Are you looking for the greatest things to do in Palm Springs, California? Then you’ve arrived to the correct location!
What evokes limitless sunlight, the ubiquitous Southern California palm tree, mid-century modern architecture, and Hollywood stars, all set against a background of vibrant dry mountains rising sharply from the desert floor? And mountains with a picture-perfect backdrop?
Palm Springs, with its brilliantly sunny and temperate environment, had its contemporary start as a popular tennis and swimming resort in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Old Hollywood celebs gathered here to escape the Studios’ prying eyes. President Dwight Eisenhower came in the desert for a week in 1954, bringing with him a love for golf that produced a long-lasting boom in golf resorts.
The Rat Pack frequently visited the city’s nightclubs in the 1960s, and you could see Leo DiCaprio, whose luxurious mansion at 432 Hermosa Place is for rent.
Palm Springs, abbreviated PS, is one of the most gay-friendly places in the United States. In 2017, the municipal council became the country’s first all-LGBTQ governing body.
Before the PS brand was born, the Coachella Valley in which Palm Springs is located was and continues to be the ancestral territories of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. When the Agua Caliente Reservation was founded in 1876, the federal government divided the property in Palm Springs into checkerboard portions, with even-numbered properties going to the tribe and odd-numbered parcels going to the railroad.
There is a lot more to them now than merely streets named after them. The Agua Caliente Band collaborates with the local administration on administrative issues and co-hosts the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The tribe is present and active, owning hotels, casinos, and spas, donating to charitable organizations, and running Indian Canyons and the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.
Outdoor experiences, art galleries, museums, cafés, vintage stores, and all types of shopping are all available in the Greater Palm Springs region. There are several bars and restaurants, and glitz can be seen everywhere. The core town is surprisingly tiny and simple to navigate by foot or bike, and the city is very dog-friendly!
There is enough of nightlife to stimulate your senses and get you moving. The cool crowd gravitates toward poolside bars with live DJs, such as the renowned High Bar at the Rowan Palm Springs, Toucans, or Shanghai Reds. Check out the music and vendors at VillageFest, a weekly street festival along Palm Canyon Road, on Thursday nights.
Palm Springs has far too many attractions to list, so here are just seven of my favorite must-do activities in Palm Springs, California.
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- 1 The Top 7 Things to Do in Palm Springs, California
- 1.1 Palm Springs Attractions
- 1.2 Attractions in Palm Springs
The Top 7 Things to Do in Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs Attractions
Tour of the Palm Springs Mod Squad
800 E Palm Canyon Dr. +1-651-342-07771800 E Palm Canyon Dr.
Start your Palm Springs adventure with a fun and informative tour with Palm Springs Mod Squad. Kurt Cyr, the founder and a local celebrity, leads architectural and design tours of some of the city’s most stunning and noteworthy mid-century modern buildings, including the residences of legendary 1960s Hollywood icons such as Frank Sinatra. Kurts tours are full with amusing facts, trivia, and comedy, based on his extensive knowledge and love of Palm Springs.
The Essential Palm Springs Tour exposes you to the six local architects most important for defining the Palm Springs modernist aesthetic; all of them lived and worked in Palm Springs. A simple tutorial lays down some of the fundamental features of Southern California contemporary architecture that interact with light and shadow. The cantilever, brise soleil, and pattern brick are all architectural elements. You’ll discover how each element works and begin to notice their presence across the city. It is one of the most amazing things to do in Palm Springs CA.
The Cinema Colony is a posh neighborhood that arose during the early 1920s Hollywood era. Actors were required by their studio contracts to live within 100 miles of their workplace, and Palm Springs, which was just 99 miles away, became their haven away from home.
Another feature of Palm Springs architecture is the presence of one-of-a-kind tiny boutique hotels with outstanding architecture. Herbert Burns developed a number of apartment-style hotels, including the 400, 500 West, and Orbit Inn, to mention a few. And since Kurt knows everyone, you’re guaranteed to get a taste of some of the most fashionable examples.
Aerial Tramway in Palm Springs
Tram Way, +1-888-515-87261
Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway; it’s one of the most exciting activities in Palm Springs! It’s a terrific way to spend a day, and the environment up above couldn’t be more different from the desert bottom. Be aware that temperatures near the summit are often 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit colder. Dress appropriately, including your footwear.
At times, the tram journey will take your breath away as one of the world’s biggest tram cars glides straight up 2.5 miles between the rocky canyon peaks to Mount San Jacinto. The top part of the tram vehicle has windows that open so you can see out while it slowly turns around a complete 360 degrees. Although the Coachella Valley extends out to the west, gnarled trees cling tenaciously to their perilous perches on the canyon walls.
Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness surrounds you after you reach the summit.
Hiking paths of different difficulty meander among granite peaks, across mountaintop meadows, and through conifer forest. Get your day hiking permit at the Long Valley Rangers Station. Wildflowers bloom in the spring, while cross-country skiing seems to be fantastic in the winter.
There are two separate meal alternatives to satisfy that rumbling grumble in your stomach. Pines Caf serves sandwiches, salads, soups, and snacks in a cafeteria setting. With their Bike & Dine special, they provide a delicious salad and entrée buffet at 4:30 p.m.
The recently remodeled Peaks Restaurant is an experience in and of itself, with a gorgeous vintage appearance and spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the valley below. Relax in the skies in a setting inspired by its natural surroundings. gnarled trees and large rocks coexist with precise oak flooring and fashionable lampshades. Their beef carpaccio with shredded fennel, parmesan, and truffle oil is to die for.
Rancho Mirage Observatory & Library
One of the greatest things to do in Palm Springs CA is to visit the Rancho Mirage Library & Observatory. This research-level facility, which opened in 2018, has a powerful, ultra-sexy PlaneWave CDK 700 telescope built for exceptional astrophotography, research, and visual observation.
The Observatory is carefully managed by City Astronomer Eric McLoughlin (yep, that’s a real job!). His enthusiasm for the stars spreads as he effectively exposes laypeople to the marvels that surround us, looking at celestial bodies hundreds of thousands of light-years distant.
We began on the outside deck, staring at the night sky through telescopes with magnifications of up to 100 times. The low degree of light pollution in the desert sky made it an ideal place for stargazing. Eric brought us inside the Dome, where the CDK 700 telescope is housed.
We oohed and aahed at Saturn and met M13 and M7, remnants of galaxy formation light-years distant that sprang into being 11 billion years ago, as a vast panel slipped open to the night sky. Eric was joined throughout the evening by long-time docent Ron Treat. He’s an amateur astronomer in his own way, and they complement each other beautifully.
After closing the dome, Eric surprised us with their Integrated Space Theater system, which replicates the night sky from where you are standing. The moon swung into view, so near that we could see the pockmarked surface and the Sea of Tranquility, where Apollo landed.
Next came Saturn, amplified to the point that its rings resembled grooves on a vinyl record. The nighttime tour concluded with a swirling display of stars and mesmerizing night pictures that surpassed the most spectacular fireworks displays. When I’m in Palm Springs, this is usually at the top of my list of things to do!
Attractions in Palm Springs
Sherman’s Delicatessen & Bakery
+1-760-325-1199401 East Tahquitz Canyon Way
Treat yourself to Shermans Deli and Bakers at some time during your journey, an old-school Kosher New York style-deli that does everything well. Breakfast, lunch, and supper are available. It’s not your normal activity on the list of things to do in Palm Springs CA, but it’s nonetheless worthwhile.
Their dessert case is a work of culinary beauty. Every day, cakes, pies, cheesecakes, pastries, and other specialty dishes are produced fresh on-site. The German Chocolate layer cake is epic, with its thick covering of toasted coconut and pecan custard.
Traditional potato latkes are prepared using freshly shredded potatoes. They’re soft and juicy on the inside and crispy on the exterior, and they’re served with apple sauce or sour cream on the side. With hefty amounts of lox and other ingredients, Shermans bagels live up to their New York reputation.
There’s a reason it’s called the Famous Sandwich Board. You may get lost in the list and yet be hungry (or plan to take home with you). The Hot Pastrami with Swiss Cheese will never let you down, a great example of the classic. I highly suggest the Cold Beet Borscht, which is really Russian.
Shermans Deli & Bakery is a bit of Jewish gastronomic nirvana that sticks to tried-and-true traditional recipes.
The Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon
500 West Mesquite Avenue, +1-760-416-7044
Tahquitz Canyon and the Indian Canyons, ancestral territory of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, are a fascinating site replete with natural beauty, ancient rock art, home pits, and other holy treasures. The Cahuilla people have lived in the region for thousands of years, and their reserve is available to tourists.
The Tahquitz Canyon hike’s centerpiece is a 60-foot waterfall that is beautiful during the rainy season. The surge of water is a welcome relief from the arid desert surrounds.
It’s a moderate-level round-trip that’s excellent workout and takes you along a rocky road with taller stone stairs to climb. During this trek, keep an eye on your step since uneven stones might cause you to lose your balance. The scenic route travels through a steep granite gorge, passing a brook multiple times.
If you’re fortunate, you could come upon a herd of Bighorned Sheep! They’re quite the sight as they scramble along the rugged canyon walls, sure-footedly. One of the most thrilling activities among the things to do in Palm Springs CA.
Tahquitz Canyon Visitors Center is worth a visit because of its observation deck, displays of canyon antiquities, and cultural exhibits designed to promote awareness of Cahuilla history and culture. A bigger, more complete Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza complex, as well as a world-class Museum, are on the way. It’s a commendable effort.
1800 S Camino Real Suite #2 +1-760-636-8442
PS Underground is a one-of-a-kind supper club that provides an extravagant culinary theater experience that will have you raving about your night. Every week, a new show is presented, as well as a brunch. Tickets sell out quickly, so act quickly. Undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Palm Springs, California.
During the concert, top-notch food and drink are freely available. Waiters circle the room from the minute you come in, ensuring your cup and plate are full. I was there for Beatnik, a throwback play with a brilliant acting group in which we wore berets and black turtlenecks for a laid-back evening of music, poetry, food, and wine in a counterculture celebration of cool.
The trendy sounds of sax, bongo, and piano had us moving to the rhythm as the stage resembled a 1950s living room complete with a large white shag rug, colorful cushions, and an antique radio atop a mid-century modern coffee table. The performers were awesome, guy, and we sat transfixed as Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise weaved in an appropriate moment of current language.
There was plenty of food. The beginning was cheesy vegetable fondues, followed by glasses of Italian antipasto. For dessert, there was another reference to the 1950s with a Chicken Divan and a tantalizingly light Ambrosia Salad.
Every item was delicious, thanks to their chief chef, who creates a fresh, locally sourced menu for each presentation.
I can confirm that the room was alive with excitement the whole evening. The contributions of the players, cooks, audience, waiters, and bartenders combine in a wonderful interaction.
PS Underground is a unique location that regularly understands how to create a fantastic supper club party. You don’t want to miss out on it.
Stay at a Recommended Small Hotel in Palm Springs
Another distinguishing feature of Palm Springs is their exclusive portfolio of Palm Springs Recommended Little Hotels. These boutique hotels, many of which are architecturally notable, provide an experience not available at chain hotels or house rentals. They are an important aspect of the innovative local identity and economics of this desert vacation town. Some don’t need clothes, many are dog-friendly, and they range from quirky to luxurious. It’s not your average thing to do, but it’s one of the finest things to do in Palm Springs, CA.
- Inn at Palm Springs — 2525 N. Palm Canyon Drive, +1-888-788-8466
The Hotel in Palm Springs seems like a quiet sanctuary nestled against the craggy San Jacinto Mountains. It’s a quirky, bohemian setting with various accents and touches dotting the grounds. It is located between Little Tuscany and the Uptown Design District on the north end of town and is ideal for guests looking for a relaxed, laid-back ambiance at a reasonable price.
The tiny grounds are lushly landscaped, with a 24-hour pool, a deck painted with amusing dots, and a great Barbeque grill ready for use.
Sam and Paul, the owners, live on-site and will greet you and your four-legged pals with open arms. The Inn would be an excellent choice for a friends or family reunion; the setting is ideal for such a private occasion. Check out their website for additional information and promotions, such as their spend five nights and your dog stays free offer.
- The Villa Royale — 1620 S. Indian Trail // +1-760-327-2314
The adults-only Villa Royale, billed as “A Trendy Desert Getaway with Old Hollywood History,” had me at first sight. This chic Mission Revival-style hotel has a great ambiance and is hidden away in a cul-de-sac off the main road. During check-in, you’ll be welcomed with a beer, drink, or a delightful shot of tequila.
The rooms include Portuguese tiled walls, unique commissioned artworks, and mid-century contemporary furnishings; the bedding is luxurious, and the suites have beautiful fireplaces. Each dry bar is fully supplied with top-shelf booze, such as Herradura Tequila. Relax in a secluded cabana at one of the three pools. Dogs are welcome too.
Visit Del Rey, their delightful onsite Spanish tapas bar and restaurant, where customers are prioritized.
That’s all there is to it for the greatest things to do in Palm Springs CA. I hope you liked it!
Which of these top Palm Springs activities will you attempt first? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!