Desert Oasis Escapes: 16 Must-Experience Activities in Palm Springs, CA

Nestled against the backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains, Palm Springs, CA, is an oasis filled with a myriad of activities that promise to create unforgettable memories. From iconic tramway adventures to serene canyon hikes and chic mid-century modern retreats, Palm Springs unfolds as a playground of delights. In this article reposted from Redfin, which we are featured in, we will journey through 16 fun-filled activities that showcase the unique charm and diverse offerings of this desert jewel. So whether you want to rent an apartment in Palm Springs, CA, or purchase a home in the area, get ready to indulge in relaxation, adventure, and the sheer joy of the Palm Springs lifestyle.

1. Roam the Moorten Botanical Garden

The Moorten Botanical Garden is a family-owned living museum that showcases a unique collection of desert plants in a picturesque setting. It’s a serene escape that offers a refreshing contrast to the bustling city life. Established in 1938 by Patricia and Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten, the garden spans one acre. It showcases various desert plants, including over 3,000 examples of cacti and other succulents worldwide. 

Brianna Broyles Photography shares, “My favorite afternoon in Palm Springs would start with a walk through the garden path at the scenic Moorten Botanical Gardens and enjoying the thousands of desert cacti and plants at their arboretum. This is a perfect way to enjoy the scenery of the desert, and you can also purchase a cactus to take home with you.” 

2. Take a self-guided architecture tour

Palm Springs has some of the best mid-century modern architecture in North America, so it’s best to get out and experience it. 

Local writer Erin Lawrencer at Palm Springs Traveller found the best way to see cool modern architecture and celebrity homes is to take a self-guided architecture tour from Modern Tours Palm Springs.  She says, “Their tours are the best in the city because they’re done in your car and on your schedule, so they’re perfect for people who like to go their own way. You’ll see homes like Leonardo Di Caprio’s, Frank Sinatra’s, and even the place Elvis hid out on his honeymoon. They even have a ‘Most Instagrammable Places in Palm Springs’ Tour, so get your camera ready.”

A house in Palm Springs

3. Take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

One of the best ways to explore Palm Springs is up in the air, and Debbie O’Boyle of The Empty Nest Explorers shares that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the way to do it. “The world’s largest rotating aerial tram cars take you two and a half miles up through a gorgeous rocky canyon to the top of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Best of all, the temperature can be up to 30 degrees cooler, so you’ll find snow much of the year.”

“The rotating tram car provides stunning panoramic views of the desert, making it a breathtaking experience and a great way to start a hiking adventure in the San Jacinto Mountains,” adds gourmet popsicle company Beach Town Pops.

“When we took the tram, the entire mountaintop was covered in snow. We got to sled down a hill, one of the most memorable things we’ve experienced,” notes The Darwinian Doctor.

4. Grab a bite at Boozehounds

Boozehounds is the perfect spot for those looking to unwind and enjoy a laid-back atmosphere, featuring a diverse selection of craft beers, creative cocktails, and a dog-friendly patio.

“Boozehounds is our favorite brunch spot for boozy brunch, colorful mid-century décor, and the best part is that it’s dog friendly. Try the boozecumbers to snack on and the kitty mingling cocktail with house-made pineapple-coconut shrub,” recommends Kent Taylor of Descanso Resort.

A beer being poured into a glass

5. Visit the Colony Hotel

The Colony Hotel provides a perfect blend of mid-century modern charm and luxurious accommodations. It’s also conveniently located nearby many things to do in Palm Springs.

“Nestled in the heart of Palm Beach, The Colony Hotel is a true gem that captivates visitors with its exceptional service and timeless charm,” notes photographer Jacqui Cole. “Beyond its elegant accommodations, the hotel’s prime location just steps from Worth Avenue offers a luxurious shopping and dining experience. Guests can explore the picturesque surroundings with ease, thanks to the complimentary access to The Colony’s bikes.”

6. Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons encompasses three stunning canyons—Andreas, Murray, and Palm Canyon—showcasing natural beauty, including lush palm oases, indigenous flora, and unique rock formations.

Michael Malone of framing company Livestock Framing shares, “Indian Canyons is a real-life oasis. In an otherwise unforgiving desert landscape, the meandering creek is lined by lush palm trees and other vegetation. In addition to being beautiful, the palm trees provide cool shade for hikes on hot desert days.”

Adventure through Palm Canyon 

Palm Canyon in Palm Springs is the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts, offering a captivating oasis of towering palm trees, indigenous flora, and a serene stream. Hiking through this picturesque canyon allows visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Californian desert while enjoying the shade of the iconic California fan palms.

“I recommend Palm Canyon to anyone who loves hiking and outdoor adventures. Palm Canyon only takes about twenty minutes if you’re driving from the heart of the city. There is a small fee to enter the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, but it is worth the cost as there is so much to explore,” shares local fashion and lifestyle blog With Chelle.

Indian Canyon

7. Explore the Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a cultural gem, showcasing various contemporary and classic art forms within its captivating exhibitions and collections.

“The Palm Springs Art Museum is a gem in the desert. It holds amazing pieces of art – everything from mid-century modernism, photography, American West art, contemporary art, and more. Every visit brings a new surprise, a secret corner that feels like a personal discovery,” remarks local Tom Windeknecht.

“The museum is interesting even from the outside with the brutalist structure that will catch your eye. Approaching the plaza, there are giant ‘crawling babies’ statues by David Cerny. There is also another larger-than-life sculpture entitled ‘Forever Marilyn’ by Seward Johnson,” adds Jana Zednickova of Loves Art Will Travel.

8. Grab a book at the Best Bookstore in Palm Springs

The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs offers a haven for book lovers with its extensive collection, cozy ambiance, and knowledgeable staff.

Karen Germain of Always Packed for Adventure remarks, “I’m passionate about supporting independent bookstores, and downtown has the aptly named, ‘The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs.’ The store may be small, but the curated selection of popular titles, local interests, and art books is on point. I enjoy talking to the booksellers and stocking up on their recommendations.” 

Books for sale

9. Hike through the Ladder Canyon Painted Canyon Trail

Ladder Canyon is an ideal day trip for avid hikers, featuring an exhilarating trail that weaves through narrow slot canyons, natural rock formations, and scenic vistas. 

Taylor Schlesinger of Nomads in Nature says, “Our favorite thing to do when near Palm Springs is to hike the Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail. It’s a unique hike that spans 4.4 miles and will have you weaving through slot canyons while climbing ladders to stay on the trail and then walking through towering painted-colored marble canyons.”

10. Roam around Coachella Valley Preserve

The Coachella Valley Preserve is a natural sanctuary, home to the rare California fan palm oasis known as the Thousand Palms Oasis. Managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management, this preserve protects unique desert ecosystems and allows visitors to explore scenic trails.

“One of the most popular hikes in the greater Palm Springs area is the Coachella Valley Preserve,” shares travel blog Class C Broads “When visitors first enter the preserve from the surrounding Colorado Desert, they feel like they just stepped foot into a scene from Jurassic Park. The preserve is free to explore, although donations are welcome.”

An owl

11. Have brunch at Cheeky’s

Cheeky’s is a popular restaurant in Palm Springs known for its inventive breakfast and brunch offerings, featuring locally sourced and organic ingredients. 

“Their famous bacon flight is a must-have, along with seasonal specials and a Bloody Mary to top it off,” recommends Bryanna Evaro of F10 Creative. “It’s right on Palm Canyon Drive, perfect for sightseeing along the strip.”

12. Eat at The Tropicale

Party supply business Pop Fizz Designs recommends visiting The Tropicale, a chic and lively restaurant known for its eclectic decor and lush outdoor patio. 

“Be sure to sip on their signature cocktails, like the ‘Palm Springs Punch,’ and indulge in their delicious calamari or coconut shrimp. They are must-try experiences.”

A cocktail

13. Check out Little Bar

Little Bar offers a cozy and intimate dining experience with a diverse menu featuring delicious dishes and craft cocktails.

“If you’re a music lover, this cool, eclectic bar is a must,” states wedding planner Leilani Weddings. “The owner was instrumental in the launch of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.”

14. Play a round of golf

Playing a round of golf in Palm Springs is a must-do activity, thanks to its abundance of meticulously designed courses set against a stunning backdrop of desert landscapes and mountain views.

“We are blessed with great weather most of the time, but the summers can get hot, and the desert nights can get chilly. We typically spend our Sundays golfing in the morning. There are hundreds of courses, but our favorite is the South Course at Indian Canyons,” says party hosting service Cabana Boys.

Tahquitz creek golf resort

15. Take a tour of Sunnylands

Once the winter residence of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, Sunnylands sprawls across 200 acres of irrigated desert in Rancho Mirage. 

“While much of the space is dedicated to a nine-hole golf course, 12 acres are open to the public, featuring lush gardens and a visitor center with a rotating selection of artwork from the Annenberg collection,” notes designer Stacey Jones Event Design.

16. Soak up the Azure Palm Hot Springs

Did you know you can soak in the silkiest, odorless hot spring mineral water in greater Palm Springs?  

Richard Lambakis, a Palm Springs local, shares, “I love to soak in the mineral tubs at Azure Palm Hot Springs. I go for half a day, soak in the tubs, lounge in the Oasis, swim in the big mineral water pool, and often doze off looking out at the Santa Rosa mountain range.”

For more activities and information on our services, read the rest of our blogs!