Visiting Palm Springs - What to See and Do

(Palm Springs International Airport PSP, USA)

A couple of hours directly east of Los Angeles is the desert oasis of Palm Springs, one of California's most popular winter hangouts since the days of Sinatra. Once the exclusive weekend getaway for celebrities, presidents and the wealthy, the city of today has evolved into a hot spot for retirees and young families who can work from home.

One thing remains the same, Palm Springs is still a heaven for winter golfing, tennis, sunbathing, poolside swimming and many other outdoor attractions. An impossible number of golf courses shock the barren desert with their green fairways, while the surrounding Coachella Valley and mountains are also good for hikes, biking and horseback riding.

The city itself has cleaned up its image nicely. No billboards are allowed in Palm Springs, and the restaurant and bar scene is just as appealing and lounge-like as it was in the swinging 1950s. True, there is a huge senior citizen contingent here, but the winter weather is hard to beat, and the town's Native American heritage has been pleasantly preserved.

Ten things you must do in Palm Springs

  • By far the most notable attraction in the city is its aerial tramway. The enclosed tram rises nearly 1,830 meters / 6,000 feet from the valley floor to the top of Mount San Jacinto, where the sweeping views over the Coachella Valley are impressive. The weather at the summit is a shocking 40 degrees cooler than down below, and in winter there is often snow. Hike or take a mule ride at the top, then grab a bite at the upscale Peaks restaurant.
  • There are natural hot springs under this city, thus the name Palm Springs. A superb way to unwind during the cooler winter months is with a soak at local hot spring resorts like Two Bunch Palms Resort. This luxurious 56-acre / 23-hectare resort is the crème of the crop, serving celebrities and mobsters alike for decades. You can spend the night here or just take advantage of the impressive day facilities.
  • The Coachella Valley around Palm Springs is an ideal area for growing grapes, figs and other desert crops. A fun outing is to visit the Oasis Date Gardens, which first began planting its Moroccan palms in 1912. Visitors are welcome to explore the incredibly scenic grounds, learn about date cultivation and taste plenty of mouthwatering date products.
  • The Palm Springs Art Museum is a surprisingly good arts and craft venue. Its collection of Native American and Western artwork is superb, but equally interesting is the comprehensive array of artifacts and objects used by the local Cahuilla Native American tribe.
  • Native Americans own half of the city's actual territory, and the tribes even have the right to open casinos on their land. There are only a handful of casino resorts in the valley and they pale by comparison to those of Las Vegas. For visitors who would like an evening out playing the slots or gambling at the tables, the Spa Resort Casino is the most central and established of the bunch, while Spotlight 29 is arguably the most sophisticated, with its regular array of headlining entertainment and modern gaming rooms.
  • Palm Springs may feel a little plastic at times, but the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens attraction ensures that the real Southern California desert environment is kept alive and well for visitors to enjoy. Equal parts museum, zoo and desert preserve, this star attraction is a great way to learn more about the native creatures that live here through both museum-like exhibits and outdoor zoo enclosures. Walk the 1,200-acre / 485-hectare property or let the tram ferry you around in style.
  • For a fun night out, catch a show at the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. This old-style Vaudeville show is quite the entertainer, complete with elaborate costumes and great dance routines. The performers are all retired Vegas showgirls, dancers and other talented people, so the show is very professional. It plays nightly at the historic Plaza Theater in downtown Palm Springs.
  • The McCallum Theater for the Performing Arts is the city's premier venue for high culture. It attracts a steady flow of well-known musicians and composers, conductors and theater troupes. The symphony orchestra performances are always a highlight, as are the musicals that will run for a period of several weeks.
  • A sublime way to experience the beauty of the Coachella Valley is from above. Hot-air balloon rides are a popular activity in Palm Springs, with several companies offering rides daily. Sunrise and sunset rides are the most popular, but you can also go for the romantic champagne ride if you are travelling with that someone special.
  • Lounging by the swimming pool at your hotel is a required activity for everyone who visits Palm Springs. If you need a little more excitement, head to Knott's Soak City, a fantastic 16-acre / 6-hectare water park just outside of town. A wave pool for body boarding, 12 water slides and a bunch of sparkling swimming pools make this the perfect spot for the family with kids.

Palm Springs Airport PSP

I'm looking for: