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During our road trip from LA to Joshua Tree, we stumbled upon the unexpected charm of Palm Springs—a city that proved to be an awesome detour on our adventure. Nestled against the backdrop of rugged mountains, our day trip to Palm Springs welcomed us with its quirky charm and some unique activities.

While I had envisioned a city pulsating with LA-style glamour, Palm Springs revealed itself as a haven where stars escape the buzz to unwind. From mid-century modern wonders to outdoor adventures under the Californian sun, a day trip to Palm Springs is ready to give a unique blend of style and warmth.

palm springs california itinerary

Is Palm Springs, California worth visiting?

Nestled in the heart of the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is a jewel that sparkles under the Californian sun, and yes, it’s absolutely worth a visit!

I feel like a day trip to Palm Springs is the perfect way to get a taste of what the city has to offer. This desert paradise has long been a playground for the stars, drawing celebrities and travelers alike with its unique blend of retro charm and modern luxury.

The city has a rich architectural heritage, with a treasure trove of mid-century modern gems waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a fan of design, nature, or just a serene escape from the city bustle, Palm Springs has something for everyone.

What is the distance from Los Angeles to Palm Springs?

Palm Springs is just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. The approximately 120-mile journey takes you through scenic landscapes, offering a perfect road trip opportunity. The drive itself is part of the adventure, with panoramic views and the changing scenery as you leave the bustling city behind and approach the tranquility of Palm Springs.

Windmills in Palm Springs road trip

Dy trip to Palm Springs itinerary

Coffee at 4 Paws Coffee Co

Fuel your day trip to Palm Springs with a visit to 4 Paws Coffee Co, a local gem that serves up delicious coffee creations. Whether you prefer a classic brew or a specialty concoction, this coffee spot is a perfect pitstop for coffee lovers. I absolutely loved my vanilla marshmallow iced latte! And their bagel sandwich was a great grab-and-go breakfast.

Andreas Canyon Palm Springs Trail

For nature enthusiasts, the Andreas Canyon Palm Springs Trail offers an easy but captivating desert hiking experience. The $12 entry fee (per person) not only grants access to this specific trail but also covers other trails in the area.

Andreas Canyon Trail is a 1-mile loop trail. When we visited on a weekday in January at 9 am we had the trail completely to ourselves! The weather was in the high 60s and we were comfortable in a sweatshirt and athletic pants.

This particular trail only took about 30 minutes to complete which is what makes it perfect for a day trip to Palm Springs, but if you have a little more than a day be sure to check out some of the other awesome trails in the area.

Thrift Shopping

One of the highlights of our Palm Springs day trip was diving into the world of secondhand treasures at Revivals, a local thrift shop with four convenient locations. I unearthed some remarkable finds, including two effortlessly cool men’s leather jackets that became unexpected fashion gems in my collection. I literally wore them with just about every outfit for the rest of our trip!

Whether you’re into fashion, decor, or quirky collectibles, Revivals offers an exciting journey through pre-loved finds, each with its own unique story to tell.

Revivals thrift shop Palm Springs

Palm Springs Art Museum

For a cultural experience, the Palm Springs Art Museum is a must-visit. This institution showcases a diverse collection of art, including contemporary pieces, Native American artifacts, and modern sculptures.

The museum’s architecture itself is a work of art, and the exhibits offer a glimpse into the creative spirit that has defined Palm Springs. It’s an ideal stop for those seeking a blend of artistic inspiration and a deeper understanding of the region’s cultural landscape.

Tickets are $16 for adults, but if you can visit on a Thursday evening between 5-8 pm admission is free!

We were here on a Tuesday so we weren’t able to include this in our Palm Springs itinerary (they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

palm springs art museum
Photo credit: Palm Springs Art Museum

Casino Experience

If you’re feeling lucky, Palm Springs offers several casinos where you can try your hand at gaming. Many casinos even provide enticing promotions and free play if it’s your first time!

It’s no Las Vegas, but it is a thrilling way to add a touch of excitement to your Palm Springs day trip, and who knows, you might just walk away with some extra cash in your pocket. I ended up walking out $20 ahead after playing my $10 free play!

Explore Downtown Palm Springs

Stroll through downtown Palm Springs, where the streets are lined with eclectic shops, art galleries, and charming boutiques. Immerse yourself in the local atmosphere as you browse through unique finds and perhaps pick up a souvenir to remember your day trip.

Downtown Palm Springs California

Visit Forever Marilyn

While you’re exploring Downtown Palm Springs, marvel at the iconic statue of Marilyn Monroe, aptly named “Forever Marilyn”. This larger-than-life tribute to the Hollywood legend captures a moment from her famous film “The Seven Year Itch.” It’s a popular spot for photos and a fitting homage to the glamour that has long been associated with Palm Springs.

Forever Marilyn in downtown Palm Springs

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is an engineering marvel that takes you from the desert floor to the San Jacinto Mountains. The tram ride offers breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley, and once at the mountain station, you can explore hiking trails and enjoy panoramic vistas.

While there is a fee for parking ($15) and the tram ride ($30 per person), the experience is well worth it for the unparalleled scenery and the title of riding the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world!

If you have time to do hiking at the top, be sure to dress warmly. The day we visited in January it was 22 degrees at the top! Because we just had one day in Palm Springs (and because we did not dress warmly enough) we opted not to do any of the trails, but the ride up and down alone was epic enough!

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Dinner at Azucar

Conclude your day trip to Palm Springs with a phenomenal dinner at Azucar, where the culinary offerings are as vibrant as the atmosphere. From exquisite dishes to impeccable service, Azucar provides a dining experience that reflects the diverse flavors of Palm Springs.

We started with their Azucar salad and a refreshing mocktail (which I craved the entire rest of our trip) and ended with their King Salmon. Everything was bursting with flavor and cooked to perfection.

The vibe is pretty intimate here and there isn’t too much seating, so if you are visiting over the weekend or during the busy season make sure you make a reservation in advance!

Have a little extra time on your hands in Palm Springs?


Soak in the Sun at Palm Springs Pool Parties

While Palm Springs is renowned for its lively pool party scene, the peak season for these vibrant gatherings typically aligns with warmer months. Unfortunately, during our January visit, we missed out on the pool party festivities.

However, if you’re planning your day trip during the summer, prepare to be immersed in the energetic ambiance of poolside celebrations. Many hotels and resorts host pool parties with music, refreshing drinks, and a lively atmosphere, providing the perfect setting to bask in the California sun.

Relax and Unwind at Palm Springs Spas

Palm Springs boasts an array of luxurious spas where you can unwind and pamper yourself. Indulge in a rejuvenating spa experience to round off your day trip. Treatments range from massages to facials, ensuring a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle.

Keep in mind that spa offerings may vary, so check in advance for availability and services during your visit.

Observatory at the Rancho Mirage Public Library

If you’re visiting on a Thursday or Saturday you can experience Observatory Public Exploration Night at the Rancho Mirage Public Library. Peer through powerful telescopes and explore the wonders of the night sky with the guidance of knowledgeable astronomers!

They also do “behind the scenes” Observatory facility tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 3:00 pm.

Drag Brunch

While exploring the vibrant scene of Palm Springs, we couldn’t help but be drawn to the allure of a Drag Brunch—a quintessential weekend activity that adds an extra dash of glam to the city’s entertainment offerings.

Our visit unfortunately coincided with the weekdays, and we missed the chance to experience the fabulousness of a Palm Springs Drag Brunch. It’s a regret we carry, knowing that this lively and entertaining event is a must for those fortunate enough to be in town over the weekend.

So, if your Palm Springs itinerary aligns with the weekend vibes, be sure to add Drag Brunch to your list for a dose of dazzling performances, delicious bites, and an unforgettable celebration of uniqueness and creativity!

Visit Joshua Tree

If Palm Springs isn’t a stop on your way to Joshua Tree National Park already and you have some extra time in the area, I suggest visiting its enchanting desert landscapes and captivating rock formations.

Located just about an hour away, Joshua Tree is a natural wonder that promises a unique and awe-inspiring experience. Towering Joshua Trees, rugged mountains, and fascinating geological formations create a surreal atmosphere that feels like stepping into another world.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast seeking hiking trails, a stargazer eager for celestial displays, or simply someone yearning for a tranquil escape, Joshua Tree has something for everyone. If time allows during your Palm Springs adventure, I can assure you that immersing yourself in the magical scenery of Joshua Tree is a captivating addition to your Palm Springs itinerary.

Joshua Tree National Park in California

When is the best time to visit Palm Springs?

Choosing the right time to visit Palm Springs largely depends on your preferences. We visited Palm Springs in January, and while the mornings and evenings had a crisp chill, the daytime offered that perfect California warmth.

It was the off-season, meaning fewer crowds and a more relaxed atmosphere. Missing out on the pool party season was a trade-off, but the tranquility and the ability to explore the city at our own pace made it worthwhile.

If you’re seeking a vibrant and energetic scene, the summer months might be the perfect fit. Palm Springs in summer embraces its desert essence, and the pool parties kick into high gear. Expect lively events, music, and a pulsating atmosphere.

Just be prepared for the heat – it’s a dry heat, but it’s still the desert, after all. Ultimately, whether you prefer the serene off-season charm or the lively summer vibes, Palm Springs offers an enticing experience year-round.

Where to stay in Palm Springs, California

Whatever your preference, Palm Springs has a range of accommodations to suit different tastes and budgets. We opted for the lively and colorful vibes of the Saguaro Hotel, a place that radiates energy and offers a budget-friendly option. The Saguaro might not exude luxury, but its vibrant atmosphere and potentially lively summer pool parties, make it a fun choice for the adventurous traveler.

The Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs

If you’re seeking a more luxurious experience that still doesn’t break the bank, indulge yourself at The Palm Springs Hotel, a chic and sophisticated retreat that caters to those with a taste for upscale amenities.

And finally, the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel stands as a beacon of luxury and sophistication. With its chic design, rooftop pool boasting panoramic views of the surrounding desert, and impeccable service, this hotel exudes the signature style and comfort of the Kimpton brand.

Additional Palm Springs tips

  1. Parking and Logistics: Some places may offer designated parking areas, so it’s wise to check in advance. Fortunately, we encountered no challenges finding parking for the attractions we visited. Additionally, certain areas downtown even provided free parking, making our exploration hassle-free.
  2. Seasonal Considerations: While Palm Springs enjoys year-round sunshine, the nature of activities, especially pool parties, can vary with the seasons. Check for any seasonal events or promotions during your visit.
  3. Local Etiquette: Embrace the relaxed atmosphere of Palm Springs, known for its casual and welcoming vibe. Respect the locals, and if you’re new to the area, don’t hesitate to ask locals for recommendations or insights to enhance your experience. The people here were genuinely SO KIND.
  4. Navigating Attractions: Palm Springs is a dynamic destination, and some online information may not be up-to-date. During our visit, we encountered a few changes, like the absence of the Desert X art installation. Keep an open mind and be prepared for unexpected surprises or modifications to your planned itinerary.
  5. Robolights Art Installation: While we were excited to explore the renowned Robolights art installation, we discovered that it has relocated to a private residence. Attempting to visit might require scheduling an appointment, but, unfortunately, our attempt to connect went unanswered. It’s recommended to verify the current status and accessibility of such attractions before making them a part of your itinerary.
Robolights Art Installation Palm Springs

Ready for an epic day trip to Palm Springs?

I hope I’ve shown you a day trip to Palm Springs can be full of an eclectic mix of attractions, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture! From scenic hikes at Andreas Canyon to treasure hunting in thrift shops, exploring the arts, and indulging in culinary gems, Palm Springs has you covered. Embrace the laid-back vibes, soak in the sun, and create lasting memories in this Californian gem!

Before you go be sure to follow me on Insta @guidedbydestiny and check out some of my other West Coast blog posts:

3 Days in Portland, Oregon

4-Day Seattle, Washington Itinerary

How to do Las Vegas on a Budget

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