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Palm Springs with Kids – Fun Activities for Families

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When you think of Palm Springs, you probably picture pretty palm trees, vast golf courses, and sparkling swimming pools. You will find these treasures and oh so much more in this California desert city! Families seeking cool hotel prices flock to Palms Springs in summer months. The rest of the year, when California beaches may be too chilly for a swim sans wet suit, sun lovers head to this desert hot spot. Here are the 10 best things to do in Palm Springs with kids and teenagers, no matter what time of year you visit.

Iconic palm trees in Palm Springs, CA

Iconic palm trees in Palm Springs (Photo credit: welcomia, Depositphotos.com)

1. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Part zoo, part botanic garden — the focus of the Living Desert is education and conservation of the world’s desert creatures and plants. As a bit of a zoo snob, I was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of impressive animals on display and in shows here. Look for exotic creatures like giraffes, zebras and cheetahs as well as animals native to the American Southwest like bobcats, coyotes and burrowing owls. If visiting during warmer months, then plan to go early in the day when animals are most active, and weather is coolest.

A wildlife show at the Living Desert in Palm Springs

A wildlife show at the Living Desert (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The expansive G-Scale Model Train Exhibit sends miniature trains chugging through the desert landscape much to the thrill of young ones. The Endangered Species Carousel is another popular draw for children who can climb aboard one of 30 animals for a merry spin. My children’s favorite spot was the one-acre Gecko Gulch play area with its Saguaro cactus slide and pretend “panning for gold” trough.

Saguaro cactus slide at the Living Desert's Gecko Gulch play area

Saguaro cactus slide at the Living Desert’s Gecko Gulch play area (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Soar from the desert valley to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The floor of the car rotates throughout the ride, so passengers get a 360-degree view of Coachella Valley without having to move around the car. The temperature at the top is about 30 degrees cooler than the bottom in Palm Desert, making the tram a great option for those seeking relief from the heat.

In the summer, go hiking on one of 54 miles of trails at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Expect snow up here during winter months when you can rent cross-country skis or snowshoes or just have a good old fashioned snowball throw-down.

Palm Springs Aerial Tram in the San Jacinto Mountain Range

Palm Springs Aerial Tram in the San Jacinto Mountain Range (Photo credit: wollertz, Depositphotos.com)

3. Joshua Tree National Park

Located about an hour from Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is a must for nature-loving families. This is the best place to spot the unique-looking Joshua trees with their outstretched arms and spiky leaves. These unusual trees grow only in the Mojave Desert in the Southwestern U.S., making them a must-see during your visit. Pick up a Junior Ranger Handbook from one of the Visitors Centers so kids ages 5 to 13 can earn their Junior Ranger badge upon completing the required tasks.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park (Photo credit: lunamarina, Depositphotos.com)

For strikingly stark desert views and Joshua trees aplenty, plan to spend some time hiking here. According to FamilyCanTravel.com, Skull Rock Trail is one of best and easiest hikes for families at this National Park. Bonus: the trail was named for a rock formation that looks like a spooky human skull, making for fun photo ops.

Traveling with intrepid teens? Sign up for a Beginner Rock Climbing Tour in Joshua Tree National Park

Skull Rock in Joshua tree National Park

Skull Rock in Joshua tree National Park (Photo credit: V, Depositphotos.com)

4. Cabazon Dinosaurs

Just 20 minutes outside Palm Springs, families can pose with two of the world’s tallest dinosaur statues in Cabazon. At the World’s Biggest Dinosaurs Museum, you can even climb the stairs to the top of the 150-foot-long Dinny the Dinosaur brontosaurus to pick up dino-themed tchotchkes in a gift shop. Also onsite is a 65-foot-tall faux Tyrannosaurus rex named Mr. Rex. These original roadside attractions were built in 1975 and 1986, respectively. This is really more of a fun pitstop than a true museum, but your kids will long remember visiting these dinosaurs.

Cabazon Dinosaur Museum near Palm Springs, CA

Cabazon Dinosaur Museum (Photo credit: mkopka, Depositphotos.com)

5. Palm Springs Windmills

Wind turbines in the Palm Springs area produce an electrifying 1.5 million megawatt-hours as well as stunning Instagram ops. You can sign up for a guided tour of the windmills with older kids and teens. Alternatively, this self-driving wind turbine tour makes a good option. Or, just plan to ooh and ahh at these amazing sources of power as they spin in the wind. 

You don’t have to go out of your way to see them, either. Believe me, if you drive to or around Palm Springs with kids — you will see windmills in action in the San Gorgonio Pass. In fact, according to PalmSprings.com, the area contains more than 4,000 separate windmills and provides enough electricity to power Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley.

Palm Springs windmills

Palm Springs windmills (Photo credit: welcomia, Depositphotos.com)

6. Date Shakes

With so many date palms gracing the landscape, you must taste some of those trees’ tasty fruits during your Palm Springs family vacation. Even if your kids don’t think they like dates, I’ll bet they’ll dig them when mixed into a creamy ice cream shake! Date milkshakes taste almost chocolatey, but with a slightly chewy and altogether crave-able texture. Other flavors are available, too, but date shakes really are the treat of choice in the Palm Springs area. There are several places to sip this yummy concoction. 

Swanky date shakes at State Fare Bar & Kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage

Swanky date shakes at State Fare Bar & Kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage (Photo from VisitGreaterPalmSprings.com)

Date Shake Locations in the Palm Springs Area

Date palm with ripe dates

Date palm with ripe dates (Photo credit: kiwisoul, Depositphotos.com)

7. Shopping in Palm Springs

If you’ve got a tween or teen who loves to shop, then the downtown shops and outlet malls near Palm Springs are sure to please.

Palm Canyon Drive

The palm tree-lined Palm Canyon Drive is the main strip in the city, lined with all sorts of shops and restaurants. Hollywood stars of yesteryear flocked to Palm Springs as a vacation retreat and many of them are featured along the Palm Springs Walk of Stars here, like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Shirley Temple. More interesting to your offspring, however, will be Fits4Kidds children’s apparel, Crystal Fantasy’s array of gems and jewelry, and the irreverent Just Fabulous gift shop.

Palm Springs Outlet Malls

To search for name brands and great deals, head to one of two outlet shopping malls. Cabazon Outlets features such stores as Adidas Outlet, Guess, and Sunglass Hut. Next door you’ll find a wider range of shops like Levi’s, Lululemon, American Eagle, Carter’s and much more at Desert Hills Premium Outlets.

La Plaza shopping and restaurant area in Palm Springs

La Plaza shopping and restaurant area (Photo credit: andykazie, Depositphotos.com)

8. Golfing in Palm Springs with Kids

Golfing families especially love Palm Springs. From kid-friendly golf instruction to gorgeous courses — Palm Springs has got you covered.

Golf Lessons and Camps for Kids

Beginners will want to start at the First Tee of the Coachella Valley in Palm Desert for introductory golf lessons as well as an on-site driving range and 9-hole par-3 course. Additionally, kids 15 and younger at Marriott Shadow Ridge can enjoy a free lesson at Marriott Golf Academy, when accompanied by a full-paying adult. In summer, sign up for 5-day golf camps at PGA Jr. Camp at Mission Hills Country Club for kids aged 7 to 13. 

Marriott Shadow Ridge putting green in Palm Desert

Marriott Shadow Ridge putting green (Photo credit: Marriott)

Palm Springs Golf Courses

Many resorts in Palm Springs boast beautiful golf courses. Tops for serious golfers is La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. According to GolfBreaks.com, “The PGA West Resort offers 5 fantastic public courses, with the Pete Dye-designed TPC Stadium ranked in the 100 Greatest Courses in the US by Golf Magazine, offering a stern test.”

Not only does JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa offer two 18-hole championship golf courses set among towering mountains and sprawling lakes, but also the resort is home to a full grass 18-hole putting course for guests of all ages.

Discover more family-friendly golfing options recommended by VisitGreaterPalmSprings.com.

Dunes golf course at La Quinta Resort & Club

Dunes golf course at La Quinta Resort & Club (Photo credit: Waldorf Astoria)

9. Boomers Miniature Golf and More

If putt-putt is more your family’s speed, then bring the kids to Boomers. In addition to three 18-hole miniature golf courses, kids will go gaga for bumper boats, a rock-climbing wall, and a wide array of video games at this small theme park.

Boomers miniature golf in Palm Springs with kids

Boomers miniature golf (Photo from VisitGreaterPalmSprings.com)

10. Palm Springs Swimming Pools for Families

Spectacular hotel pools are a major draw in Palm Springs. Book a stay at one of the area’s many hotels with a fabulous pool, buy a hotel pool day pass, or dive into a public pool. Most are heated year-round, making every season a good time for a pool day.

Renaissance Esmeralda pool

Renaissance Esmeralda pool (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Best Palm Springs Hotel Pools for Kids

As a hotel pool enthusiast, I was particularly smitten with the swimming pools at Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells. The cascading waterfalls are beautiful, and the zero-entry pool is perfect for families traveling with young children. The sandy beach provides plenty of fun for digging and sandcastle building, too. During summer and spring break, look for Dive In Movies that add to the allure of a stay at this resort.

Splashtopia at Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa

Splashtopia at Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa (Photo courtesy of Omni Hotels & Resorts)

Trekaroo Editor-in-Chief Sharlene Earnshaw recommends Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage as one of the best kid-friendly hotel pools in the USA. She says, “Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa has taken full advantage of sunshine and created Splashtopia, a large pool complex complete with water slides, a lazy river, a sand beach for tots, and a large pool which features Dive In Movies on the weekends.”

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa’s HyTides Plunge water park

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa’s HyTides Plunge water park (Photo credit: Hyatt.com)

Waterslide lovers will rejoice at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa’s HyTides Plunge water park. According to Locale Magazine, “Featuring a set of 30-foot dueling water slides, a lazy river and a splash pad with water cannons, dumping buckets and more, this pool area offers gallons of insurmountable fun. Shaded by towering palms and nestled up against the mountains, The HyTides Plunge water park, along with the resort’s seven expansive pools, makes for the ultimate year-round destination.” 

Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel

Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel (Photo credit: Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel)

Hotel Pool Day Passes

Even if your hotel doesn’t offer such splendid splash-time amenities, Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel offers pool passes for children and adults for a small fee. Families can swim in the hotel’s eight pools, which are filled with natural hot spring water and kept at varying temperatures. Dry sauna, shower room changing facilities are included. Poolside dining and drinks are available, too. Take a look at additional hotels and resorts in the Palm Springs area that offer pool passes through ResortPass.com.

Palm Desert Aquatic Center sunset near Palm Springs

Palm Desert Aquatic Center sunset (Photo from Palm Desert Aquatic Center’s Facebook page)

Palm Desert Aquatic Center

Locals and travelers alike can enjoy the affordable watery oasis at Palm Desert Aquatic Center. There’s a zero-depth pool and splash playground for little ones, waterslides and high dive boards for bigger kids, and lap lanes for parents wanting to stay in shape during their Palm Springs vacation.

Horse sculptures by Artist Ricardo Breceda in Borrego Springs

Horse sculptures by Artist Ricardo Breceda in Borrego Springs, California (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Explore More Things to Do in California with Kids

For another desert getaway in California, discover what there is to do in Borrego Springs.

Planning a California road trip? Take a look at these Highway 5 pitstops for families.

Get even more ideas with this list of the best California family vacation destinations.

Things to Do in Palm Springs with Kids

Save These Palm Springs Family Vacation Tips

For future travel planning, be sure to save this list of the best things to do in Palm Spring with kids and teens. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Would you like to visit Palm Springs with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: Renaissance Esmeralda hosted my family’s hotel stay in the Palm Springs area and we received free entry to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. I did not receive any other discounts or compensation related to this story. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Wow-what an incredible travel guide to Palm Springs! I would definitely travel with my kids to Palm Springs. My family would be all about the aquatic center and posing with the Cabazon Dinosaurs! Super cool! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Holy moly! Palm Springs sounds like an amazing place to visit. There’s so much variety there. You’ll find something different at every turn.

  3. My family and I love Palm Springs. We’ve only been able to go a couple of times, but we keep trying to get back. It’s such a lovely area.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Such a pretty city. My family has been lucky to go a few times during our California-Arizona road trips. Hope you can get back someday!

  4. I used to travel to Palm Springs fairly often as a flight attendant, but never got to spend much time there. Now I see what I was missing! I’d love to go back and explore – the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens sounds fantastic!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Too bad you didn’t get a chance to explore much of Palm Springs! I hope you can go back someday to really enjoy this desert city. I LOVE the Living Desert!

  5. Oh I’m sure my son would love the conservatory. Animals and fun, he’d be in love.

  6. This is an awesome place. So many interesting things – zoo, garden, dino, lush greenery, windmills. I am amazed, I wish to take my son in this place.

  7. wow such a beautiful place to visit. I really want to see a wildlife show because I love animals. Just added it to my bucket list.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      The Living Desert really is a fabulous zoo. I hope you can visit Palm Springs someday and see for yourself!

  8. yudith napitupulu says

    I feel sorry that you didn’t get a chance to explore much of Palm Springs, maybe you will get chance another time. This place is wonderful. Save this place on my list for visit with family.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      We really were able to explore lots of Palm Springs during our three different visits there. I hope you can explore the city yourself someday!

  9. I enjoyed reading your post. I miss the traveling vibes. Thank you for sharing

  10. Wow now I want to travel again. I love the waterslide in the resort pool. And the dinosaure park looks cool.

  11. Emman Damian says

    I want to see The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens! It looks so serene. My niece will love it for sure!

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