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Hot Fun in Palm Springs with Kids, Year-Round

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Families seeking cool hotel prices flock to Palms Springs in summer months. The rest of the year, when beaches might be too chilly for swimming sans wet suit, sun lovers head to this California hot spot. Here’s the what to do in Palm Springs with kids and teenagers, no matter what time of year you visit.

Living Dessert Saguaro Slide in Palm Springs, California

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

The Living Desert

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 (my family had been members of the world-renowned San Diego Zoo for six years), I was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of impressive animals on display and in shows here (like giraffes, zebras and cheetahs from Africa’s deserts and bobcats, coyotes and burrowing owls from the North American deserts). If visiting during warmer months, plan to go early in the day when the animals are most active and the weather is most pleasant.

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

Living Desert Animal Show

The Living Desert’s Wildlife Wonders show (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Water Park

From mellow waterslides for tots, to mid-sized chutes for elementary-schoolers and towering slides for daredevil teens and adults, there’s something at Knott’s Soak City Palm Springs (now Wet ‘n Wild) to please water lovers of all ages. This water park is also home to a four-story family fun-house filled with fountains, an enormous gushing bucket of water, and, of course, more waterslides. Families can float in inner-tubes on a 600-foot lazy river or bob about together in an 8,000-gallon wave pool. Rent a shaded cabana with lounge chairs and table-side food and beverage service to chill out on hot days.

Knotts Soak City Palm Springs Waterslides

Kahuna’s Beach House – a four-story family fun-house (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Complimentary life jackets of all sizes are available to keep children safe and parents’ minds at ease. Don’t forget to bring your own towels, or borrow some from your hotel, since they are not provided. (Although, in the midst of summer, you will dry quickly and may not need ’em!) Snack bars, lockers, a gift shop and changing rooms with showers are available on-site.

Knotts Soak City Pacific Spin Waterslide

Pacific Spin Waterslide (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Aerial Tramway

Soar from the desert valley floor to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The temperature at the top is about 30 degrees cooler, 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. Expect snow up here during winter months; you can rent cross-country skis or snowshoes or just have a good old fashioned snow ball throw-down, family style.

Linda Wolfgram Kramer from Travels with Children says, “The floor of the car rotates throughout the ride, so passengers get a 360-degree view of the Coachella Valley without having to move around the car.” As a Midwestern gal, Linda says, “The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was one of the high points of our California trip, especially since it was unique and not what I expected when I first thought of California.” Read more about her family’s adventures on the Aerial Tramway.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

View from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (Photo credit: Linda Wolfgram Kramer, Travels with Children)

Hotel Pools

One of the primary reasons parents bring their children to Palm Springs is to play in the area’s glorious hotel pools. As a hotel pool enthusiast, I was particularly smitten with Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells and its zero-entry pool with sandy beach and cascading waterfalls.

Renaissance Esmeralda Swimming Pool

Just one portion of the pool complex at Renaissance Esmeralda (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Trekaroo Editor-in-Chief and a past Travel Mamas Guest Blogger Sharlene Earnshaw recommends Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage for year-round swimming as one of the Best Kid-Friendly Hotel Pools in the USA. She loves the resort’s Splashtopia, which she describes as, “a pool complex complete with waterslides, a lazy river, a sand beach for tots, and a large pool which features Dive In Movies on the weekends.”

Splashtopia Pool at Rancho Las Palmas Resort

Splashtopia at Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa (Photo credit: Rancho Las Palmas Resort)

Even if your Palm Springs accommodations don’t have such splendid splash-time amenities, a few area hotels offer day passes so you can still get in on the watery fun. For a small fee, you can swim in Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel’s eight pools, which are filled with natural hot spring water and kept at varying temperatures. Passes are also available at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa’s Oasis Pool, which is set in lush South Pacific-inspired gardens and features a heated pool, two spas, a waterslide and a lazy river. Buy a day pass to the Ace Club Hotel’s Swim Club for access to their deep pool and hot tub. Mom and dad can slurp a boozy snow cone and laze in one of their plentiful poolside hammocks (while keeping an eye on swimming kiddos, of course!).

What is your favorite thing to do with kids and teenagers in Palm Springs? Let us know in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of 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,, 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.

  1. Joann Woolley says

    Wow! There is actually a lot to do in Palm Springs for families – thanks for sharing!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Joann – Palm Springs is SO fun with kids! I hope you will be able to take your family soon!

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