Palm Springs and Southern California desert area is nothing if not unique. Palm Springs has had a long association with the rich and famous of Hollywood and continues to prove a great escape from the hustle and bustle of more metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles.
Its neighboring areas are equally as unique and quirky and are definitely worth paying a visit if you’re road-tripping to the desert area. If you can manage to tear yourself away from sunbathing by the pool for a day or two, you’ll find a world of eccentric art, spectacular hiking trails, and unique architecture in the deserts of Southern California.
This round-up of things to do is centralized in the Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Joshua Tree National Park areas. So hop out of that pool, dry off, grab your car keys, and get ready for a fun Palm Springs road trip.
All of the picks below, broken out by city/region, are great choices for your first few visits to the area. So read up and take notes on how to best experience the Southern California desert life!
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Table of Contents
BEST TIME TO VISIT PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
The best time to visit Palm Springs is between January to April and October to December. This is when the weather is the most pleasant. During January to March, the weather is at its very best with lots of sunshine and very pleasant average temperatures ranging between 71-78 degrees F (or 22 to 27 degrees celsius).
Given the near-perfect weather, these months are some of the busiest times of the year to visit. Yep, surprisingly, the fall and winter months are prime time in the desert!
You would think summers in Palm Springs would be nice, but unless you absolutely love the heat, we wouldn’t recommend visiting in the summertime. Daily highs regularly reach the triple digits!
With heat like that, you’ll have to lie by a pool or stay indoors with air-conditioning for almost the entire day.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED FOR A PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP?
We would recommend spending 3 full days exploring Palm Springs and the surrounding areas.
With 3 days, you have a lot of flexibility. You could plan to allocate one whole day in Joshua Tree and still have enough time to check out other cities/landmarks.
Our past road trips to Palm Springs have started on Friday mornings and ended on Sunday nights (3 days), which have always worked out well for us.
The key is to plan what you want to do ahead of time and to clump the attractions by their proximity to each other. The desert is a massive place, so you don’t want to waste time driving back and forth unnecessarily!
Now, I’m sure a lot of you are wondering. Can you fit a Palm Springs road trip on a regular weekend?
The answer is–it depends. There’s so much to see and do in Palm Springs and the surrounding desert area, so it’ll definitely be tough to pack everything into just 2 weekend days.
However, if you are heading to the desert to see/do something very specific (such as JUST Palm Springs or JUST Joshua Tree National Park) then yes it’s very possible.
HOW TO GET TO PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
FLY INTO PSP
Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is located just minutes from downtown Palm Springs and the Convention Center. Flying to PSP is going to be your most convenient option.
FLY INTO OTHER NEARBY AIRPORTS
- ONT: Ontario International Airport (1 hour 15 minute drive)
- SNA: John Wayne Airport – Orange County (1 hour 30 minute drive)
- LAX: Los Angeles Internation Airport (2 hour drive)
- SAN: San Diego International Airport (2 hour 15 minute drive)
- LAS: Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (4-hour drive)
- PHX: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (4-hour drive)
Plane tickets may vary by airport, so check flights for multiple destination cities to find the one that works best for you. From these various airports, simply rent a car and be on your merry way!
DRIVING FROM NEARBY CITIES
- From Los Angeles, CA – 107 miles to Palm Springs (2 hours by car)
- From Anaheim, CA – 90 miles to Palm Springs (1 hour 45 minutes by car)
- From San Diego, CA – 140 miles to Palm Springs (2 hours, 10 minutes by car)
- From Las Vegas, NV – 230 miles to Palm Springs (4 hours by car)
- From Phoenix, AZ – 270 miles to Palm Springs (4 hours by car)
- From San Francisco, CA – 486 miles to Palm Springs (7 hours, 30 minutes by car)
GETTING AROUND PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
Although downtown Palm Springs is very pedestrian-friendly, you will need a car to reach many of the area’s points of interest outlined in this post. As such, the best way to get around Palm Springs is by car.
CAR / RENTAL CAR
If you’re flying directly into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), you can rent a car once you land at the airport. Expect to pay roughly $40 to $50 per day for standard vehicles.
Tip: To avoid higher rental car prices, be sure to book your car ahead of time. If you’re booking early enough, shop around and check for rental companies offering seasonal promotions.
Need a rental car for your trip? To find cheap rental cars, I recommend using Rentalcars.com. Their search tool is one of the best I’ve found!
Downtown Palm Springs, particularly along Palm Canyon Drive, is filled with good restaurants and shops to keep you busy for at least a day or two. However, the fun of the Sonoran Desert and Coachella Valley is being able to drive through the vast desert lands, explore the outskirts of town, or even go on a hike or two.
For anything outside of downtown, you will need some form of transportation on wheels.
You can also take the bus to reach certain destinations throughout the city and beyond, or you can call a taxi or take Uber/Lyft.
The SunLine Transit Agency operates a bus that runs throughout Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. You can pay for a one-time fare, a day pass, or a 10-ride pass. Passes are sold online.
Two of the best routes for travelers are the green line (Route 1) or the orange line (Route 4). The green line travels throughout downtown Palm Springs, then to nearby towns like Cathedral City, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Indio, and Coachella. The orange line will take you throughout downtown Palm Springs and Palm Desert.
Do note that the bus system is known to be slow, and the hours of operation are limited, from about 5 am to 11 pm with reduced hours for select routes on weekends. Buses generally only run every 20 or 40 minutes, so if you’re going to be in a rush to get somewhere, the bus may not be your best option.
PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP: THINGS TO DO IN PALM SPRINGS
EXPLORE DOWNTOWN PALM SPRINGS
It’s got everything you could ask for of a downtown area– from fine dining and casual eateries to upscale shopping and small boutique shops, it’s all available here! Allocate at least two hours to stroll around and explore the whole downtown area.
Aim to start in the heart of the area, Palm Canyon Drive, where you’ll find the majority of clothing shops, art galleries, restaurants, candy stores, and much more. If you have more time, check out the Uptown area, also located on Palm Canyon Drive, where you’ll find some additional boutiques and eateries.
PALM SPRINGS VILLAGEFEST
If you’re in town on a Thursday evening, be sure to check out the Palm Springs VillageFest event. This is essentially Palm Springs’ lively weekly street fair, which boasts over 180 vendors and is visited by many locals and tourists alike.
VillageFest is a super fun event filled with great food vendors, live entertainment, artisanal shopping booths, and handmade crafts. It is located on Palm Canyon Drive, between Indian Canyon Drive and Belardo Road.
Note: Check their website for the most up-to-date info.
PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
There is no better way to experience the picturesque desert terrain than with a bird’s eye view of Palm Springs’ natural scenery. The Palm Springs aerial tramway transports visitors up Chino Canyon in the world’s largest rotating tramcar.
The 10-minute ride takes you over 2.5 miles along Chino Canyon in Mt. San Jacinto State Park, giving you great views of the mountains, vistas, and the wilderness below. During your journey, the tram cars will rotate slowly, giving you surreal 360 views of the area.
Once you reach the Mountain Station at an elevation of 8,516 feet, you can enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, and over 50 miles of hiking trails. There are ‘ride and dine’ packages that allow you to enjoy a meal at the canyon’s summit.
PALM SPRINGS ART MUSEUM
Stop by downtown Palm Springs to visit the local art museum. There are great collections of work by western, contemporary, and glass artists as well as rotating exhibitions from internationally acclaimed artists.
Besides enjoying the art, they also run art classes and workshops for kids and adults. It also offers a range of theatrical and musical performances in its Annenberg Theater.
Local Tip: The museum is free every Thursday from 4-8PM and every second Sunday. Why not pair it with your Thursday night at Palm Springs Village Fest?
PALM SPRINGS AIR MUSEUM
This top-rated, world-renowned museum gives visitors an up-close look at the legendary fighters and bombers of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. If you’re a history buff, make sure to stop by the Palm Springs Air Museum.
It has one of the world’s largest collections of WWII planes, as well as aircrafts from the Korean and Vietnam wars. No joke, these planes look super cool! There are three exhibit hangars, a gift shop, theater, and an education center.
PALM SPRINGS ARCHITECTURE TOUR
Palm Springs is known for its iconic mid-century modern architecture, designed by famous architects such as Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, and William Krisel. The city’s unique blend of desert landscape and modern design has made it a mecca for architecture enthusiasts from around the world.
Visitors who want to soak in all the architectural goodness can take a self-guided drive through the city to see the landmarks or take a guided architecture tour of Palm Springs.
While a self-guided drive will allow you to see the houses with your own eyes, the magic of these houses really lies in the stories behind them — which is why we recommend the guided tours!
The tours offer a fascinating insight into the city’s architectural heritage, with stops at iconic buildings such as the Kaufmann House, the Tramway Gas Station, and the Parker Palm Springs.
Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast or simply appreciate good design, a tour of Palm Springs’ mid-century modern architecture is a must-do.
RENT A BIKE AND EXPLORE
As mentioned above, Palm Springs is known for its colorful neighborhoods full of bright architecture, so what better way to see it all than with a bike tour? If driving around is not your thing, I highly recommend renting bikes from a local bike rental company and spending a few hours cruising around the city checking out the historic houses.
Don’t know where to go? Check out Trip Savvy’s self-guided tour.
If you’d rather go with a guide who will tell you captivating stories about all things Palm Springs, opt for this guided Modern and More Bike Tour.
AGUA CALIENTE CASINO
Looking for some Las Vegas-like activities? Well, you’re in the right place then! Enter–Agua Caliente Casino.
From slot machines and table games to live entertainment and shows, each casino property promises entertainment beyond gambling. If you’re looking for buffets or fine dining (such as steakhouses), casinos can be a good option.
Agua Caliente is located in downtown Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Cathedral City. Other great casino options exist, such as Morongo Casino Resort & Spa and Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
Local Tip: Some casinos have midweek specials and even Sunday specials. One of the casinos I visited offered free play credit just for dining in their steakhouse. Check out the casino websites for promotions before picking the one to visit and see if you can take advantage of some deals!
RUDDY’S GENERAL STORE MUSEUM
Blast from the past alert! Jim Ruddy’s General Store Museum takes you back in time to the good ol’ 1930’s. The museum showcases pristine products from the ’30s in their original boxes and tins.
Among the 6,000-plus items to be found here include groceries, tobacco, hardware, clothing, medicines, biscuits, beauty aids and soaps.
Note: It’s only $1 to get in! Also note the museum is open from September to May, which coincides with the cooler months of the year in Palm Springs.
BACKSTREET ART DISTRICT
Stroll through a dozen artist-owned galleries and studios at the Arts District and be sure to check out the art walks, held the first Wednesday of every month from 6-9p.m.
They have an amazing assortment of original art for all tastes and budgets – paintings, ceramics, photography, mixed media, jewelry, lithography and more.
This is one of my favorite areas to visit when I’m in need of new apartment decor. You never know what cute housewares or art pieces you’ll find here!
ANTIQUE GALLERIES OF PALM SPRINGS
Around Palm Springs’ bustling arts district, you’ll find Antique Galleries of Palm Springs. If you’re into vintage/antique pieces or whimsical art and furniture pieces, this is the place for you.
You can expect a vast ever-rotating collection of art and vintage stuff here, including appliances, film projectors, retro signs and furniture, pinball machines, fine china.
The venue is divided into separate spaces, each curated by different artists and antique sellers from the area. This is unquestionably one of the city’s most unique retail venues– you never know what you’ll find.
MOORTEN BOTANICAL GARDEN
Moorten’s is a botanical garden that’s like no other. This is a desert garden, “cactarium”, and nursery all in one, comprising of thousands of beautiful succulents and desert plants.
For a small entry fee, you can enjoy a part of your day strolling through this desert botanical garden and its scenic nature trails, which houses roughly 3000 cacti from the USA, Latin America, and Africa.
The garden also houses several desert tortoises so come catch a glimpse up close!
COVERED WAGON ADVENTURE AND BBQ
Where else can you take a wagon tour pulled by mules into the desert outback of California? Nowhere but here in the desert!
This is such a unique desert tour, mixing both western charm as well as showcasing the natural flora and fauna of the Colorado Sonoran Desert.
On this old-timey tour, you’ll first take a nature walk with your naturalist guide. Upon completion, there will be a live old-time western performance, easy barn dance (optional), corn-hole and horseshoes, and a chuck-wagon style BBQ. Finally, enjoy the sunset, a campfire, and the bright stars in the sky!
HAVE A SPA DAY
Palm Springs is a super popular weekend destination for girls’ trips, especially those who are looking for some rest and relaxation! As such, Palm Springs is known for its world-class spas, with a range of treatments and services to help visitors relax and unwind.
These hotels offer a range of spa services, from massages and facials to body treatments and salon services, making it easy to indulge in some much-needed pampering during your stay in Palm Springs.
TAKE A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER THE DESERT
A hot air balloon ride is a unique and unforgettable way to experience the stunning beauty of the desert landscape.
A number of operators do hot-air balloon rides in the Coachella Valley, primarily in the high season of (November through May), with sunrise and sunset being the most popular times of the day for tours.
CRUISE THE CERTIFIED FARMERS MARKET
Start your morning with a stroll among fruits, vegetables, and baked goods!
Discover the freshest and best locally grown produce every Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm. During October through May, the market is outdoors at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. In warmer months (June through Sept) it moves indoors to the Palm Springs Pavilion (401 S. Pavilion Way), just a couple of blocks away.
The market features farm fresh fruits and vegetables and artisan food products. Other items include such things as herbs, cheese, pastries, honey, nuts, olive oil, and fresh-cut flowers.
CELEBRITY HOME GRAND TOUR
Historically, Palm Springs has been known as one of California’s most exclusive destinations. Naturally so, many celebrities have taken residence here, including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
What better way to learn about this pop culture history than on a grand tour of Palm Springs celebrity homes? Palm Springs homes are very accessible, so the bus can actually drive right up to the front door (unlike celebrity tours in LA).
The tour doesn’t follow the exact route each time, so there’s some variety in the homes you may see, and the guide even takes requests.
The kitschy art installation known as Robolights is the work of Kenny Irwin Jr. who created the Christmas-themed light show 30 years ago at his home. Since then, it has grown into a prominent year-round tourist attraction, now located at an outdoor sculpture park in Palm Spring’s Movie Colony East neighborhood.
Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind attraction featuring towering robots and millions of lights, all constructed from discarded electronics.
SAN GORGONIO PASS WINDFARM
Ever seen the stretch of land covered in thousands of windmills? Yep, that’s The San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, located in one of the windiest parts of California.
Why are they here, you might wonder? Well, the turbines produce enough electricity to power all of the Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley and you’ll see them as you drive around the region.
If you opt for a 2-hour windill farm tour, you can get an up-close look at how these windmills work as well as learn about the history of the renewable energy industry.
DO AN ESCAPE ROOM
Escape rooms are popping up everywhere because they are just so darn fun for people of all ages. Palm Springs is no different! If you’re looking for a heart-thumping indoor activity to do with your friends or family, look no further than a timed escape room.
Over the course of an hour or so, you’ll work together to solve puzzles, crack riddles, and ultimately escape the room!
Check out a few of the most popular escape rooms in Palm Springs here.
FAN PALM OASIS
You can’t think of California without also thinking about palm trees. They are literally everywhere in the Palm Springs area. But the best place to see the Desert Fan Palm, the largest native palm in the United States, is at Palm Canyon–the world’s largest Fan Palm oasis. In this 15-mile long section of Indian Canyons, you will find an abundance of Fan Palms.
This place is gorgeous and it’s such a sight to see. I mean, you’re in the desert, so you’d expect to see nothing but dust and dirt, right? Wrong!
Among the sea of green trees surrounding you, you can picnic near the stream, take a hike on the trails, and learn more about the sacredness of this area to the Cahuilla Indians. The canyons are fantastic for exploring on foot or on a horseback.
Before or after your visit, head to the Trading Post in Palm Canyon for maps, food, drinks, and Indian crafts.
COACHELLA VALLEY PRESERVE
Located in Thousand Palms east of Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley Preserve is a protected area filled with great hiking trails. Formed by a system of sand dunes, this 20,000-acre sanctuary is home to several species of rare wildlife and a number of palm oases.
Even during peak hotness from June to September, the beautiful palm trees offer a canopy of shade. In addition to hiking trails, there are also horseback riding trails. Guided hikes are available from October to March.
SAN ANDREAS FAULT JEEP TOUR
Learn about California’s geology and desert wilderness on a half-day Jeep tour to the San Andreas Fault. Drive through the Coachella Valley to the fault zone while hearing from your guide about native plant and animal life, local history, the Salton Sea, and earthquakes. Really, there are so many interesting facts to learn about the California desert.
Depending on your preference, you can take a nature walk in the desert or stay in the vehicle. You’ll also stop by a date farm where you can try their signature date milkshake (it’s delicious, so you need to try it).
This tour includes your expert guide, transportation, and light refreshments.
ATTEND THE PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
If you happen to be planning a trip to Palm Springs in the winter, see if you can coincide it with the International Film Festival!
The Palm Springs International Film Festival is a world-renowned event that takes place every January, attracting filmmakers and celebrities from around the world. The festival features screenings of the latest and greatest films, as well as Q&A sessions with directors and actors, making it a must-attend event for film lovers!
With over 200 films from over 60 countries, the festival offers something to appeal to every film aficionado, from documentaries to feature films and even short films too.
PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP: THINGS TO DO IN PALM DESERT
EL PASEO SHOPPING DISTRICT
Known for being the Rodeo Drive (Beverly Hills) of the desert, El Paseo Shopping District is the desert’s luxury shopping hotspot. This shopping district is comprised of The Shops on El Paseo and The Gardens on El Paseo.
Together, these shopping centers house a vast selection of locally-owned boutiques, high-end shops, and luxury brands. If this is your cup of tea, enjoy the day shopping as well as enjoying various eateries and exploring unique art galleries all on the same street.
THE LIVING DESERT ZOO AND GARDENS
If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll be happy to know you won’t need to drive too far on your Palm Springs road trip to reach something they will love.
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in Palm Desert is a family-friendly zoo specializing in the deserts of the world. You can feed giraffes, pet goats, and see a variety of animals such as mountain lions, zebras, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs roaming in their natural habitat (as opposed to caged up).
If you don’t have time to visit the actual desert surrounding Palm Springs, then a trip to this zoo and botanical garden is the next best thing in getting your desert experience.
During your time here, you can expect to experience live animal encounter shows, peaceful gardens, various hiking trails, and tram rides. They also have private safari tours!
PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP: THINGS TO DO IN THE JOSHUA TREE AREA
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Joshua Tree National Park is an unmissable attraction when you’re road-tripping in the Palm Springs area. Jtree is like an outdoor playground for people of all ages.
Aside from hiking, make sure you carve out some time to rock scramble and walk around the Cholla Cactus Garden. And if you get the chance to camp at Joshua Tree for the weekend, I say do it!
One of the best times to be in the park is at sunset when the mountains and desert plants are silhouetted against the most impressive glowing sky. There really is nothing like desert sunsets. Another perk of being at the park late? The incredible stargazing that you can do.
Tip: Palm Springs can also be a great base for exploring Joshua Tree, especially if you’re looking for higher-end accommodations instead of camping. It’s less than an hour’s drive from either the South or West entrance, making it a pretty convenient option.
Local Tip: Parking at the park is $30. Instead of paying this one-time fee, pick up the annual National Park pass (American the Beautiful Pass, $80) to save money on all your National Park and National Monument visits for a year.
NOAH PURIFOY’S OUTDOOR DESERT ART MUSEUM
The Noah Purifoy Foundation’s Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum is a powerful collection of outdoor art installations that you can explore in a self-guided manner.
Noah Purifoy was an African-American visual artist and sculptor who lived and worked most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree. He’s best known for creating art pieces out of junk and debris.
This sculpture garden holds his largest installations, where you’ll find environmental sculptures made of TVs, toilets, jeans, and bicycle wheels. The fact that they are aged by desert weather makes them even more profound.
PAPPY AND HARRIET’S PIONEERTOWN PALACE
Pappy & Harriet’s sits at the edge of a dusty “town” that was originally constructed to be an Old West movie set. Despite its original purpose, Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has been drawing in locals and travelers alike since 1982. It’s a local institution, so in our opinion, it’s a must-do on your Palm Springs road trip!
If you choose to make a stop here, you’ll be delighted by mesquite BBQ bites, live music, dancing, and super friendly service. (Artists as famous as Paul McCartney have played on its stage, and it’s ranked as one of the best concert venues in the U.S.)
WORLD FAMOUS CROCHET MUSEUM
This tiny little exhibit is loaded with cuteness and is one of my favorite places to stop by every time I’m in the Joshua Tree area. The World Famous Crochet Museum is a small green trailer that opens up occasionally.
If you’re lucky enough to get a view from the inside, you’ll find about every object or animal you can think of, represented in crochet form. It’s free and open 24 hours.
BEAUTY BUBBLE SALON AND MUSEUM
Joshua Tree loves its quirky art, so definitely take some time to look around– or get your hair done. This museum holds an assortment of retro beauty tools and is located right next to the crochet museum.
THE INTEGRATON SOUND BATH
Basically, The Integraton (located in Landers, CA) is a huge dome used for sound baths. A sound bath ticket will grant you a 60-minute experience that is perfect for those who seek deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and introspection.
The sound baths consist of 25 minutes of crystal bowls played live and the balance of the hour to integrate the sound and relax in the sound chamber to recorded music. You can choose private or public sound baths, but book early since reservations fill up months in advance.
Fun Fact: The aeronautical engineer who built this dome claimed to have come up with the idea after encountering a UFO from Venus in the desert. “At the aliens’ request, he used no metal—only wood and fiberglass.”
PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP: THINGS TO DO IN CABAZON, CALIFORNIA
The Cabazon Dinosaurs are iconic roadside attractions in Southern California, perfect for the kids. There are two massive dinosaurs in plain view named Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr. Rex.
Once you’re in the parking lot, you’ll find a dinosaur-themed gift shop and a dinosaur exhibit. You can even climb up Mr. Rex all the way to his mouth!
There is an admission cost (that’s a bit steep in our opinion), but snapping a picture or two with Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr. Rex from the outside are free.
DESERT HILLS PREMIUM OUTLETS
What’s would the desert be without premium outlet shopping? This is the perfect place to stop before embarking on your drive home from your Palm Springs road trip.
They’ve got all the staples, including Gucci, Burberry, Under Armor, Lululemon, Adidas, Michael Kors & more. You can even grab a pretty satisfying lunch here as they have a wide variety of dining options (way better than I expected for the outlets).
HADLEY FRUIT ORCHARDS
Home of the world-famous date shake! Yes, a date shake might sound odd, but trust me, this was absolutely delightful. Especially on all-too-common hot days in the desert!
The dried dates are chopped into tiny pieces and swirled throughout the shake, giving the ice cream beverage a lightly sweet flavor. It’s actually a lot yummier than it sounds, so just trust me and get one.
This large market also sells a wide variety of date products, jams, nuts, candies, and hot sauces– all of which make great gifts/souvenirs to bring home. Hadley’s is right next to Desert Hills Premium Outlets, so you can end your shopping trip with a creamy treat!
Fun Fact: One of the region’s main crops is the date. Dates were brought to this area from Africa and the Middle East in the 1800’s. Given the similar terrains, they grow just as well here as they do there!
PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP: THINGS TO DO IN THE REST OF COACHELLA VALLEY
INTERNATIONAL BANANA MUSEUM
Wow. What a dream for a banana lover like myself! This is an off-the-beaten-path attraction if I’ve ever seen one.
Try all sorts of banana-flavored treats—banana ice cream, smoothies, milkshakes and chocolate covers bananas. Also, you can browse the vast collection of banana plush toys, mugs, clothing, key chains, and other quirky gifts. The Banana Museum is located in the town of Mecca about 40 miles outside Palm Springs.
Note: The Banana Museum has very limited hours – open 1 to 5pm a few days per week– so call ahead and check out their website before visiting for official hours.
WILDFLOWERS AND SUPER BLOOM (SPRING)
Historically, California has seen some amazing super bloom years. Ample rain is needed each winter, especially in January and February, in order for the plants to create a super bloom. Aside from the obvious Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, some of the best flower sightings can be found in Coachella Valley, specifically Cathedral City.
Wildflowers typically emerge in the California desert in late January and last until mid-May, so here are the first places in the desert to look for the blooms:
- the south-facing Edom Hill
- near the intersection of Date Palm Drive and Varner Road in Cathedral City
- along Interstate 10 throughout the Coachella Valley
- near the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park
This one’s a bit of a drive to get to, but if you’re in search of folk art and expansive art installations, Salvation Mountain is for you.
About a 90-minute drive from Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain is a brightly painted heap of clay mountain decorated with bible inscriptions, created as a monument to love and God. You might not totally get it, but at least there are photo ops galore!
There are other peripheral structures made of telephone poles, tires, and car windows, as well as art cars.
If you’re looking for a super-unique roadside attraction to hit up on your Palm Springs road trip, this is definitely it!
MAP OF THE BEST PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP STOPS
WHERE TO STAY IN PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
BEST BUDGET HOTELS IN PALM SPRINGS ($-$$)
Skylark Hotel ($)
Skylark Hotel is a trendy-yet-retro and affordable boutique hotel that offers a unique blend of style and comfort. The hotel features a chic and modern design, with bright colors, retro furnishings, and minimalist design!
The hotel is popular for its range of amenities, including a heated pool, hot tub, and barbecue area, as well as its affordable rates, making it the perfect place for budget-conscious travelers looking for a stylish and comfortable stay in Palm Springs.
Dive Palm Springs ($$)
Dive Palm Springs is a cute little boutique hotel that offers a unique blend of retro charm and modern luxury. The hotel features a stunning mid-century modern design, with colorful accents, vintage furnishings, and fun artwork!
BEST SPLURGE HOTELS IN PALM SPRINGS ($$$)
Drift Palm Springs ($$$)
Drift Palm Springs is a wonderfully luxurious hotel that will almost transport you to the tropical shores of Mexico. Or perhaps to Todos Santos. The hotel features natural earth-tone colors, perfect for those who like a more minimalist feel. The rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed, with luxurious bedding, designer toiletries, and epic views of the surrounding mountains.
If you’re looking for simple yet luxurious, we highly recommend booking a couple nights at Drift Palm Springs to indulge in the ultimate Palm Springs experience!
THE WESTCOTT ($$$)
The Westcott is a luxurious and trendy boutique hotel that offers a unique blend of sophistication and comfort! Alongside its tasteful mid-century modern design, the hotel is also popular for its range of amenities, including a heated pool, hot tub, and outdoor fire pit, as well as its central location, which is just steps away from the vibrant downtown area!
The Avalon ($$$)
The Avalon Palm Springs is a luxurious hotel that exudes elegance and sophistication. We’re talking Spanish-style design, with lush gardens, tranquil courtyards, and mountain views!
The rooms are spacious and come with luxurious bedding, designer toiletries, and high-end amenities.
The hotel also features a range of world-class amenities, including a full-service spa, three swimming pools, and a gourmet restaurant, making it the perfect place to indulge in the ultimate Palm Springs experience.
ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST: PALM SPRINGS ROAD TRIP
- License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
- Spare Tire | In addition to carrying a spare tire with you, don’t forget to check your current tire conditions before you set off as well.
- Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
- Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
- Flashlight | You never know when you’re going to be stranded on the road at night, out hiking late, or even exploring a dark cave. Leaving a flashlight in your car can really come in handy when you’re faced with unexpected situations.
- Umbrella | An umbrella, particularly a wind-proof umbrella, is crucial when traveling to destinations with varying/unpredictable weather. If you have an umbrella with you, then it means the rain can’t stop you from enjoying your trip and exploring the outdoors. Just toss one in the trunk for good measure.
- Travel Pillow | If you have room in the car for a regular pillow, I find that they are the most comfortable for long car trips. If you need a more portable option, this memory foam travel pillow works well not only for car travel but also for camping!
- Travel Blanket | For all your napping needs–especially if the driver likes AC and you’re trying to snuggle up for a nap. This one is packable so it won’t take up very much in your car.
- Slip-on Sandals | Slip-on/slip-off sandals are a must for that extra comfort while sitting in the car. This allows you to make lots of stops without having to go through the process of putting your sneakers/boots back on.
- Garbage Bags | Because you don’t want the inside of your car to resemble a dumpster can. Plastic bags (or garbage bags) can also be used to hold wet clothes if you get caught in the rain, go for a swim, etc.
- Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
- First Aid Kit | It’s always good to carry a first aid kit around with you when traveling. Road trips make it easier to do this since all you need to do is toss it in the trunk!
- Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
- Hiking Socks | If hiking, make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
- Puffy Jacket | If you’re traveling in the fall or wintertime, you’re going to need layers in the California desert, which tends to get pretty cool nights. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of adventuring!
- Daypack | I’m a fan of the Osprey Daylite Daypack. Even when I’m not hiking! It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
- Sunhat | Sun protection is key for any California destination, but especially in the desert.
- Hand Sanitizer | Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike or bike ride but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
- Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures… the last thing you want is to be driving along with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
- Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
- Cooling towel or neck fan | If you’re traveling during the summer months, I implore you to bring a Chill Pal cooling towel or hands-free neck fan to stay cool. It will save your life from the heat and make exploring the outdoors more bearable.
- Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip, but especially in the California desert. How else are you going to keep your drinks and sandwiches cool for your picnic/hike? A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more. If you’re looking for the best cooler technology out there, the Yeti Portable Cooler is top of the line, with ColdCell Insulation that offers superior cold-holding compared to other soft coolers.
- Picnic Blanket | We love leaving a picnic blanket in the trunk of our cars. They’re so handy as not only a picnic blanket but also as a mat if you’re looking to just relax or catch a sunset outdoors. This outdoor picnic blanket is amazing because of its water-resistant bottom lining. And it’s super packable!
And that concludes this post! We hope that this Palm Springs road trip guide has inspired you to see something new! If you have any questions about the destinations or have your own travel tips to share, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.