Palm Springs Vacation
Palm Springs, home of the popular Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, is only a couple of hours from Los Angeles or San Diego, and a savvy getaway for SoCal locals. Why go? For the sun, of course, and the clean dry air.
Savvy tip: You can save time and 17 percent per person with a special offer of Tramway discount tickets with a new coupon code (scroll down this page for deal details).
If nothing else, you can rag on the rich. Palm Springs stereotypes include lush golf courses, expensive condos, millionaires and movie stars escaping Hollywood between scripts. The California cliché of decadence and self-indulgence.
I learned to play golf in Palm Springs. And I don’t golf, just saying. Anyone can get into the vibe around here if you try. The sun shines more than 300 days a year in Palm Springs. You can swim in glamorous pools at 5-star resorts, visit the hot springs, go to the spa, ride the tram, and shop.
The architecture is a mix of Spanish Colonial and Mid-Century Modern. Over the years, many celebrities have called Palm Springs home.
The outdoor scene includes the majestic Mount San Jacinto, San Andreas fault, and the whole Mojave Desert oasis experience. While I’ve been know to spend three days straight doing nothing but hanging by the pool, there are tons of things you can do in Palm Springs that I’m happy to tell you about.
Just looking for the Tramway deals? Skip down. Readers often ask how to get the best deal on PS Tram tickets. So I’ve gathered tons of info on that, which I share at the bottom of the following list.
7 Savvy Things to Do in Palm Springs
1. Go Shopping & Gallery Hopping
At the center of the downtown you’ll find the shopping district with plenty of designer shops, boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, and museums. Many of the shops stay open late, so you can shop until you drop, and then crawl to one of the local pubs or nightclubs, like The Hair of the Dog.
The greater Palm Springs area’s art galleries, boutiques, and shops are a great way to spend the day, from VIP luxury shopping at The Plaza, or bargain hunting at the Cabazon Outlet shops.
2. Go Hiking near Palm Springs
Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs, the Indian Canyons are four canyons preserved by the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians and open, for a fee, to the general public for hiking, horseback riding and picnicking.
Tahquitz Canyon has an easy two-mile loop hike that includes a 60-foot waterfall during the wet season. Families could easily do this hike with children and it takes less than two hours.
In Palm Canyon, you can hike the 15-mile-long is moderate, with a gradual inclines and a partially paved path that takes you down into the picaresque canyon. You ‘ll find good picnic spots and a Trading Post near the trail head.
3. Take a Palm Springs Tour
Several Palm Springs tours worth taking are available to book online. And although I’m not usually a guided tour taker, Palm Springs is an exception and the choices are good. Especially the Joshua Tree National Park tours, which can include biking, hiking, or rock climbing, or Jeep.
Nature buffs might want to book a guided tour of the Palm Springs Wildlands or Joshua Tree National Park. Or check out the Indian Canyons Jeep Tour for a rugged trek deep in the canyon.
You can also book jeep and hiking tours that take you to the ancestral home of the Cahuilla tribes. You’ll walk along a palm-lined stream to see the traces of historic Native American settlements, and a shady desert oasis walk to a seasonal spring. Most of these are for small groups.
A tour like no other is the Palm Springs Biplane Tour. You’ll see aerial views from the open cockpit of an authentic World War II plane (1942 Vultee BT-13 warbird or 1940 Stearman Biplane), 1,000 feet above the valley, over the foothills and canyons. Leather helmet and goggles included.
For a less active tour, try the Hollywood Movie Star Homes Tour. A movie star haven since the 1920s, many homes have a famous past. You can tour on your own (or book a guided tour) of where Elvis Presley, Walt Disney, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Elizbeth Taylor, and Liberace lived.
Other popular home tours feature the Mid-Century Modern architectural masterpieces the area is famous for.
4. Visit Palm Springs Attractions
For fabulous flora and fauna, the Moorten Botanical Garden and the Living Desert Zoo are both on my short list for Palm Springs getaways.
5. Visit Palm Springs Museums
On a hot day, Museum Way is where to stay cool. You can visit the Palm Springs Art Museum, Cornelia White House, McCallum Adobe, the Sheldon Storybook Land Doll Exhibit, and Troy’s favorite, the Palm Springs Air Museum.
The Air Museum features an extensive collection of vintage airplanes from World War II, wartime memorabilia, combat photography, murals, documentaries and interactive exhibits that let you gorge on aviation history.
Army and Navy aircraft is the focus, including the B17 Bomber, Spitfire and MIG21. The flight simulator is popular with kids. Address: 745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262.
6. Take the kids to Wet ‘n’ Wild Waterpark (with discounts)
This 16-acre water park is a fun activity, especially for families. You can often grab Wet ‘n’ Wild discount tickets of nearly 50% off. Although it’s only open during the summer months (mid-March to mid-October), this is a great place to plat in the warm desert sun.
The park rocks a ’50s SoCal surf and beach town vibe. Wet & Wild features an 800,000-gallon wave pool, surf machine, water slides and tubes, water playhouse, a six-story funnel raft ride, and more. Address: Wet ‘n Wild Palm Springs, 1500 S. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, California.
7. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (with coupon code)
The PS Tram takes you up a 2 1/2 miles to the 14,000 acre Mt. San Jacinto State Park. You can see why the tram has been called the “eighth wonder of the world.” The views are unbelievable. And it gets you out of the sweltering heat on the valley floor during the summer, and you’ll see snow (sometimes) in winter.
The tram takes you to the Mountain Station at an elevation of 8,516 feet. You’ll pass through five unique life zones — from hot Mexican Sonoran Desert to Alpine Wilderness. Up top, you can hike in the summer snowshoe in the winter, dine in two restaurants, or visit a natural history museum.
For Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Discount Tickets, the tour company TrustedTours has the cheapest price. Plus they’ve given us a $1 off coupon code. Use Coupon Code PSAT55 for $1 off + the $2 off posted on their site.
No fees will be added at checkout (bonus!) These are “Any Day” Print-At-Home tickets (but note the blackout days on the ticket source website). This is the savvy option because you’d pay full price and have to select your date/time in advance if you got tickets on the Tram’s website.
If you’re going on a high traffic days, you can book that specific day here in advance on the Palm Springs page powered by Viator (more expensive). These are regular price tickets (with no added fees). Why is this savvy? Because you’re guaranteed to get in on that day — even a peak traffic day — rather than waiting until you get there when they might be all booked up.
Savvy tip: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway honors Military Days in July, so all active and retired military personnel with valid military IDs get a free ride.
Tramway Know Before you Go
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is located at One Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (just minutes from downtown Palm Springs and just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles or San Diego). Open hours are Monday-Friday first Tram up 10am.
Last Tram up 8pm Last Tram down 9:45pm. Saturday, Sunday and holidays first Tram up 8am. The Tram does have blackout days, so check those before you go.
PALM SPRINGS HOTELS
Always wanted to stay at: Parker Palm Springs. Vintage Mid-Century Modern with a cool vibe and an amazing poo.
Where I Stayed: The Palm Springs Hotel (0.8 miles from the Tramway, 1.8 miles to City center). Aptly named. I liked this small hotel for the pool and hot tub (it’s Palm Springs!) And also, I went to Palm Springs to chill out, and this hotel is quiet, with a kind and considerate staff.
We booked our hotel on Hotels.com (Palm Springs page) where you can book a hotel in Palm Springs (occasionally up to 55% off) with a best price guarantee. That page also shows user reviews from three top travel sites plus, check out their Welcome Rewards Program (collect 10 nights and get one free).
Savvy tip: If you’re just thinking about going, browse Palm Springs hotel reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor’s Palm Springs hotel page.
PALM SPRINGS RESTAURANTS
Palm Springs provides plenty of dining options, from traditional Italian restaurants and steakhouses to modern hip eateries, including Norma’s, at the Parker, mentioned above.
Here are a few I can recommend, where the locals hang out.
Hip Hot Spot
Lulu California Bistro
In downtown Palm Springs, Lulus is the place. A Californian bistro with modern decor and award-winning menu items that include vegetarian and gluten free options (so California). Their 12-hour happy hour (Yes!) begins at 11 am and lasts all night (if you sit at a high-top in the bar area). Dog friendly terrace with a view.
200 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Cheeky’s in Palm Springs
For starters, how about a fresh squeezed OJ, Pomegranate Mimosa, pressed green juice (kale, apple, mint, celery), or spicy bloody mary or vodka smash (mint, lemon, soda). Love their crispy buttermilk (or gluten free) waffles, their bacon bar, cinnamon rolls, and homemade cookies (chocolate chip, ginger snap, oatmeal cranberry). Breakfast served all day, but they do have a lunch menu, too.
622 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs.
Really good all-American classic burger joint, with mostly patio seating. Menu includes chili burgers, mini-burger sliders, veggie burgers and other sandwiches. Really good crispy fries, too. And beer. Cash only. Located at the La Plaza Center in downtown Palm Springs.
149 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
Located in the historic El Paseo Building in the Uptown Palm Springs Design District, Workshop is a popular dinner spot. This James Beard Award-winning restaurant (for best restaurant design) serves fresh seasonal, locally-sourced food, with a menu of smalls, plates, large format, and seasonal cocktails. Are you in the mood for Duck Fat Fries, House-Cured Gravlax Tartin, Kabocha Squash Risotto, Black Cod, or a Prime Aged 18oz Rib-Eye? You’ll find that sort of thing here.
800 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262