the grid. There is no running water, no electricity, no trash pickup, no toilets nor sewer service.
There is also no fee for parking at Slab City or “The Slabs” as it is commonly known.
Formerly a military operation know as Camp Dunlap, the army removed all the building back in the mid-fifties, leaving the concrete slabs in place. By the mid-sixties people settled in Slab City, sort of an unofficial RV Park. Anyone could set up camp at Slab City.
Downtown food and drink guide
There are so many great restaurants and bars in Palm Springs. These are some of the places I visited and can recommend. All of these restaurants are located in the downtown area and I could walk to them all from my condo. Yes, you can actually stay downtown without needing a car.
Breakfast or Brunch
- L’Altelier Cafe is the perfect place for breakfast, coffee, and pastries. Owners Charlotte and Raphael Farsy visited Palm Springs from Paris France for their honeymoon. They fell in love with Palm Springs and decided to make it their new home.
- Sherman’s Deli & Bakery is a family run New York style restaurant open 7 am to 9 pm daily. Sherman’s was featured on the Food Network’s Diners Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. Look at Sherman’s menu here.
- FARM is a Provencal style restaurant with traditional French dishes. Inspired by her travels to southern France, owner Liz Ostoich wanted to share the experience through food. Inspire your taste buds via FARM’s menu.
- Bill’s Pizza – I liked this place except for the somewhat grumpy manager who refused to let me use a credit card (even though I used a credit card on my first visit there) Bring cash or debit card in case grumpy manager is your server. Have a look at the pizza menu.
- LULU California Bistro – one of my favorite places for dining solo in Palm Springs – see description below under “Dinner Options”
Happy Hour places
- Tropicale – gorgeous patio and great happy hour from 4 to 7 pm daily, enjoy jazz indoors a few nights a week. The staff at Tropicale always greeted me and treated me like I was family. Have a look at Tropicale’s weekly specials.
- Las Casuelas Terraza – live music makes this a fun place to hang out and enjoy a few margaritas and some Mexican food. Find out why Las Casuels Terraza is Palm Spring’s favorite Mexican Restaurant.
- LULU California Bistro – 12 hour happy hour every day :)
- Rooster and the Pig – my favorite dinner was at Rooster and the Pig. Vietnamese American food and craft cocktails await you. Most importantly – NO reservations – so show up early if you are hungry. Open 5 – 9-ish Wed through Mon. Closed Tuesdays. Cashless – bring credit card or debit card.
- LULU California Bistro – always busy but you don’t have to wait for a table if you are okay with sitting at the bar. Service was always excellent, tasty libations, and the food is very good. Late night dining on Friday and Saturday from 11 pm – 12 am. Happy hour is 12 hours every day! Visit LULU
- Thai Smile – wonderful friendly staff, I loved the seafood curry! Thai Smile is named after the owner Yim Priddy Prayongyam (Yim means smile in Thai) Enjoy Thai Smile take-out or dine in
- Fisherman’s Market & Grill – voted #1 Best Seafood Restaurant 17 years in a row! One of my favorite restaurants in Palm Springs – Fisherman’s Market website
- Sherman’s Deli & Bakery – my go to place for pastries – check out the full details and menu here
- Palm Springs Fudge & Chocolates – delicious chocolates for your afternoon fix or dessert after a fine meal. Plus they have a selection of candies and sugar-free sweets
- See’s Candies – get a free sample at the shop then create your own custom mix of chocolates or choose from the selections of chocolates, nuts, lollipops, and sugar-free candies
Healthy Snacks or Smoothies
- Raw Remedy Organic Juice and Raw Food Bar
- Fruit Wonders
- Fresh Juice Bar
Palm Springs Annual Events
Here are the main attractions going on in Palm Springs on an annual basis. Check the websites for more info and to find out costs or ticketing info for these events.
- Palm Springs International Film Festival – January 5 to January 16, 2023
- Modernism Week – February 16 to February 26, 2023
- Dinah Shore Weekend – September 21 – 25, 2022 – the BIGGEST lesbian/queer girl PARTY music and dance festival in the WORLD!
- Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – Fri – Sun April 14 – 16, 2022 and Fri – Sun April 21 – 23, 2023
- Stagecoach Music Festival – Friday April 28 to Sunday April 30, 2023
- White Party – May 12 to May 14, 2023 – Join 30,000 partygoers for the largest gay dance party in the United States!
- Palm Springs International ShortFest – Takes place in June (2023 dates TBA) One of the largest short film events
- Greater Palm Springs Pride Festival and Parade – Palm Springs Gay Pride from Nov 4 – 6, 2022
- Walk of the Inns – Usually on the second Thursday of December. This is a self-guided walking tour of boutique hotels and historical properties. There is no official website for the event. Inquire at the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center – the usual starting point for Walk of the Inns.
ENJOY Palm Springs and all the fabulous things to do!
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