There’s a good reason why Coachella takes place in Palm Springs – it’s one of the coolest, most alternative and unique places to be in the USA.
With so many cool things to do in Palm Springs, it’s totally worth going there for a holiday, Coachella or not. It’s a desert oasis with hot springs, mountains, canyons and 300 days of sunshine a year. Combining all the favourite outdoor attractions with the California essentials: cool coffee shops, hip restaurants and funky architecture – Palm Springs is a great place to hang out.
So if you’re heading to Coachella and planning on flying in and right back out again, I’d take a minute to rethink because this cool city has way more to offer than a single weekend of good time vibes.
52 Coolest Things to Do in Palm Springs
1. Visitors centres may seem a little old fashioned, but you have to visit Palm Springs just to see its space-age exterior before picking up any info.
2. Indulge in some retail therapy in the boutiques and vintage shops of Palm Canyon Drive.
3. Get up early and hit hiking trails like Mecca Hills Wilderness, San Jacinto Peak and Bump and Grind Trail in Coachella Valley.
4. Go horseback riding along the historic and extremely pretty Agua Caliente Indian Canyon.
5. And make sure to stop and take some snaps of the windmills from Indian Canyon Drive. You can book a tour around the famous Palm Springs windmills here.
Where is Palm Springs?
First of all, despite sounding like a multipurpose spa, Palm Springs is actually a city nestled right in the Coachella Valley in the county of Riverside, California.
A desert oasis with hot springs, mountains, and canyons, the dreamy destination sees 300 days of sunshine a year. That means it’s the ideal place to enjoy all your favourite outdoor activities as well as the California essentials: coffee shops, hip restaurants and funky architecture.
Many come here for one thing only though and that’s the wonder that is Coachella. If the full festival-going, crochet-wearing experience is what you’re after, then Coachella and the other festivals going down in Palm Springs have you covered.
6. Learn about the early settlers of Palm Desert at the Historical Society of Palm Desert’s Museum.
7. See if you can spot a mountain lion or coyote with a tour of the Joshua Tree National Park.
8. Loosen the belt after eating Rio Azul‘s amazing Mexican food.
9. See where the rich and famous have lived and hung out with a celeb tour.
10. Consider upping your recycling game at Robolights where robots are made from discarded electronics.
11. Explore the sands in a desert town by ATV driving with Off Road Rentals.
13. Whip out the telescopes and take a star gazing tour in Rancho Mirage.
14. And if you really get into it, head to a star party where you can ask astronomers all your galactical questions.
15. And if you really really get into it, spend an entire night under the stars at the Vern Whitaker Horse Camp.
16. Get yourself a date (the fruit variety) from the Shields Date Garden and watch the city’s most talked about movie, ‘The Romance and Sex Life of the Date’.
17. Pick up the ultimate Palm Springs souvenir at Destination PSP.
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18. Make like royalty and presidents and take a break at Sunnylands to see PS architecture at its best.
19. Visit your pals Picasso, Warhol and Lichtenstein at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
20. See which celebs have lived in Palm Springs at the Walk of Stars.
21. Save a little on a Saturday with a free gig at The Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
22. Wander through workshops of the Backstreet Art District and pick up some original art, jewellery or ceramics.
23. Cool off in the pool or play a game of tennis at Fritz Burns Park.
24. Lower that raised eyebrow when you try a date shake from the Windmill Cafe.
25. Eat inside an old cinema at Workshop Kitchen+Bar.
26. Browse the vintage cars, pick up some pickles or listen to live music on a Saturday at The Street Fair at College of the Desert.
27. Fawn over all the pups at dog-friendly 4 Paws Coffee Co. as they snack on their own treats and coffee.
28. Enjoy a meditative experience and ‘sound bath’ at UFO-inspired Integratron in the Mojave Desert.
29. Drive along Highway 74 for a mix of desert, forest and mountain views.
30. Stop at Vista Point for views of the Coachella Valley.
31. Get a little excited by the idea of a speakeasy come tiki bar at Bootlegger Tiki.
32. Pay your respects to celebs of the past at Desert Memorial Park.
33. Throw it back to 1930s by stepping into a recreation of an all-American store at Ruddy’s General Store Museum.
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34. If you’re an architecture buff, do a mid-century modern architecture tour.
35. And finish it off with a visit to The Alexander Estate where you can learn about Elvis Presley’s honeymoon here.
36. Grab a coffee at Gré Coffeehouse & Art Gallery while you listen to music from a mixed tape, play a board game and browse the photography.
37. Embrace your inner moon child with the Ace Hotel’s Full Moon Party.
38. Pack the quinoa and avocado for a picnic at Sunrise Park.
39. Visit the tiny, desert-based, trailer-housed World Famous Crochet Museum.
40. Save the pennies for arts, crafts and entertainment at Thursday night’s Palm Springs VillageFest.
41. Travel around Palm Springs for free in one of the city’s Buzz trollies.
42. Feel the stretch at the Wellness Park in Ruth Hardy Park with a donation-based Power Yoga class.
43. Cover your eyes as you go under the Lee R. Baxandall Bridge where nudists cross the two sides of the Desert Shadows clothing-optional resort.
44. See Coachella Valley from a different perspective on the aerial tramway, the world’s largest rotating tram car.
45. Throw back the cool cocktails at Truss & Twine.
46. Drive to Salvation Mountain for an epic pic of this man-made mountain of colour and scripture.
47. Enjoy a diner experience with a California-Mexican twist at King’s Highway where each night has a different theme.
48. Consider re-watching Jurassic Park after visiting the 100 tonne Cabazon Dinosaurs.
50. Surprise yourself by getting excited at seeing 4,000 windmills at the San Gorgonio Wind Farm Park.
51. Get up close to some of the best wildlife and botanics at The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens.
52. Splash out spend the day’s budget with a visit to desert hot springs somewhere like Hacienda Hot Springs Inn.
Festivals near Palm Springs
Pulling in anybody who’s anybody, Coachella takes place over two weekends in April meaning you’ve got plenty of time mid-week to explore somewhere other than the Empire Polo Club. Headliners include the likes of Beyonce, Ariana Grande and Janelle Monae but there’s also the famous ferris wheel to check out as well as the zany art and insane fashion. Coachella is the most popular festival in Palm Springs, without a doubt.
Think of Stagecoach as the country version of Coachella. Stagecoach even takes place in the same location but two weeks later. You can expect all the biggest names in country music as well as a honky tonk dance hall to visit, a smokehouse for your fave barbecued foods and a marketplace so you can deck yourself out in the most authentic country clothes.
Palm Springs International Film Festival
Kicking off the new year, Palm Springs screens 170 new films over 11 days as a part of its international film festival. It starts with the annual gala and awards night, which is ideal for celeb spotting. But if popcorn and a coke in a reclining seat is more your thing then check out the local cinemas for some of their festival releases.
Houses in Palm Springs
If you’d rather rent some dope house while you’re in Palm Springs, then check out the range of houses on Airbnb. They have different villas and condos to suit every budget.
3 amazing hotels in Palm Springs
After all that sightseeing and partying, you want to be coming back to a room that’s just as chic as the city it’s in. As one of the coolest places in the US, there’s no shortage of quirky hotels to choose from, and while they might stretch your budget it’s all part of an authentic Palm Springs experience.
Here are just a few that I’d love to stay in…
The Saguaro Palm Springs
Multi-coloured and palm tree covered, this downtown hotel is all about the fun with day time cabanas, fitness classes and cocktails on tap. The Saguaro Hotel a favourite for stags and hens so expect a party atmosphere.
Make like the Eagles and stay in the Hotel California. Located in amongst the dusty mountains, this rustic hotel has a hispanic feel complete with a pool and a few birds of paradise. With only 14 rooms, it’s a little quieter and a good spot if you’re looking for a tranquil getaway.
Step back in time at the Sparrows Lodge where the 1950s is still in full swing. Laid back and incredibly serene, Sparrows Lodge has tennis courts, bicycles and a pool to enjoy and is a wonderful place to disconnect.
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Best pools in Palm Springs
If instead you end up opting for a cheaper choice and your accommodation doesn’t have a pool, don’t fret because you can still sample a slice of the Palm Springs high life. Just purchase a day pass to one of the many hotel pools in Palm Springs.
ARRIVE Palm Springs hosts what they call Sip N’Splash every weekend where $10 will get you into the swanky pool and listening to the resident DJ.
Finally, if you fancy a full-on party, go to Hotel Zoso where inflatable beer pong tables and giant unicorns are available to rent.
Day trips from Palm Springs
After all this, if you’ve got a time to spare (which I highly doubt) then consider doing a day trip from Palm Springs. There’s so much to see and do.
Joshua Tree National Park
Out in the desert, the unusual Joshua Trees are amazing to see up close. It’s also a good excuse to stretch the legs with a hike along the Hidden Valley Trail. If you take your camera you can snap some of the most beautiful views complete with boulders, mining ruins and crazy-looking trees.
Other activities include rock climbing, a visit to Key Ranch or a horseback ride.
One of the top Palm Springs day trips includes a two-hour drive to the end of Route 66. Here, you can race along one of the most famous roads before stopping off in one of the many roadside diners.
The City of Angels is basically on Palm Springs’ doorstep taking less than two hours to get there. Hello ideal day trip. With a trip here, you can see the Hollywood sign, pump some iron on Santa Monica Pier, or explore Venice Beach or go celeb spotting in Rodeo Drive.
READ MORE: Top Stops on a San Francisco to LA Road Trip
Grab your cowboy hat and journey back to the 1870s with a 40 minute drive north to this Old Western movie set. After hosting the filming of over 50 movies and TV series, it’s since become a top tourist destination giving people a feel for the Western way of life.
What to do in Palm Springs
See, there’s a lot to do in Palm Springs. It’s definitely worth more than just a few days. If you’re in town for one of the festivals, then book in some extra time to explore afterwards. Or if you’re just looking for a new and different holiday destination in the USA, then Palm Springs could be the one!
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