Surrounded by four mountain ranges, the Palm Springs area encompasses nine cities and offers seemingly endless amounts of sun-filled days and picturesque desert views in Southern California.
Just as impressive as its landscapes is this region’s lengthy list of things to do. Whether you’re looking to soak up the country’s culture at a music or film festival, explore the great outdoors with friends, or take your family on a memory-making adventure, Palm Springs is sure to satisfy.
Start your adventure by booking one of our vacation rentals (we recommend one with a pool for lounging), then fill your time with these top things to do.
From its stunning architecture to one-of-a-kind experiential events, Palm Springs is brimming with a vast collection of art and cultural experiences. Step outside your private oasis and immerse yourself with one of these memorable activities.
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic pop culture events, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival takes place every April at Empire Polo Club, about 26 miles from downtown Palm Springs. Ticket holders step into a one-of-a-kind desert environment to enjoy world-famous music performances, incredible art installations, and the opportunity to bump elbows with celebs in the crowd. (The likes of Katy Perry, Will Smith, and Nina Dobrev have attended in the past.)
But Coachella isn’t the only big music festival in town. While you’ll find chart-topping indie rock, pop, and hip hop artists there, country music fans can get their fix at Stagecoach, Coachella’s sister music festival held in the same desert location. It’s common to see mainstream acts like Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood take the stage, but you’ll also have the chance to discover lesser-known artists specializing in folk, bluegrass, roots rock, and alternative country.
Founded in 1989 by Sonny Bono (yes, the Sonny of Sonny and Cher), the Palm Springs International Film Festival has become a cultural phenomenon. It’s the first stop for many on the road to the Academy Awards, and has screened notable films including Bathtubs Over Broadway and Selma. With a variety of genres and lengths, this film event is one any movie buff will love.
There’s also ShortFest to consider. Launched in 1995 and one of the most acclaimed short film showcases in the world, Palm Springs visitors can see films with a run-time of 40 minutes or less. Think of it as a sampler of Hollywood talent that’s easy for everyone to enjoy.
Palm Springs is home to the world’s largest collection of preserved mid-century modern architecture. Acclaimed architects such as Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Donald Wexler have left their mark on the desert landscape, most famously captured by photographer Slim Aarons.
You can take in the city’s stunning framework via an immersive architectural tour with Palm Springs Architecture Tours. You’ll start in downtown Palm Springs either on foot or two wheels, and enjoy a two-and-a-half-hour peek into the architectural genius that inspires this iconic area.
Resting on the western edge of Coachella Valley and at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, Palm Springs offers a ton of opportunity for outdoor exploration. Whether you’re hungry for laidback leisure or a wild adventure, these activities will feel like a breath of fresh air.
Known for its landscape of slow-growing trees by the same name, Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect place to explore Mother Nature. Those who like to venture on foot can take in the eye-catching wildflowers and southwestern birds on a variety of hikes, while those who prefer two wheels can enjoy the backcountry mountain biking trails.
Stick around for the evening, too: Joshua Tree boasts some of the darkest nights in Southern California — and it’s one of only 11 International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. — so it’s ideal for a night of stargazing.
Filled with mineral water from the warm- and cold-water aquifers beneath Desert Hot Springs, visitors flock to the area’s abundance of natural pools, jacuzzis, and spas to enjoy holistic healing benefits and serious R&R vibes.
Enveloped in ancient palms and tamarisk trees (and historically known for hosting an array of celebs), Two Bunch Palms is arguably the most luxurious thanks to its expansive landscaped grounds and variety of pools to soak in. Those interested in a more simple-yet-intimate experience should visit Miracle Springs Spa, known for its eight mineral-rich pools and panoramic mountain vistas.
Crowned the world’s largest rotating tram car, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway travels over the cliffs of Chino Canyon and offers stunningly wild views of Mt San Jacinto State Park. Once at the Tram’s mountain station, you can enjoy cliffside views, hike over 50 miles of trails, or visit the natural history museum.
While known for its adult activities, Palm Springs also has a bunch of fun options for families traveling with kids. From venturing into the living desert to cooling off at a waterpark, these year-round activities make it easy to build lasting memories.
Voted one of the 10 best zoos in the U.S., The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is the ultimate kid-friendly experience with both wildlife and an abundance of flora and fauna to admire. You can learn about Australia’s most treasured animals in the interactive Australian Adventures experience, feed giraffes, or hike the on-site nature trails while learning about the plants spotted along the way.
Safe and fun for visitors three years and older, this top-rated Palm Springs activity is great for families looking to get the whole crew outdoors. (It’s a great alternative to hiking with little ones!) You can explore your desert surroundings on a tour (times range from 1.5 to 6 hours) of the San Andrea Fault, Indian Canyons, Painted Canyon, or even Joshua Tree National Park.
Regarded as one of the most iconic roadside attractions and featured in cult-classic films like Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure and The Wizard, the gigantic Cabazon Dinosaurs are all outfitted in famous paint-suits, ready to dazzle kids of all ages. You’ll have a blast taking family photos here, and once tummies start to grumble you can visit the on-site ‘Wafflesaurus Truck’ for dino-themed ice cream treats.
Whether you’re looking to explore with the kiddos, immerse yourself in desert dreamscapes, or cultivate a cultural visit, Palm Springs will have you spoiled for choice when it comes to planning your visit. To learn more about visiting Palm Springs — including where to find a great vacation rental to serve as your home base — check out our vacation-made-easy guide to Palm Springs.
The moment you book your vacation, you should start looking forward to your trip — not worrying about the little details. When you choose Evolve for your Palm Springs vacation, you can feel confident that the home you book will live up to our standards.
Every Evolve vacation rental comes with a team of hospitality experts, and we’re here to help make your stay comfortable 24/7. To help you feel even more confident, we created our Rest Easy Promise: if a stay doesn’t match our standards, we’ll make it right.