In spite of the desert conditions, Palm Springs attracted many people throughout its history for various reasons.
First, the Cahuilla Indian tribes made this area home and called it Se-Khi, which means boiling water, for the hot springs bubbling from the sand.
Then people with some medical conditions started flocking to the area to take advantage of the dry and hot weather.
In the early 1900s, several hotels and resorts were built to attract the rich and famous.
Now the area has many permanent residents along visitors enjoying all kinds of events and activities.
The more adventurous can take the Aerial Tramway to a height of 8500 ft, enjoy the cooler weather and hike through the San Jacinto State Park.
Or you can rent an ATV (quad) and speed through the sand dunes.
If you are a party animal, try to catch one of the festivals like Festival of Lights Parade, Splash House Pool Party, Village Fest, Spring Break or, Gay Pride.
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Fun around town
Most major hotels and resorts are within walking distance from the main street “Palm Canyon”. So leave your car behind and take a walk along this busy street. You will find lots of unique shops and restaurants. Statues and monuments celebrating famous people and native American culture are almost on every corner. A few of those statues are for people like Sonny Bono, Lucille Ball and Gene Autry. Towards the west, you enjoy the views of the stark mountains that cast a long shadow on Palm Springs.
Palm Canyon at night has a festive personality with brilliant lights and loud music blaring from restaurants and bars.
Also within walking distance are Regal Cinemas. If you have some time to kill during the heat of the afternoon it is a good place to catch a movie.
Before you start on your trip, explore around desert station. There is a nice waterfall outside with a nice view of ascending cars.
The tram ride is part of the fun. The cars rotated 360 degrees giving every passenger the chance to see in all directions. As you climb to your destination you can see the desert below and the mountain up ahead.
Tip: Try to travel light. The car will be cramped. One backpack should be enough for your trip.
The cars are standing room only and they really packed with people. The car holds up to 80 passengers with their gear.
Tip: If you are afraid of heights, you can get a place away from the windows and avoid looking down.
At the station, you can look to the east side for amazing desert views and the tiny city of Palm Springs down below. On the west side, you can enjoy the forest of San Jacinto State Park.
Once you are done exploring the mountain station, you can descend down a winding path to the State Park and take a short hike.
The nature trail around the station is easy with designated viewing points called “Notches” – numbered from 1 to 5. From those vantage points, you can admire various desert views.
Tip: Remember that winding path going down? Now you have to take it back up to the station. That is the most difficult part of this hike.
Once you make it back to the top, it is time for lunch. There are 2 dining choices at the mountain station. You can get a snack from the Cafeteria style restaurant or you can dine in style at Peaks Restaurant.
We recently tried the Peaks and really enjoying our lunch. The food was pretty good but expensive. What really enjoyed is the panoramic view of the desert below. When eating at The Peaks you're mostly paying for the view, not the food.
All-in-all, our trip on the Aerial Tramway was exciting and worth the money. We enjoyed breathtaking views, had some workout on our hike and enjoyed a good meal. I highly recommend this adventure to everyone.
Tickets are $24 for adults. If you are planning to come often for hiking or skiing, then an annual pass for $160 makes sense. They also have a summer pass for $75.
Off Road Rentals
It is always fun to ride on a 4-wheel ATV and speed around on the sand dunes. Usually, you would need to specially designated vehicular activity areas to enjoy the dunes. Off-road rentals on the outskirts of Palm Springs offer you a convenient alternative.
This is a privately owned area with plenty of sand dunes to fulfill your need for thrills. You can rent an ATV for $40 for about 40 minutes of fun.
Tip: Make sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses.
You start by entering a cave-like building to view a safety and instructions video. You really need to pay attention to the instructions, especially if it was your first time.
Then you go to a friendly attendant who collects your payment and directs you to where you get your helmet and goggles. Goggles are required for kids under 18. Adults can wear their own glasses. This is to protect you from sand during your ride.
At the starting line, the attendants will match you with the right ATV for your size and weight and provide you with your final instructions.
Tip: You can pay by credit card, but be prepared to leave the card with the staff while you ride. They run it through while you are having fun.
The tracks start on level ground to help you get used to your ATV. Once you feel confident, you can start climbing some dunes at varying heights. If you stay at the bottom, you can still have lots of fun going fast, doing doughnuts or spinning down sinkholes.
If you go up the hill be prepared to stall or get stuck. But don’t worry, if you do get stuck and attend will help you get unstuck. You will also learn the trick very quickly.
The ride was exhilarating and felt very long, even though it was only 45 minutes. The staff were very friendly and helpful.
At the end of your ride, you are offered some cold drinks while you drop off the equipment.
Where to eat
Lulu California Bistro
On our last day at Palm Springs, we went to Lulu’s Cafe for breakfast. They had a variety of choices from southwestern to crepes to make your own omelets to a traditional breakfast. For those that don't really enjoy breakfast Chicken quesadillas presented themselves on the menu and saved the day. The coffee was excellent and the view of the mountains was wonderful and relaxing.
The restaurant stays open quite late as we sat down at 9:00 PM. The majority of restaurants had already closed by that time so we were happy to have located it. As a family that frequently dines at El Torito Grill, we were extremely pleased by the authenticity of Maracas. El Torito does not compare. The Chili Relleno was doused with a creamy heartwarming cheese and a breading that tickled your tongue. The chili did not take much effort to cut and made eating it so much more enjoyable.
Where to stay
The city has many hotels, motels and resorts to satisfy every taste and budget. You can get very good deals at motel chains like Extended Stay America, Renaissance Palm Springs, Best Western Inn and Comfort Inn.
If you prefer to live in luxury, try one of the high-end hotels like The Westin, L’Horizon, Hard Rock or La Quinta.
Tip: Choose your hotel wisely. Some hotels are party hotels and others are geared toward families. If you are looking for the party atmosphere, look for places like Hard Rock hotel, Palm Springs Rendezvous or Avanti Hotel. But if you have kids then try places like Marriott's Desert Springs, Omni Rancho Las Palmas or Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa.
Were recently stayed at the Hard Rock hotel and our experience was mixed. We enjoyed the comfort, service and Rock music theme, but we did not enjoy the noise level. Read the full review below.
Hard Rock Hotel
The beds were firm but comfortable with soft or hard pillows, your choice. The room comes with a coffee maker and a mini fridge packed up with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. You also get a shelve with a choice of snacks.
Tip: Be warned! The snack shelve and the fridge are weight sensitive. If you remove any of the items, you will get charged for it automatically. The prices are very high. You will end up paying $4 for a can of soda and up to $95 for a bottle of Champaign.
The best feature of the hotel is the location. It is one block off Palm Canyon Road with all the shops and restaurants. You are also within walking distance to other venues like movie theaters.
The pools area is large with cabanas, a Jacuzzi and a full bar. Towels and lounge chairs are provided. The only problem is that it is overcrowded with standing room only. There is no room for real swimming or playing in the water.
The rooms at night were very noisy with drunk people running around and screaming. The staff responded to our complaints after midnight and talked to the offenders, but our night was already ruined.
I recommend this hotel for Hard Rock lovers and party animals, but not for families with kids or for relaxation.