7 Things to Do with Kids in Palm Springs

by Paul Joseph  |  Published October 2, 2023

The Californian desert city of Palm Springs is a popular tourist destination, full of great things to see and do for all ages – including its little visitors.

The stark landscape of Joshua Tree National Park (Photo: Giuseppe Milo via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Nestled within the dramatic environs of Colorado Desert’s Coachella Valley, Palm Springs attracts large numbers of visitors every year, drawn here by its heady mix of eye-catching natural scenery, great weather, and abundance of cultural attractions. For families coming to Palm Springs, there’s plenty to keep children entertained, too. We’ve picked out 7 of the best activities and places of interest that the city has to offer for kids.

Visit a legendary national park

Boasting rugged rock formations and stark desert landscapes, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the natural jewels in California’s crown. Named for the region’s twisted, bristled Joshua trees, the park lies about 50 miles east of Palm Springs, with the city a popular jumping off point for trips to the iconic wilderness. Once here, visitors have their choice of endless hiking trails that weave through the boulders of Hidden Valley, or for more intrepid types the park is also home to over 8,000 climbing routes, making Joshua Tree a world-famous destination for rock climbers.

You can book a beginners rock climbing tour with Viator

Captivate your kids at a fun-packed museum

There are few children who aren’t fascinated by aeroplanes – from the moment we catch our first sightings in the sky to our inaugural flight. Throw into the mix the drama of war and you have an intoxicating recipe. That very combination is what’s on offer at the Palm Springs Air Museum, located alongside the runway of Palm Springs International Airport and arranged across several hangars and outdoor exhibits. The museum covers all aspects of the two World Wars, as well as the US conflicts with Korea and Vietnam, through hands-on features such as the chance to step inside an original B 17 bomber. As well as the aircraft and artefacts on display, there’s also an on-site theatre screening daily documentaries about the history of military aviation.

Parking, lot 745 N Gene Autry Trail / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm

An aircraft on display at Palm Springs Air Museum (Photo: Palm Springs Air Museum)

Science, self-expression and creativity come together at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, situated about 10 miles southwest of downtown Palm Springs. Families and their little ones can experience the joy of learning while exploring more than 80 hands-on exhibits across 3 galleries. Highlights include taking part in ‘grown up’ tasks such as building your own race car, as well as the chance to discover how wind works, learn about the human body, and test your brain in a large play space filled with puzzles, building blocks and other stimulating exhibits. More fun awaits outside in the music garden where kids can create their own melodies using an assortment of outdoor instruments.

71-701 Gerald Ford Drive, Rancho Mirage / Tues-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 1pm-5pm

Travel on the world’s largest rotating aerial tramway

The world record-beating 2.5-mile Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ride to the Mountain Station promises to take you and your kids on a magical journey from the warm desert sands to the cool mountain air and pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park Along the way, you’ll travel through a total of five transitional zones before arriving at the pristine alpine forest, where you can hike along various trails, or even go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter months. There’s also the chance to dine at the restaurant at the top of the tramway and browse for souvenirs in the gift shops.

You can book return tickets on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway at GetYourGuide

Marvel at an array of exotic animals

Venture 15 miles south of downtown Palm Springs until you reach the nearby city of Palm Desert, home to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. A haven for nature enthusiasts, the zoo is packed full of awe-inspiring native animals (including many endangered species), stunning desert plant displays, and immersive recreations of desert habitats. As well as the captivating collection of animals on show, there are also interactive opportunities for children who can unleash their inner explorer at the Discovery Center, with the chance to get up close to reptiles and bugs while learning all about the wonders of the desert world.

47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert / Mon-Sun 7am-1.30pm

A resident at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens shows its best side for the camera (Photo: Karon Elliott Edleson via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Traverse the canyons by jeep

One of the most enthralling ways to explore the undulating terrain that characterises Palm Springs’ surroundings is aboard a Four-Wheel Drive vehicle. Among the most popular spots for jeep excursions is the lush palm oasis of the magnificent Indian Canyons of Palm Springs, the historical home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Here, you and your children can learn about the history, culture, legends, and stories of the Cahuilla people, and embark on a hike up Andreas Canyon that winds along a beautiful stream of cascading waters shaded by a canopy of California Fan Palms. At the end of your adventure, you can relax and shop for gifts at the Indian Trading Post which features Indian art and artefacts, books, jewellery, pottery, baskets, weavings, and more.

You can book a guided Jeep Tour via GetYourGuide. Tours are suitable for children aged 5 and over.

Look around a back yard-turned-sculpture garden

If you thought you’d let your back yard get a bit overrun, you’re certain to feel better about your hoarding tendencies after visiting Robolights. Home to a captivating display of colourful sculptures – all made using recycled materials – that could rival the set of any high-budget Hollywood Sci-fi movie, the bizarre garden is the brainchild of Kenny Irwin, who has been dreaming up these huge creations since he was a little kid, with the blessing of his artist father, Ken Irwin Sr, who owned the property. Today the garden  attracts a steady stream of visitors who come to gawp at the assortment of other-worldly artefacts including plastic aliens, a UFO parking sign, and giant robotic arms.

1077 East Granvia Valmonte / Sat-Thurs 9am-5pm Fri 8am-11am

An eye-catching exhibit at the Robolights sculpture garden  (Photo: Peter Burka via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)