Interesting Fact: Palm Springs is not only known for its extreme weather but also for its 350 days of sunshine per year, making it a perfect winter escape for those seeking warmth and sun.
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.
Did You Know? The Cahuilla Indian tribes have a rich history in the area, with their presence dating back thousands of years. They utilized the land's resources, including the hot springs, for healing purposes.
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 and visitors enjoying various events and activities.
Travel Tip: When visiting Palm Springs, make sure to check out the local event calendar. The city hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, offering something for everyone.
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 the Festival of Lights Parade, Splash House Pool Party, Village Fest, Spring Break, or Gay Pride.
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.
Explore More: While walking Palm Canyon Drive, don't miss the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. It honors notable people who have lived in the Palm Springs area, including presidents, show business personalities, and literary figures.
Palm Canyon has a festive personality at night with brilliant lights and loud music 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 the 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, allowing every passenger 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 could be 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.
You can look to the station's east side for amazing desert views and the tiny city of Palm Springs 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.
Must-See: Don't miss the opportunity to visit the observation deck at the mountain station for a panoramic view of the Coachella Valley. It's a breathtaking sight, especially at sunset.
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.
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.
Adventure Tip: Before heading out on your ATV adventure, consider taking a brief training session offered by many rental companies. This can enhance your safety and enjoyment of the ride.
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 is 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.
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, an attendant 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.
Experience Highlight: Many visitors find that the thrill of conquering sand dunes becomes a memorable part of their Palm Springs visit. Don't hesitate to ask staff for tips on tackling the more challenging dunes!
At the end of your ride, you are offered cold drinks while dropping off the equipment.
Where to eat
Lulu California Bistro
We went to Lulu’s Cafe for breakfast on our last day at Palm Springs. They had a variety of choices from southwestern to crepes to make your own omelets to a traditional breakfast. For those who 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.
Local Favorite: Lulu California Bistro is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and extensive menu that caters to all tastes, including vegetarian and vegan options. Don't miss their Sunday brunch for a delightful culinary experience.
The restaurant stayed 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, making eating it much more enjoyable.
Dining Tip: Maracas Cantina offers a lively atmosphere with live music on select nights. It's a perfect spot for those looking to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine with a side of entertainment.
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.
We recently stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, and our experience was mixed. We enjoyed the comfort, service, and Rock music theme but did not enjoy the noise level. Read the full review below.
Hard Rock Hotel
Tip: Be warned! The snack shelf 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 Champagne.
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 of other venues like movie theaters.
The large pool area has cabanas, a Jacuzzi, and a full bar. Towels and lounge chairs are provided. The only problem is that it is overcrowded, with only standing room. 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. After midnight, the staff responded to our complaints 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.
Joshua Tree National Park
The first time I saw Joshua Tree NP, I thought I just crossed through the Twilight Zone and into another planet. The eerie landscape, rock formations, and the uncanny Joshua trees combine to transport me to a different state of mind.
This 800,000-acre park straddles the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in California. It is home to the most stunning rock piles, mountain ranges, desert views, and an unexpected oasis here and there.
Must-Visit: Joshua Tree National Park is a unique desert landscape that offers visitors a chance to explore nature's beauty. Whether you're into stargazing, wildlife photography, or just enjoying the great outdoors, Joshua Tree has something for everyone.