The mystique of the desert mixed with the mid-century modern architecture vibes of Palm Springs creates an environment that is completely unique to the Coachella Valley. Located in Southern California, the Coachella Valley is approximately two hours east of LA and San Diego (on a no traffic day) and a good escape from the bustle of city life.
As a traveling therapist, I have lived and worked in some beautiful places. The three months that I spent in the greater Palm Springs area tops that list. The greater Palm Springs area is great for singles, families, and retirees! If you are wondering what to do in Palm Springs, here are my suggestions.
Ride The Aerial Tramway
Gliding through the sky from the floor of the desert to the peak of San Jacinto mountain is a must-do during your time in Palm Springs. The aerial tramway takes you on a whirlwind 10-minute ride in a gondola with 360-degree rotating views of the Coachella Valley. Once on top of the mountain, you can explore nature with various hikes, or sit down at the restaurant with a nice meal or cup of coffee. Don’t forget to pack extra layers! The temperature at the top of the mountain is far less than that on the valley floor .
The Palm Springs Visitors Center
In Palm Springs, the visitors center is an attraction in itself. The visitors center is a former gas station, circa 1965, at the base of the aerial tramway. While I normally skip visitors centers, this is a fun one to stop at and walk around. In a world of Pinterest and the internet, it was fun to pick up old-school paper pamphlets and carry them around with me on my adventures!
Admire The Mid-Century Modern Architecture
Palm Springs is famous for its mid-century modern architecture and is full of wonderful examples all over town. Whether you are on foot, bike, or car, take some time to admire the beautiful designs and modern concepts that current homeowners are spinning. I was impressed with the colors and designs that lined the streets in Palm Springs.
Moorten Botanical Garden
Explore the beautiful plant life of the desert at Moorten Botanical Gardens. There are stunning succulents and other desert vegetation in this easy stop from downtown Palm Springs. This is a must-see garden in Palm Springs!
Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a stunning botanical garden and zoo located in the heart of Palm Desert. What I enjoyed about the Living Desert was how they seamlessly brought together gardens and animals from deserts all over the world. The vegetation and wildlife all seem to flow together so well. There are gardens from desert climates in the US, such as the Mojave and Sonoran, as well as Madagascar and East Africa. You can also access hiking trails from the living garden and there’s a kids’ play area that you can take the kiddos to!
Spend A Day In Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is where the Mojave and Colorado deserts collide. It’s serene, vast, and filled with rocks to climb, trails to hike, and vegetation to explore. The Joshua trees, which look like something out of a cartoon, are abundant and grow around the park.
You can spend endless time at Joshua Tree! However, at the least, plan to spend a day there and drive through the park. I recommend entering the park at the north entrance at 29 Palms and driving southeast through the park. You will then exit at the south entrance, which is east of Indio. Or you can do the opposite and go south to north. Give yourself at least half a day to do the driving tour. There will be plenty of lookout points that you will want to stop at and explore. Definitely don’t miss the Joshua trees, rock formations, and the cholla cactus garden.
Hike At The Coachella Valley Preserve
As you look around the Coachella Valley, you see that you are surrounded by beautiful mountains. There are many great hiking trails in the valley. As a solo hiker, I enjoyed hiking at the Coachella Valley Preserve. Pushwalla Palms and Hidden Palms were some of my favorite trails. The trails are relatively well marked and lower in elevation with a smaller elevation gain (under 500 feet). The hikes are a bit easier and accessible to those who aren’t super experienced hikers but still want to hike and enjoy nature. There is a hidden oasis of palm trees and even an old 1940’s car wrecked on the back of one of the trails (the Pushwalla trail).
Take A Step Back In Time At Pioneertown
Pioneertown is a step back in time to the Wild Wild West. Pioneertown was built as a movie set for wild west films in the 1950’s. In total, more than 50 movies were shot at Pioneertown. This includes famous Hollywood blockbusterslike Annie Oakley and The Range Rider. People live in scattered houses throughout the town and the movie structures stand as shops, music venues, and even a post office.
Check Out Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain is one of those roadside American landmarks that is so quirky and eclectic that you just have to see it to believe it. The mountain is a man-made mountain art installation. Made from adobe and straw, the mountain is painted with colorful biblical phrases and designs. It’s interesting, to say the least. As a bonus, the drive to Salvation Mountain from the valley takes you on a scenic trip past the Salton Sea.
As you explore the greater Palm Springs area, I hope you can use this post to guide you to some great things to do in the area. Comment below if you have any others to add to the list.