Palm Springs with Kids: Things To Do In A Weekend

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Palm Springs, California may not scream “kid-friendly destination” but we recently had THE BEST vacation there with our family (our kids are 9 and 13). So here’s a quick rundown of our favorite must-see attractions in Palm Springs as well as info about where we stayed, what we ate, and what we’re excited to check out next time. Because we definitely will be back!

Did I mention we also brought our nine-pound chihuahua with us? So most of our suggestions are dog-friendly too!

Why Vacation With Kids In Palm Springs?

We chose Palm Springs for a lot of reasons. First, our East Coast-born kids had never been to California! Of course, there are lots of options for California vacations. But we wanted to avoid the hustle of a bigger city like Los Angeles or San Francisco, and we liked the idea of introducing them to the unfamiliar desert geography. Sherry’s mom also lives in California, so it was a great chance to meet up with her on her side of the country. Palm Springs has a lot of personality and unique sights, plus it promised to be warm in mid-March during our spring break, so that sealed the deal.

Stylish Mobile Home Neighborhood In Palm Springs California

We considered a similar destination like Sedona or Flagstaff, Arizona – but Palm Springs turned out to be easier and cheaper for us to get to from our small Florida airport.

When To Visit Palm Springs

Most people recommend visiting Palm Springs in the winter or early spring (November – April). This is when the weather is typically the most hospitable with average daytime highs in the 70s and 80s. The summer months regularly see temps over 100 degrees, and a friend who lives there year-round says it can be extremely intense. Actually her words were “miserable” because it can reach 120+ degrees, with pools heating up to 100 degrees themselves! In those months she typically avoids going outside other than very early in the morning or late at night.

The only downside to coming in the more desirable “tourist season” of winter or spring is that prices can be higher and things may be more crowded. However, we were there in mid-March over our kids’ spring break and the weather was great (most days had a high of 75-80) and we didn’t find anything overly busy. We’ll share how we saved money on our Airbnb instead of paying those extra high peak season prices a little further down in this post too.

How We Got To Palm Springs

We flew into the Palm Springs Airport (PSP) because it’s convenient, charming, and centrally-located in the city limits. And it took us under 10 minutes to drive from there to our Airbnb! We had flown into the PSP airport once before (for work) and can’t get over how much of the airport is completely outdoors. The photo below was taken after we went through security on our trip home. Meaning yes, once you are deep into the airport you get to be outside! The airport can get busy during peak times, but in our experience it has been a very low-stress, easy-to-navigate airport.

Family at Palm Spring Airport Early Morning Outside

Alternatively, some people fly into a larger airport like LAX in Los Angeles or LAS in Las Vegas for cheaper and/or direct flights. The drive to Palm Springs from LA is about 2-3 hours (depending on traffic) and from Vegas it’s about 4. If you’re planning to rent a car to use in Palm Springs anyway, which we recommend, you might enjoy having the extra road trip and the excuse to see sights in another city.

Where We Stayed In Palm Springs

On a previous work trip to Palm Springs, Sherry and I stayed at the Saguaro Hotel. It was fun and iconic-looking (see below), but when we travel with our kids (and the dog!) we love and Airbnb or VRBO because we get access to an entire home. It’s always nice to spread out a bit more, have access to our own kitchen, have a pool all to ourselves, etc. So this time we rented an Airbnb located just north of downtown Palm Springs.

Palm Spring Saguaro Hotel

The Airbnb that we rented ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. We splurged because it was just a few nights and it was Sherry’s birthday while we were there. By splurge we mean each of the 3 nights we stayed was around $450 – but hotels for that same peak spring break week weren’t much less (some were more!). We also used credit card points towards the fight to offset our vacation expenses (we have a Capital One Venture Card).

Quick tip: Our Airbnb can swell to $1200 per night (!!!), but we snagged a deal because they were trying to fill a few empty days between two other bookings. So looking for weekdays between two booked weekends (we stayed Tues, Wed, and Thurs night) might save you money because there’s often less demand for those days, which means they get marked down.

Pool at Palm Springs Airbnb With Mountains In Background

As for the house itself, we’d say the views and the walls of glass and the pool and spa were the highlights. It was also very clean and had a cool modern and airy feel. Even though we have a pool at home, the kids had so much fun in this one that we even canceled some other sightseeing plans we originally had to spend more time swimming and lounging as a family. It’s always nice when a vacation actually ends up being relaxing! Plus, we just couldn’t get over the view of the snow-capped mountains.

If the Airbnb we rented isn’t available (or you don’t need something dog-friendly) here are some other options to consider (all of which swing pretty wildly in price depending on the dates):

What We Did With Kids In Palm Springs

I’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t have a quintessential trip to Palm Springs. Between spending a lot of time enjoying the pool and lounging with the kids (and visiting with Sherry’s mom, who came to our Airbnb to swim and have some meals with us), we didn’t do a ton of sightseeing. But the things that we did make time to go out and do were A LOT OF FUN. So I’ll cover what we did and also include some things that we want to come back and do next time.

Cool off in a pool

Kids Playing In Airbnb Pool In Palm Springs

Like I said before, the (surprising) highlight of our trip was the pool! Even though we have a pool with a hot tub at home, the addition of some fun pool features (like the basketball hoop and the raised spa with a view of the mountains) kept drawing us in. Plus with a few 80-degree afternoons, everyone felt hot enough in the desert sun to want to get into the pool. So we highly recommend picking a hotel or house with a nice place to swim, because even though we wouldn’t have guessed it would have drawn us in so often, it really felt great to swim in that desert heat!

Hang out in Downtown Palm Springs

Downtown Palm Springs Shopping District At Sunset

The main shopping & dining district in Palm Springs is along South Palm Canyon Drive and it’s a great place to walk, get souvenirs, and grab dinner or dessert. We ate all of our dinners in this area (we did some breakfasts and lunches at our Airbnb) and wished we’d spent more time exploring the surrounding stores – so we’ll definitely be back! There are national chains, small boutiques, and kitschy tourist shops. The best part: parking downtown is free and plentiful! We’ll cover specific restaurants and things we enjoyed a bit further down in this post.

Check out the Cabazon Dinosaurs

Cabazon Dinosaurs Painted For Valentine's Day

Speaking of kitschy tourist attractions, we drove 20 minutes to this campy roadside attraction after dinner one evening (to beat the heat!). It’s mostly a fun photo op, but you can also pay admission to walk through an exhibit that’s overflowing with dinosaur models and facts which also allows you to go up into the largest dinosaurs – like a lighthouse, but toothier. We had fun taking photos of the kids doing wacky things and just generally soaking up the kitsch. We were there in March so they were still painted for Valentine’s Day. If you just want the photos of the big dinosaurs, you can do the whole thing for free from the parking lot, but we paid to explore a little more and go up in them and were glad we did.

Visit Joshua Tree National Park

Another perk of visiting Palm Springs is your proximity to Joshua Tree National Park, which is about an hour away. Because dogs are restricted in most trails in Joshua Tree, we largely did a driving tour with a few roadside pitstops along the way. The whole excursion took us about 4 hours from our Airbnb and back, including a quick stop for lunch and shopping in the town of Joshua Tree outside the park, and let me tell you, it was another highlight of the trip! We completely felt like we were in some alien landscape. The kids are still talking about how cool it was and so are we!

Girl Atop Climbed Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park

Our best tip is to enter through the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, CA (near the intersection of Utah Trail and Highway 62). It’s about a 15-minute drive past the more popular West Entrance, but it was TOTALLY worth it. We had NO wait at the North Entrance (this was a Thursday morning) and followed Park Blvd through the park to exit at the West Entrance. When we left, there was a line of at least 60 cars waiting to get in at the West entrance and we had zero wait to get into the North one we used!

Pack snacks and lots of water – it was hot & dry, even by 11am. It would’ve been fun doing one of the hikes, but we still felt totally satisfied having seen it by car over many hours with a lot of fun stops to explore. Our favorite stop was at the Live Oak Picnic Area, shown in the photos above. It was uncrowded and the kids loved climbing the rocks.

We also stopped at The Rock Shop on the way out of Joshua Tree and they had some pretty amazing crystals. Sherry and the kids each took some home in their suitcases!

Explore the funky neighborhoods

Stylish Mobile Home Neighborhood In Palm Springs California

Sherry and I probably could’ve spent all day touring the interesting mid-century neighborhoods in Palm Springs, but instead, we did a couple of post-dinner drive-arounds. Perhaps our favorite was the Sahara Mobile Home Park behind the Ace Hotel. If you have a free afternoon, I think one of these walking or biking tours would be fascinating.

Eat something yummy

Birba Pizza Restaurant In Palm Springs California

Palm Springs had an abundance of dining options, so we barely scratched the surface on our short trip. Everybody’s favorite meal was dinner at Birba (above), which felt upscale and special, but also totally kid (and dog!) friendly. We snagged a reservation in advance (by 2 days!) so plan ahead and book one a few days out – maybe even a week ahead of time if you can.

We also loved grabbing tacos at El Patron on our first night (below).

Feed Me Tacos And Tell Me Im Pretty Neon Sign

And I’m actually still thinking about the poke burger I got at Haus of Poke. I picked up a to-go order there that we ate by the pool and it was *chefs kiss*.

What We Want To Do Next Time

I realize that’s by no means an exhaustive list of things to do with kids in Palm Springs. But here are some of the things we have on our to-do list for next time.

Ride the Palm Spring Aerial Tram

This unique rotating tram is supposed to offer a breathtaking ride up Mt. San Jacinto, giving you an incredible change of scenery (and temperature!).

Hike Tahquitz Canyon Trail

Some friends of ours said the Tahquitz Canyon Trail was their favorite trail in Palm Springs. It’s a family-friendly hike that starts right from downtown and takes you to a scenic waterfall.

Peruse the Palm Springs Art Museum

Marilyn Monroe Statue At Palm Springs Art Museum With Bikes In Foreground

Our kids love an art museum, so we think this would’ve been a fun stop for all of us – especially because it’s also right downtown near everything! If nothing else, it would be fun to explore the many sculptures and art installations nearby, like the giant Marilyn Monroe statue above.

Visit the Living Desert Zoo

This Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is about 30 minutes outside of Downtown Palm Springs and is supposed to be a great way to learn more about the local wildlife up close.

Tour a Wind Farm

Windmills Outside Palm Springs California

We were all remarkably fascinated by the giant windmills visible outside of town, and I think we actually would’ve loved to get a closer look at them by taking an official Windmill Tour. They even have an app-guided driving tour that would’ve let us enjoy them at our own pace.

Off Road in a Red Jeep Tour

These off-road Red Jeep Tours are said to be a fun and memorable way to explore the unique desert terrain, so I think our kids would’ve loved taking one if we had more time.

Enjoy Thursday night VillageFest

Every Thursday night between October and May, Downtown Palm Springs turns into the VillageFest street festival with vendors, art, food, and music. We were so beat from our Joshua Tree trip (and had an early flight the next morning) so we skipped it, but we wish we had gotten to see it. Next time!

Have breakfast at Cheeky’s

Two different friends recommended Cheeky’s for breakfast, so we’ll have to try that next time. It’s owned by the same people as Birba (and they’re literally next door to each other) so if it’s even half as good as our dinner there, we’ll absolutely love it.

Things To Do With Kids In Palm Springs: A Summary

If you’re someone who likes having a list of things to do, here is a quick bulleted summary of all of the sights, eats, and activities we discussed above.

Things To Do With Kids In Palm Springs Photo Collage

Other Family Trips We’ve Taken

Collage of Family Vacations In Tropical And Urban Locales

If you’re interested in our take on other destinations or are in search of family-friendly trips, you might also enjoy these posts:

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