Palm Springs is a Californian vacay destination famous for its hot springs and fancy vacation rentals and hotels. If you’re going there, I’m already jealous! To help you plan your trip, I’m sharing the perfect Palm Springs itinerary.
Once you’ve had a bit of time relaxing in your hotel or Airbnb, you may be itching to get out and see what else there is to do.
I’ve gathered some of my favorite things to do here to help you make the best trip.
Pssst, heading to Palm Springs? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
From horseback riding to interesting art installations, you’ll find it all here! All you need are a couple of days or you can even make it a one-day weekend trip!
The Perfect Palm Springs Itinerary
Moorten Botanical Garden
Feel like a slice of greenery in the desert? Need a dose of Insta-worthy flora to refresh yourself?
Then I seriously recommend getting yourself over to the Moorten Botanical Garden!
They’ve got tons of different cacti and other desert plants on show here, which makes for an especially interesting trip if you are into ecology. There are a lot of exotic and strange-looking plants and succulents here.
One of the best times to go to Moorten Botanic Garden is when the cacti are in bloom. But even if you’re not there when they’re in bloom, it’s totally worth the $5 admission.
Perfect if you want to see some desert flora, but don’t want to venture into the actual desert.
Palm Canyon Drive
In the heart of the city, Palm Canyon Drive provides the perfect getaway for all your shopping needs.
Featuring palm trees strung with lights, it’s a dreamy location where you can spend hours of your time—stopping off for coffee, browsing designer stores, vintage boutiques, and art galleries.
It’s basically the most popular street in town!
You can’t really go to Palm Springs, California without exploring Palm Canyon Drive.
Some icons to look out for are the Palm Spring Visitor Center—a spaceship kinda looking building (great for Insta!)—and the Art Deco style Plaza Theatre. Even the Bank of America here, inspired by Le Corbusier, is architecturally interesting.
Joshua Tree National Park
It’s more of a day trip from Palm Springs than something to do in town yourself, but if you’re in Palm Springs for an extended period of time, you should definitely head out for a day to Joshua Tree!
Home of the iconic and super slow-growing Joshua trees themselves, Joshua Tree National Park should totally be on your Palm Spring itinerary if you’re want to see some incredible scenery.
Don’t worry—you don’t have to go on a crazy long hike to experience what Joshua Tree National Park is all about.
Take a trip to the Visitor Center here and you’ll find information on trails that are much easier than you’d imagine. There are short trails that are easy enough even for kids to enjoy!
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Providing a link between Palm Springs and to the top of San Jacinto Peak—the highest of San Jacinto Mountains—the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is more than just transport; it’s a cool thing to do just by itself!
This amazing ride over the sheer mountain face covers a vast array of different habitats and ecosystems.
But what makes it cooler still is the fact that the car you’re in, as it trundles up towards the peak, actually moves around for 360-degree views. Trust me; you’ll want to see it all!
Once you’ve arrived at the top, have a bite at Forest View Restaurant—thousands of feet in the sky! (The last tram down is 9:45 p.m., so you’ve got time for a leisurely dinner.)
Coachella Valley Preserve
Yes, it’s THAT Coachella (home to the famous annual festival, of course), but there’s less music involved here!
Set in the Greater Palm Springs area, Coachella Valley Preserve is another one of the awesome ways you can really get to grips with the desert and all its stark beauty right here.
Over 3,700 acres of protected area awaits your arrival, just ten miles from Palm Springs itself.
It’s the perfect place to soak in nature, with its palm trees, wildlife, and hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult.
Any day—weekend or weekday—is great for heading out into Indian Canyons.
Indian Canyons is a great spot for everything from horseback riding to hiking right near to Palm Springs. It’s also the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians. It’s a sacred spot that is a privilege to visit.
You can go on a guided tour—taking in canyon and desert—with a ranger, walking the trails and learning about the people who call this place home.
My advice? Take a picnic! It’s a cool place to chill out and really feel like you’re in nature.
Desert X only happens once every other year for two months (usually February – April ish), but I wanted to be sure to put it on this list in case you’re planning a trip around that time because it’s super cool and you don’t want to miss it!
You can see more pics and read more about Desert X from 2019 in this post, but it’s basically outdoor art installations spread out throughout Palm Springs.
The next Desert X is February 6 – April 11, 2012!
Palm Springs Art Museum
This cool art museum is located in Downtown Palm Springs and was first opened in 1938.
There is an interesting selection of artwork displayed at the Palm Springs Art Museum, with 24,000 objects ranging from Native American Art and photography to fine art and contemporary pieces.
It’s a treat to go visit this place. You may be pretty surprised at the depth this place goes—you could even call it an oasis of culture!
One of my favorite things to do here is to grab a bite to eat and drink in the onsite cafe. This means you can eat outside in one of the sculpture gardens, making for a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon in Palm Springs.
Go on an Architecture Tour
Palm Springs is known for its gorgeous mid-century modern houses and architecture. Book an architecture tour like this one.
One of the coolest things to see in Palm Springs, Robolights is a quirky spot that’s worth your time if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track.
Featuring millions of lights, neon colors, and a whole lot of other craziness, Robolights was once a seasonal affair, but it’s so popular that it has become a year-round thing.
If you’re wondering what the heck it is, think nuclear elves and wise men with microwaves, a kind of post-apocalyptic Christmas that looks even crazier on a backdrop of palms.
Super cool and totally weird, if you like your vacays unique, totally come here!
There you have it, people! My travel tips for the best time ever in Palm Springs. You may think it’s all hot springs and golf, but as you can see, there’s more to this popular destination than that.
Let me know what awesome stuff you wind up doing in Palm Springs by tagging me in your Insta pics and stories (I’m @wtfab btw!). I can’t wait to see your content!
Be sure to check out my other Palm Springs content here.
The best time of year to visit Palm Springs is from January to April when the weather will be at its best.
It is recommended to spend at least 3 to 4 days in Palm Springs to really enjoy your time in the desert.
The coldest month in Palm Springs is in December.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.