9 things to do in Palm Springs on your next visit

Even though Palm Springs has been a popular desert destination for Hollywood stars since the 1930s, it’s still a favorite retreat for Californians looking to escape the stresses, smog and traffic of Los Angeles or the cool fog of San Francisco.

A culture of arts and wellness, inclusive of LGBT lifestyles and filled with luxury hotels and resorts make Palm Springs a restorative destination to relax and rejuvenate. It’s also a great place to party if you’re visiting during one of the many festivals like Coachella Where Stagecoach Country Music Festival.

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or an extended vacation, there’s plenty to do in Palm Springs. From outdoor adventures to low-key indoor activities, this desert resort has something for everyone.

Play a round of golf

Palm Springs isn’t called the golf capital of the world for nothing. The greater Palm Springs area is home to more than 110 golf courses suitable for all skill levels.

La Quinta Resort & Club Golf Course,

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La Quinta Resort & Club is home to five championship courses, including PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, which hosts the annual American Express PGA Tour tournament each January. Mission Hills is another excellent golf resort with three 18-hole golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye and Desmond Muirhead. And Indian Wells Golf has two great courses and a cool perk: junior golfers can play for free when accompanying a paying adult.

Go on a hike

If you’re looking to explore the natural beauty and dramatic terrain of the Coachella Valley, there are several hiking areas in Palm Springs, including 60 miles of trails that are part of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation and another 54 miles of trails to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Many trails also start at area resorts and are suitable for all ages and abilities.

Father and son hiking in Palm Springs.

Father and son hiking in Palm Springs.

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Daring hikers can take on traitors Cloud Cactus Trail which begins in downtown Palm Springs and climbs over 10,300 feet to the top of San Jacinto. This is one of the most challenging day hikes in the world and should only be attempted by experienced and very fit hikers in favorable weather conditions. May and October are usually the best times of year for this hike, when the trails aren’t icy and the weather isn’t too hot.

Enjoy a day at the spa

There’s no better way to beat the desert heat than with a spa day at one of Palm Springs’ many resorts renowned for their signature treatments and impeccable service.

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage Spa

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage Spa

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage via Yelp

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage sets the benchmark for luxury and tranquility, with creative desert-inspired treatments like its signature Spirit of the Mountains massage which includes a salt scrub, full body hot stone massage with anti-aging body oil inflammatory treatment with turquoise sage, a soothing body wrap and a scalp massage. Azure Palm Hot Springs is another great spa option with day passes available to enjoy the healing mineral spring water pools, Himalayan salt room and ice room.

To see from the sky

For first-time visitors, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a must. Offering panoramic views of the valley from the world’s largest rotating tram, it was an impressive novelty when built in 1963 and still is today. The 10-minute ride ascends the cliffs of Chino Canyon for more than two miles to reach an elevation of 8,516 feet at Mount San Jacinto State Park. Allow yourself a few hours to enjoy the restaurants, observation deck, museum, and over 80 km of hiking trails before heading back down to earth.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Carlos G. via Yelp

If you plan to visit from September to May, another way to get a bird’s eye view of Palm Springs is to take a hot air balloon ride. Several companies offer tours in the Coachella Valley, with sunrise and sunset tours being the most popular. A shuttle service is usually available to and from your hotel and hot air balloon rides are quite small – 2-10 passengers – and last around 40-90 minutes.

Discover mid-century modern architecture

Palm Springs has one of the best-preserved collections of mid-century modern architecture in the world. A unique style of modernism known as Desert Modernism was born here, blending indoor and outdoor living spaces with flat roofs, floor-to-ceiling windows, open floor plans, and clean minimalist lines.

A view of the Palm Springs Visitor Information Center.

A view of the Palm Springs Visitor Information Center.

Wayne S. via Yelp

Every winter, 11 days Modernism Week celebrates this distinctive architecture and design and how it fits into a modern, sustainable lifestyle. However, visitors can enjoy the mid-century modern landmarks of Palm Springs any time of the year by booking a guided tour with Palm Springs Architecture Tours. Visitors can also explore the exteriors of private homes and public buildings with a self-guided tour starting with the Palm Springs Visitor Information Centeroriginally designed by Albert Frey as a gas station in the 1960s. Another highlight is the Coachella Valley Savings & Loan building, now arguably the most elegant Chase Bank in the country, with inverted parabolic curved columns .

Try a date shake

Date palms may be native to the Middle East and Africa, but the arid climate and hot temperatures of Palm Springs also produce super soft, plump dates. The Coachella Valley, known as the date capital of the United States, produces over 90% of the dates in the United States, including more than a dozen different varieties, from Medjool to Deglet Noor.

Hadley Orchards

Hadley Orchards

Munish S. via Yelp

No trip to Palm Springs would be complete without trying a date shake, Palm Springs’ signature drink. Farms like Shields Date Garden and Hadley Orchards have been serving this decadent blend of milk, ice cream and date crystals (or pitted dates) since the 1930s for a super sweet caramel flavor. You can also find plenty of modern riffs on the original in town, including a healthier version on The Horizon. Instead of refined sugar, L’Horizon makes its shakes using only Medjool dates mixed with plain yogurt, coconut milk, chia seeds and cocoa powder.

Shop for local art, souvenirs and more

From malls to farmers markets to upscale boutiques, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for in Palm Springs.

Downtown Palm Springs, California.

Downtown Palm Springs, California.

Amyn Nasser/Getty Images

El Paseo in Palm Desert can be compared to Rodeo Drive in Palm Springs, with local shops like Grayse and art galleries like CODA and Melissa Morgan fine arts interspersed with international brands and home décor items.

If you are looking to make serious purchases, the High end Desert Hills outlets is about an hour’s drive from downtown Palm Springs and offers several high-end fashion brands like Gucci, Jimmy Choo, and Dolce & Gabbana with discount prices.

Stroll the Palm Springs Walk of Stars

Palm Springs has its own Hollywood-style Walk of Fame, and you can find it dotted along the sidewalks of downtown Palm Springs.

Former US President Ronald Reagan is among celebrities and other notables immortalized by a granite star along the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars in Palm Springs, California.

Former US President Ronald Reagan is among celebrities and other notables immortalized by a granite star along the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars in Palm Springs, California.

Robert Alexandre/Getty Images

Created in 1992, the Star Walk honors over 400 notable artists, humanitarians, civic leaders, architects, artists, authors and athletes who call the greater Palm Springs area home. Honorees include big names like Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe as well as community leaders, tribal chiefs and local war heroes.

Explore the Palm Springs Museum of Art

If you’re looking for an indoor activity to escape the desert heat, the Palm Springs Art Museum has a growing permanent collection of over 12,000 objects rooted in modern and contemporary art, architecture and design.

Inside the Palm Springs Museum of Art.

Inside the Palm Springs Museum of Art.

Ed U. via Yelp

Among the 28 different galleries, visitors can explore works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries focusing on contemporary Californian art as well as Native American art, modern Mexican art, contemporary African art, modern art European and American photography. The museum also offers a range of theatrical and musical performances in its Annenberg Theatre. Be sure to check out their online calendar before your visit.

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