Things to Do in Palm Springs with Kids

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Since Palm Springs was the first real stop on our full time RV adventure, it seems a fitting place to start our blog. We spent a glorious 21 days in the Coachella Valley from late November to mid-December. This was the first time either of us had been to the area, so we were basically going in blind with little idea of the things we wanted to do and see. We were really looking forward to warm weather, but since the only ideas we had about the Coachella Valley/Palm Springs area involved music festivals and golf courses, we weren’t sure if there would be enough family-friendly activities to keep us busy for three weeks. Boy were we wrong! By the end of our stay at The Palm Springs RV Park, we were blown away by the fun we’d had and were wishing we got around to seeing a couple more spots on our list. Here are some of our favorites and great things to do with kids in Palm Springs and the surrounding area!

Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree was one stop that was on our list before arriving in the Palm Springs area. We plan on visiting a number of National Parks on our journey, and are happy to call this #1!

We entered the park from the 62 in the town of Joshua Tree. It was a Saturday morning, and the entry line was long, but luckily we were able to bypass the line with our National Parks Annual Pass (a must if you plan on visiting even two parks in one year). The ranger that welcomed us saw that we had two little adventurers with us and gave us a couple of Junior Ranger Program activities booklets. This was our first experience with the Junior Ranger Program and turned out to be a great way to keep the kids excited about exploring and really taking in the sights and sounds around them.

We traveled through the park on Park Blvd. Right away we were taken aback by the beauty of this incredibly unique landscape. Between the fields of Joshua trees and gigantic boulders, it almost felt like we were on a different planet! Actually, it felt more like we were on the Street of the Lifted Lorax surrounded by Truffula trees (The Lorax is a hot item in our house right now).

Our first stop was Hidden Valley for lunch and a hike. We ate at one of the several picnic areas then hit the trail. It is a 1-mile loop that is great for young kids. There are some areas with a slight incline over rocks, but Finn (3 years old) was able to walk the entire way. Hazel (2) puttered around for a little before she was put in the Osprey pack. We didn’t want to be out there for three days. The hike takes you to an actual hidden valley that is accessible through a small opening in the boulders. It was beautiful, an easy walk, and a must do in Joshua Tree with kids!

We did a little more exploring at Skull Rock, then drove the rest of the way through the park. We stopped at the Cottonwood Visitors Center to get our Junior Ranger badges on the way out of the park. Well, Ross did while the kids were passed out in the back seat.

Joshua Tree did not disappoint, and we wish we’d had more than a day to explore. Being such an easy drive from Palm Springs, it’s a great place to take the kids when you’re in the area.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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We went to the Tramway expecting one thing and ended up getting a whole day worth of fun that no one was expecting. The Tramway sits right in Palm Springs so it’s definitely easy to get to. When we left the RV park that morning, it was roughly 70 degrees. When we arrived at the base of the Tramway (2,643 feet elevation), it was about 55 degrees. We noticed many of the people in the parking lot around us were dressed in snow gear and carrying sleds. We took it as they are from California and we are from Utah, so they are overreacting, but little did we realize, the Tramway actually goes up to 8,516 feet! And guess what was up there?!?! Over a foot of snow and a high of 40 degrees!! Luckily I had researched a little bit in advanced and had coats for the kids, but we were the people in the gift shop at the base buying hats and gloves. So note to self before taking the family up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Check the weather at the top!

Regardless of being unprepared, we had a blast! The ride itself offered an incredible view of the valley below and rugged mountains as we flew over. The Tramway lets out in the Mt. San Jacinto State Park which offers excellent hiking. Despite being covered in snow, the Desert View Trail was packed down and was a perfect hike for the kids. We also got the chance to build a snowman and have a snowball fight. So even if you are visiting in the winter, make sure to take a ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway with the family!

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

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This isn’t a full-blown zoo filled with animals from all ends of the earth, but as the name states, it’s a desert zoo. It features animals from deserts found in The Americas and Africa. But even without the lions and monkeys, this is one of the best zoos we’ve been to! Right when we arrived, we stumbled upon the cheetah feeding. We got to watch trainers feeding the wild cats up close and personal. Also in the African area, we got up close and personal with the giraffes. They have a total of 8 giraffes living in one of the most fantastic zoo habitats I’ve ever seen. They are able to roam a number of acres over rolling hills and through the shade of trees. They even have ostriches and antelope to keep them company. We sat and watched the giraffes for a long time. It was so beautiful with the animals and the mountains in the distance. Speaking of great habitats, the Big Horned Sheep in the Americas area are also living the good life. I’m pretty sure they just put a fence around a rocky hill the sheep were already living on. It appears they are truly in their natural habitat.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is also home to one of the world’s largest model train displays. If you have a son or a husband, you’re in luck. Feel free to leave them here to gaze in amazement at the trains for hours or even the entire day. Also, note The Living Desert serves beer and wine in the food court. Not sure if this is a Living Desert thing or a California thing, but it is definitely not a Utah thing, so we were excited. All in all everyone in the family thoroughly enjoyed our day at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert!

City of Palm Desert Civic Center Park

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We love a good park. A playground and grassy area to run around in offer hours of free entertainment. We visited a number of parks in the Coachella Valley during our stay but only frequented this one on multiple occasions. The Civic Center Park in Palm Desert offers a large playground. Two, in fact, one for younger kids and one for older. The older kid playground was a little busy during lunchtime as a nearby school eats and recesses there but other than that, it was usually pretty quiet. Surrounding the playgrounds are a number of picnic tables and pavilions making it convenient for snacks and lunches. The park also features a large pond home to more ducks than any two toddlers could ever chase. Throughout the park there are a few large sculpture displays meant for climbing on, running through, and exploring. So just when the kids get bored with the two playgrounds, boom!, more playgrounds. So if you are looking for a way to spend a lazy day in and around Palm Springs, take the short drive over to Palm Desert to the Civic Center Park. Perfect, and free, way to spend the day with the kids!

Coachella Valley Preserve

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Located in Thousand Palms, just a short drive from the 10, is one of the coolest little hikes perfect for kids of all ages. It is literally an oasis in the desert. We started in the Visitors’ Center, the Palm House, a palm log cabin built in the 1930s. It had a little museum with the history of the area. We then took the McCallum trail which is an easy 2-mile loop that goes out to McCallum Pond. Again, Finn walked the entire way while Hazel packed most of the way.

Massive palms shaded the majority of the hike, but there was a stretch in the middle that is exposed and was hot even on a December morning. We settled in the shade of a palm once we got to the pond for snacks and to watch the fish. The pond offered close to an hour of entertainment between climbing in holes cut out in the trees and throwing pebbles into the fish in the pond. There are a number of boardwalk bridges that pass through the swamp of the oasis that the kids found very fun. All in all this was one of the coolest hikes we’ve ever done and was a super kid-friendly way to spend a morning in the Coachella Valley!

So just when you thought the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs were for music loving hipsters and retirees, think again! This area is so much fun to explore as a family with kids. Do you have other family-friendly favorites in the Coachella Valley? Let us know about them in the comments below so we can check them out next time we’re in Palm Springs!