Palm Springs California is a city synonymous with luxury, relaxation and, of course, palm trees. Famous for its golf courses and luxury hotels, you would be forgiven for thinking there is not a lot in Palm Springs for kids. But you would be wrong!
This week we welcome a guest post from Kirsty from World for a Girl, who shares with us exactly what to do in Palm Springs with kids. She has also broken down all her favourite Palm Springs family activities into a handy 2-day itinerary to help you get the most out of your Palm Springs family vacation.
From zoos to museums, from the Palm Springs aerial tramway to the famous Joshua Tree National Park, read on for all Kirsty’s tips for the best Palm Springs kids activities.
Palm Springs, a Californian town deep in the Sonoran Desert USA is the perfect chill-out destination for grown-ups. It is famed for its golf courses, spas and luxurious hotels with the surrounding Coachella Valley renowned for hiking and outdoor activities.
But Palm Springs is also an excellent destination for families. Toddlers through to teenagers will enjoy the range of Palm Springs activities for kids in and around the city.
There’s also an amazing array of kid-friendly hotels in Palm Springs to suit every budget. The locality is also the perfect place to learn about one of the most fascinating ecosystems on the planet – the desert.
Whilst you can easily spend a week getting some serious R&R here, 2 days in Palm Springs still gives you plenty of time to explore the city and the surrounding desert, with time for a quick dip in the pool.
Our 2-day itinerary will give you a great overview of what to do in Palm Springs for kids and how to fit it into your time.
You may also like: Things to do at the Grand Canyon with Kids.
Day 1 in Palm Springs with kids
On day one of our kid friendly Palm Springs itinerary, you’ll get a great taste of both desert and city life, as well as plenty of family-friendly activities.
If there are any activities you don’t fancy, scroll to the end of the post to find some great alternatives for your Palm Springs to do list.
Morning: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
One of the absolute best things Palm Springs things to do with kids the The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. This is a huge botanical garden right in the heart of Palm Desert. There are native plants and of course, palm trees everywhere.
There is also a zoo area with animals from desert and savannah regions all over the world, including giraffes from South Africa and camels from the Sahara. For older children, there are numerous opportunities throughout the day to “meet the zookeeper” and visit the animal hospital.
There are shuttle buses around the gardens ($7/$4), but of course, it’s free – and a lot more interesting – to walk around. The park does rent strollers but sometimes they run out. We took our own double stroller with plenty of shade.
It’s easy to spend most of the day here. There are picnic areas throughout (you can bring food in) as well as cafes. Remember it will be hot. Whilst there is shade, bring plenty of sunscreen, hats and water.
Afternoon: Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert
This wonderful educational children’s museums appeals to local families and tourists alike.
There are over 80 interactive exhibits suitable for children of all ages at this Palm Springs museum. Let your toddler loose in Toddlertown and older children will love getting creative in Makerspace.
The thing we love most is that there is both indoor and outdoor spaces. Outside children can get up close and personal with tortoises, race tricycles or let off steam in the music garden.
Make sure you check out the website before visiting as there are some seasonal variations in opening hours. All visitors older than 1 need to pay a $9.95 entrance fee.
The museum is open until 5pm in the afternoon.
Evening: Palm Springs Downtown
After a revitalising dip in your hotel pool, take a walk along through Palm Springs Downtown
If you have tweens or teens that love to shop, Palm Canyon Drive is the one of the best placs to go in Palm Springs. This main street through the city is packed with boutiques, vintage stores and classy restaurants.
Right in the heart of the town is the Village Green Heritage Center. Historic buildings surround a small plaza on Palm Canyon Drive and you can enter some of the buildings.
Kids will love seeing what a general store would have looked like a 100 years ago at Ruddy’s General Store.
Day Two in Palm Springs with Family
Day two of this Palm Springs with kids itinerary might seem a little more geared towards adults, but don’t underestimate how much fun children can have clambering over boulders, exploring national parks and taking in tremendous views.
Being in nature is a great way for children to learn more about the desert environment.
Morning: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
This famous rotating cable car is another of the best things to do in Palm Springs. The aerial tramway takes passengers 2600m high to enjoy incredible views over Chino Canyon and San Jacinto.
Children will love the rotating floor in the tram which ensures everyone gets a 360-degree view regardless of where they stand.
At the top, there are nature trails through the gorgeous alpine setting. There is an easy 1.5 mile marked desert walk which is well-marked and suitable for young kids. Walking the desert trail clockwise allows for the steep parts at the beginning.
If you’re planning on hiking it’s a good idea to get there early to avoid the heat. Bring lots of water and a lightweight jacket. Remember to check your kids’ arms and legs for ticks afterwards.
A visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can easily take a whole morning (or afternoon). There are gift shops, informative movies and The Peak restaurant at the top which comes highly recommended.
There’s a bus from the parking lot to the tram if your little ones get tired.
Afternoon: Joshua Tree National Park with Kids
Joshua Tree National Park is always on people’s list of top things to do in Palm Springs. And with reason. A visit to this atmospheric and breathtaking National Park will stay with you forever.
Famous for its twisted Joshua trees, this National Park is truly a place of sublime landscapes,
renowned not just for its flora and fauna but for the incredible rock formations. Children of all ages will love scrambling over boulders or marvelling at the Arch rock, a naturally-formed stone ‘bridge’.
There are three educational visitor centres dotted around the vast park. Children can collect Junior Park Ranger booklets from the centers. Once they have completed the activities, they win a badge. It’s a great way to keep children motivated and help them engage with the environment.
If you’re off hiking with the kids, watch out for snakes and prickly plants! It’s a good idea for children and adults to dress in long trousers as there are cacti everywhere.
Of course, it’s hot in the desert during the day so pack the car with water, sunscreen and hats. Spring is possibly the best time to visit with beautiful spring flowers blooming and white-lined sphinx caterpillars to spot. It’s also not unbearably hot yet.
A Joshua Tree National Park pass costs $30 per vehicle and is valid for one week. If you have longer than 2 days in Palm Springs, definitely think about extending your stay here. There are campgrounds and places to stay nearby. If you do decide to spend the night, the temperature drops dramatically in the evening so bring warm clothes to layer up.
Places to visit in Joshua Tree with kids:
There are so many places to visit and see in Joshua Tree National Park. In one day, you will need to limit yourself to places not too far away from one of the park’s entrances.
Another fun way to see the park is to take a family friendly 4×4 Jeep tour. Click here to learn more.
There are loads of child-friendly walks around the park. Below are some of our favourites.
- Hidden Valley. A short and easy 1-mile circular walk. Very climbing friendly for little ones. There are picnic tables at the parking lot for a snack when you’re done.
- San Andreas Fault– there are magnificent views from the park’s highest viewpoint
- Kids will love running along the paths in the Cholla Cactus Garden
- Spotting Bighorn sheep and mule deer quenching their thirst at Barker Dam
More Fun Things to do in Palm Springs
If you have longer in Palm Springs or don’t fancy the drive to Joshua Tree National Park, there are loads more great things to do near Palm Springs.
This very kitsch roadside tourist attraction is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ places to visit in Palm Springs.
Cabazon Dinosaurs has retro appeal as parents might recognise the dinosaurs from a classic movie scene. Toddlers on the other hand will love the opportunity to climb inside a T-Rex’s mouth and stretch their legs. As a side note: the attraction does have some interesting creationist information signs!
It is just off the I-10 Freeway and you can see the largest dinosaurs from the road if you really don’t want to pay to go in. There’s a gift shops and several fast food joints nearby.
Palm Springs Air Museum
A captivating and educational aviation museum where you can get up close and personal with a whole variety of historic air force planes.
The veterans who work at the Palm Springs Air Museum are renowned for being friendly and very knowledgeable. Older children will love hearing about their real-life aviation adventures.
For a small donation, you can tour a B-17. Plane-obsessed toddlers will love watching ‘real’ airplanes taking off and landing at Palm Springs Airport next door.
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
Not one for toddlers, this unusual building and museum in Desert Hot Springs is the place to learn about pioneers of the Wild West.
Teenagers will be captivated by the story of Cabot Yerxa (a man of many talents) who built this ‘pueblo’ in the desert. Tour guides also tell you about the history of Native Americans in the area. Outside there is a giant totem pole.
It is unsuitable for very young ones due to stairs and having to take a guided tour. There is a small admission fee.
A big thank you to Kirsty for sharing all her favourite things to do around Palm Springs!
About the author: Kirsty is a British family travel blogger currently living in sunny Malaysia. She has travelled to over 100 countries including 30 with her young children. She blogs about family travel with a dash of feminism at World for a Girl. Her goal is to inspire girls to be fearless global adventurers. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
The Best Palm Springs Family Resorts
Outdoor relaxation is what Palm Springs is all about, so when choosing where to stay in Palm Springs, be sure to find somewhere with a palm-fringed pool!
Luckily for you, there are plenty of fabulous Palm Springs kid friendly resorts including many with water slides, outdoor pools and kids clubs. Here we help you narrow it down with our pick of the best family hotels in Palm Springs.
Omni Rancho Las Palmas
Set amongst 240 acres of grounds, this family hotel in Palm Springs has a huge range of fun facilities.
The highlight for kids is its onsite 2-acre water park Splashtopia, featuring a 450-foot lazy river, two 100-foot water slides, plus a sandy beach and sprinklers for little kids to splash about in. If this isn’t enough to convince you this is one of the best resorts in Palm Springs for families, then how about the 25 tennis courts and adjacent 27-hole golf course?
All 444 rooms and suites are available with two queen beds to accommodate the family, with poolside rooms the most popular with families thanks to their easy access to Splashtopia.
There is a choice of restaurants at this Palm Springs family hotel, including Splash Grill at Splashtopia, BluEmber for California New American cuisine and the casual Palms Café for brick-oven pizzas, sandwiches and salads.
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells
Set within 45-acres of grounds just a 20-minute drive from Palm Springs, this is another top pick for best Palm Springs hotels for kids.
All of the 530 rooms, suites and villas are available with two queen beds, but for families we love the villas. These 1- and 2-bed villas come with a choice of spa tub, fire pit or private pool. All villas have a private courtyard patio with BBQ and outdoor seating.
There is a choice of bars and restaurants, including contemprary dining at Lantana, the poolside Roadrunner Café and Citrus Marketplace, which includes a deli and coffee bar.
Kids will love the kids club Camp Hyatt, which runs a variety of fun activities for kids aged 3-12, and they will also love the spiral water slide eand desert pipe water ride. There are also tennis courts, an adjacent golf course and bike hire.
Watch this space, because this hotel is about to move even higher up the rankings of best hotels for kids in Palm Springs with the upgrade of its resort pools facilities. Due to complete in December 2019, additions include a new 30-foot slide tower, two 3-storey water slides and a lazy river.
Marriott’s Desert Springs Villas
Set within 400 acres of grounds, the Marriott offers both hotel rooms and condo-style villas.
Rooms are available with two double beds for families and include kitchenettes. For more space and convenience, we recommend the 1- and 2-bedroom villas, which come with fully equipped kitchens including washer/dryer and separate dining/living areas with pull-out sofa beds.
The wide range of family friendly facilities here make it one of he best Palm Springs hotels for kids. These include seven resort pools, The Shade kids club, a daily games/activities schedule and bike rentals.
There is an onsite restaurant, the poolside Water’s Edge Bar & Grill and an onsite convenience store. There is a good choice of restaurants just a short drive away.
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