Heading to the dessert in the middle of the summer, may sound, well, too hot to handle, but for those in-the-know, Greater Palm Springs (made up of 9 cities including: Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella), offers some of the best, and most fun activities around during the summer. Navigating these veritable desert towns during triple digit temperatures will take a little extra planning but grab the kids, fill up the car with all the water bottles and plan to have the same magical getaway you’d expect from this vacation spot during any other season.
Stay at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa
The Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Hotel: Finding a hotel with swimming options that can accommodate age gaps between your kids and and those of friends or family is no easy task but with 9 pools (yes, you read that right, 9!), there’s a splash-tastic experience for everyone—including the adults looking for a kid-free swim. From sprinkler-loving toddlers and little swimmers to big kids looking for some action and adventure, everyone beats the heat here. And while their newest three-story dueling waterslides may be the splashiest attraction (and is ridiculously fun), nothing beats their 450-foot lazy river. Choose a floatie (or not) and glide around the property for hours on end.
Pool Service: The towels are located by the main entrance—handy to know since you can access the pool area from multiple entrances. The chairs and loungers around the pool area all have clever flags on the back so if you are looking for a beverage or a bite to eat, simply raise the flag and a server will be right with you. If you don’t want to wait (cause the hangries do strike fast and furious), you can also grab drinks and a bite to eat from the Roadrunner Cafe. PS: The chips and dip and the flatbreads were a big hit. This is also where you’ll find 8 flavors of Dippin Dots. You’re welcome.
Good to Know: Keep those flip-flops and sandals close by as walking barefoot on the pavement is a definite no.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Miss Night Swimming: Night swimming, during the summer, has got to be the best thing ever in the desert. Plan to take advantage of the still-warm temps and cool, pool water all while you splash away under the gorgeous blanket of stars.
Good to Know: The dueling slides and lazy river are closed at night but that’s totally fine since you probably hung out in that portion of the property all day anyway.
44600 Indian Wells Ln.
Indian Wells, CA
Greater Palm Springs Activities during the Summer
When you are all pool’d out, navigating Greater Palm Springs during the summer is totally manageable—it just takes a little more planning. For those with small kids, that mid-afternoon nap is a great way to avoid the hottest part of the day. For those that skip this mid-day break, head indoors—or to the mountain tops—to some of the world’s best activities—all located near the resort.
The Palm Springs Air Museum: Home to one of the world’s largest collections of WWII aircraft (plus Korea and Vietnam), these air-conditioned hangars hold an incredible history, detailing the importance of Palm Springs’ strategic positioning for America during the war. Even if planes aren’t your thing, little ones will love climbing in and touring these magnificent machines, and we can all but guarantee you’ll find yourself in front of the many television that feature actual footage of life during WWII.
Good to Know: Want to experience what it’s like to fly in an actual WWII plane? Book a warbird ride and see what it really feels like to soar above town in these classic aircrafts. Prices start at $125 and go up from there. During the summer, flights are between 8-10 a.m. but the rest of the year, flights take off between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
745 North Gene Autry Trail
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: The world’s largest rotating tram car, this unique form of transportation travels over 2.5 miles over the cliffs of Chino Canyon and delivers passengers to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. But in case you missed the adjective “rotating,” know that, in addition to climbing 5,873 feet in just 10 minutes, the tram actually spins in a circle, giving everyone in the tram car a great view of the valley below.
Once you’ve arrived, expect much cooler temperatures! The day we were there, Palm Springs was clocking in at 107 degrees and at the top of the mountain, it was a cool 66. Take advantage of the mild weather and hike around the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. There’s a hike for every level but these two are worth noting:
Long Valley Discovery Trail: Best for little kids, this 3/4 mile loop trail details the areas plants and animals with nature trail posts. Keep an eye out sun-bathing lizards!
San Jacinto Peak: For those looking for something more adventurous, this 5.5 mile hike one way takes you to the second highest point in southern California. If you’re there on a clear day, you may even be able to see Catalina Island or the glow from Las Vegas at night.
Good to Know: There are two restaurants at the top—Pines Cafe has grab ‘n go foods such as pre-packaged sandwiches, pizza slices and chicken nuggets. Peaks Restaurant is more formal dining (although they do have a kid’s menu) but reservations are recommended.
1 Tram Way
Palm Springs, CA
The Living Desert: This iconic spot—featuring over 500 animals—always has something new happening—and is celebrating 50 years of desert conservancy, environmental advocate and a go-to educational institution! One of the best parts for parents though (besides the animals of course) is that this spot opens at 7 a.m.—meaning not only can early risers take advantage, so can those looking for something to do in the morning but don’t want to get overly heated or exhausted from the mid-day sun.
For summer time touring, make sure to visit the newest exhibit: Australian Adventures—where you can walk among real wallabees and the newly opened 4-acre Rhino Savanna—where 12 African species, including the Zoo’s largest animals—two black rhinos named Nia and Jaali all live, eat and play.
Good to Know: The zoo closes at 1:30 p.m. during the summer.
47900 Portola Ave.
Palm Desert, CA
Free Things to Do in Palm Springs
Thurs. Nights in Downtown Palm Springs: If you’re in the area on a Thurs. evening between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., one of the most fun things to do in downtown Palm Springs is to walk through the pedestrian street fair, aka, the Palm Springs Village Fest. Featuring over 180 vendors, Palm Canyon Dr. is closed to car traffic so pedestrians (and their dogs) can roam the streets, enjoy live music, crafts, food and more—all under the cool evening sky. It’s fun, it’s jovial and a great excuse to hit up some gift shops (hello crystals! hello vacation t-shirts!) and of course, scoop up some ice cream. PS: This is, by far, one of our favorite free things to do in Palm Springs.
Hours: Every Thurs.; 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
Palm Canyon Dr.
Go on a Sculpture Hunt: Public art in Greater Palm Springs is prevalent and accessible any time—day or night. A great way to beat the heat and take advantage of car naps. Drive around town while you bask in your car’s AC and see how many Instagram-worthy murals and outdoor art pieces you can spot. The full list of drive-worthy sculptures can be found on the Greater Palm Springs website.
Visit Greater Palm Springs for the latest information about local events, activities and more.
Where to Eat with Kids in Palm Springs
The food scene in and around Greater Palm Springs just keeps getting better and better. We’re happy to report these restaurants on now on our must-dine list when we return:
Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewery: Expect classic baby-back and St. Louis ribs, made from scratch, that deliver on taste as well as fill-you-to-the-brim portions. Other classics like the cornbread, onion rings (perfectly crisp and not a soggy onion in sight) and mac ‘n cheese were family favorites while the kid’s burger was touted as, “One of the best I’ve ever had.”
71800 Hwy 111, Suite A-176
Rancho Mirage, CA
LuLu California Bistro: Open since 2011, this pioneer dining spot offers fresh California cuisine in a fun, vibrant setting. From strawberry salads to ahi poke wraps, expect fresh, make-you-feel-good entrees along with a kid-friendly kid’s menu for those pickier eaters.
Insider Tip: This is the spot to go if you’re in town on a Thurs.—eat here for dinner and then head outside and walk through the Palm Springs Village Fest that sets up right outside along Palm Canyon Dr. And if you’re feeling extra generous dessert-wise, order the giant-size hand spun cotton candy for the table before you go—it’s a sight to see.
200 S. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA
J’s Deli: A quintessential Eastern European Jewish Deli, this is the place to go to get your nosh on, morning, noon and night. We love the modern atmosphere coupled with tried-and-true favorites like Challah French Toast, cheese blintzes and lox with latkes. Also, if you’re looking for something (slightly) lighter, the egg sandwich with cheddar on a croissant absolutely hit the spot.
Insider Tip: Download the Summer Eats Pass—a mobile passport of sorts that gives you access to dining discounts, special menus and more. Click the Pass link on your phone and check-in at the restaurant—your visit will count towards a weekly prize drawing and redeem any available discounts. PS: You’ll need to turn on your phone’s geo location services in order to check-in.
This trip was sponsored by Greater Palm Springs but all opinions and photos (unless otherwise noted) are from the writer.