Fun Things to Do in the Coachella Valley – Palm Springs Region of the Desert Cities
Inland 90 or so miles west from Los Angeles is the booming region of the Coachella Valley, which includes the communities of Palm Springs, Indio, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Bermuda Dunes and Coachella. These desert cities are closely knit together by Highway 111, the main route through the valley. The area is also one of the biggest wind energy producers in the nation, with hundreds of giant turbines lining the pass as you enter the valley heading on I-10 east.
The area is known as a winter retreat for many, but has an enormous amount of fun things to do all year long throughout the towns, from the famous Aerial Tram to the beautiful hiking excursions of the Indian Canyon. Palm Springs is popular year round with tourists, being one of California’s most visited tourism destinations, especially between the months of December-February. During these months, temperatures reach a quite comfortable 70-80 degrees during the day. The grass is green, and the mountains are still capped with snow.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tram is a must for any visit to Coachella Valley. Located before the downtown area of Palm Springs on Highway 111, you can’t miss the entrance to the Tramway Road and the giant sign as you enter town. Ascend 2.5 miles high to San Jacinto State Park, a beautiful wooded recreation area with gorgeous views of the valley and unique wildlife viewing. The park has 58 miles of hiking trails, along with cross country skiing and camping. The top of the peak can be snow capped into the early spring months.
The Agua Caliente Indian Canyons
The Indian Canyons of Palm Springs are a group of natural oases and canyons approximately 10 minutes from downtown. With access to three ancient canyons, Murray Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Palm Canyon, there are many miles of beautiful hiking trails to explore containing Bighorn Sheep, towering fan palms, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Palm Springs VillageFest
Every Thursday, between Baristo and Amado in Palm Springs, the VillageFest takes over the downtown area. Local crafts, artists, street vendors, fresh fruit, concession stands, bakeries, musiciains and more line the streets entertaining, selling, and livening up the town once a week. There are hundreds of tables and booths to explore from October to May!
Concerts at Coachella
Every year, the Palm Springs area (actually, it’s Coachella, which is just around the corner) holds an annual festival called Coachella. It’s held in April, and you can find tickets to the right.
Coachella also hosts other concert events throughout the year, ranging from classic rock to pop. In 2011, landmark heavy metal bands Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax played Coachella to rave reviews! Read about the Big Four tour here.
The Living Desert Zoo
Palm Desert has an impressive zoo located in the back neighborhoods of town containing some amazing wildlife like giraffes, ostrich, sand cats, Gila Monster, and the strange Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, among many others. Read the complete list of animals right here. On the Palm Desert/Indian Wells town line, this is an easy centrally located spot from anywhere in the Coachella Valley.
The Living Desert Website
Palm Springs Windmill Tours
Wind energy has been the topic of much conversation lately with the big push towards energy independence. Palm Springs contains one of the largest collections of wind turbines in the United States, and also the oldest windmill tour in exsitence by P.S. Windmill Tours. The expert guide was very helpful and knowledgable of the history of the Cahuilla Indians, the town history, and the windmills themselves. The phone number for reservations for this tour is 760-320-1365, and is a 90 minute tour on an air conditioned bus.
Palms to Pines Scenic Highway
In the heart of Palm Desert lies Palms to Pines Highway, aka California Route 74. The road winds up the mountains from Palm Desert into the Santa Rosa Mountains, and eventually into the mountaintop community of Idyllwild and Hemet. Other roads leading from Route 74 will lead to San Diego and the nearby wine region of Temecula Valley. As Palms to Pines Highway winds through the mountains, it begins its descent towards Cabazon, with more breathtaking views of the desert scenery below.
Palm Springs Air Museum
The Palm Springs Air Museum is an impressive collection of WWII bombers and fighters, a real unexpected treat in the heart of the desert. A hangar full of genuine artifacts from the war, like the planes, but also military uniforms, stories, newspapers, medals, and more make this an incredible trip for anyone that’s headed to Coachella Valley. On Memorial Day, the museum offers the Memorial Day Flower Drop, where thousands of carnations are dropped overhead to the visitors below.
Palm Springs Follies
One of the most popular attractions in Palm Springs is the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, which “features the music and dance of the 40s, 50s and 60s with a cast old enough to have lived it.” It’s the #2 attraction according to Trip Advisor, and is conveniently located on Palm Canyon Drive in downtown. You can’t get very far without seeing the advertisements and signs for this vaudeville style show.
Elite Land Tours
Elite Land Tours of Palm Springs is rated the #1 tour in Palm Springs on Trip Advisor and has been featured on The Today Show and the Travel Channel, this spectacular tour can take you to nearby Joshua Tree, to Safari Trax, and point out the interesting and infamous aspects of the San Andreas Fault, which lies right in the Coachella Valley.
Palm Springs Art Museum
The Palm Springs Art Museum is located on N. Museum Drive, near Tahquitz Canyon Way. Specializing in modern prints, paintings, photography and sculptures from artists of today and yesterday, the exhibitions change constantly and offer up fresh new collections to browse and admire.
What to Consider When Visiting Palm Springs:
This region is diverse in activities, restaurants, and lodging, but there are some things you should think about before planning your trip:
- It gets very hot between May-October anywhere in the valley. Expect temperatures above 100 on some days, and most every day above 90 degrees.
- December-February is the “busy season” here, with high rates and lots more people.
- Palm Springs itself is just one city, while neighboring Palm Desert is considered newer and a little more modern.
- You can find lodging very cheap in the hot season.
- You will need a car to get around here. The Palm Springs “strip” on Palm Canyon Drive is the only area that you can get away without a car. Other destinations are further apart.
- Don’t forget about other nearby sightseeing attractions like Joshua Tree National Park, the Jeep tours, windmill tours, Cabazon outlets, Palms to Pines Highway, or Death Valley National Park (a day trip away).