The 10 greatest experiences to have with kids in Greater Palm Springs

Last updated 27th March 2024

Greater Palm Springs in Southern California is known for its starry connections, so you may be surprised to discover it’s also an amazing destination for fun family holidays, year round.


The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Palm Desert

Turns out it’s not a case of what to do in Greater Palm Springs, it’s more, what to do first?

Between its setting in stunning Coachella Valley and the advantage of more than 300 days of sun a year, you won’t be surprised to hear Greater Palm Springs is an outdoorsy kind of place. However, there’s no shortage of indoor attractions either, although plenty of those have a sunny, Southern California vibe too. And not only is Greater Palm Springs home to nine very different cities – Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella – it’s also the location of the world famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, and packed with events year-round, the majority of them very family-friendly.

So where to begin somewhere with so much going on? Start with our 10 greatest only-in-Greater-Palm-Springs experiences.


Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: some of the best views in Southern California

Not just the largest rotating tram car in Southern California, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the largest in the world. And in a sensational 10-minute ride it takes you from Palm Springs up to a panorama of wide-open spaces, endless blue skies and the dramatic mountain ranges around Coachella Valley.

Prepare to be awed during the 8,500ft ascent, which runs from the base of Chino Canyon to the summit of Mount San Jacinto. Then, at the top, you can lace up your boots and follow the Long Valley Discovery Loop on an easy-going hike through woodland and wildflowers, with a birdsong soundtrack.


Shots in the Night, Indian Wells

Shots in the Night: golf after dark is a different game

Golf is a big deal in Southern California and nowhere plays quite like Greater Palm Springs, where professional tournaments are held annually on sunny, sculpted courses designed by the best in the game.

But you’ll be pleased to know, family golf is very much encouraged here too. In fact, at Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club and the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, kids aged 15 and under can play for free after 3.00pm. And at the Marriott Golf Academy, they even get a free lesson too. The only condition is that kids should be in the company of a paying adult, which shouldn’t be much of a hardship for golf-keen parents.

However, the most inventive game played here doesn’t happen until after the sun sets. Shots in the Night at Indian Wells Golf Resort is the after-dark golf experience which mixes mini golf with colourful lasers, glow-in-the-dark targets, music, food, and tons of fun. If you want to tee off post sunset, you can catch a game from Thursday to Saturday, year round.


Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Palm Desert

Explore Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, one of America’s top zoos

Families who love a little education mixed into a fun day out should head straight for Palm Desert and the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens where kids can learn about the world’s desert wildlife first hand.

Some 140 animal species are represented here, alongside 1600 plant species, and it’s deservedly one of the most popular family attractions in Greater Palm Springs. But if you need more of a recommendation, the zoo also ranks in Condé Nast Traveller’s Top 10 Zoos in America.


Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs

Palm Springs Air Museum is another Greater Palm Springs high flyer

One of the world’s top aviation museums, Palm Springs Air Museum contains a world-leading collection of vintage aircraft spanning from WWII to the Korean and Vietnam wars.

As well as the impressive size of the collection, there are no ropes, glass walls or barriers, so even the youngest aviation enthusiast can get up  close to the exhibits. Although should you want to experience the thrill of flying a plane yourself, there’s a computer flight simulator for that. And you can also see the real deal, most Saturday afternoons from November to May, when planes from the collection take to the skies.


Cirque du Soleil Corteo, Acrisure Arena, Palm Desert

Acrisure Arena: for star gazing and skating

Acrisure Arena, located in Palm Desert, is one of the newest live entertainment and sporting venues in Greater Palm Springs and has already made its presence felt by hosting everyone from Harry Styles to Cirque du Soleil.

During ice hockey season from October to April, the Coachella Valley Firebirds also compete here. Catch a hockey game, or mix the Southern California sunshine with some ice of your own and go skating at the Berger Foundation Iceplex, also located on-site.


VillageFest, Palm Springs

VillageFest: after dark festivities in downtown Palm Springs

Try a slice of vibrant Southern California energy at the colourful VillageFest in downtown Palm Springs on Thursday evenings.

This lively and much loved outdoor event is where you can pick up anything from vintage clothing to desert-themed souvenirs. It’s also known for showcasing local food talent, and as well as great produce to sample and buy, there’s always plenty of street food to keep you fuelled.

On the entertainment front, VillageFest attracts a strong line-up of performers and musicians every week, and it’s nothing if not pet-friendly so expect to see some very cute dogs getting into the spirit of things too.


Aqua Caliente Cultural Museum © Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum: Greater Palm Springs’ origin story

You probably already know the glamorous Hollywood history of Greater Palm Springs, but the area’s heritage stretches much further back than that. Spend some time at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs where you can learn the complex story of the Cahuilla Indians: Greater Palm Springs’ original settlers.

The museum’s 10,000ft² space is divided into five separate exhibitions which take you on a journey from the origins of the Cahuilla Indians to the present day. And as descendants of the Cahuilla still live in Greater Palm Springs, exploring their rich culture, traditions, myths, legends and beliefs is all the more fascinating for kids.


Space walk, Rancho Mirage Observatory, Rancho Mirage

Stargazing: from Dark Sky Parks to Observatories

Southern California has a stellar reputation for stargazing, and there are two International Dark Sky Parks in Greater Palm Springs alone: Joshua Tree National Park and Borrego Springs.

To get up close and personal with our galaxy and beyond in a different way, the Rancho Mirage Observatory offers Observatory Public Exploration Nights using a PlaneWave Instruments CDK 700 telescope. These events are hosted by astronomers, so kids can ask questions and learn fun facts as well as getting super-magnified glimpses of planets, nebulae, star clusters, and more. You don’t have to book, you can simply drop in on the night, just remember to check the weather first for most promising visibility.


Moving Towards the Future mural, Indio

Map your way around the murals of Greater Palm Springs

There are over 30 murals across the nine cities of Greater Palm Springs, so many in fact that an Art Trail has been created on Google Maps to help you plot your way around.

It’s a great way to explore the area and older kids will particularly like the thought-provoking and inspirational stories behind the artworks. Plus, there isn’t one mural that doesn’t already have a following, so they’re all very TikTok and Instagram worthy.


Riding, Andreas Canyon, Palm Springs

Saddle up and ride out in the Southern California sun

In 1927, Palm Springs’ first mayor rode into Greater Palm Springs on a horse, and you’ll be delighted to learn that great tradition of getting out and about on horseback continues to this day.

Kids as young as seven can saddle up for a few hours gentle riding through the lovely desert oasis landscape.

Several excellent local stables welcome families on guided rides and can arrange anything from picnics to private tours.

How to plan a Greater Palm Springs holiday

How to get there

Year-round UK flights to Palm Springs International Airport take from 13 hours

Direct UK flights to Los Angeles take from 11 hours

Los Angeles is 2 hours by road from Greater Palm Springs

Now Visit Greater Palm Springs and start making plans