Palm Desert is a city in the Coachella Valley just east of Palm Springs and a couple of hours away from Los Angeles. It is home to a number of golf courses, shopping opportunities, and country clubs. The popular Shops on El Paseo feature several art galleries as well as tasty restaurants and designer shopping boutiques. A number of leisure activities are available, including many opportunities to get out and explore the surrounding desert. Whether you choose to book a hike with Tallgrass Hiking and Tours, go on a hot air balloon tour with Balloons Above, or just spend the day exploring the shops and art galleries, a visit to Palm Desert is sure to be enjoyable. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Bump and Grind Trail
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The Palm Desert Bump-n-Grind Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Coachella Valley. Locals may also refer to the trail as the Patton Trail, Desert Drive Trail, Dog Poop Trail, and Desert Mirage Trail. The trail starts out narrow at the trailhead and widens as you go along. It is popular among those looking to get a workout and has an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet as it climbs to an overlook that offers nice views of Palm Desert. A number of endangered wildlife species inhabit the area and it may be possible to view them during your hike, especially bighorn sheep.
2.Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
© Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
Cabot's Pueblo Museum is a historical house museum consisting of a large, Hopi-style pueblo home. The house is a stunning example of the Pueblo revival style and was built by Cabot Yerxa, an explorer and activist who constructed the home out of things he found in the desert. Every part of the house is manmade using sun-dried bricks and reclaimed wood from nearby cabins. The construction began in 1941 and Yerxa worked on the home until he died in 1965. All in all, the house is four stories tall and has 35 rooms. He and his wife opened the house to the public for touring during his life, and today it stands as a museum with artifacts, artwork, and items from the architect’s own personal life.
67616 Desert View Avenue, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240, Phone: 760-329-7610
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3.Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
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Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, formerly known as the Living Desert Museum, is a zoo and botanical garden in Palm Desert. The park highlights desert animals from around the world, especially North America and Africa. Highlights include the Mexican wolf, eagles, giraffe, zebras, camels, and more. The park’s garden section features cactus, a butterfly garden, and a palm oasis area, among other plantings. The best time to see the animals is in the morning, when the animals are often at their most active as it is the coolest time of day. The zoo can be quite hot, especially in the summer, so plan ahead, wear sunscreen, and drink plenty of water.
479000 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-346-5694
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4.Palm Desert Aquatic Center, Palm Desert, CA
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Palm Desert Aquatic Center is a popular water park in Palm Desert that is open all year round for family-friendly water fun any time of year. The facility includes three swimming pools, a number of water slides, diving boards, and several play features specially built to cater to visitors of all ages. The property spans 8 acres, providing plenty of room for water fun. For those who are looking for a special event venue, the property is available for rental. They also offer a number of exercise classes both in the water and on land, perfect for those who like to stay fit during their vacation.
73751 Magnesia Falls Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-565-7467
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5.Palm Springs Art Museum
© Palm Springs Art Museum
The Palm Springs Art Museum is a regional museum focused on art and natural science. It is also used as a performing arts venue. The museum was founded as a museum about the desert, but has since transformed into a real forerunner in the area of the arts. The collection is especially strong in the areas of west coast art, Native American art, international modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, classic Western American art, and contemporary and studio art glass. The museum offers docent guided tours for free with museum admission. They also offer special in-depth tours for certain events and exhibitions.
101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 760-322-4800
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6.Palms to Pines Scenic Byway
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The Palms to Pines Scenic Byway is a scenic drive that follows Highways 74 and 243 from just south of Palm Desert on one end to Banning Pass on the other. The byway was designated as a scenic byway because of the great amount and variety of scenery that you can encounter on the drive. It travels from scenic forests through the California desert and up into snow-peaked mountains. This degree of contrast in environments is rare in such a short distance. There are few services along the road and it is quite windy, but the scenery is certainly worth it.
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7.San Andreas Fault
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The San Andreas Fault is one of the most famous fault lines in the world. It crosses approximately 1,200 km through the state of California, marking the boundary between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. Many tourists who come to the state want to see the famous fault. Visiting the fault can be somewhat underwhelming as it is not the massive crack in the Earth that many people envision. In fact, due to the long time period since the last earthquake, it can be quite hard to make out. Many sections of the fault reside in public land and it’s possible to access much of it. If you’d like to visit with a geologist or naturalist, check with local nature centers and parks as many offer day trips.
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8.Smiler’s Point, Palm Desert, CA
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To the untrained eye, Smiler’s Point appears to be nothing more than a simple curve in California’s State Route 74. The curve has become a pilgrimage site of sorts for film fans who have given it the name Smiler’s Point. In the 1963 hit film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, a reckless driver named Smiler Grogan plummets to his death over the cliff from this point in the highway. It is considered an incredibly influential film by film fans and has a major fan base among film enthusiasts even today. There are no walking paths where you can see the point on foot; instead, it is typically enjoyed by cruising by at a slow speed.
Highway 74, South of Palm Desert
9.Tallgrass Hiking and Tours
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Tallgrass Hiking and Tours is a tour company operating tours in the Greater Palm Springs Area. The company has been leading hiking tours as well as custom mini-coach and luxury bus tours in the area for more than 15 years. Tour destinations range from the agricultural area in the east valley down to the Salton Sea as well as select destinations in Los Angeles, Riverside, the San Gorgonio Pass, and Redlands. Hiking destinations include the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, and more. Each and every tour is led by a professional guide, who will guide you in an enjoyable and informative experience.
45300 Portola Avenue, Unit 1514, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-219-3000
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10.Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, Palm Desert
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The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is a nature preserve in the Coachella Valley. Popular activities here include hiking, picnicking, viewing wildlife, and more on over 20,000 acres of desert wilderness and hiking trails. There is a rustic visitors center called the Palm House, which offers basic services. Docent guides lead free guided hikes several times a week. The hikes depart from the visitors center, are typically short (around 2 miles), and usually have a specific focus. Some possible hikes include the Desert Bird Walk, the Explore the Ecology of a Fault Line Oasis Hike, the Tour of Two Oases, and more.
29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Road, Thousand Palms, CA 92276, Phone: 760-343-2733
11.Wilma & Frieda
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Wilma & Frieda is a busy cafe located in The Gardens on El Paseo, a vibrant shopping district. The venue serves modern takes on comfort classics for breakfast and brunch in an understated space. The restaurant is named after the owner’s two grandmothers – Wilma and Frieda, who influenced her greatly toward becoming a restaurant owner. The menu includes a breakfast, weekday brunch, and weekend specials. Highlights include the filet mignon and eggs, the short rib eggs Benedict, and several options of French toast (the banana caramel French toast is especially drool-worthy). Vegetarians will find plenty of options available, so this is a perfect restaurant to visit with a group when you need to please a lot of people. Things to Do in Palm Springs
73575 El Paseo #2310, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-773-2807
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12.Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert
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Desert Willow Golf Resort is an award-winning golf resort in Palm Desert just minutes away from Palm Springs. It features two of the best golf courses in the Coachella Valley. The Firecliff Course is the more challenging of the two and offers plenty of natural hazards and water features along the way. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more relaxing round of golf, check out the Mountain View Course, which is significantly smoother. There is an on-site clubhouse, gorgeous al fresco dining venues, and plenty of event and meeting space. For those who are hoping to get better at golf, the resort also has a world-class golf academy right on site to help you perfect your game.
38-995 Desert Willow Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-346-0015
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13.Fix on El Paseo
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Fix on El Paseo is a rustic but chic coffeehouse with a full bar that serves pastries, desserts, breakfast, and lunch, all made in house. Stop by on your way to the other attractions on our list for a breakfast of oatmeal brulee with fruit or a breakfast burrito. For those looking for a tasty lunch spot while they are out exploring, Fix serves tapas, sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and lunch crepes. Alternatively, just stop in for a bite of something sweet and a cup of Joe and you certainly won’t be disappointed. They also are a popular place to purchase a wedding cake in the Palm Springs area.
73580 El Paseo, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-340-3040
Grill-A-Burger is a casual burger joint that pumps out gourmet burgers, hot dogs, and salads to many loyal locals and tourists each day. The restaurant is outfitted in kitschy island-style décor. which makes the perfect backdrop for a meal in Palm Desert. The restaurant specializes in a range of specialty burgers with some of the best ingredients around, including hormone and antibiotic-free 100% all-natural USDA beef. They offer a range of versatile choices for diners with allergies or special diets, as you can order your burger on a gluten-free bun for an upcharge or a lettuce wrap at no additional cost.
73091 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-348-8170
15.AJ’s on the Green, Palm Desert, CA
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AJ’s on the Green is more akin to an entertainment venue than a restaurant. The restaurant has won awards year after year as one of the best live entertainment venues in the Palm Springs area. They are open daily and feature some of the best food and shows around. The menu is varied and leans heavily into seafood and Italian-style dishes with plenty of New American cuisine appearing as well. Whether you go for garlic shrimp and pesto pasta or prime rib, make sure you don’t get too full as you will want to leave room for their creme brulee or salted caramel ice cream. Check out their website for current entertainment options and make sure to stop by for the Sunday jazz brunch, which is not to be missed.
36200 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City, CA 92234, Phone: 760-202-1111
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16.Balloons Above, Palm Desert, CA
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Balloons Above is a tour company that leads hot air balloon tours in and around the Napa Valley. There is a range of tours available, including their most popular – the Flight and Michelin Awarded Brunch, which includes a 1-hour flight over the Napa Valley followed by a champagne brunch at C Casa at Oxbow Public Market, which has been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand award several times. Other options include booking the flight as a standalone tour without the brunch, or a flight and wine tour. Whichever option you choose, floating above the stunning California Wine Country is sure to be a memorable experience.
Model Bakery, 644 1st Street, Napa, CA 94559, Phone: 800-464-6824
17.Coachella Valley Brewing Company
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The Coachella Valley Brewing Company is a brewery that brews craft beers using local ingredients, sited in an industrial park in Thousand Palms. The brewery offers short tours to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, where you will have a chance to check out the brewing process and equipment and observe the knowledge and effort of the staff in action. Additionally, there is a taproom that serves small bites as well as more than 20 types of beer. It is conveniently located just off of the 10 Freeway, so it is easily accessible from much of the Palm Springs area.
30-640 Gunther Street, Thousand Palms, CA 92278, Phone: 760-343-5973
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18.Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events
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Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours and Events is a tour company that leads guided adventure tours in the Greater Palm Springs area. They offer a range of tours that will suit almost anyone, regardless of your preferences. They have a private 800-acre ranch in the India Hills known as Metate Ranch, where they offer hiking, sightseeing tours aboard buses, jeep tours, wagon rides, and adventure programs for families and groups of young people. In addition to the range of activities offered at the ranch, the company also provides jeep tours through Painted Canyon and the nearby Mecca Hills Wilderness Area as well as tours of Palm Springs Indian Canyons and several other attractions.
74-794- Lennon Place, Suite B, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-324-5337
19.Desert Distilling, Palm Desert, CA
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Desert Distilling is a distillery in the Coachella Valley that produces fine hand-crafted rum, American gin and artisanal spirits. They brew all of their spirits in small batches daily with a commitment to high quality. Each Friday and Saturday, Desert Distilling hosts tours of their distillery that are open to the general public. The tours take about 30-40 minutes, including time in the tasting room. You don’t have to book a tour to get a taste of their hand-crafted spirits as a variety of award-winning bottled spirits are available for purchase in the tasting room during regular business hours.
34300 Gateway Drive #100, Palm Desert, CA 92211, Phone: 760-770-3135
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19 Best Things to Do in Palm Desert
- Bump and Grind Trail, Photo: Courtesy of ollirg - Fotolia.com
- Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, Photo: Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
- Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of apichai507 - Fotolia.com
- Palm Desert Aquatic Center, Palm Desert, CA, Photo: Courtesy of Damian - Fotolia.com
- Palm Springs Art Museum, Photo: Palm Springs Art Museum
- Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, Photo: Courtesy of Ritu Jethani - Fotolia.com
- San Andreas Fault, Photo: Courtesy of nanuqoriginal - Fotolia.com
- Smiler’s Point, Palm Desert, CA, Photo: Courtesy of memorystockphoto - Fotolia.com
- Tallgrass Hiking and Tours, Photo: Courtesy of BillionPhotos.com - Fotolia.com
- Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, Palm Desert, Photo: Courtesy of achraca - Fotolia.com
- Wilma & Frieda, Photo: Wilma & Frieda
- Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert, Photo: Courtesy of hakanozturk - Fotolia.com
- Fix on El Paseo, Photo: Fix on El Paseo
- Grill-A-Burger, Photo: Grill-A-Burger
- AJ’s on the Green, Palm Desert, CA, Photo: Courtesy of BillionPhotos.com - Fotolia.com
- Balloons Above, Palm Desert, CA, Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra - Fotolia.com
- Coachella Valley Brewing Company, Photo: Coachella Valley Brewing Company
- Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events, Photo: Courtesy of Grafvision - Fotolia.com
- Desert Distilling, Palm Desert, CA, Photo: Desert Distilling
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Jeff - Fotolia.com
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