Beyond golf: 23 unique activities in Palm Springs

Published Date: January 6, 2023

Palm Springs back yard pool and tennis court
Don’t get us wrong: With superstars like Phil Mickelson playing courses like PGA West and La Quinta, we know the Palm Springs golfing scene is on par with the world’s best. But if fairways and sand traps aren’t for you, don’t worry – there are plenty of other things to do in Palm Springs besides golf. 

Broaden your horizons

Living Desert Zoo & GardensWith a focus on conservation and ecological responsibility, the nonprofit Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is home to over 500 animals representing more than 150 species, with habitats mimicking those found in Africa and Australia.Palm Springs Air Museum  Rated as one of the best in the world, the Palm Springs Air Museum not only offers visitors an up-close look at decommissioned aircraft, but also wheels-up flights in several historic planes, including the T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer and PT-17 Stearman.  Wind farm tourIf you’ve ever spotted those giant white turbines towering above the desert and wondered how they work, you’ll find the answer at a Palm Springs Windmill Tour. The private wind farms in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley offer both self-driving tours and bring-your-own-bike tours. Moorten Botanical GardenAt only one acre, it may be small, but the Moorten Botanical Garden is mighty. This private arboretum and popular Palm Springs event venue boasts an ever-changing landscape with over 3,000 different plants native to the desert. 

IG-worthy photo ops

Sonny Bono statuePerched on the edge of a fountain in beautiful downtown Palm Springs, Sonny Bono’s statue will have you singing, “I got you, babe,” as you snap a selfie at this memorial to the music icon and former Palm Springs mayor. Lucille Ball statueIf you love Lucy, be sure to stop by and grab a selfie with her likeness cast in bronze on Palm Canyon Drive. Say, “cheese” – or better yet, “Vitameatavegamin!” Volkswagen spiderIt may have started out as a bug, but it graduated to a full-on arachnid when the welders at now-defunct Hole in the Wall Welding took a VW Beetle and added eight larger-than-life legs. The property is now a private home, but you can still snap a pic of the creepily awesome Volkswagen VW Beetle Spider while you’re in Palm Springs.Walk of StarsTake a pic with some of the most famous names of years past – Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and more – at the Palm Springs Walk of Stars as it winds its way through downtown.  Baby statuesLike an eerie, crawling army in a giant sandbox, “The Babies” is the work of artist David Černý, and its anti-consumerism message will either inspire you … or give you nightmares. (May the odds be ever in your favor.)

Nature and scenery

Palm Springs Aerial TramwayAmong the more popular things to do in Palm Springs, the aerial tramway gives you a chance to beat the heat. Take a 10-minute ride in a rotating tram car to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, and enjoy the cooler mountain air and stunning views from over 8,000 feet above Coachella Valley. Tahquitz CanyonLocated on the Cahuilla Indian Reservation, Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyons have beautifully maintained hiking trails, including a two-mile loop that leads to a magical 60-foot waterfall.Sunnylands EstateTwelve acres of public gardens await you at Sunnylands Estate, the site of several presidential summits. Tours of the property’s sprawling mansion sell out quickly, so book early.Coachella Nature PreserveWith rare wildlife, native plants and several palm oases, Coachella Nature Preserve is a pristine 20,000-acre wilderness ideal for hiking, horseback riding and birdwatching.

Delightfully kitschy 

International Banana MuseumIndulge in a banana milkshake as you explore more than 25,000 banana-related items in the one-of-a-kind International Banana Museum about an hour outside of Palm Springs. World Famous Crochet MuseumMade even more famous thanks to its appearance in HSBC ads around the globe, the pint-sized World Famous Crochet Museum in Joshua Tree is always open, with museum curators Bunny (a crochet dog) and Buddy (a crochet alligator) on hand to welcome visitors.Cabazon DinosaursBe sure to add the iconic roadside Cabazon Dinosaurs to your list of things to do in Palm Springs. Dinny, a brontosaurus replica, and Mr. Rex, a tyrannosaurus rex, can be seen from Interstate 10, and their prehistoric attractions include a gift shop, fossil dig and a museum with a unique take on Earth’s natural history.

Nightlife and fun with friends

Agua Caliente CasinoYou’ll feel like you’ve crossed the state border when you enter the Las Vegas-esque 24-hour Agua Caliente Casino. When you need a break from flirting with Lady Luck, enjoy live entertainment and cocktails at the Cascade Lounge.Escape Room Palm SpringsIf you have an adventurous spirit and a penchant for puzzles, Escape Room Palm Springs has six escape room experiences for you to try. Purple Room & Supper ClubBe transported back to Palm Springs’ golden era when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin crooned onstage at the Purple Room and Supper Club at the Club Trinidad Hotel. The club continues the tradition of live entertainment ranging from comedy shows to jazz. 

Art, architecture and fashion 

Palm Springs Visitors CenterDesigned as a gas station in 1965, this space-age building has been repurposed as the landmark Palm Springs Visitors Center, and it’s worth visiting for the architecture alone.Palm Canyon Drive boutiques and galleriesIf you’re in the market for something unique or couture, the shops and galleries along the palm-lined Palm Canyon Drive provide a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Stop by on a Thursday to enjoy VillageFest, a lively outdoor street fair.Palm Springs Art MuseumThe Palm Springs Art Museum features contemporary artwork, paintings and sculpture centered around the many layers of desert culture, including Indigenous Americans and the American West. Architecture tourHome to several Mid-Century Modern architectural gems, the Historic Tennis Club and Old Las Palmas neighborhoods of Palm Springs are rich in design history. Plan your own tour to check out the Palm Springs Tennis Club, the Del Marcos Hotel and Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway, or schedule a guided tour to hit all the Palm Springs architecture highlights.

Live like a local

If the charm of Palm Springs has you itching for more of its sunshine and intrigue, check out Pacaso’s Palm Springs listings and learn how Pacaso’s co-ownership LLC model can help you own a luxury hideaway in this desert oasis. 

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Kasey Tross

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