Explore > California > California Spotlight
spotlight header

Places Welcoming You

gs logo Rancho Los Coches RV Park
Lakeside, California
gs logo Cachuma Lake Campground
Santa Barbara, California
gs logo Visit SLO Cal - San Luis Obispo County
San Luis Obispo, California

Palm Springs

SoCal’s favorite desert getaway shimmers with recreation possibilities

Palm Springs welcomes sun worshippers and fun-seekers from around the world. Sitting in the arid Coachella desert 107 miles east of Los Angeles, this sophisticated enclave bustles with upscale restaurants, luxurious spas and countless entertainment options.

Solitude lovers will discover wide-open space in the surrounding desert and mountains, where colorful desert flowers, surrealistic rock formations and spectacular views compete for attention.

Outdoors Aplenty

Palm Springs offers plenty of activities for outdoorsy types and the year-round warm, dry climate makes it a good place to go hiking throughout the year. Don’t miss the 3.5-mile South Lykken Trail, which offers gorgeous views of Palm Springs and the surrounding desert. The 6-mile Palm Canyon Trail to the Stone Pools in Indian Canyons is a not-to-be-missed hike that traverses rugged countryside before ending up at a beautiful (but sometimes dry) series of—you guessed it—stone pools.

Most visitors to Palm Springs make a point of riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating aerial tramway, which has a capacity of 80 people. This tramway takes about 10 minutes to transport travelers from Valley Station (elevation 2,643 feet) to Mountain Station in Mt. San Jacinto State Park (elevation 8,516 feet). Visitors to the Coachella Valley will also want to check out the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, with over 20,000 acres of desert and 25 miles of trails plus a visitor center and regular guided hikes.

A tram with "Palm Springs" written on the side.

Upscale Retail and Hot Residences

No trip to Palm Springs would be complete without a jaunt down Palm Canyon Drive, lined with high-end clothing stores, upscale boutiques and superb eateries to please every palette. Considered the desert’s answer to Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, this iconic strip entices shopaholics with fine clothing, accessories and art. Just don’t max out that credit card.

Next door in Palm Desert, the renowned El Paseo Shopping District features more than 300 world-class shops, locally owned boutiques, art galleries, jewelers, top-name retailers such as St. John and Gucci, and gourmet restaurants set against a scenic backdrop.

Trade couture for architecture by touring some of the town’s fascinating buildings and houses, many of which look as if they were torn out of the pages of Architectural Digest. Several of the town’s design gems can be traced back to Hollywood’s Golden Age, when A-list stars flocked to the desert town to get away from the pressures of the studios and paparazzi. Silver Screen icons from Frank Sinatra to Kirk Douglas collaborated with world-famous architects to create modernist masterpieces that have stood the test of time.

Sinatra’s sleek, 4,500-square-foot Twin Palms house is emblematic of Hollywood’s swinging era, complete with sprawling patios protected by shady overhangs, a piano-shaped swimming pool and ample glass windows to take in the surrounding desert landscape. Companies like Palm Springs Modern Tours take visitors on drives across the city to architectural gems including the City National Bank building (built in 1959) and William F. Cody’s Horizon Hotel (1952).

From cutting-edge to quirky, Palm Springs’ building designs draw architecture buffs from around the world.

History and Culture

Architecture isn’t Palm Springs’ only cultural touchstone. The city and surrounding communities have plenty of art museums and urbane attractions to keep visitors busy for weeks. Sunnylands, the former Annenberg estate in nearby Rancho Mirage, has often been referred to as the “Camp David of the West.” The estate has housed an impressive roster of politicians and celebrities over the years, from Queen Elizabeth and Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Sammy Davis Jr.

The gardens are open to the public from Thursday through Sunday free of charge, and there’s a cafe on-site, not to mention a sculpture garden. Visitors can partake in regular public programs, from guided walks to yoga classes. Those who want to see the house will need to book a tour (for a fee). Note that tours sell out fast and it’s a good idea to reserve your space well in advance.

For lovers of creative inspiration, the Palm Springs Art Museum is not to be missed. The permanent collection features a variety of contemporary and modern art by the likes of John Chamberlin, Edward Ruscha and Helen Frankenthaler, plus glassworks (including pieces by Dale Chihuly), Western American art, Native American and Mesoamerican artifacts, and lots of striking examples of nature photography.

Hot History

Those interested in the area’s earliest occupants should pay a visit to the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, which features art and artifacts from the local Cahuilla people. The museum also sponsors exhibits around town at off-site locations such as the Palm Springs City Hall and California State University’s local campus. If you happen to be visiting in the springtime, be sure to check out the Native FilmFest, which features films by and about indigenous people in the Americas and worldwide.

Visitors with an interest in aviation or military history should stop by the Palm Springs Air Museum, which boasts one of the world’s largest and most significant collections of WWII fighter planes on display. If you’re willing to fork out the cash, you can take a ride in a vintage, prop-driven aircraft.

If you’re looking for a delicious food experience with a distinctly desert twist, check out Shields Date Garden in Indio, about 25 miles southeast of Palm Springs on Interstate 10. Here, you’ll discover an oasis of dates, which grow in clusters under the fronds of palm trees. Enjoy a date milkshake, a variety of delectable dishes in the garden café, or educate yourself by viewing a 15-minute documentary, Romance and Sex Life of the Date. Be sure to also take a stroll through the 17-acre garden in the back.

Lush desert golf course reflected on a tranquil pond.

Teeing Off

Despite its arid desert environment, sunny Palm Springs has plenty of greenery, much in the form of fantastic golf courses right in the city and in the surrounding area.

Escena Golf Club is the brainchild of Nicklaus Design, a golf course architecture and design firm operated by golf icon Jack Nicklaus. The course is as beautiful as it is challenging, featuring an 18-hole, par-72 course set on 172 acres with plenty of visually stunning water features.

Heritage Palms Golf Club in Indio, just south of town, is a gorgeous 18-hole Arthur Hills-designed course with four large lakes set against a beautiful mountainous backdrop. Located in nearby Cathedral City, Cimarron Golf Resort opened in 2000 and features two courses (a par 71 and a par 56) designed by master golf course architect John Fought.

Cimarron has a bit more rugged of a look than the average golf course resort, with a mix of water features and sand pits dotted with golden-colored desert flora. Another popular golf resort, Indian Canyons Golf Resort offers two 18-hole, par-72 courses plus a 25-station driving range, a pro shop and event space for rent. And serious golfers won’t want to miss the Ted Robinson-designed 27-hole course at the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club.

Crystal-Clear Water

For a break from the desert landscape, drive 25 minutes northwest of town and check out the Whitewater Preserve.  This 2,851-acre riparian habitat sits on the banks of the Whitewater River, whose crystal waters are great for fishing.

Just 23 miles southeast of town, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is an oasis in education and fun. Comprising more than 1,200 acres, this destination showcases 450 wild animals along with live shows. Trams whisk visitors to different spots in the park.

For More Information

Palm Springs Visitors Center



California Tourism