Located in inland Southern California, at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, Palm Springs is one of the most visited cities in California. Back in the 50s and 60s (and still now), many Hollywood stars would come to Palm Springs as a vacation and retreat spot. Palm Springs is now very influenced by Hollywood, and it is full of architecturally famous homes that used to house stars like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. The city is surrounded by the Coachella Valley and the nearby Joshua Tree National Park, and it hosts the yearly Palm Springs International Film Festival. Palm Springs is now considered very trendy, and it attracts tons of tourists each year, from destinations all over the globe. In this post I will be guiding you through the city, informing you on all the most popular attractions in the city as well as everything else you’ll need to know to make your stay in Palm Springs enjoyable.
My family drove to Palm Springs from Phoenix, which was a five hour drive. If you’re coming from either San Diego or Los Angeles, the drive for you would be around two hours. The drive to Palm Springs is actually quite scenic, whether you’re coming from LA or somewhere south of the city. If you’re not within driving distance of Palm Springs, direct flights to Palm Springs International Airport are available for the U.S. and Canada.
Regarding transportation within Palm Springs, there are many means of transport to get you throughout the city. The centre of the city is very walkable, and depending on where you’re staying, you could probably walk from there to your hotel. Despite it being very pedestrian friendly, I would recommend either renting a car or using Uber/LYFT if you don’t have a car with you since many must-see spots are outside of walking distance from the city’s centre.
The last time I visited Palm Springs, my family and I stayed in an Air BNB. I would definitely suggest doing the same because Air BNBs are often less expensive and better than staying in a hotel, as they let you live more like a local in whichever city you’re staying in. The one we stayed in, (check it out here) was in a great location, very close to the city centre, and it had a great outdoor area with a pool, hot tub, and stunning view of the mountains!
If you prefer staying a hotel, a few that I’ve heard a lot of good things about are the Amado and the Saguaro. The Amado is a mid-century modern private residence, so not exactly a hotel, but it has the benefits of a hotel. The Saguaro is a very popular hotel with a massive pool, well known for its rainbow decor throughout the hotel. I haven’t stayed in either of the hotels, but I have heard that they’re both great places to stay at in Palm Springs!
One of the famous museums in Palm Springs is its Air Museum! This museum exhibits mostly World War 2 aircraft, and it is one of the world’s largest collections of WW2 Aircraft. The museum also teaches visitors a great amount of knowledge about the aircraft and pilots that helped America & the Allied Powers win the second World War. The museum’s aircraft collection alone is impressive (check out their entire collection here), but the museum also has a ton of artifacts, artwork, and an entire library full of history not just about WW2 but America itself.
This museum is different then a lot of traditional museums because at the Palm Springs Air Museum they actually allow visitors to touch and go inside the planes they have on display (hence how I took these photos). Because of this, and of course many other things about the museum, it is ranked the #1 Air Museum in its state and one of the top 14 Air Museums in the entire world.
Admission to the museums is $16.50 USD for adults, $14.50 USD for seniors, retired military, and kids aged 13-17, $9.50 for kids aged 6-12, and finally, free for kids under 5. You can buy tickets to the museum here.
I would without a doubt recommend that you visit this museum on a trip to Palm Springs. Not only is the museum very informative and educational, it’s also very engaging as you’re able to actually go inside of the planes they have on show!
A very popular activity to do in Palm Springs is to ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a rotating tramcar that brings riders to the second highest point in Southern California, San Jacinto Peak. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was originally opened back in 1963, and before it the only way to get to the top of the mountain was a very long hike. Now that the tramway exists, you can get from the tramway’s Valley Station (2643 ft) to the Mountain Station (8516 ft) in about 10 minutes.
The ride passes through four different ecosystems, a 30 degree drop in temperature, and 5873 feet in altitude. It begins in a desert and ends in an alpine forest. Here’s a photo of what you’ll see on the tramway ride.
Once you get dropped off at the Mountain Station, you are able to explore the surrounding areas and appreciate the stunning views from the top of the mountain. Depending on where your lookout point is, the view from the top can include as much as Palm Springs, the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea, Interstate 10, and even as far as the Las Vegas lights on a clear night.
Outside of the Mountain Station you will also find the Mount San Jacinto State Park, a 14,000 square mile California State Park. This park is very popular among hikers, as it has an impressive number of hiking trails throughout the park. I’ve never been too much into camping or hiking at all, so my family didn’t get to explore the park that much. However, I have heard that it is very scenic so if you’re into hiking/camping definitely looking into spending some time there! This obviously isn’t the article to get information on that though 😉
Tickets for the tramway are $25.95 USD for adults, $16.95 USD for kids aged 3 to 12, and $23.95 USD for seniors. The tramway operates starting at 10 AM on weekdays and 8 AM on weekends, and the last tram goes up at 8 PM and last tram goes down at 9:45 PM everyday. Buy tickets to the tramway here.
I would 100% recommend visiting the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway if you are visiting Palm Springs. The actual tramway ride is a great experience, and the views at the top of the mountain are absolutely stunning. Out of all the places I’ve visited in Palm Springs, I would probably have to say that the Aerial Tramway is my favourite!
Considered the heart of the city, Palm Canyon Drive is the place where locals and tourists alike spend most of their time. Named after the dozens of Palm Trees that line the street, Palm Canyon Drive is where most of Palm Springs’ shops and restaurants are located. These shops range from furniture stores, record stores, souvenir shops, and much more. There are also a ton of cafes and restaurants that line the street, which make for a great place to grab a bite after shopping for a few hours.
As I mentioned earlier, Palm Canyon Drive is a great place to pick a souvenir for your friends and family or of course, yourself!
The Palm Springs Walk of Stars is basically the Palm Springs version of the Hollywood Walk Of Stars. It features many Golden Palm Stars fixed into the sidewalks of Palm Canyon Drive, which recognize many different celebrities, famous for anything from acting to military service, who have once lived in Palm Springs. Some well known personalities featured on the walk include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Frank and Barbara Sinatra.
A very well known spot in Palm Springs is its nearby windmill farm, which you’re sure to have once heard of. This windmill farm, named the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, is technically not located in Palm Springs, but in the nearby (very) small town of Whitewater. It is part of the gateway into the Coachella Valley, and it is passed by many tourists driving into Palm Springs. I wouldn’t exactly consider the windmills a must visit spot, as they’re not much more than just a collection of windmills, but they are considered a symbol of the Palm Springs area and it is very likely that you’ll pass them on your way out or in to Palm Springs.
Palm Springs is very well known for its large collection of Mid-Century Modern architecture throughout the city (in fact, it is the apparently the largest concentration of Mid-Century Modern architecture in the world), and there are many famous homes with this style of architecture that can be found in the city. Here are a couple of notable homes that I suggest you visit (by visit I mean drive by) in Palm Springs.
One of the most well known homes in Palm Springs is the Kauffman house, named after the business man that this vacation home belonged to. This building was designed by Richard Neutra, a famous architect, back in 1946, for Edgar J. Kauffman Sr. The home’s swimming pool (not shown) is very iconic and recognizable, as possibly some of the most famous architectural images of all time were taken of the pool by photographer Julius Shulman back in 1947.
Another renowned home in Palm Springs is the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, built as (as you can probably guess) a holiday home for the famous entertainer Elvis Presley and his former wife, an actress and businesswoman, Priscilla Presley. It was built back in 1960 by architect Robert Alexander, and it is nicknamed the “House of Tomorrow”. Guided tours through the Presley’s former home are now offered by appointment, which you can get more info on here.
Originally created by Claude Bell to draw customers to his restaurant, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are a famous roadside attraction in Cabazon, California. The two dinosaurs are named Dinny and Mr. Rex. They’re about a 15 minute drive from Palm Springs, and they can be seen from the main highway leading to Palm Springs, Interstate 10.
I wouldn’t exactly suggest driving 15 minutes out of Palm Springs just to see these dinosaurs (if you didn’t pass by them on your way into the city), but if you’re into shopping, the dinosaurs are 5 minute drive from the Desert Hills Premium Outlet Mall. If you’re really into dinosaurs (which I’m not), you can purchase a $8-$12 ticket to Mr. Rex’s Dinosaur Adventure, which gives you access to a dinosaur exhibit as well as the chance to climb up Mr. Rex all the way to his mouth.
That brings us to the end of my post! I hope you enjoyed. Have you ever been to Palm Springs? If so, where was your favourite spot you visited there? If not, where would you most like to visit there? Let me know in the comments down below.
P.S. I am going to be leaving for a trip this Thursday, and I will be announcing where I’m headed (or where I’ll already be) in my post next Sunday. Be sure to look out for that as well as a ton of posts on the destination I’m headed to!
Thank you for reading.