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Palm Springs, CA - Photo by Don Stouder

Palm Springs, CA

Discover Palm Springs: A Guide to the City’s Highlights

Searching for the ultimate destination with a mix of adventure, relaxation, and culture? Look no further than Palm Springs! Renowned for its stunning desert landscape and vibrant cultural scene, this city offers a plethora of activities that cater to all tastes. Whether planning a romantic getaway or simply seeking to explore, finding things to do in Palm Springs encompasses everything from hiking in the majestic Indian Canyons to indulging in luxury spa treatments. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the top activities and experiences that make Palm Springs a must-visit location. Get ready to uncover the charm and excitement of this desert oasis!

Explore Palm Springs Art Museum

Nestled in the vibrant heart of downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum is an essential destination for couples who appreciate the arts. The museum offers a fascinating collection that spans multiple genres, focusing on modern and contemporary art, along with sections dedicated to glass, photography, architecture, and design.

On the grounds of the Palm Springs Museum of Art - Photo by Cesar Cid
On the grounds of the Palm Springs Museum of Art – Photo by Cesar Cid

As you explore the museum, you’ll discover artworks by notable 20th-century artists as well as innovative exhibitions from contemporary talents. Each gallery is thoughtfully curated, allowing you and your partner to immerse yourselves in the visual narratives at a leisurely pace. Particularly noteworthy is the museum’s commitment to showcasing works by local artists and promoting regional cultural heritage, providing unique insights into the area’s artistic community.

The architecture of the museum itself is a sight to behold, featuring sleek, modernist lines that complement the desert landscape. For architecture enthusiasts, the museum also manages the iconic Frey House II, which is occasionally open for tours. This house, perched on the mountainside, offers a glimpse into the mid-century modern architecture that Palm Springs is famous for.

Make sure to spend some time in the museum’s sculpture garden. This tranquil outdoor area highlights striking sculptures with the dramatic backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains, creating a perfect setting for a reflective or romantic walk.

Conclude your visit at the museum’s café. It’s a great spot to relax and discuss your favorite pieces over a refreshing beverage or a snack. The Palm Springs Art Museum is more than just an art collection; it’s a cultural hub that offers a deep, engaging experience ideal for couples looking to enrich their understanding of art and design amidst the beauty of Palm Springs.

Take a Ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

For couples seeking a memorable adventure with breathtaking views, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers an unparalleled experience. This unique attraction is not only a feat of engineering but also a gateway to the natural beauty of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Palm Springs Arial Tram - © Ulf Nammert |
Palm Springs Arial Tram – © Ulf Nammert |

Starting from the Valley Station at the desert floor, the tramway carries you and your partner in a rotating tram car, climbing over 2,500 feet to the Mountain Station at an elevation of 8,516 feet. During the approximately ten-minute journey, you’ll witness the dramatic change in landscape and climate, from the arid desert below to the alpine forests above. The rotating floor of the tram car ensures a 360-degree view, allowing you to fully appreciate the stunning vistas of the valley and the rugged mountain terrain.

Once you reach the top, the adventure continues. The Mountain Station area offers a variety of activities suitable for all fitness levels. You can explore over 50 miles of hiking trails or simply enjoy the scenic viewpoints. During the winter months, the area often has snow, making it a popular spot for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing—a rare treat in Southern California.

The Mountain Station also features two restaurants, Peaks Restaurant and Pines Café, where you can enjoy a meal with a view. Peaks Restaurant offers a fine dining experience perfect for a romantic meal, while Pines Café is ideal for a more casual dining setting.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is not just a journey; it’s a full-day experience that combines adventure, romance, and natural beauty. It’s a must-do for couples visiting Palm Springs, offering a chance to create lasting memories in the breathtaking settings of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Tour the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

For couples who enjoy nature and wildlife, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a delightful destination in Palm Springs. This unique facility is part zoo, part botanical garden, and is dedicated to the conservation of desert flora and fauna. It provides a perfect setting for a leisurely day of exploration and learning about the natural world.

Giraffe at The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Palm Desert, CA - Photo by Matt Artz
Giraffe at The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Palm Desert, CA – Photo by Matt Artz

As you wander through the exhibits, you’ll encounter an array of animals that are native to deserts from around the world, including North America and Africa. Highlights include giraffes, cheetahs, Mexican wolves, and many more, all housed in habitats that mimic their natural environments. Don’t miss the chance to feed the giraffes, an activity that offers a fun, up-close interaction with these majestic creatures—a sure delight for any animal lover.

The botanical gardens are equally impressive, showcasing a variety of desert landscapes and the diverse plant life that thrives in arid conditions. The gardens serve as a beautiful backdrop for a romantic stroll, featuring cacti, wildflowers, and other desert-adapted plants that flourish under the Palm Springs sun.

Local insights suggest visiting during the cooler parts of the day to enjoy the most active animal behaviors and comfortable weather for walking. Also, be sure to check out the zoo’s seasonal events, such as the butterfly exhibit in the spring or the festive holiday lights display in the winter, which can add a special touch to your visit.

The Living Desert also offers guided tours and educational talks that can enhance your experience, providing deeper insight into the conservation efforts and the species you see. These programs are designed to engage visitors and create a more meaningful connection with the natural world.

Visiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is more than just a day out; it’s an opportunity to share a memorable and educational experience with your partner, surrounded by the beauty and wonder of the desert.

Stroll Through Downtown Palm Springs

A stroll through Downtown Palm Springs is an essential experience for couples visiting the area. This vibrant hub offers a charming blend of historic attractions, chic boutiques, art galleries, and diverse dining options, all set against a picturesque backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Downtown Palm Springs - © Helena Bilkova
Downtown Palm Springs – © Helena Bilkova

Begin your walk along Palm Canyon Drive, the main thoroughfare, where you’ll discover a wide array of shops offering everything from high-end fashion to vintage finds. This street is also home to numerous art galleries showcasing local and international artists. Take your time exploring these creative spaces; they often host gallery openings and events that welcome visitors to engage with the art and artists.

Dining in downtown Palm Springs is a delight, with options ranging from casual sidewalk cafes to upscale restaurants. For couples, enjoying a meal al fresco under the warm desert sky can be particularly romantic. The area is renowned for its vibrant food scene that includes modern American cuisine, authentic Mexican dishes, and innovative farm-to-table offerings.

Local insights recommend timing your visit to coincide with VillageFest, a lively street fair held on Thursday evenings. During VillageFest, Palm Canyon Drive is closed to traffic and transforms into a bustling pedestrian street with vendors selling crafts, art, food, and more. It’s a perfect opportunity to experience the local culture and enjoy some evening entertainment.

Additionally, don’t miss the chance to see some of Palm Springs’ famous mid-century modern architecture. The downtown area is dotted with iconic buildings and homes designed in this style, making it a fantastic architectural tour for enthusiasts.

A stroll through Downtown Palm Springs not only offers a taste of its lively cultural scene and scenic beauty but also provides a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend quality time with your partner, discovering the unique charm and history of this desert city.

Relax at a Luxury Spa

Palm Springs is synonymous with relaxation and rejuvenation, making it a haven for couples seeking a luxurious spa getaway. The city is dotted with a variety of world-class spas that offer a serene environment to unwind and indulge in some pampering.

Luxury Spa - Photo by Logan Stone
Luxury Spa – Photo by Logan Stone

Many of these spas are located within the region’s famous resorts and hotels, featuring amenities that blend seamlessly with the desert landscape and capitalize on its tranquil vibes. Signature treatments include mineral baths using naturally heated waters drawn from underground aquifers, mud treatments, and massages that incorporate local ingredients like sage, lavender, and desert salts.

For couples, the experience can be made even more special with tailored packages that include side-by-side massages, private soaking tubs, or couple’s therapy sessions designed to enhance relaxation and connection. These packages often extend beyond treatments, offering access to spa gardens, meditation areas, and private cabanas that ensure a peaceful retreat from the outside world.

Try to find spas that offer views of the surrounding mountains or those that incorporate outdoor elements into their treatment areas. For example, some spas offer outdoor treatment rooms or yoga classes on sun-drenched patios, allowing you and your partner to connect with nature while enjoying your spa experience.

Be sure to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons or around major holidays, as spa appointments can fill up quickly. Many spas also offer day passes that give you access to additional facilities like mineral pools, saunas, and steam rooms, making it easy to turn a simple spa treatment into an entire day of luxury and relaxation.

Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply looking to escape everyday stresses, a day at a luxury spa in Palm Springs is a perfect way to rejuvenate both body and spirit, all while enjoying the company of your significant other in a setting of unmatched natural beauty.

Visit the Palm Springs Air Museum

For couples interested in history and aviation, a visit to the Palm Springs Air Museum offers a fascinating and educational experience. This museum is renowned for its extensive collection of aircraft from the World War II, Korea, and Vietnam eras, many of which are still in flying condition.

Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs, USA - Photo by Bob Osias
Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs, USA – Photo by Bob Osias

As you explore the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to see up close an impressive array of vintage aircraft, including bombers, fighters, and cargo planes. Each aircraft is accompanied by informative displays detailing its history and its role in various conflicts, providing a deeper understanding of the technological advancements and historical contexts.

The museum also features interactive exhibits and flight simulators that can enhance your visit, giving you a hands-on feel for what it might have been like to pilot these historic aircraft. Additionally, docent-led tours are available, often conducted by veterans who share personal stories and detailed knowledge, adding a personal touch to the experience.

Consider visiting during the museum’s special events, such as flight demonstrations and Memorial Day celebrations, which can make a visit even more memorable. These events often feature actual flight operations, giving visitors a rare chance to see vintage planes in action—an exciting and unique experience.

Located near the Palm Springs International Airport, the museum is easily accessible and offers ample parking. It’s a great way to spend a few hours steeped in history and inspired by the courage and innovation of past generations.

Visiting the Palm Springs Air Museum is not just about viewing old aircraft; it’s a profound journey through time that offers insight into the significant achievements of aviation history, making it a perfect destination for couples who share a passion for history and technology.

Hike in the Indian Canyons

For couples yearning to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and bask in the tranquility of nature, hiking in the Indian Canyons is a perfect choice. This natural oasis, just a stone’s throw away from downtown Palm Springs, offers a serene escape with its peaceful trails, ancient palm groves, and awe-inspiring desert landscapes.

Trail in Indian Canyons near Palm Springs, CA - Photo by Aaron Godin
Trail in Indian Canyons near Palm Springs, CA – Photo by Aaron Godin

The Indian Canyons have several distinct areas, including Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon, each offering unique hiking experiences. Palm Canyon is the most famous, with a 15-mile long trail that guides you through the world’s largest oasis of California fan palms. This trail is relatively easy and offers plenty of scenic spots perfect for a picnic or a quiet moment together.

Andreas Canyon features a shorter, more leisurely hike alongside a babbling creek and through lush vegetation – a stark contrast to the surrounding desert. This canyon is particularly popular for its striking rock formations, and the shaded trails make it a pleasant hike, even on warmer days.

Murray Canyon is less frequented, making it ideal for couples seeking more solitude. It’s known for its beautiful waterfalls and the chance to spot bighorn sheep and other wildlife.

It’s recommended to visit during the cooler months from October to April, when the weather is most accommodating for hiking. Also, arrive early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and experience the canyons at their most peaceful.

All visitors must pay an entrance fee, contributing to conserving these sacred Native American lands. The canyons are also culturally significant, so it’s important to stay on designated trails and respect the natural environment.

Discover the Architecture on a Mid-century Modern Tour

Palm Springs is a treasure trove of mid-century modern architecture, making it an ideal destination for couples with a keen interest in design and history. Taking a mid-century modern tour is one of the best ways to explore this significant architectural style that defines so much of the city’s character.

Front door in Palm Springs, CA, USA - Photo by Don Stouder
Front door in Palm Springs, CA, USA – Photo by Don Stouder

These guided tours offer an insightful journey through neighborhoods filled with iconic homes and buildings designed by renowned architects like Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, and William Cody. You’ll see examples of clean lines, indoor-outdoor living spaces, and the integration of natural elements that are hallmarks of mid-century modern design.

Many tours also include visits to famous homes, some of which have housed Hollywood celebrities, providing a glimpse into the glamorous lifestyle that Palm Springs is known for. Whether you opt for a walking tour, a bike tour, or a more comfortable bus tour, each offers a unique perspective on this influential design era.

Local insights suggest checking for special events such as Palm Springs Modernism Week, an annual festival celebrating mid-century modern art, architecture, and design. This event offers exclusive home tours, films, lectures, and exhibitions not usually available to the public.

Tour durations and offerings vary, with some focusing on specific architects or themes, making it easy to choose one that aligns with your interests. Most tours require advance booking, especially during peak tourist seasons and events like Modernism Week.

Exploring Palm Springs through its mid-century modern architecture not only offers a visually stunning experience but also enriches your understanding of the city’s cultural and historical context. It’s a perfect activity for couples to share, providing plenty of inspiration and conversation topics as you discover these architectural gems together.

Enjoy the Views at Joshua Tree National Park Nearby

Joshua Tree National Park, located just a short drive from Palm Springs, is an extraordinary destination for couples seeking breathtaking landscapes and tranquil natural beauty. The park is renowned for its stunning desert scenery. It is characterized by rugged rock formations, stark desert plains, and the iconic Joshua trees that give the park its name.

Joshua Tree National Park, USA - Photo by Aaron Godin
Joshua Tree National Park, USA – Photo by Aaron Godin

As you explore the park, several key viewpoints and landmarks are not to be missed. Keys View offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Coachella Valley and the San Andreas Fault. On clear days, you can even see the distant Salton Sea. This spot is particularly popular at sunset, when the sky and desert landscape are set ablaze with vibrant colors.

For a memorable experience, consider taking one of the many hiking trails, which range from easy strolls to challenging treks. The Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a gentle loop that showcases stunning rock formations and the area’s native flora and fauna, making it perfect for all fitness levels. For more adventurous couples, the Ryan Mountain Trail offers a more strenuous hike but rewards hikers with incredible 360-degree views from the summit.

Local insights recommend visiting in the cooler months from October to April to avoid the extreme summer heat. Early mornings or late afternoons are the most comfortable times to visit and offer the best light for photography.

Don’t forget to visit the park’s visitor centers, where you can pick up maps and learn about the park’s geology, wildlife, and history through exhibits and educational programs. These centers also offer updates on trail conditions and can expertly recommend routes based on your interests and fitness level, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your journey.

Joshua Tree National Park is a place where natural wonders and serene moments abound, making it an ideal setting for couples to connect with nature and each other. Whether you’re climbing boulders, spotting wildlife, or simply enjoying the quiet, the park offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Golf at Premier Courses

Palm Springs is a golfer’s paradise, offering some of the finest golf courses in the United States. For couples who enjoy spending time together on the greens, the city provides an array of premier golfing options set against the backdrop of the stunning desert landscape and picturesque mountain ranges.

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, Palm Springs, USA - Photo by Don Stouder
Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, Palm Springs, USA – Photo by Don Stouder

The area boasts over 100 golf courses, ranging from exclusive private clubs to more accessible public courses, ensuring that there’s something to suit every level of skill and budget. Courses like the Indian Wells Golf Resort and PGA West are renowned for their pristine conditions, challenging layouts, and beautiful settings.

For a truly unforgettable experience, consider playing at the Classic Club, which has hosted the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic numerous times. This course features rolling fairways, multi-tiered greens, and scenic water features, all designed by Arnold Palmer. Its clubhouse and dining facilities offer a luxurious setting for relaxing after your round.

Consider taking advantage of the twilight rates many courses offer, allowing you to enjoy a round of golf at a reduced price during the late afternoon. This is also a magical time to play, as the setting sun casts long shadows and paints the mountains in vibrant hues.

Many courses in Palm Springs are also equipped with full-service pro shops and practice facilities, including driving ranges and putting greens, where you can warm up before your round or work on improving your game. Additionally, golf lessons and clinics are available for couples who want to refine their skills together under the guidance of experienced instructors.

Golfing in Palm Springs is not just about the game—it’s about enjoying the serene environment, engaging in a shared hobby, and experiencing the luxury and hospitality the desert’s premier golf courses have to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or just looking for a fun way to spend time together, hitting the links in Palm Springs is sure to be a highlight of your visit.

Shop at the Palm Springs VillageFest

For couples looking to enjoy a unique shopping experience in Palm Springs, the Palm Springs VillageFest is an absolute must-visit. Held every Thursday evening, VillageFest transforms a stretch of Palm Canyon Drive into a lively street fair that captures the essence of the local culture and community spirit.

Forever Marilyn, Palm Springs, CA - Photo by Susi Kleiman
Forever Marilyn, Palm Springs, CA – Photo by Susi Kleiman

As you leisurely stroll through the fest, you’ll find an eclectic array of vendors selling everything from art and handcrafted jewelry to vintage clothes and home decor. It’s an excellent opportunity to pick up unique gifts or souvenirs that capture the charm of Palm Springs. What’s more, many local artists and craftsmen showcase their work here, offering you a unique chance to connect directly with the creators and their stories.

The atmosphere at VillageFest is vibrant and festive, with live music and street performers adding to the entertainment. Food vendors are also a big part of the event, with options ranging from gourmet snacks to traditional street food, providing plenty of choices for a casual dinner or a sweet treat as you explore.

Local insights recommend checking out the artisan section for hand-poured candles and custom-made leather goods, which are popular among both locals and visitors. Also, make sure to enjoy some locally produced dates, a staple of the Coachella Valley’s agricultural output.

Since VillageFest takes place in the evening, the weather is typically cooler and more comfortable for walking around. The event is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring along your dog as you mingle with both tourists and residents enjoying the balmy Palm Springs night.

Shopping at the Palm Springs VillageFest not only supports local artisans and businesses but also gives you and your partner a taste of the vibrant local culture and the friendly community vibe of Palm Springs. Whether you’re browsing, buying, or just enjoying the festive atmosphere, VillageFest promises a memorable evening out together.

Experience the Palm Springs Cultural Center

The Palm Springs Cultural Center is a vibrant hub of arts and entertainment that offers a diverse array of cultural experiences, making it an ideal destination for couples who appreciate creativity and community engagement. Whether you’re interested in film, music, theater, or local produce, the Cultural Center provides a rich tapestry of activities to explore.

Silhouette of women enjoying a show - Photo by Kvnga
Silhouette of women enjoying a show – Photo by Kvnga

One of the Cultural Center’s highlights is the Camelot Theatres, known for showcasing independent films, documentaries, and international cinema that are hard to find elsewhere. The theaters also host numerous film festivals throughout the year, including the famous Palm Springs International Film Festival, which attracts film enthusiasts from around the world.

If you’re visiting over a weekend, take advantage of the Certified Farmers Market at the Cultural Center. Here, you can stroll through stalls of fresh local produce, artisanal foods, and handmade crafts. It’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the local flavors, engage with the community, and perhaps pick up some fresh ingredients for a romantic meal.

The Center also hosts a variety of live events, from music concerts and theatrical performances to lectures and workshops that cater to a wide range of interests. These events often feature local talent and provide insights into Palm Springs’ cultural landscape and artistic community.

Check the Cultural Center’s calendar before your visit to see what events or shows are on. This way, you can plan your trip around performances or screenings that pique your interest, making your experience more personalized and memorable.

Visiting the Palm Springs Cultural Center not only supports the local arts scene but also gives you and your partner a chance to immerse yourselves in the cultural richness of Palm Springs. Whether you’re watching a groundbreaking film, enjoying a live performance, or tasting the local harvest, the Cultural Center offers a multitude of ways to connect and create lasting memories together.

Explore Local Art Galleries and Boutiques

Palm Springs is a haven for art lovers and shoppers, with its vibrant array of local art galleries and unique boutiques. Exploring these artistic spaces and retail spots is a wonderful way for couples to discover the city’s creative pulse, find one-of-a-kind items, and support local artists and entrepreneurs.

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash
Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Art galleries in Palm Springs showcase diverse artworks, from contemporary and abstract pieces to traditional Native American and mid-century modern art. Start your art tour at the Backstreet Art District, where galleries like Stewart Galleries, Elena Bulatova Gallery, and Archangel Art Collective offer a mix of mediums and styles. These galleries often host artist receptions and exhibitions, providing a chance to meet the artists and learn about their work firsthand.

After immersing yourselves in the art scene, turn your attention to the boutiques that line Palm Canyon Drive and the surrounding streets. You’ll find everything from high-end fashion and vintage clothing to handcrafted jewelry and home decor here. Many of these boutiques are locally owned and pride themselves on offering goods that can’t be found elsewhere. For a truly unique shopping experience, check out shops like Trina Turk, Wil Stiles, and Just Fabulous, which reflect the eclectic style and spirit of Palm Springs.

Local insights suggest that the best time to visit galleries and boutiques is during the Palm Springs VillageFest, held every Thursday evening, when the area becomes a pedestrian-only zone filled with energy and excitement. It’s also a great opportunity to enjoy some street food and live music as you browse.

Exploring the local art galleries and boutiques in Palm Springs is not just about shopping or art appreciation—it’s about experiencing the culture and creativity that make the city unique. It’s a perfect activity for couples looking to soak up local flavors and find unique items to serve as mementos for their trip.

Conclusion: Discover the Charm of Palm Springs

Whether you’re an art aficionado, a nature enthusiast, or a couple seeking a romantic getaway, Palm Springs offers an array of activities that cater to every interest. From the stunning views at Joshua Tree National Park to the cultural delights of the Palm Springs Art Museum and the architectural marvels on a mid-century modern tour, this desert oasis promises an unforgettable experience.

Each activity highlighted in this guide showcases Palm Springs’ unique aspects and provides opportunities for couples to create lasting memories together. Whether exploring the lush landscapes of the Indian Canyons, enjoying the vibrant atmosphere at the Palm Springs VillageFest, or relaxing in a luxurious spa, Palm Springs invites you to immerse yourself in its beauty and tranquility.

As you plan your trip, consider timing your visit to coincide with some of the city’s renowned events, like Modernism Week or the International Film Festival, to enhance your experience. Remember, the best way to enjoy Palm Springs is to explore its diverse offerings at your own pace, discovering both its popular attractions and hidden gems.

So, pack your bags and prepare for a journey filled with adventure, relaxation, and romance in Palm Springs, where every visit has something new to offer and every moment is a chance to enjoy the warmth and charm of this enchanting city.

You can also explore Palm Springs with an exciting tour from GetYourGuide or Viator, or visit another city in California by clicking here: San Francisco.