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sightseeing, Things To Do

15 Fun Things To Do in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley

June 2, 2017 by Christina Minh

Head 100 miles east on the 10 freeway and you’ll end up in Palm Springs, the desert city of sunshine, picturesque mountains, and leisure. Palm Springs and surrounding cities like Indian Wells, Palm Desert and Cathedral City are all relatively closely situated, making the Coachella Valley one big playground for all types of experience seekers.

Live for shopping? Visit some of the numerous top designer stores in Palm Desert or go on a hunt for one-of-a-kind mid century finds at hundreds of vintage and antique shops in the Valley. A fan of art and architecture? The Valley is the perfect case study for all things mid-century, with historic and iconic buildings by giants like Richard Neutra and John Lautner.

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Or maybe you want to get in touch with nature? There’s plenty of that too, from cactus-lined trails to a massive state park with 13,000 acre of untouched wilderness.

Whatever your flavor, our goal here is to help you curated list of activities to Palm Springs that’ll maximize your fun. Oh, and don’t forget to check out our handy guides to the best places to eat, plus the best times to go and where to stay in our three-part getaway guide to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

cool cars welcome

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1. Antiquing, Thrifting and Consignment Shopping

I’ve been to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley many times, but it seems like I’m finding new antique shops and vintage stores on each occasion. If  vintage is your thing, then I have good news: the desert is a mid-century modern goldmine. I can easily spend an entire day shopping for retro fashion, home decor, comics and even vintage toys. So, which shops are worth your time to rifle through? Below is a short list of the best stores, in my humble opinion, to check out.

The Frippery (Palm Springs)

A tight, curated selection of mod, resort and boho pieces that represent desert life is what you’ll find at The Frippery. With four areas to shop from, each with its own distinct aura, the shop is a smart stop for those seeking the best items without having to search far and wide for them. -> More information 

The Fine Art of Design (Palm Desert)

InStyle and goop approved, The Fine Art of Design is awe-inspiring. The windows and displays are like a vintage version of Barneys New York. Inside, you’ll find treasures from Chanel, YSL and Halston. Desert locals of the celebrity variety consign their used goods here often, so what you might see on the red carpet could end up in your hands one day. -> More information 

Sunny Dunes Vintage Row (Palm Springs)

A personal favorite of mine, the Sunny Dunes Vintage Row is an antique mall with an extensive collection of fashion, decor, tiki, comics, toys and more. Prices are reasonable and the shop workers are friendly and laid back. -> More information

Bon Vivant (Palm Springs)

A small gallery with big charm, Bon Vivant carries a well-curated selection of vintage pottery, glassware, home accessories and even artwork. The owners have a great eye for selecting inspiring pieces. -> More information

Revivals (Multiple Locations)

Benefiting the Desert Aids Project, this gem of a thrift store is popular for their large inventory of donated mid-century furniture, both new and old. Look to find some gently-used clothing, vintage housewares and affordable funky art. -> More information

Antique Galleries of Palm Springs (Palm Springs)

This antique gallery carries Native American pottery, mid-century furniture, gadgets, fashion and jewelry. With two stories to shop from, the gallery booths are well curated, with plenty of nostalgic treasures waiting to be discovered. -> More information 

a La MOD Mid Century Modern (Palm Springs)

A pristine collection of mid century modern pieces, a La MOD is highly curated, with an impressive home and furniture collection that includes Frank Lloyd Wright lamps and Nelson benches. -> More information

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2. Go to an Art Museum

There are three essential museums to check out in the Coachella Valley. Read about them below!

The Palm Springs Art Museum

Recognized as a cultural hub of the Coachella Valley, the Palm Springs Art Museum houses an extensive permanent collection from Warhol to Picasso and exhibitions from some of the most influential artists around the world. The museum is free every Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and on the second Sunday of each month. -> More information

The Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert

The Palm Desert extension of the aforementioned PSAM showcases sculpture, painting, photography, and new media art. The stunning four-acre Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden features over ten significant sculpture works set in a gorgeous rolling desert landscape featuring water features, native plants, winding pathways and natural rock benches. This museum location is open year-round with no admission fee. -> More information

The Architecture + Design Center

The Architecture + Design Center, located in downtown Palm Springs, focuses on the exploration of architecture and design. With a quick walk through, and more like a gallery, the center has no admission fee. -> More Information

Extended summer hours begin Memorial Day weekend.

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3. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (Palm Springs)

Take things to great heights and board the largest rotating tramcar in the world. The views are breathtaking, and depending on the season, people are always hiking the grounds of Mt. San Jacinto State Park, which offers 54 miles of trails located within a 14,000 acre wilderness. -> More Information 

4. Villagefest (Palm Springs)

Every Thursday, Villagefest takes over several blocks of downtown Palm Springs, transforming it into one giant indie market with over 200 booths of handcrafted goods, artists showcasing their work and live entertainment. -> More Information

5. The Living Desert (Palm Desert)

Nestled at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains, the 1,2000acre nature preserve includes a zoo and a botanical garden. This is where you get a closer look into the animal kingdom, checking out bobcats, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs and more as they roam the land. The zoo and garden are open year-round. We suggest planning a visit during cooler hours, like the morning or during winter time. -> More Information 

6. Palm Springs Restaurant Week (Multiple Locations)

Explore the vibrant food scene of the Coachella Valley during Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week. Dine at new restaurants, old classics of the desert and more. The ten-day event will showcase a variety of eateries offering special lunch and dinner menus at set prices ($15, $20 or $25 for lunch and $29, $39 or $49 for dinner). -> More information

7. Pool Parties

A vacation in Palm Springs is not complete without a little pool action. With little rain and reliably sunny 350 days out of the year, the ideal climate means you can take a beautiful dip pretty much any day of the year.

Favorite Pools include:

JW Marriott (Palm Desert)

Possibly the largest luxury resort in the desert, the JW Marriott Palm Dessert has five outdoor pools. Some are surrounded by man-made waterways where you’ll see folks on boat tours, flocks of swans and other wild birds roaming the premises. The pools offer private cabanas, bottle service and unbeatable views of the mountains. Bonus: The Spa at Desert Springs hosts a saltwater lap pool. A day pass cost $35 for resort guests and $45 for non guests. -> More information

Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa (Indian Wells)

Take a dip into four different pools, each with their every own personalities. The Miramonte pool offer cabana service, a huge pool and all the bells and whistles of a luxury pool experience. Looking for a low-key experience? Than the Piedmond pool is for you. Designed to embody a peaceful atmosphere, this adults-only pool offers food and beverage service, sun decks, and a heated whirlpool. If self-pampering is more your thing, plan a spa day and gain access to two warm saltwater pools: the Aqua Well Pool and the River Bench, both located in the private courtyard of The Well Spa. Both pools are exclusive to spa guests. A day pass to The Well Spa costs just $30. -> More information

ARRIVE (Palm Springs)

The courtyard pool at ARRIVE has all the makings of a good time. From a bocce court, ping-pong tables and an oversized jacuzzi, this pool is clearly where the cool folks hang. Private poolside cabanas featuring fire pits are available for a fee and there are plenty of good eats from Reservoir, with a coffee shop and even an ice cream parlor all in the same area. -> More information

8. Desert X

The first of its kind in the Coachella Valley, Desert X launched in 2017 to massive critical acclaim. Artists were commissioned to use the desert landscape as their canvas and the results were otherworldly. From a life-sized mirrored house to a giant psychedelic wall of black and white zigzags, these temporary installations put the desert valley on the art world map. Organizers plan to bring the art event back on a bi-annual basis with the next one set in 2019. -> More information

9. An Architectural Self-Guided Tour (Palm Springs)

Mid-century modern rules the city of Palm Springs. See the coolest examples of mid-century architecture by taking a self-guided tour of architectural gems, including Elvis’ honeymoon hideout and the super-modern Kaufmann house designed by Richard Neutra. View the map in the link below. -> More Information 

Robolights Entrance

The entrance to Robolights. Photo by Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

10. ‘Robolights’ Holiday Display (Palm Springs)

If you plan to spend Christmas in Palm Springs, do yourself a favor and visit Robolights, the largest offbeat holiday display in the desert. A spiraling art exhibit, Robolights is supported by hundreds of installations created by artist Kenny Irwin, Jr. For over 30 years, millions of lights have illuminated some four acres of land displaying giant robots, jolly space aliens and beyond. This is something you have to see IRL (in real life). Nearly 30,000 people visited Robolights in 2016. The only request from Irwin is to give a donation, which will go back into the operation of his epic winter wonderland. -> More information

11. Check out the San Andreas Fault Line

The San Andreas Fault is the most famous geological feature in North America. Visible to folks who make the trek out, it’s an astonishing visual where two tectonic plates, the North American plate and the Pacific plate, meet. -> More information

12. Check out the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars (Palm Springs)

Palm Springs was and still is a desert playground for Hollywood stars. Many famous names called the city their home, from 1920s heartthrob Rudolf Valentino to Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley and Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Most of them are now immortalized in downtown Palm Springs with their very own star. -> More information

Desert Cross Hike

Hiking back from the Desert Cross. Photo by Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

13. Hike to the Palm Desert Cross (Palm Desert)

If you’re looking for an easy hike, this local favorite is only three miles total round trip. The trail sits on the east side of the mountains, making it relatively cool in temperature even in the summers. The minute you park your car you will see the cross. Just take the winding trail all the way up — there will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way, but you’ll want to save your phone battery for what’s on the top. -> More information

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14. Go to a Date Farm or Two

The date palm can only be cultivated in regions with long, hot summers with little to no rainfall, making the Coachella Valley and its surrounding areas the perfect breeding ground for the sweet, tiny fruit.

Oasis Date Gardens (Thermal)

A 30-minute drive from Palm Springs, Oasis Date Gardens is worth the trip. Organic since 2000, they produce some of the best dates in the desert valley. Nothing beats their date shakes, a combination of creamy vanilla ice cream blended with soft, chewy dates. You’re likely to end up taking that shake into the gift shop, where you’ll try whole samples of dates from their farms and end up buying several pounds of dates you’ve never heard of, like I did. -> More information

Shields Date Farm (Indio)

Shields is a popular tourist destination with plenty to do, from touring a lush garden on a 17-acre date farm to watching a 15-minute film about the romantic sex life of a date. Head to the gift shop and try dozens of different kinds of dates and date- related snacks like the “Blonde” and “Brunette” dates grown exclusively at Shields Date Garden and nowhere else. Perhaps the most popular item at Shields is their date shake made with date crystals exclusive to the farm. -> More information

15. Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival (Palm Desert)

The Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival is the area’s biggest food and wine event of the year. Each year the festival brings together the best and brightest chefs and culinary personalities from the desert and beyond for three days of food and wine tastings. -> More information

Bonus: Before heading into the Coachella Valley, hit the Desert Hills Premium Outlets

With steep discounts and 180+ stores, Dessert Hills is a shopping destination that will appease everyone. Shop Prada, St. Laurent, Nike, J. Crew, Kate Spade and more! If you’re driving from L.A,. it’s about 30 minutes before you hit the actual town of Palm Springs, so it could be a great place to stop first when you’re on your way out there. -> More Information

Next17 Best Places to Eat in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley

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