10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Palm Springs

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway en Mount San Jacinto

10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Palm Springs

Located in the Colorado Desert, just a two- to three-hour drive from San Diego and Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a sunny vacation destination known for its beautiful golf resorts, warm weather and fun atmosphere. The city, along with several other surrounding communities including Palm Desert, is a winter destination for many Americans. Outside of the golf resorts, there are plenty of things to do, from shopping, dining and touring museums to exploring the surrounding mountains and ravines.

1 Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and Mount San Jacinto

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and Mount San Jacinto

Standing on the outskirts of Palm Springs, Mount San Jacinto rises more than 10,000 feet above the desert floor and is easily accessible by the scenic Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating aerial tram car. The desert views are fantastic, and on hot days the cool air at the top can be a refreshing treat.

Read also: Where to Stay in Palm Springs

The tram takes you to 8,500 feet, where there are observation decks, two restaurants, historical displays, and videos about the tram’s construction. From here a number of hiking trails lead through the pine forest, including a path to the top of San Jacinto. The temperature is considerably cooler here, even in summer, so if you’re here in winter, be prepared for the possibility of snow.

The trams run every half hour and the driving time is approximately 10 minutes.

Address: One Tram Way, Palm Springs, California

Official site: https://www.pstramway.com/

2 Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum Rex Brown / photo modified
Palm Springs Air Museum Rex Brown / photo modified

The Palm Springs Air Museum is known as one of the nation’s largest collections of World War II worker aircraft. Despite this, the museum is quite compact and can easily be explored in a relatively short time. Much of the collection is displayed in hangars, so it’s a great place to visit when the weather is too hot to be outside or you’re looking for an outdoor escape.

Address: 745 North Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, California

Official site: https://palmspringsairmuseum.org/

3 Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons
Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons, just outside Palm Springs, is a popular area for hiking and exploring beautiful desert scenery. One of the most scenic parts can be found at Palm Canyon. This 15-mile-long gorge, with a creek and waterfalls, is lined with large palm trees that add color to the otherwise muted tones of the desert environment. You can take a short walk to the creek or continue for a longer walk, enjoy a picnic or just enjoy the peace and quiet. Routes of different lengths lead from the parking lot into the oasis. On-site is a trading post with souvenirs, Indian art and other items.

Andreas Canyon, another oasis, is also worth seeing and a good place for bird watching. In the same area is Murray Canyon, with a less visited hiking trail and better opportunities for spotting deer and other wildlife.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Palm Springs

4 golfs

Golf course in Palm Springs
Golf course in Palm Springs

Nearby Palm Springs and Palm Desert have some beautiful golf courses, and during the winter months, when temperatures are perfect for a round of golf, tourists flock to the area on golf vacations. The courses are exceptionally beautiful, with arid mountains rising in the distance beyond the green fairways that stand out starkly against the surrounding desert. Courses vary in quality and price, but some of the top names for public golf courses in the area include Indian Canyons Golf Resort, Escena Golf Club, Desert Willow Golf Resort, Marriott’s Shadow Ridge, and Classic Club.

5 Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum jaycross / photo modified
Palm Springs Art Museum jaycross / photo modified

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a versatile museum with art and performing arts. The museum has existed since the late 1930s and previously focused almost exclusively on the desert, but over the years it has shifted direction to modern and contemporary art, including Native American art. The collection includes works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall and Ansel Adams, among others. There are also two outdoor sculpture gardens on the site. Permanent collections include paintings, photography, glass, pottery and architecture and design.

Address: 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs, California

Official site: https://www.psmuseum.org/

6 Coachella Valley Preserve

Coachella Valley Preserve
Coachella Valley Preserve

East of Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley Preserve is another beautiful natural area to explore in the Palm Springs area. The preserve covers 13,000 hectares of desert landscape and is home to a variety of wildlife, including great horned owls, lynx, hares, kestrels, lizards, snakes and all kinds of small birds. Guided walks by volunteers are a great way to see the reserve and provide an excellent overview of the area. If you’re just looking for some peace and quiet, you can also explore one of the self-guided walking trails.

Official site: https://coachellavalleypreserve.org/

7 Moorten Botanical Gardens

Mojave hill cactus
Mojave hill cactus

Moorten Botanical Gardens offers an incredible display of cacti and desert plants, ranging from mature trees to plants that have just taken root. In the spring, when the desert blooms and the trees begin to turn green again, the gardens are at their most beautiful. The facility is open all year round, but during the cooler months, from autumn to spring, you can tour the facility offered free of charge with admission.

Address: 1701 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California

Official site: https://moortenbotanicalgarden.com/

8 The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

A visit to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert offers a chance to see the flora and fauna of the Colorado Desert and gain insight into ecosystems from deserts around the world. The zoo features a variety of animals from North America and Africa, including coyotes, wolves, foxes, badgers, mountain lions, birds of prey, zebras, giraffes, hyenas, leopards, gazelle and many other species. Morning is generally the best time, before the heat sets in and the animals are still active. Check out the zoo’s daily agenda to find out about guided nature walks, wildlife shows and animal feeding times.

Address: 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, California

Official site: www.livingdesert.org

9 VillageFest

Belts for sale at Villagefest Joe Bielawa / photo model
Belts for sale at Villagefest Joe Bielawa / photo model

On Thursday evenings, downtown Palm Springs comes alive with more than 180 vendors set up in the streets for VillageFest. Palm Canyon Drive is closed to traffic and there are stands on both sides of the street. This is a fun night out, where you can shop for arts, crafts, jewelry and other interesting trinkets and try some tasty snacks from the local restaurants and shops. Music artists, street musicians and other acts provide extra entertainment. The event starts early in the evening, around 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM depending on the season, and runs until 10:00 PM.

Official site: https://villagefest.org/

10 Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center

This is a unique and free attraction worth stopping at, especially if you are interested in architecture. Located in a mid-century International Style building, similar to many other Palm Springs buildings still surviving from this period, the structure is a protected historic site.

The Architecture and Design Center houses the architecture collections of the Palm Springs Art Museum and features temporary exhibitions. Exhibits are well-organized and easy to understand and staff are always on hand to answer questions.

Address: 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs, California

Official site: https://www.psmuseum.org/architecture-design-center/

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Joshua Tree National Park | Photo copyright: Lana Law
Joshua Tree National Park | Photo copyright: Lana Law

Less than an hour’s drive from Palm Springs is Joshua Tree National Park, one of the most interesting and beautiful parks in the Southwest. If you have time for just one side trip, this is the place to come. This park has some great sites and great hikes and also offers excellent campsites, where you can park your RV or pitch your tent next to huge Joshua trees and giant rock formations.

If you’re traveling around California and looking for new ideas, be sure to check out our articles on the Top-Rated California Desert Tourist Attractions and our Great Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions in California. For a more general overview of what to see in the state, see our article on the top-rated tourist attractions in California.

related questions

Which airport does it serve Palm Springs

Palm Springs is served by one airport, Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), which is located about 3 miles (5 km) from downtown Palm Springs.

You can find cheap flights to Palm Springs International Airport through Swati Travel. Here are some indicative prices for one-way flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Palm Springs (PSP) on Swati Travel for the dates of September 20-27, 2023:

  • American Airlines: $50
  • Delta Air Lines: $60
  • United Airlines: $70

Please note that these prices are subject to change and may not be available on all dates. To find the best deals, it is always best to book your flights in advance.

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