Besides the obvious – having fun in the pool, there are plenty of things to do in Palm Springs with kids. You’ll quickly notice that there are many family friendly activities in Palm Springs CA and beyond. Palm Springs is a great base for exploring the California desert. From there you can enjoy family activities in Palm Desert, Joshua Tree, and Cabazon to name a few. We’ll introduce you to road side attractions, easy hikes, self-guided tours, botanical gardens, day trips, and more!
We’ve been out to the southern California desert several times now, so we feel that we have a pretty good grasp on what to do in Palm Springs with kids. We even have a personal list of things we want to do on our next visit, so the fun ain’t over yet! We’ll keep adding to this list each time we go, so check back often for more activities for kids in Palm Springs California!
Things to Do in Palm Springs with Kids
The Cabazon Dinosaurs are a MUST if you have kids, and honestly even if you don’t! We stop by this roadside attraction every single time we go on a Palm Springs getaway. The dinos are located in Cabazon just 20 minutes northwest of Palm Springs right off the I-1o interstate. With a fresh coat of paint several times throughout the year, it’s like a whole new attraction each time we go!
You might recognize these prehistoric giants from the movie PeeWee’s Big Adventure (1985). While they weren’t made specifically for the movie, they do make an appearance. Dinny the Dinosaur is a 150-foot long brontosaurus and houses the property’s gift shop. With paid admission to the dinosaur museum you can climb up and into the mouth of Mr Rex, the 65-foot tall T-Rex. We have yet to pay admission to the museum, but simply enjoy stopping by and saying “Hi” to the dinos each time we pass.
Palm Springs Visitor Center & Welcome Sign
The Palm Springs Visitor Center is a great place to start to your visit to Palm Springs with kids. It’s set in a former Enco service station, known as the Tramway Gas Station for its location at the base of the road leading to the aerial tramway. Here you’ll find some great Palm Springs souvenirs and knowledgeable staff who can recommend activities for kids in Palm Springs beyond what you can read here, because we certainly haven’t done it all… yet! To the right of the center is the official Palm Springs welcome sign – a great family photo op! Our son also loved running around the desert landscape just behind the center.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
One of the top things to do in Palm Springs with kids is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. We went on the tramway close to decade ago, but have yet to go with our son, as unfortunately illness cut our most recent trip to the desert short. Next time! A 10-minute ride takes you from Valley Station up to Mountain Station. Keep in mind, with an altitude change of about 6,000 feet, the temperature difference from the valley floor to the mountaintop can be 30-40 degrees, so dress accordingly!
There is often snow at the top during the winter months. When snow is present, the Adventure Center will rent snow shoes and cross-country skis. They do not rent sleds, but do sell them in the gift shop. You are also permitted to bring your own sled, so long as it’s plastic. Otherwise, another fun thing to do at the top is to wander the hiking trails of Mount San Jacinto State Park and enjoy the views of the valley below. You can purchase your tramway tickets online in advance, though be aware that day of tickets can only be purchased at the tramway upon arrival.
Downtown Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs isn’t necessarily geared toward little ones, but Palm Canyon Drive is still a fun place to wander nonetheless. With plenty of photo-ops, boutique shops, and restaurants, your family will be able to fill a fun few hours. Take a selfie with the bronze carving of Sonny Bono, former mayor of Palm Springs (1988 – 1992), or the larger than life Marilyn Monroe statue.
Looking for a tasty treat on a warm desert day? Grab a date shake from Great Shakes or enjoy a serving of famous dole whip from Lappart’s. (It’s dairy-free, fat-free, gluten-free, and vegan!) If you happen to be in Palm Springs on a Thursday, be sure to check out VillageFest, a night-time street fair on South Palm Canyon Drive, featuring artisan and craft booths, food, and live entertainment!
Palm Springs Art Museum
An art museum may not be the first place you think of to take a child, but if you have older children who enjoy a little bit of art and culture, consider a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum. Be sure to pick up the free Gallery Quest activity book at the box office/check-in after entering the museum to encourage your young ones to get the most out of their visit. The Museum has 28 galleries, two sculpture gardens, a lecture hall, a theater, and a popular café.
Another perk to being in Palm Springs on a Thursday, in addition to VillageFest, is that the museum is free from 5-7 pm Thursday evenings. Please keep in mind that no matter when you plan to visit, advanced reservations are required. The FREE Thursday time slot often “sells out” days in advance. Also, please note, the museum is currently closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. (Be sure to check the museum webpage for the latest restrictions concerning masks and COVID vaccination status.)
Palm Springs Colored Door Tour
We were surprised to learn that Palm Springs has the largest concentration of preserved mid-century modern architecture in the world. In fact, there’s a whole week (Modernism Week) dedicated to celebration and appreciation of architecture and design in Palm Springs. Even though our 4 year old has an appreciation for unique buildings, we didn’t think he’d be too into the Palm Springs Mid-Century Architecture Self-Guided Tour. So, we decided to do our own unofficial colored door tour!
After loading into the family van and cranking up some fun tunes, we set off to the Indian Canyon neighborhood in south Palm Springs. We then basically played eye-spy with all of the fun colorful doors on the countless white mid-century homes. Sierra Way, Alhambra, and Kings Point (private) had some of the best doors! We can imagine that some of these homeowners are tired of “influencers” taking tons of Instagram selfies outside of their private residences, so please be mindful, have a quick look, then move on!
Family Friendly Hikes in Palm Springs
Coachella Valley Preserve
For an easy stroll to and through a desert oasis, head to the Coachella Valley Preserve. This 17,000-acre preserve is where you’ll find Thousand Palm Oasis, which is fed by water seeping out of the San Andreas Fault. It is also home to the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, a reptile endemic to the area, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. More than 180 bird species have been recorded here, along with a multitude of other desert animals including black-tailed jackrabbits, bobcats, and sidewinders.
Walk on boardwalks beneath the bushy palms of the Paul Wilhelm Grove and stop by the visitors center for information about the preserve and surrounding area. There are several hiking paths (over 25 miles of trails) of varying length to suit your hiking desires. We did a portion of the McCallum trail, until we got tired of walking through the soft desert sand and turned back. Hike as little or as much as you wish.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
Another place just outside of Palm Springs to go for a hike with the kids is at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Located in Morongo Valley, about 30 minutes from downtown, is a nature preserve tucked just off the highway. We visited the preserve on a chilly December morning and were pleasantly surprised with the diverse landscape. We certainly weren’t expecting ice on the trail, but welcomed the cooler temps. With a nice network of trails to choose from, no doubt you’ll find the perfect hike for your family.
There are a variety of brochures and activities for the kids at the trailhead, like Big Morongo Bingo. And be sure to bring your camera and binoculars, as there have been more than 240 species of birds observed within the preserve. In addition, the preserve is home to a variety of animals including including mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, and more! We didn’t see any animals other than a few birds during our visit, but we did come across some deer tracks!
Located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs just behind the art museum is the popular Museum Trail. This 1.6-mile loop isn’t for the faint of heart. The good thing about its rapid elevation gain is that you will quickly have spectacular views over downtown and the Coachella Valley beyond. We did this hike many years ago before we had our son and even then had to stop often to catch our breath. We didn’t do the entire trail this most recent time with our son, but we were quite impressed, as were other hikers on the trail, to see our 4-year-old making the climb. Keep in mind, it’s a very steep trail that is very narrow in parts, so know your kids’ limitations before setting off. Rest often and bring plenty of water.
North Lykken Trailhead
Another hike we’ll mention, but that we also didn’t complete in its entirety is the North Lykken Trail. Truth be told, we didn’t even go on the actual trail, but found an offshoot from the trailhead that offers quick and lovely views of downtown and the mountains in the distance. Instead of going left onto the trail, we went right and followed a short well-trodden trail. There was still a little bit of rock scrambling to get to views, but it was a nice abbreviated hike without the strenuous effort. The actual North Lykken Trail can be combined with the Museum Trail (mentioned above) for the ultimate hike, but would not be recommended as a family-friendly hike due to its elevation gain and level of difficulty.
Cahuilla Hills Park
In the neighboring town of Palm Desert is Cahuilla Hills Park. This 27.5-acre park serves as the trailhead for the Cahuilla Hills Trails System. While some of the trails are more moderate in level of difficulty, we still walked a little ways on the hills with our son. Like many of the trails in Palm Springs, these are fully exposed to the sun, so don’t forget your hat and sunscreen. While this may not be the most scenic hike in the desert, it’s a great place to hike off some energy!
Palm Springs Windmills
Windmills in the desert are synonymous with Palm Springs. Until you get right up under them you don’t realize just how massive they are. The safest (and most informative) way to get up close and personal with these renewable energy sources is to go on a tour. Palm Springs Windmill Tours offers an hour long self-guided tour of the first commercial wind farm in southern California. There’s also the option to go on a VIP Tour with a professional wind energy expert if you really want to take your energy education to the next level. Otherwise, you can enjoy the windmills from afar, as they’re practically everywhere you look out in the California desert.
Moorten Botanical Garden
Just outside the heart of downtown Palm Springs is Moorten Botanical Garden. For a small fee, you can wander this “living museum” with over 3,000 plant varieties from all over the world. This private arboretum was created in 1938 to share extraordinary desert plants with those who visit. Discover rare plants in the picturesque Cactarium, a word coined by the Moortens. Once you pay your entry fee at the front gate, you’ll be provided with a paper map for a self-guided journey through the garden. From there, signs throughout identify the different plant varieties. It’s a fun and educational way to spend an hour or so in Palm Springs with kids. The garden is open from 10-4 daily, though they are closed on Wednesdays.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens
Another beautiful garden can be found not too far from Palm Springs in the nearby town of Rancho Mirage. Sunnylands Center & Gardens contains over 70 species of native and arid-adapted plants from North and South America, Africa, and the Mediterranean. Surprisingly, there is no cost to enter the nine-acre gardens. Though, if you are interested in one of their guided tours, there is a fee. (Please note, tours are only available to those guests 10 years of age and up.) Another option is to head to the Sunnylands website to download a variety of free self-guided audio tours so you can learn about the plants, wildlife, and design of the Sunnylands gardens. The gardens are open from 8:30 – 4, Wednesday through Sunday.
Day Trips from Palm Springs with Kids
Visiting Pioneertown is just like stepping on to the set of an old western. In fact, this cute little town was actually founded in 1946 by a group of Hollywood investors, including actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. The Mane Street and its 1880s-style façades served as the set of more than 50 films and TV shows in the 40s and 50s and is still an active production studio today. Visitors come from near and far to experience the “old west”.
It’s no longer just
a movie set. Pioneertown has a general mercantile, pottery store, soap shop, custom leather & saddle shop, and a vintage bowling alley. There are also two places in town where you can grab a drink and a bite to eat – Red Dog Saloon and Pappy & Harriet’s
. And of course, there are plenty of photo ops! (For another fun western town, check out the ghost town of Goldfield, Arizona in our Things to Do in Scottsdale
Noah Purifoy Art Exhibit
Less than a half hour from Pioneertown is the fascinating outdoor sculpture museum of Noah Purifoy. Sprawled out over 10-acres on the desert floor is Noah’s creative work made completely out of junked goods. His style is known as “assemblage art”. The outdoor museum is open daily from dawn to dusk and is free to enjoy. Brochures for a self-guided tour are available at the entrance. To get to the museum, navigate to 63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California 92252. Please note, you will be traveling on dirt roads to get to the museum, so take extra care if traveling after a recent storm. It’s a fun quick stop that will ignite the curiosity and creativity in kids of all ages.
Town of Joshua Tree
The town of Joshua Tree is unlike any other. Eccentric and eclectic are the two words that best describe this funky little artist community. It exudes a vintage 70s vibe and is comprised of one-off shops and eateries. Yoga studios, vegan restaurants, and antique shops dominate the business scene. If you’re in town on a Saturday morning, check out the Joshua Tree Certified Farmers’ Market (8 am – 1 pm) near the town’s iconic Murtle the Turtle sculpture.
While some kids may find the town of Joshua Tree a little too “out there”, others may truly delight in its uniqueness. Take a quick peek inside the “world famous” Crochet Museum located in a former film processing booth and check out the funky art of the Art Queen next door. You probably won’t spend too much time in the town of Joshua Tree, but it’s a fun little stop-off on your way into Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is a MUST if you’ve got kids in Palm Springs. Know that it’s a little bit of a drive from Palm Springs, though. Consider breaking up the drive with a stop at Pioneertown and the Noah Purifoy exhibit. Otherwise, you’re looking at a minimum of an hour ride from Palm Springs just to get to the entry gate. (And this depends on which entrance you go to, as there are a few different access points to get into the park.)
The main Joshua Tree Visitor Center is located just before the West Entrance Station in the town of Joshua Tree. This is the most popular entrance and has been known to get pretty backed up at times. You can continue further down 29 Palms Highway to the Oasis Visitor Center and North Entrance Station to avoid waiting in a long line, if you’d like. Just before the north entrance is the Sky’s the Limit Observatory. Oh, how I wish we stayed closer to Joshua Tree to enjoy the dazzling star-filled nights. (Maybe next time!)
We’ve now visited Joshua Tree National Park in December and February. Even though both visits took place in the winter months, our December visit was surprisingly more chilly than when we went in February! This will, of course, vary from year to year. No matter when you go, keep in mind that the temperature drops drastically in the desert once the sun sets.
Kid-Friendly Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Looking for kid-friendly hikes in Joshua Tree National Park? Allow us to make a few recommendations! Barker Dam is one of the park’s most popular trails. At just over a mile in length, this hike is a great option if you’ve got little ones in your group. Hidden Valley Trail is another mile-long leisurely stroll through picturesque rock formations. (This was our personal favorite.)
Cholla Cactus Garden is an easy 0.25-mile loop, though unless you’re planning to go to the southern end of the park, it’s pretty far removed from the park’s other main attractions. And while not a hike per se, Keys View offers some pretty incredible views over the Coachella Valley and requires minimal effort. Skull Rock is another family favorite and is located conveniently off of Park Boulevard, again requiring minimal effort to get to.
Be sure to pack a picnic, as there are no places to get food inside the park. Also, note that cell service is extremely limited within the park, so take advantage of the opportunity to disconnect with your electronics and connect with nature. If you’re a AAA member, we encourage you to pick up a Joshua Tree map prior to your visit, as we found their map to be even better than the park’s official map/guide you receive upon entry. Though the park map is more than adequate to get you where you want to go.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Our final recommendation for things to do near Palm Springs with kids also requires a bit of a drive. But, if you’re down for a desert adventure, Anza-Borrego will NOT disappoint. It takes about an hour and a half to get to from Palm Springs. The drive itself is quite lovely once you turn onto the Borrego Salton Sea Way (S22). Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California with 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and plenty of hiking trails. But the part your kids are really going to love is the 130 massive metal sculptures found throughout the desert landscape!
Print out this map and go on a scavenger hunt to see how many you can find! (Please note, this map does not include all of the sculptures found throughout the Galleta Meadows Estate.) Know that you will be driving on dirt roads to get to some of the sculptures. In most cases, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is not needed. However, we do not recommend driving off-road if you have a low to the ground vehicle. You could become stuck in the soft sand.
So as you can see, there is plenty to do in Palm Springs for kids. There are also countless family friendly activities in the surrounding towns. Needless to say you definitely won’t be bored on your family vacation to the California desert! Tip: If you’re not used to the dry desert environment, be sure to drink plenty of water and consider using a body lotion. Your skin will crave moisture! Wishing you and your family a wonderful trip to the desert!