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Things to do in Palm Springs with Kids

Located in Southern California’s iconic Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is a desert resort city that’s become increasingly popular with Canadians looking to escape winter’s chill. Although it’s widely known for its golf courses, luxurious resorts and spas, and snowbird migration, there are also plenty of things to do in Palm Springs with kids. 

If sunshine is high on your family vacation wishlist, Palm Springs is a safe bet. 

Palm Springs weather is almost guaranteed to be sunny, warm and dry, regardless of when you visit. The region typically sees over 350 days of sunshine each year, so it’s almost a guarantee that you will experience nice weather during your trip to Palm Springs.

We’ve now visited Palm Springs four times, so we feel we have a pretty good understanding about how to have a great family vacation in Palm Springs.

Things to do in Palm Springs with kids.

There are plenty of things to do in Palm Springs with kids, especially for first time visitors. This post will focus on the family friendly side of Palm Springs.

The best family attractions in Palm Springs

  • Learn to fly at the Palm Springs Air Museum
  • Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway 
  • Hike the trails in Mount San Jacinto State Park
  • Explore the arid landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park
  • Feed the giraffes at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
  • Ride go karts and play games at Boomers Palm Springs
  • Villagefest on Palm Canyon Drive
  • See the giant dinosaurs at Cabazon Dinosaurs
  • See the waterfalls Tahquitz Canyon
  • Go for a soak in the Hot Springs

Let’s get started. In no particular order…

Palm Springs Air Museum

1. Palm Springs Air Museum

This is not your typical museum. Our boys have proclaimed it to be the best museum ever! The Palm Springs Air Museum was named one of the best aviation museums in the world by CNN Travel.

We like that you can actually get inside some of the aircraft. As you can see in the above photo, our boys had fun flicking switches, pulling levers and pretending to be pilots. 

The museum features 59 flyable and static planes on display, inside four climate-controlled hangars. The Palm Springs Air Museum has a number of flying simulators and games for kids to play.

Since opening in 1996, the Palm Springs Air Museum has maintained its status as a museum that allows guests to fly in its aircraft. For an additional cost, you can take a ride in the vintage Warbird C-47 Skytrain and/or P-51D Mustang. We witnessed other guests take flight in the C-47 Skytrain. It looks like a really fun and unique experience. 

outdoor airstrip at the Palm Springs Air Museum

Above – the outdoor airstrip at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

Palm Springs Air Museum

Additional info about Palm Springs Air Museum:

  • Admission is $17.50 for adults. Kids admission ranges from $10.50 to $15.50
  • The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (except on certain holidays)
  • It is located at 745 North Gene Autry Trail, near the Palm Springs Airport
  • Parking at the museum is free
  • Plan to spend about 3 hours at the Palm Springs Air Museum
  • Here’s a map of the Palm Springs Air Museum
  • Learn more by visiting the museum website here

kids inside plane at Aviation Museum Palm Springs California

Get your $45 credit for AirBnB accommodations here.

2. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway claim to fame is that it’s the world’s largest rotating tram car. The tram car travels through the beautiful Chino Canyon for approximately 10 minutes (2.5 miles) before it arrives at the Mountain Station. 

What makes this tram ride unique is the rotating floor. It slowly makes two complete revolutions during each trip, allowing passengers to soak up the views from every direction. Check out the Tram Cam here.

When you arrive at Mountain Station you’ll be at a staggering elevation of 8,516 feet. For perspective, that’s over 3 times the height of the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa in Dubai – 2,717 feet).

The Mountain Station has two restaurants, observation decks, a small natural history museum, two theaters that show documentaries, a gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails.

Peaks is a fine dining experience with breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley. Pines Café is a cafeteria-style restaurant that’s less formal. Both are open for lunch and dinner. More info here.

observation deck at the palm springs rotating tramway california

Additional info about Palm Springs Aerial Tramway:

  • The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway hours of operation are found here.
  • Adult tickets are $25.95. Children tickets are $16.95.
  • Purchase online tickets to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway here.
  • There is an $8 parking fee to park at the Valley Station. More parking info here
  • Make sure you bring the proper clothes. It can get cold at the top of the mountain. It’s best to wear pants and bring a sweater or jacket. It’s a good idea to bring gloves and toques if you’re visiting in the winter. 

3. Hiking at Mount San Jacinto State Park

While you’re at the Mountain Station at top of the Palm Springs Aerial tramway, take advantage of the hiking trails in Mount San Jacinto State Park. You can join a Guided Nature Walk or explore on your own. The park has over 85 kilometers of hiking trails.

The Long Valley Discovery Trail is an easy 1.2 km loop and the Desert View Trail is 2 km loop trail that leads to several scenic view points. More hiking info here.

At 10,834 feet (3,302 m), San Jacinto Peak is the highest peak of the San Jacinto Mountains and is ranked sixth among peaks in the 48 contiguous states.

4. Explore Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is where two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, come together to create one of the world’s more unique natural environments. 

You’ll want to dedicate a full day to exploring Joshua Tree National Park (it’s almost 800,000 acres in size!). The Joshua Tree scenic drive is unlike anywhere else in the world. And, what’s really neat, is that the landscapes continue to change throughout your drive. It truly is otherworldly.

Get off road in a 4×4 Jeep Tour through. Details here.

road joshua tree park california travel road trip usa

How to get to Joshua Tree National Park

We recommend you enter Joshua Tree National Park at the West Entrance, located five miles south of the junction at Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village. It’s a 45 minute drive from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park entrance.

Stop at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center to pick up a map and get yourself orientated. 

It will take about two hours to drive through the park, but plan for more time because you’ll want to stop and take photos. We spent about 3 hours inside Joshua Tree National Park. 

You will exit at the South Entrance near the Cottonwood Visitor Center. This will take you to the Interstate 10, where you will drive west towards Indio. It takes about one hour to drive from the South Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park to Palm Springs.

You can also switch the route by entering from the South Entrance and driving northwest towards the West Entrance. Both options will give you a similar experience. 

Here’s the Joshua Tree National Park Map 

kids rock climbing joshua tree national park california road trip Palm springs

Joshua Tree National Park with kids

One of the most popular activities in Joshua Tree National Park is hiking. The park has many trails that are suitable for all levels. Here’s a list of hiking trails inside Joshua Tree National Park.

If you’re not interested in hiking, or you’re limited on time, you can stop at the various roadside lookout points in the park. Most stops have parking and the viewing areas are a short walk from the parking lot.

Our favourite stops are Cholla Cactus Garden, Jumbo Rocks (see above photo) and Hidden Valley.

Can you camp in Joshua Tree National Park?

Yes, you can stay in the park overnight and there are a number of campsites available. However, camping in the park means you need to plan ahead and be prepared. 

Some campgrounds are on a first come, first served basis, whereas others require reservations during peak season. Campgrounds are typically full from October to May. From mid-February to mid-May (and during holidays) campgrounds usually fill throughout the week.

A list of campsites in Joshua Tree National Park can be found here.

Are there restaurants in Joshua Tree National Park?

There are no restaurants or grocery stores inside Joshua Tree National Park, but nearby communities do have restaurants. However, depending on where you are in the park, it could be a long drive away. We suggest you bring snacks and a packed lunch because the park is a great place for a picnic.

Additional info about Joshua Tree National Park

  • Joshua Tree National Park hours are found here.
  • Here’s the map of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • Joshua Tree is a National Park so there is a park fee. It costs $30 per vehicle.
  • The park is higher in altitude than Palm Springs, so it’s best to dress in layers. We’d recommend wearing light pants and a long sleeve shirt. Bring a sweater or jacket.
  • Plan ahead. Check the Joshua Tree National Park weather here
  • Get off road in a 4×4 Jeep Tour through. Details here.
  • Try a rock rappelling adventure. Details here.

5. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Located a short drive from Palm Springs, the Living Desert Zoo and Garden’s mission is desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is big (1,200 acres), but there is a surprising amount of shade and seats throughout the park. That said, make sure you bring hats, sunblock and water with you. 

Is there a shuttle in the Living Desert Zoo?

Yes, for guests who are elderly, have mobility issues, or if it’s unbearably hot, you can purchase a shuttle pass at the Living Desert Zoo that will drop you off and pick you up at various points throughout the park. The shuttles includes 11 stops and it runs every 15 minutes.

Tickets may be purchased at the admissions window or from any shuttle driver. The rate is $7 for adults and $4 for children (ages 3-12). Children aged 3 and under are free.

You can feed a giraffe at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. 

What animals are at the Living Desert Zoo?

The Living Desert specializes in deserts in both North America and Africa.

The exhibits are very natural looking and include over 1,600 species of plants and 140 species of animals. We saw giraffes, zebras and cheetahs at the Africa exhibits.

We also saw animals native to North America like eagles, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, and rattlesnakes. Have you seen the size of the horns on an Ankole Longhorn?

See the full list of animals at the Palm Springs Living desert here.

Kids can pet the goats at the Palm Springs Living Desert Zoo.

Are there restaurants at the Living Desert Zoo?

Yes, there are a few restaurants at the Living Desert Zoo. We enjoyed the Thorn Tree Grill. It has kid’s favourites like hot dogs and hamburgers, salads and cold beverages. The Safari Soft Serve has ice cream with toppings, milkshakes, fresh fruit smoothies, draft beer, fresh popcorn and more.

See the list of Living Desert Zoo restaurants here.

Additional info about the Palm Springs Zoo 

  • A map of the Living Desert Zoo can be found here.
  • You can purchase entrance tickets online here. Parking is free. 
  • It’s best to arrive when it opens in the morning because it can get very hot during the middle of the day. The park opens at 9:00 AM from October to May and 8:00 AM from June to September. 

Giraffe feeding at The Living Desert Zoo in Palm Springs California

Search for cheap car rentals in Palm Springs here.

6. Boomers Palm Springs

One of the best things to do in Palm Springs with kids is spend a few hours at Boomers. Boomers Palm Springs features high performance Go Karts, two 18-hole miniature golf courses, bumper boats, a rock wall, a batting cage, and an arcade with over 100 state-of-the-art video games.

We spent an afternoon playing video games during its 12 Buck Tuesday, which is unlimited video games all day for only $12. You can also add unlimited rides and mini golf for only $12 more. It’s a really great deal. 

Some of the activities have age and height restrictions, so it’s best to plan ahead before you go. See the list of Boomers Palm Springs attractions here.  

Note – Boomers does not open until 12:00 PM noon.

We learned this the hard way because we arrived a few hours too early. Plan ahead – check Boomers hours of operation here.

Additional information about Boomers Palm Springs:

  • Only Tuesday’s have the $12 special for unlimited video games
  • Parking is free and there are lots of parking spots available
  • Many activities are outdoors. Bring hats and sunscreen because there isn’t much shade.
  • Boomers prices will vary depending on the activity. See a full price list here.
  • Directions to Boomers Palm Springs can be found here.

Boomers Palm Springs with kids video games

Do you think Connor is having fun at Boomers? 

miniature golf course at Boomers Palm Springs with kids

Above – the miniature golf course at Boomers Palm Springs.

boomers go karts palm springs california

Related – Things to do at Harrison Hot Springs with kids

7. Villagefest on Palm Canyon Drive

Every Thursday night, Palm Canyon Drive becomes an old fashioned street fair, with live musicians, original artwork, street food, handmade crafts and a fresh farmers market.

For the past 20 years, Villagefest is voted as the best event in Palm Springs, attracting thousands of visitors each week. It’s a fun place to sample some local food and pick up a few souvenirs. Kids will enjoy watching the entertaining street performances and live music. 

Depending on the time of year, the street festival begins at either 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM.

More info about Villagefest can be found here.

Related – Wildlife encounters at the impressive Phoenix Zoo

Photo credit: Tom Brikcer @ TravelCaffieine.com

8. Cabazon Dinosaurs

Every great family vacation must include dinosaurs, right? Cabazon Dinosaurs is a California roadside attraction that features huge dinosaur replicas including Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops. 

It’s not free to visit this roadside attraction. Admission to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs is $13 for Adults, $11 for Children aged 3-12 and free for Children under 2 years old. 

Cabazon Dinosaurs hours of operation are from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM (it’s open until 7:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday). It’s open 7 days per week.

How to get to Cabazon Dinosaurs from Palm Springs

The iconic roadside attraction is located at 50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, California. See map here. It’s about a 20 minute drive from downtown Palm Springs to Cabazon Dinosaurs attraction. 

Photo credit TahquitzCanyon.com

9. Tahquitz Canyon Hike

If you’re looking to get outside the city and connect with nature, a visit to Tahquitz Canyon is great option. The Tahquitz Canyon Trail is a 2.7 km (1.7 mile) hiking trail that leads you through unique desert landscapes to a beautiful 60 foot waterfall.

The trail is steep and rocky in certain places and it gains 350 feet in elevation, so it’s important to consider the skill and endurance of both yourself and your kids. Bring lots of water and make sure you wear proper footwear. The canyon has very little shade and there are no washrooms, so plan accordingly. Read reviews here.

Here’s the Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail map in pdf

Before you enter the park, visit the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center to pick up a map and get yourself orientated. You can also join a Ranger led interpretive hike, free with paid admission to the park.

  • Admission to Tahquitz Canyon is $12.50 for Adults and $6 for Children
  • Tahquitz Canyon hours of operation will vary depending on time of year. See more info here.
  • The Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center is located 500 W. Mesquite Avenue, Palm Springs

Photo credit Miracle Springs Resort

10. Go for a soak at Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs, located about 20 minutes north of Palm Springs, is known for its natural healing hot mineral waters. There are a number of properties that have soothing hot springs available, including Miracle Springs Resort & Spa (pictured above), Aqua Soleil Hotel & Mineral Spa, The O Spa and Sahara Resort & Spa.

Ideally you would stay a night or two at one of these hot springs spa resorts, however many of the Desert Hot Springs resorts offer day passes to use the pools and spa. 

Search for Desert Hot Springs resorts here

Other things to do in Palm Springs with kids

Palm Springs Hotels

Palm Springs is a popular California tourist destination, which means you have plenty of options for hotels. Below are a few recommendations for family friendly Palm Springs accommodations.

Palm Springs hotels – budget

Palm Springs hotels – mid-range

Palm Springs resorts 

Palm Springs Apartment rentals

You will find hundreds of Palm Springs apartments available on AirBnb and VRBO

Get your $45 credit for AirBnB accommodations here.

vinny's ice cream palm springs california

Palm Springs Restaurants

Below are a few popular family restaurants in Palm Springs:

How to get to Palm Springs

You will either drive or fly to Palm Springs, depending on where you’re coming from.

Most visitors will arrive via Palm Springs International Airport, which is conveniently located 10 minutes from the downtown area and Palm Canyon Drive.

There are a number of direct flights to Palm Springs from Canada via Vancouver and Calgary. Flights from Vancouver to Palm Springs take about 3 hours. WestJet offers daily flights from both Vancouver and Calgary. We often find great deals on flights using Skyscanner

Palm Springs is conveniently located 175 km east of Los Angeles, 200 km northeast of San Diego, and 430 west of Phoenix, AZ. Because of this, you can also fly to any of these destinations, pick up a rental car at the airport and drive to Palm Springs. 

Driving from Los Angeles to Palm Springs takes about 2.5 hours. Similarly, from San Diego to Palm Springs takes about 3 hours and from Phoenix to Palm Springs takes about 4 hours.

Search for cheap flights to Palm Springs here.

Do you need to rent a car in Palm Springs?

Because some of the recommended family activities are not actually located in Palm Springs, like Joshua Tree National Park and The Living Desert Zoo, we recommend you rent a vehicle so you can explore the region at your own pace.

You can pick-up car rentals directly at Palm Springs International Airport. Most of the major car rental companies have a presence at the airport.

Find cheap car rentals in Palm Springs here.

When is the best time to visit Palm Springs?

The best time to visit Palm Springs is between December and April because temperatures are not too hot. Winter is considered peak season for Palm Springs travel. Expect temperatures to range between 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit).

Palm Springs can get extremely hot during the summer months, often over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), so it’s best to avoid July and August. 

Palm Springs weather is fairly predicable. The region typically sees 350+ days of sunshine each year. If you’re doing the math, that’s less than 15 days of rain!

Regardless of when you visit Palm Springs, it’s a safe bet the weather will be sunny, warm and dry.

Tips for Visiting Palm Springs with Kids

  • If you decide not to rent a car, check out the Buzz Trolley, a fast and free option to getting around Palm Springs. Trolleys run every 15 minutes on Thursday through Saturday between the hours of 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Plan your trip using this timetable for the Palm Springs Buzz
  • You can also get around Palm Springs using Uber, Lyft or Taxis.
  • We recommend you get travel insurance when you visit the United States. The cost for medical emergencies is astronomically high in the United States, so it’s best to be protected. Often times your credit card will have travel insurance coverage. Confirm with your credit card company before departure because some companies have strange policies that may void your insurance coverage.  
  • Pack a sweater, jacket and long pants, even if the forecast is showing great weather. Evenings can get quite cold in the desert. Also, make sure you bring lots of sunblock and apply often. 
  • Book a hotel with a pool. When visiting Palm Springs with kids, an outdoor pool is essential. Our boys spent hours in the pool every day. Search for Palm Springs hotels here.
  • Capture your family vacation with a professional photo session. Details here.
  • Search for the best flights, hotels and car rentals using Skyscanner. Download the mobile app here

Have you been to Palm Springs? What did we miss?

Share your travel tips in the comments section below. Our readers thank you!

 

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Things to do in Palm Springs with Kids is a post from: Traveling Canucks