Your Ultimate Guide to Palm Springs with Kids

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Editor’s Note: For the latest health information about traveling to Palm Springs, check out the Riverside County website.

Palm Springs with kids is always a good idea because there is so much going on it’s impossible to get bored—you can visit the animals at The Living Zoo, go for a hike around Joshua Tree, take an exhilarating ride up the Aerial Tramway, not to mention all the swimming! So whether you are taking a quick weekend trip from LA with the family or planning a longer stay (hey there digital nomads!), use our handy guide to plan your next epic family-friendly Palm Springs vacation. We’ve got everything you need to know about what’s open, including all the best places to eat, play and stay in the Palm Springs area.

Where to Stay in Palm Springs & Palm Desert

JW Marriott in Palm Desert

This sprawling resort is the kind of spot that is perfect for multi-generational stays thanks to fantastic amenities that appeal to everyone in the family. Of course there's the well-known spa and golf courses, but kids will love the recent addition of California's largest indoor "Entertainment Zone" full of arcade games and a bowling alley—a must-go option when the heat gets to be a bit much.

Don't miss feeding the flamingos on the front lawn (look for the babies!) or swing by the free-to-enter aviary where parrots and other tropical birds happily chirp (and sometimes talk). Reserve a gondola ride around the property and then disembark at Mikado—a Japanese steakhouse that serves mouth-watering food along with a side of fun and flying shrimp. At night, you can hang out in the lobby for cocktails and listen to live music. And, do not, we repeat, do not miss out on night swimming. The whole family will love splashing around under the night sky full of stars. There's so much happening on site, that there's really no reason to leave the property if you don't want to—delivering a perfect family vacation whether it's just for the weekend or for a bit longer.

Insider Tip: Ask for a major suite—you can connect additional rooms which makes it convenient if coming with a larger group.

74-855 Country Club Dr.
Palm Desert, CA
Online: marriott.com/desertsprings

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa

Nestled on 45 acres of lush landscape with epic mountain views, splash-loving kids will go gaga over HyTides, the Hyatt Regency's brand new water park with 30-foot dueling water slides, lazy river and splash pad. For kids that don't meet the water slide requirement, there's another water slide just for them! With plenty of dining options, a spa and tennis courts for the parents, this spot has the foundation for an epic weekend (or even longer) stay.

Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs

The hotel's first west coast location, Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs marries the mid-century Palm Springs aesthetic with Margaritaville’s casual-luxe island feel. There are two pools on the property, two restaurants and bars and boasts the area's largest resort spa (when you are ready for some kid-free time). It's also located within minutes of downtown, placing you and your family in the middle of the town's action.

1600 North Indian Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs
Online: margaritavilleresorts.com/margaritaville-resort-palm-springs

 

La Quinta Resort & Spa

Located just south of Indian Wells, this is one of the biggest and most family-friendly resorts around with cabanas, poolside food, and beverage service. Everyone will love the 41 pools and 53 hot spas, as well as the 5 resort golf courses designed by PGA biggies like Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, and Greg Norman. This secluded resort is not only family-friendly but it’s also pet-friendly with activities to enhance your pet’s stay as well. Want to know more? We've got the inside scoop on why kids and adults love this resort.

49-499 Eisenhower Dr.
La Quinta, CA
Online: laquintaresort.com

Renaissance Esmerelda Resort & Spa

With the largest pool in the Palm Springs area, this resort has families in mind. The zero-entry pool and sandy beach is awesome for the little ones while the wide expanse of the rest of the pool means the bigger kids have the freedom to swim until they are exhausted.

Prepare for great eats at Sirocco Pizza Company, making fireside s'mores treats by the outdoor fire pits, lots of ping pong tournaments and of course, comfy and generously-sized accommodations. Plus there's a kid's club for some parental downtime. Check out more reasons to stay at this family-friendly resort near Palm Springs.

44-400 Indian Wells Ln.
Indian Wells, CA
Online: renhotels.com

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage

One word: Splashtopia. Sounds awesome, right? And it is. This knock-your-socks-off water feature, nearly two acres big, has two 100-foot water slides, a 425-foot lazy river, a jacuzzi with cliff views and a sandy beach. You can spend all day, every day here—just order food from Splash Grill and you’re good to go.

If little eaters would prefer something more familiar, check out the River complex shopping and dining complex across the street that has restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s. Also, there’s a movie theater in case you want to catch a flick after a day of fun in the sun.

41000 Bob Hope Dr.
Rancho Mirage, CA
Online: rancholaspalmas.com

The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa

Come for the mountain views or the fantastic golf courses, or just to unwind with your family (pets included!). Enjoy 3 pools, including a 75-foot water slide, play some tennis (they offer kids lessons), rent a bike or de-stress with a relaxing spa treatment. 

71333 Dinah Shore Dr.
Rancho Mirage, CA
Online: westinmissionhills.com

ACE Hotel & Swim Club

For an ultra-hip stay, this resort is both boho-chic and kid-friendly, in that artsy, "I woke up like this" sort of way. Bring some marshmallows to roast on the outdoor fireplaces, play with your pooch in the dog park out back, or take the kids for a short bike ride downtown for some vintage clothes shopping and plan to rock your retro finds poolside.

701 E. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA
Online: acehotel.com/palmsprings

Airbnb Stays

Vista Las Palmas

The ultimate family-friendly rental in Palm Springs, this four-bedroom Airbnb has it all and more. Comprised of a 3BR main house and a detached studio (perfect if you're taking a trip with extended family or friends) this rental is only a four-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs. Kick back in the poolside cabanas while burgers sizzle on the gas grill, then dine alfresco at a covered table for eight. Additional features include a badminton court, a shuffleboard court, an outdoor billiards table, an outdoor shower, and a sleek gas fire feature. A 5-hole putting green adds to the fun. A misting system delivers cool refreshment. Kids of all ages will delight in this weekend's getaway. 

Sleeps: 8 guests (4 bedrooms. 6 beds, 4 baths)

Cost: $462/night

Earthy Modernist Rental

Want to avoid hotels? Palm Springs has plenty of short-term rentals and this is home one of favorites. The fully renovated 1960s pad has 4 bedrooms, 5 baths, and room enough for 10 guests. The decor is modern, yet warm with a whimsical bedroom featuring two twin beds for kids. There's also a pool and fire pit for outside fun.

Online: airbnb.com/rooms/plus/2368085

Airy Estate Rental

Another Airbnb option, this 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom home is a bright and cheery retreat with a large pool, BBQ area and bocce ball court. Added bonus: There's an indoor rec room featuring a ping pong table and gaming console that kids will love.

Online: airbnb.com/rooms/plus/27507559

Fun Things to Do Near Palm Springs

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

For an up-close look at some real desert critters, this zoo plus botanical garden focuses on wildlife from North America and Africa. You can tour exhibits like a replica of a Northeast African village and get personal with some Nigerian dwarf goats.

Catch some knowledgeable animal chats, feed the giraffes, ride the endangered animal carousel, and explore the vast array of trails that loop through the Sonoran Desert (FYI: the trails are closed in the summer). And finally, plan to spend at least 30 minutes checking out one of the best outdoor G-scale model train exhibits we've ever seen.

Good to Know: Arrive early, when it’s still cool out, you’re likely to catch more animals in action (they prefer to lounge around when the sun’s high in the sky) except for nocturnal animals like the big cats, who tend to come out closer to sunset. When it gets hot, head to the air-conditioned Discovery Center.

COVID-19 Update: The zoo is open. Tickets must be purchased-in-advance (can be purchased up to 2 weeks ahead of time). Physical distancing encouraged while on zoo grounds.

Hours: Oct.-May 31, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Jun.-Sept 30, 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Cost: Adults, $28, children, $18, kids under 3 are free

47900 Portola Ave.
Palm Desert, CA
Online: livingdesert.org

RELATED: Animal Encounters near LA for Kids Wild about Animals

Cabazon Dinosaur Museum

This roadside attraction is impossible to miss on your way into Palm Springs, but we recommend reserving this stop for when you are on your way out of town, headed back to Los Angeles. Touted as the world’s biggest dinosaur museum, you can check out giant robotic dinosaurs (don’t worry, they’re more kitschy than terrifying) for a fee. Let the little ones climb into the mouth of a huge model T-Rex (now in themed paint-suits!), ride the animatronic Brontosaurus, and then search through the sand at the Dino Dig to win a prize.

Good to Know: Stop by on a Sat. or Sun. between 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., to score a dinosaur-themed ice cream treat from the The Wafflesaurus Truck.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: Adults, $13; children, 3-12 $11; under 2 are free

50770 Seminole Dr.
Cabazon, CA
Online: cabazondinosaurs.com

RELATED: Dinosaur Bucket List for Kids Who Love These Ancient Beasts

Joshua Tree National Park

The twisty tree shapes, Cholla cactus forests, and blobby boulders in Joshua Tree make wonderful Dr. Suess-style memories for your kids. For a quick day trip, stick to the exhibitions along the main roads. Don't want to hike it alone? Join one of their guided hike tours.

Good to Know: There are a couple entrances into the park, but if you are looking for the easiest hike with the kids (.25 mile loop), head to the southernmost entry point near Cottonwood Visitor Center. Check the weather, bring hats, sunblock and more water and food and snacks then you'll think you'll need.

Check out their "Current Conditions" page for closures as well as their calendar page where you can catch a "Ranger Chat" for an in-depth expert view of what happens in this national park.

Joshua Tree Visitor Center
6554 Park Blvd.
Joshua Tree, CA
Online: nps.org/joshuatree

RELATED: More National Parks to Visit near Los Angeles

Footgolf

That's not a typo—footgolf is a thing and almost any age can play making this a must-do for a family-friendly activity in Palm Springs. Rather than swing a club, you kick around a soccer ball and try and make it into the 21"-sized holes. It's golf crossed with soccer if you will. You can rent soccer balls on site (no need to bring your own) as well as a golf cart—which let's face it, is half the fun for the little ones.

38995 Desert Willow Dr.
Palm Desert
Online: desertwillow.com/-footgolf

Windmill Tour

You've seen that giant windmill farm in the Coachella Valley, en route to Palm Springs plenty of times, but how much do you really know about the iconic site? For $49 per car (up to five people) you can take a self-guided driving tour and learn how windmills work, why there are so many in the desert, and how much electricity they produce. The tour consists of 10 stops, with two additional (optional) stops off property.

62950 20th Ave.
Palm Springs
Online: windmilltours.com

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Even pool-obsessed kids can sometimes have enough sunny splash time. Try a favorite, midday break with a change of scenery and climate. This tramway, built in the 60s, will take you and yours 2.5 miles above the desert floor into the San Jacinto mountains and the snowy wilderness awaiting at the top. Kids will love the rotating tram, which guarantees spectacular views no matter where you’re seated. There are dining options at the top so don't worry if your brood gets hungry.

If there is snow, you can have a snowball fight, go sledding, snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing before descending back to the balmy poolside oasis of your hotel. (Check out our aerial tram guide for the tricks of a perfect trip). Even when it's not snowy, it's a lot cooler at the top, and fun for kids to explore the hiking and walking trails, and take in the jaw-dropping views.

Altitude sickness can occur so pay attention to your body, drink lots of water and if you or your kids are afraid of heights, this may not be the experience for you. It's not for the faint of heart but totally worth it once you get to the top. 

Good to Know: Since the tram will accommodate fewer guests due to COVID protocols, buy your tickets well in advance to gurantee your spot.

Cost: Adults, $28; kids, 3-10, $17
Hours: Cars depart every half hour, Mon.-Thur. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (last tram down is at 8 p.m.); Fri.-Sun. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. (last tram down is at 9 p.m.)

1 Tram Way
Palm Springs, CA
Online: pstramway.com

Palm Desert Aquatic Center

If your kids get tired of the hotel pool or you've rented a place without a spot to splash, head over to the Palm Desert Aquatic Center where non-residents can take advantage of the various pools, multiple slides, diving boards, and a variety of play features on site that are designed to delight water lovers of all ages.

Hours: The splash playground, diving board & slides are closed for the season and will reopen in Jun.
Cost: Adults $6; kids, (6-12) $4.50; kids (2-5) $3.75

73751 Magnesia Falls Drive
Palm Desert
Online: pdpool.com

Expected to Reopen 2022: Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert

While the museum has been forced to close due to the pandemic-related challenges, the plan is to reopen the museum in 2022 through community support and fundraising efforts. Keep your eye on the developments as this is a gem of a spot for kids, especially when it's too hot to stay outside. If you'd like to donate and support this valley institution, visit cdmod.org

 

Where to Eat in Palm Springs with Kids

Elmer’s Restaurant

Go here first thing in the morning fo an authentic diner that delivers a fantastic breakfast. The coffee is strong and the pancakes are fluffy (the kid's Cub Cake is too cute!). Go early since lines can form out the door but lollipops are handed out with a smile for all. If you can stand the wait, get the German Pancake. There’s a reason everyone raves about them.

1030 E. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA
Online: eatatelmers.com

Sherman’s Deli

Big breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, both kosher (and not) can be found at both Sherman’s Deli locations. Try the hot corned beef (it's famous for a reason). And save room for one of the beautiful desserts in the display case.

401 E Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA
Online: shermansdeli.com

Cheeky’s

A spot to see and be seen. The mouth-watering, seasonal, made from scratch menu changes weekly as this restaurant strives to use the freshest, locally grown, organic ingredients. FYI: Expect long waits if you get there late (but totally worth it).

Hours: Thurs.-Mon. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

622 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA
Online: cheekysps.com

Smoke Tree BBQ

If the desert heat leaves you hankering for some BBQ, head to this award-winning restaurant. Dive into brisket and beer. If you’ve got non-meat-eaters or just picky kids, the mac-and-cheese is stellar. Or grab a family platter for some twilight poolside dining back at your hotel or Airbnb.

Hours: Wed.-Sat. 4 p.m.-9 p.m.

1775 E. Palm Canyon Dr #405
Palm Springs, CA
Online: smoketreebbq.com

Tyler's Burgers

A simple burger might be the best bet in the middle or at the end of a long day, so try Tyler’s Burger stand. It's popular, so go well before your crew gets hangry. 

Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

149 S. Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA
Online: tylersburgers.com

Shields Date Garden

For a uniquely Palm Springs experience, consider a stop at The Shields Date Garden (just look for the larger-than-life knight in shining armor) and The Walk at Shields—where for $5 a person (kids under 12 are free) you can stroll along a garden path that meanders through a 17 acre date farm. After, hit the gift shop to peruse dates-galore offerings like locally grown dates, date crystals (like sugar), date granola and the must-try date shakes. Feeling hungrier thanks to the walk? Grab breakfast or lunch at The Cafe at Shields, open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

80-225 US Hwy. 111
Indio, CA
Online: shieldsdategarden.com

Brandini Toffee

A sweet treat in downtown Palm Springs, not only is it the best toffee you’ll ever taste—no joke—the whole business was started by two teen friends who wanted to make money for a class trip. Great life lesson for kids, unbelievable toffee for everyone: it’s a win-win. If you want, catch the factory tour in Rancho Mirage.

Good to Know: Craving the toffee treat but not heading to the desert anytime soon? They have a retail location at the Century City Mall.  

Hours: Sun.-Thus.10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

132 S. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA
Online: brandinitoffee.com

—Elena Wurlitzer-Fenegan, Shannan Rouss & Andie Huber

feature photo: Travel the World Family 

 

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