Where the San Gabriel Mountains meet the edges of the Mojave Desert, the charming city of Palmdale lies waiting for adventurous travelers.
It’s situated at the edge of Antelope Valley, a territory known for its rich desert wildlife, rugged landscapes, and historic past.
Palmdale itself is a Californian jewel, an unassuming destination with breathtaking sights, unusual attractions, and entertaining events.
In addition, the surrounding natural sites offer an endless list of adventures for thrillseekers and nature lovers.
There’s something for everyone here, so why not make this your top choice for a weekend getaway?
Here are the 15 best things to do in Palmdale, CA:
Catch Fish at Lake Palmdale
Lake Palmdale is a manmade destination whose primary role is to provide water for the residents of Palmdale and parts of neighboring Lancaster.
But it also serves as an attraction owing to its beautiful engineering, panoramic surroundings, and lots of activities to try.
There are several small piers that jut into the lake, all of which allow for fishing the creatures swimming underneath the surface.
The lake is regularly stocked with trout, largemouth bass, and channel catfish, and you’re welcome to come and bring home as much as you can.
Aside from fishing, you can go boating to the lake’s center and take in the views of the desert and mountains around you.
You can also simply stay on the lakeside beaches and enjoy the breezy weather with your family, a pleasant experience when temperatures are much lower and comfortable during spring and fall.
Have a Fun Family Day at Marie Kerr Park
Marie Kerr Park is a scenic outdoor facility, a favorite by the residents of Palmdale.
This spacious, 27-acre destination is a relaxing place for families and friends alike, with many modern amenities, green spaces, and ample parking.
You have lots of options for athletic activities, as there are tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields, and a spacious skate park for beginners and professionals.
The pool is ideal for a quick, cooling dip or a few laps for those who want to test their swimming skills.
Aside from sports amenities, there are many benches, shaded spots, and walking trails for those who simply want to relax and unwind.
So bring your family and have a nice picnic!
It’s a pleasant place to stay when the temperatures are cooler and more comfortable.
Make a Splash at DryTown Water Park
The temperatures can reach uncomfortable highs in the city, especially during the summer.
So it’s good to know the best places to cool down with your family.
DryTown Water Park is one such destination, and here, you’re guaranteed a day of aquatic fun and excitement.
It’s home to some of the region’s most exhilarating rides and attractions, including a 35-foot tower with slippery slides leading to the pristine pools.
The 925-foot lazy river is wide and calm, and you can cruise on a tube along its length and forget all your worries.
There are other exciting destinations within the six acres of landscaped grounds, and you’ll need all day to try them all out.
So if you’re looking for some relief from the desert climate, make sure this place is on your list.
Make a Stopover at Blackbird Airpark
The Blackbird airpark sits on the same block as Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, but it deserves its own spot because of the sheer majesty of the aircraft displayed here.
Officially called Lockheed SR-71, the Blackbird jet is a long-range reconnaissance aircraft used for various missions that require Mach speeds at high altitudes.
These aircraft are feats of engineering, with sleek design and dark colors that earned them their nicknames.
Two Blackbirds are displayed here at the park, and you’re welcome to get up close and personal with these breathtaking aircraft.
Take a second to appreciate the cutting-edge designs that almost look out of this world.
If you’re lucky, you can join a private tour offered by some of the retired aircraft personnel in charge of the park.
You’ll get to learn more about these stealth aircraft and their contributions to the exploits of the US.
Ace a Hole in One at Desert Aire Golf Course
Test your skills by playing a round or two at Desert Aire Golf Course.
This sprawling, 9-hole course is ideal for beginners and professionals alike, with verdant fairways, challenging hazards and bunkers, and the majestic scenery of the desert landscape.
You’ll see miles and miles of cottonwood trees while playing here!
The terrain is also relatively flat and even, making it an ideal place to practice your play and make progress.
There’s also a well-stocked pro shop where you can buy equipment if you didn’t bring any, including colored balls that are easier to spot in the brown and green landscape.
And since playing under the California sun can leave you parched and hungry, Desert Aire Golf Course has a clubhouse restaurant offering tasty snacks and refreshing drinks.
Shop at Antelope Valley Mall
Antelope Valley Mall is the premier retail space on this side of the Mojave desert.
It’s quite a spacious mall, with more than a million square meters of space combined.
So you can expect a lot of shops, stalls, restaurants, and other establishments that cater to your every need.
One of the most prominent features of this destination are the 16 cinemas and their “stadium-style” seating.
Watching a blockbuster here is a brand new experience altogether.
There are also rows of restaurants where you can try various cuisines and refreshments, including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Arby’s.
It’s the ideal place for those who find shopping a therapeutic experience or those who simply want to cool down from the desert air.
Enjoy a Cold Drink at Transplants Brewing Company
If your idea of cooling down from the desert heat is a refreshing mug of beer, then head over to Transplants Brewing Company.
This Palmdale institution is the most well-known brewing establishment in the city, and it’s often visited for the delicious refreshments created in-house.
From distinct West Coast ales to specialty drinks, you’ll have lots of choices on their menu.
You can try some classic malt beer if you want a more straightforward option or some Spanish soda if your tastebuds are feeling adventurous.
Aside from the beer, the destination is known for its beautiful murals.
You’ll have a great time examining the colorful artworks while holding a mug of tasty brewed drink.
Just don’t bring the kids!
Trek the Trails of Ritter Ranch Park
With more than 4000 acres of mountain and desert scenery, the Ritter Ranch Park is the perfect destination for those who want challenging outdoor adventures.
You’ll find rivers, valleys, rock formations, and other natural attractions in elevations ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 feet.
To reach these attractions, you can take one of the many crisscrossing trails that abound in the park.
These are great for hiking and walking, biking, and even ATVs.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this park is the combination of coastal, mountain, and desert fauna.
So you can expect prickly cacti, vibrant flowering bushes, and crooked trees that you normally wouldn’t find together in a single place.
There’s also lots of desert wildlife here, with rattlesnakes, deer, spiders, and native birds roaming and hunting for food under the harsh sun.
And because of the relative lack of modern development, this park has maintained a peaceful and isolated charm for those who want to get away from busy lives.
Play a Few Rounds at Rancho Visita Golf Club
Another favorite golf course in Palmdale is the Rancho Visita Golf Club.
Compared to Desert Aire Golf Course, the grounds here are a lot greener.
But along with this comes a more challenging gameplay in the 18-hole course, with rolling hills, uneven terrain, and tricky spots that really test your skills.
It was designed by renowned golf architect Ted Robinson, the “King of Waterscapes.”
So you can expect lots of water hazards, with large ponds, an absolutely stunning waterfall, and fountains that add to the beauty of the location.
Because of these features, a lot of people use the facility as a venue for special events like weddings and birthdays.
It also helps that the food they serve here is delicious and satisfying.
See the Airplanes at Joe Davies Heritage Airpark
The city is known as one of the aerospace hubs in the country since Palmdale has a US Air Force testing center.
That’s why one of the most visited locations in town is Joe Davies Heritage Airpark.
The scenery here is something you won’t see in your regular American city: aircraft of all shaped and sizes are put on display underneath the vast Californian sky.
From bombers to jet fighters, the are many types of airplanes used by USAF, Canadian Air Force, US Navy, and other entities.
The airpark is an exhibition facility that doubles as a museum, showcasing the various flying vehicles from different eras and wars.
Join a tour and get up close and personal with all these winged wonders.
You’ll also learn more about how these were designed and what makes each aircraft unique from the next one.
Catch a Show at Palmdale Amphitheatre
Adjacent to Marie Kerr Park is the favorite concert venue of the city: Palmdale Amphitheatre.
This open-air events destination is perfect for families and friends who want to enjoy a night of music and entertainment under the stars.
Some memorable groups and individuals who have graced the stage include Air Supply, Fifth Harmony, and Blake Shelton.
There are many other shows performed here aside from the live music, such as dance recitals, theater plays, and community events.
The family movie nights, which happen every Friday night during summer, are a favorite by residents as well.
There’s nothing like watching a great film under the night sky to bring the family together.
Go Horseback Riding at Rainbow Ridge Ranch
If you love horses, then a quick stopover to the Rainbow Ridge Ranch is a must during your trip to Palmdale.
This attraction is a horseback riding and rental stable located south of the city proper, past Lake Palmdale, and into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Since it’s sheltered by the surrounding hills, the ranch has more comfortable temperatures for the horses.
You can hop on one and join the tours up the nearby slopes.
The ride is especially scenic when the occasional snow arrives and creates a thin covering of white everywhere.
If you’re not confident with your riding skills yet, the ranch also offers lessons so you can get started on horseback immediately.
So bring your family over and have a thrilling time atop these majestic creatures.
Other Things to Do Nearby
After your thrilling tour of Palmdale, why not visit these other places nearby?
See the Wonders of the San Gabriel Mountains
For a lot of people, California may seem like a hot, sunny place where the residents are tanned and the grapevines are lush.
But snow is still a well-known phenomenon here, and one of the best places to see this is at the San Gabriel Mountains.
There are plenty of slopes perfect for skiing just a few kilometers from Palmdale.
You can also try snowboarding, horseback riding, and hiking to the snowcapped summits if conditions allow.
Of course, the mountains are also great during summer.
Camping, boating and river cruises, animal encounters, and astrophotography are favorite activities here, especially at higher elevations where temperatures are milder.
Tour the Trails of Prime Desert Woodland Preserve
In neighboring Lancaster, the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve serves as the premier location for those who want to learn more about desert wildlife.
There are three miles of trails in this attraction, and they bring you to themed locations where you can get up close to unusual desert plants.
From towering cacti to delicate succulents, there’s a large number of species here that are typical in a desert region.
What’s great is that it’s located in the middle of the city, but you’d think you’re in the middle of nowhere because of the rugged and untouched landscapes all around.
After your tour around the park, make sure to visit the Elyze Clifford Interpretive Center located right at the entrance.
Here, you’ll find more information about the flora and fauna of the region, the area’s geology, and the indigenous populations that once roamed the desert.
Marvel at the Flowers of Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Ever wonder where pictures of Californian hills covered in carpets of flowers come from?
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is one of those magical places.
It’s located less than thirty minutes away from Palmdale, and the drive is so much worth the sights waiting for you.
This state-protected park has one of the most consistent blooms of California poppies, happening every springtime when the area receives the needed amount of rain.
The result is endless fields of yellow-orange that only end where the mountain slopes meet the blue skies.
Magical is an understatement if you’re lucky enough to witness this stunning display.
In order to preserve this delicate ecosystem, the authorities in charge have imposed a few rules to follow.
Don’t bring any pets, stay within the designated trails, and don’t bring anything that can set something on fire.
Palmdale is a hidden desert jewel, full of surprises to those curious enough to look past the more famous attractions nearby.
From places filled with advanced aircraft to exhilarating waterparks, there’s something for the young and old in this charming city.
When planning your itinerary, reference this list so you won’t miss the best spots.