Blake Walsh

21 Best Things to Do in Palm Desert, CA

  • Published 2023/03/24

Located in the Coachella Valley area of Riverside County, Palm Desert is a popular destination for people looking for a break from long winters in their region.

The hot city of Palm Desert is known for its amazing festivals, trails, landscapes, parks, art galleries, public art, boutiques, restaurants, and much more!

Interested to know more about this place?

Here are the 21 best things to do in Palm Desert, California:

Tour thePalm Springs Art Museum

Signage of Palm Springs Art Museum

S. Witchayakul /

One of the fascinating ways to spend time in Palm Desert is to check out the stunning art at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

The Palm Springs Art Museum features a vast collection of artworks from different parts of the world and across different historical periods.

For a more authentic experience at the Palm Springs Art Museum, check out any live performances hosted by the museum authorities.

The museum also offers a guided tour for visitors.

Exterior of Palm Springs Art Museum

Michael Vi /

Buy Souvenirs at theEl Paseo Shopping District

A parked car at El Paseo Shopping District

Kamil Zelezik /

If a little retail therapy is what you’re looking for in Palm Desert, then you must head out to the El Paseo Shopping District.

El Paseo Shopping District is also known as the Rodeo Drive of the Coachella Valley.

The shopping district is stretched across 1 mile and is home to over 300 splendid shops.

Shops at El Paseo Shopping District

Jeff Whyte /

The El Paseo Shopping District is mainly famous for its blocks featuring high-end boutiques, shops, and picturesque restaurants.

Go for a shopping spree or enjoy some window shopping – both ways, the El Paseo Shopping District will charm you with its quaint aesthetics.

A building at El Paseo Shopping District

Rosemarie Mosteller /

Have a Unique Palm Desert Experience with Balloons Above

Hot Air Balloon in Coachella valley

Tyler W. Stipp /

If you’re in for some adventure, you must not miss the opportunity to fly over Palm Desert with a hot air balloon ride.

The hot air balloon ride over the Coachella Valley offers the most exciting and fun way to explore the beauty of the Palm Desert and its surroundings.

Balloons Above has been offering this unique experience to visitors for over 40 years.

The best part about a hot air balloon ride is that it gives you the most mesmerizing 360-degree view of the Palm Desert.

Imagine soaring across the sky while watching the most striking landscapes of the desert and city.

For the most memorable hot air balloon experience in Palm Desert, you can also go for a special Sunset Flight.

Explore theLiving Desert Zoo and Gardens

Animals at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Zack Frank /

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens offers an ideal getaway for anyone looking to learn more about desert life facts.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens features a fascinating combination of animal species and a botanical garden focusing on palms and cacti.

Here, you can learn about various native desert plants and diverse animal species.

Exterior of Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Simone Hogan /

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is home to wolves, leopards, giraffes, zebras, badgers, camels, and other intriguing animal species.

The site also features an exclusive butterfly garden petting zoo with beautiful nature trails.

A wolf at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Karon Elliott Edleson from La Quinta, CA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch a Show atMcCallum Theater

A water fountain at McCallum Theater

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The McCallum Theater is a state-of-the-art performing arts center in Palm Desert, attracting visitors from all around the world.

From Broadway and opera to classical and rock music – the theater offers a wide range of entertainment and cultural experiences for visitors and natives.

If you’re looking for some entertainment during your time in Palm Desert, you must plan a visit to this place!

Drop by theSanta Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

View of Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center

Sarah K. Webster / Shutterstock.ocm

Rising from the desert floor, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains reach 10,834 feet at the Mount San Jacinto summit.

A day’s trip to the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument will provide a stunning landscape of mountains and local communities.

Some remote Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains areas can be challenging for visitors.

While taking a day trip to this place, you must carry enough water, protect yourself from the sun and carry a map to follow the suitable trails.

A road at Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

Sundry Photography /

If you are traveling with children, always keep them near you and watch out for dangerous flora and fauna.

The trails are rated as easy, moderate, and strenuous.

You can choose a trail type that best meets your hiking abilities and needs.

Lastly, ensure you do not recreate alone and always stick to the right trail.

Flora at Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

V. Vormann /

Have Fun at Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park

If you are looking for an outdoor retreat in Palm Desert, you must make it a point to visit Civic Center Park.

Spread across 70 acres, Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park is the city’s biggest community park.

The Civic Center Park is a favorite for visitors and families looking for an ample open green space or picnic area in the city.

The Civic Center Park site also attracts sports enthusiasts, home to baseball fields, basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts, and a separate playground for kids.

Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park is nicely built with proper amenities, including restrooms, walking trails, public art area, and a beautiful rose garden.

You can also explore Civic Center Park’s arena, which hosts several events and concerts all year round.

Take a Joy Ride atPalms to Pines Scenic Byway

The road of Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

When someone mentions Palm Desert, you cannot help but imagine the most striking landscapes!

A short road trip along the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway offers the perfect way to catch a glimpse of the most attractive landscapes in the area.

To take this scenic route, you’ll start your trip outside the Palm Desert area.

You’ll know you’ve reached your destination as soon as you glimpse the snow-peaked mountains at Banning Pass.

This gusty 67-mile-long road trip is perfect for visitors looking to escape the city structures and crowded attractions.

Aerial view of Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

Andy Konieczny /

Enjoy the Waters ofPalm Desert Aquatic Center

Has the Palm Desert heat taken a toll on you?

Well, there is no other way to beat the desert heat than to the Palm Desert Aquatic Center!

The Palm Desert Aquatic Center is quite popular with residents and visitors alike, as the water park offers a perfect way to retreat from soaring temperatures in the region.

The best part about the Palm Desert Aquatic Center is that it remains open all twelve months, featuring fun attractions for visitors of all ages.

The Palm Desert Aquatic Center features three swimming pools, water slides, spray areas, and other fun play areas.

The water park also offers exercise classes during certain hours.

Join the Fun of the Street Fair at College of the Desert

The Street Fair at College of the Desert is considered one of the most sought-after things to do in Palm Desert.

The Street Fair at College of the Desert is an open-air shaded shopping hub featuring the broadest range of exclusive clothing, art, decor, furniture, gadgets, gifts, and food.

The Street Fair at College of the Desert has been going on for over 36 years.

Till now, it continues to offer the most versatile range of merchandise and services for all ages and budgets.

Whether it’s the gourmet food, live entertainment, or home and fashion goods – everything about the street fair makes it worth a visit!

Reflect at theDesert Holocaust Memorial

The Desert Holocaust Memorial in Palm Desert aims to educate visitors about the atrocities of the Holocaust, along with remembering the ones who lost their lives to it.

With its impressive representation of the horrors of the Holocaust, the memorial leaves you with contemplative and sobering thoughts.

After entering the memorial, the first thing you’ll see is a circular row of trees, symbolizing life outside the concentration camps.

The memorial features a collection of 7 large figurines depicting the different kinds of people who suffered from Nazi atrocities.

You can visit the Holocaust Memorial any day with free admission.

It is one of the most heart-touching Holocaust memorials you’ll visit across America.

Dine at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

If you crave good seafood in Palm Desert, you must not look further than the Desert at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant.

Pacifica Seafood Restaurant is one of the top-rated seafood joints in Palm Desert.

The restaurant not only stands apart because of its warm and attractive setting.

It also meets all your expectations in terms of taste and freshness.

The restaurant menu offers you an extensive range of salads and appetizers to choose from.

If you are confused about what to order, choose anything from the restaurant’s unique sugar-spiced salmon, filet mignon, shrimp scampi pasta, or Chilean sea bass.

Another highlight of Pacifica Seafood Restaurant is its outdoor dining facility, which offers a gorgeous view of the mountains.

Apart from offering the most scrumptious seafood, the restaurant’s bar also gives you a choice of handcrafted cocktails, vodkas, and wines.

Ride Up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Gondola of Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Kate Scott /

Experience the thrill of riding aboard the world’s largest rotating tram car that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway operates.

The exhilarating ride starts from Tramway Road and travels more than 2.5 miles along the soaring cliffs of Chino Canyon.

A Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ride will transport you to the pristine Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

The ride takes about 10 minutes, during which the tram cars slowly rotate, providing you with spectacular 360-degree views of the valley below.

Far view of Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

FajarPangestu /

Your ride stops on the tramway’s Mountain Station at 8,516 feet.

The fun experience continues here in the station’s observation deck, two restaurants, natural history museum, a gift shop, and two documentary theaters.

The ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway also unlocks access to more than 50 miles of hiking trails.

People waiting to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Jeff Whyte /

Learn about Dog Fights at the Palm Springs Air Museum

Exterior of the Palm Springs Air Museum

Steve Cukrov /

The Palm Springs Air Museum on Gene Autry Trail at the north side of the Palm Springs Airport is a must-visit for fans of aviation history.

Established around the mid-1990s, this museum holds 29 vintage military aircraft and boasts having these as one of the largest collections in the world.

Ranked by CNN Travel as among the world’s best, the Palm Springs Air Museum collection consists of flyable and static aircraft.

Interior of the Palm Springs Air Museum

Steve Cukrov /

These planes saw action not only in World War II dog fights but also were used during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and in the Museum Global War on Terror.

With these displays, the Palm Springs Air Museum aims to educate its visitors on the role of Air Power in preserving the American way of life.

Aircrafts on the Palm Springs Air Museum grounds

Steve Cukrov /

Drop by the Angel Cove Monument

Entering Palm Springs from the north allows you to drop by Angel Cove Monument, a quaint natural monument off North Palm Canyon Drive.

It is an impressive angel-shaped rock formation perched atop the most extensive canyon of the roadside cove.

The name Angel Cove came from one of the original Cahuilla settlers of the area who believed an angel healed her child.

Angel Cove was preserved for its aesthetic value and to underscore its area’s importance as a wildlife habitat.

During a visit here, try scanning the slopes above the cove for a chance to spot peninsular big horn sheep, an endangered species.

Know More about Green Energy at the Palm Springs Windmill Tours

Windmills at Palm Springs

Nikolas_jkd /

Explore how renewable energy works with a session at the Palm Springs Windmill Tours on 20th Avenue in North Palm Springs.

You can pick from self-driving and guided tours for this enlightening experience on generating green energy.

You’ll use an app in a self-driving tour as your guide to 10 marked destinations across southern California’s first commercial wind farm.

Golf carts with tour guides are used in the wind farm’s guided tours, which take one to a half hours.

During these tours, you’ll learn about the development of windmills as an energy source aside from getting up close to these towering power generators.

Discover the “Cactarium” of the Moorten Botanical Garden

Cacti at Moorten Botanical Garden

Steve Cukrov /

The Moorten Botanical Garden on South Palm Canyon Drive lets you into the realm of desert plants it has devoted since 1938.

As desert plant specialists, the Moorten family, who owns this garden, coined the word “Cactarium” for its extensive collection of desert trees, plants, and cacti.

The Cactarium of the Moorten Botanical Garden gathers over 3,000 desert plants from around the world.

Signage of Moorten Botanical Garden

Steve Cukrov /

Ranging from miniature to gigantic in size, these plants are set in specific habitats that you can tour via a nature trail.

Accents of gold mining relics, fossils, colorful rocks, and glistening crystals along the trail add to the desert lore you’ll experience at the Moorten Botanical Garden.

Flora at Moorten Botanical Garden

Steve Cukrov /

Other Things to Do Nearby

Go Hiking in the Bump and Grind Trail

View from Bump and Grind Trail

Karen Gaabucayan /

There is no doubt about the fact that one of the best things to do in Palm Desert is to go hiking on the Bump and Grind Trail.

The Bump and Grind Trail is the region’s most popular hiking trail and the one with the most spectacular landscape views.

The 4-mile loop Bump and Grind Trail offers a challenging yet enjoyable way to explore the natural beauty of the Palm Desert at an elevation of 1000 feet.

From spotting sweet wildflowers, magnificent desert views, and even some wild animals – your Bump and Grind Trail experience will undoubtedly be unforgettable!

Bask in the Outdoors atThousand Palms Oasis Preserve

Scenic view of Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

sbedaux /

Located in Coachella Valley, Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is a serene and untouched wilderness area.

It’s easy to get to the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve area, 20 minutes away from Palm Desert.

The Preserve stretches across 20,000 acres, featuring an intriguing combination of hiking trails and picnic spots.

A boardwalk at Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

sbedaux /

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve gives you an authentic desert nature experience with its widespread landscapes and wild plant life.

The Preserve also offers guided hiking tours on some days of the week.

To know more about the services provided at the Preserve, you can contact the visitor’s center.

Hikers at Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

sbedaux /

Stare in Awe at the San Andreas Fault

Daytime view of the San Andreas Fault

Angel McNall Photography /

San Andreas Fault stands as one of the fascinating geological features of the West Coast.

San Andreas Fault is mainly responsible for continental rifts triggering earthquakes in California.

The boundary formed by two massive tectonic plates is the “fault” in San Andreas Fault.

Signage of San Andreas Fault

jdjohannsen /

The highlight of your visit to the San Andreas Fault will be the flora and fauna, oasis, and mud pots.

The best way to visit San Andreas Fault is by taking a guided jeep tour, especially if you are not interested in hiking.

From its multifaceted geological features to groves and tropical plants, everything about a day trip to San Andreas Fault is full of adventure and fun.

Aerial view of San Andreas Fault

Breck P. Kent /

Visit Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Exterior of Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Jllm06, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Returning in time by exploring the intriguing Cabot’s Pueblo Museum!

Built by Cabot Yerxa, Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is a historic home that dates back to the 1940s.

This historical home with four stories and 35 rooms was yet to be completed when Yerxa died in 1965.

At present, you can visit inside the home to explore art and artifacts exhibited to showcase the life of its previous owners.

The fascinating exterior of this enormous building perfectly exemplifies Pueblo’s revival design.

The materials used to build this magnanimous house were sourced from the nearby surroundings the desert.

Final Thoughts

Palm Desert exudes a warm welcome to its visitors any time of the year.

Its Coachella Valley area in Riverside County offers a refuge, especially to those from the colder regions of the North American continent.

The universal appeal of its myriads of points of interest presents a compelling mix of the things to do in Palm Springs.

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