Palm Springs Attractions and Activities
Palm Springs attractions are not just limited to golf, tennis and the country club. In fact, some people still cling to an old misconception – that Palm Springs, CA is just a retirement community for the +60 set. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Twelve years ago when I moved to Palm Springs, California from the big city, my friends thought I was crazy. “It’s a wasteland, a desert!” they protested. “You won’t last for two weeks. You’ll go mad.” A decade later, I must confess that they were right. I am absolutely crazy – about Palm Springs and the resort cities that comprise the Coachella Valley.
Like many visitors and residents, I have been seduced by the beauty of the land, and enthralled by the rich blend of cultures and activities that define the desert area.
For thousands of years the Coachella Valley was sparsely inhabited by Native Americans. Around the turn of the twentieth century the local hot springs and arid climate attracted intrepid physicians and their tubercular patients. Fifty years ago, Palm Springs was still an exclusive haven for movie stars and artists.
Today the area thrives as a world-class destination for travelers, offering some of the finest hotels, golf courses, restaurants, shopping malls, real estate, spas and recreation in the world.
The truth is that the area has been growing with new visitors and families moving here in droves. This has completely changed the complexion of the desert community – for the better! From swimming to skiing, there is a wide variety of activities to choose from. Yes, you can actually ski in the palm springs desert! At the top of the palm springs arial tramway there is cross country skiing in the winter-time. There are so many palm springs attractions and entertainment outlets for everybody now, and we will do our best to keep up with them in creating the ultimate list of them here for you…
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
This vast living museum of desert flora and fauna is a must-see for most visitors to the Coachella Valley. More than 400 species thrive here, including Mexican gray wolves, bobcats, mountain lions and golden eagles. The Village Watutu exhibit expands the desert experience to include the regions of Africa, so the collection also includes camels, zebras and cheetahs. In addition, “Wildlife Wonders” shows are held in the Tennity Amphitheater daily.
Palm Springs Arial Tramway
A thrilling cable car ride shuttles visitors from the desert floor to the heights of snow-capped Mt. San Jacinto, sometimes providing a 40-degree temperature drop in just a few minutes. Once at the top, there are hiking trails, mule rides, a cocktail bar and a restaurant (I recommend you purchase the “ride and dine” ticket). While many visitors just hop up for the view, it can be a starting point for many outdoor activities. The last car goes up at 8 p.m., while the last car down is at 9:45 p.m.
Palm Springs Village Fest
Locals and tourists happily mingle at this weekly event held on Palm Canyon Drive. Many shops stay open late, and the sidewalks are crowded with food booths, a certified farmer’s market with locally grown produce, craft booths and artists offering their creations. In addition, street entertainers charm the crowd with magic, music and costumes. The fair is held every Thursday evening, except for holidays. Admission is free.
Palm Springs International Film Festival
This fantastic internationally renown film festival takes place each January and is host to over 90,000 in attendance. More than 200 films from 60 countries are featured. This is one of the most anticipated Palm Springs attractions of the year.
Performances at the Mccallum Theatre
This is a busy, state-of-the-art venue for year-round entertainment and cultural events, and it draws both tourists and locals from throughout the Coachella Valley. Popular stars who have appeared here include singer Tom Jones, comedienne Rita Rudner, Harry Belafonte and the Cirque Eloize. The theatre also offers diverse educational programs for all ages. Ticket prices range from USD65-85 for most performances.
Palm Springs Desert Museum
This renowned desert museum offers an array of exhibits in an architecturally stunning facility. Recent shows have included “Desert Volcanoes,” an examination of the still-active forces beneath the sands. Permanent features include sculpture gardens, the internationally known Annenberg Theater and different galleries focusing on various aspects of artistic experience.
Horseback Riding at Smoke Tree Ranch Stables
Located in South Palm Springs adjacent to the Agua Caliente reservation and its Indian Canyons, these large stables offer fascinating horseback rides into the canyons. Patrons may explore remote trails, enjoy rare desert streams that flow year round, and pause under the shade of the palms.
Hot-Air Ballooning Above the Desert
One of the most exciting Palm Springs attractions (if you are up to the challenge) is floating through the sky in a hot-air balloon! See some of the most breathtaking views of the desert landscape while sipping champagne as you glide on the wind.
Palm Springs Golf
Palm Springs golf – there is nothing like it. The dramatic landscapes and harsh contrast between sand, rock, water and lush green fairway is simply awe-inspiring.