I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of things to do in Palm Springs with kids there were! When we were looking for an “anywhere warmer than Seattle” destination to spend a few days in January we figured this would be a perfect destination. I wasn’t very familiar with the area, but with some quick research our three days in Palm Springs with kids were filled with many fun activities.
Family Friendly Things to do in Palm Springs
We had heard that the area was well known as a retirement city, but there was also a great amount of family friendly things to do in Palm Springs. Even with three days we weren’t about the see all the things to do in Palm Springs with kids. So this list will consist of things we did experience, and the things we need to come back for 😉
Our first day in the area we woke up early, had breakfast out, and drove to Joshua Tree with kids for a day of exploring. The drive from our hotel in Rancho Mirage was about an hour long. We entered at the north entrance in Twenty Nine Palms. Our plan was to start here, stop for two hikes, and exit through the south.
We parked at one of the first lots, labeled for the Hidden Valley Trail. If you haven’t been to Joshua Tree National Park with kids, or even with anyone, you are in for a treat. This park is so very unique, and the landscape is just incredible. You will mostly see GIANT piles of boulders, and tons of Joshua Trees all around you! Parking was easy and the park was mostly quiet, but we had arrived before 10 AM on a weekday. By the time we left, the parking lot was much more full.
Before we could even start our short hike, the kids spent almost 2 hours climbing around the “smaller” piles of boulders all around the parking lot. These rocks couldn’t be anymore perfect for kids to climb on and under. They are made of granite and are so rough and made for some great traction. Our girls would have been more than content climbing on the rocks all day.
We eventually started our short hike in Joshua Tree with kids. The hike was the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. This Joshua Tree hike is an all flat mile loop – which was perfect for our kids and probably easy for anyone! But of course it took us over an hour to walk it with plenty of stops for climbing and snacks! We had plans to continue on to the Barker Dam Trail when we were done with this hike, but the kids were hungry for lunch since we spent more time on the trail and climbing than we had anticipated. So when we return that will be our first stop!
TIPS: Hiking with Kids in Joshua Tree National Park
- Wear sunscreen year round – we were hiking in January, the air was cool, but the sun was incredibly strong.
- Dress in layers, and bring a hat if you are sensitive to the sun.
- Wear supportive sneakers, or hiking boots – The Best Children’s Walking Boots
- Pack snacks for the kids – and be prepared to bring out all your trash.
- Bring at least one water bottle per person.
- Have fun games ready for the hike, we like to play iSpy, or scavenger hunts as the kids love to look for fun rocks to collect.
After the hike in Joshua Tree with kids, we drove south towards the southern exit. It was much further to drive to this exit than where we had entered, but we wanted to see the rest of the park. We got to see skull rock, and the beautiful fields of Cholla Cactus on the way out of the park. This National Park was a total win for my kids, they both claimed it was their favorite as we left! So if you are looking for a new national park to visit with kids, Joshua Tree with kids is a great choice!
Located directly to the west of Palm Springs is San Jacinto Peak, with an elevation of over 10,000 feet. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will wisk you to the top of this mountain within 20 minutes on a giant gondola. And there is a pretty awesome surprise on the top of the mountain, at least when we visited in January. It was 60 degrees on the base of the mountain, and below freezing and snowing hard on the top! This was a treat for us because we love the snow! When you are at the top you can take in the amazing views (which we did), eat at one of the restaurants, or take a hike on one of the many trails. When you had enough, you hop back on the tramway and return to the base. Oh I almost forgot to tell you one of the coolest parts about this tram, the floor ROTATES! This allows you to take in a 360 degree view as your ascend and descend up San Jacinto Peak.
TIPS: Visiting the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway with Kids
- Bring something warm to put on at the top if you plan on hiking, or being outside long – it is cold!!
- Buy your tickets online in advance – we went at a quiet time, but many times in the year it can sell out.
- Bring binoculars to check out how far you can see from the top.
- Leave your fear of heights at home 😉
Indian Canyons is located right in Palm Springs. There is a small admission fee per person when you enter the park. There are a number of trails at Indian Canyons, and a few that are rated as kid friendly. We did the Andreas Canyon trail with kids, which was considered the easiest trail in this park. The trail was under 2 miles, and looped around an oasis preserve.
This hike was perfect because the sun was warm, but the half the trail was mostly shaded. Half of the loop was in the direct sun though which would be a little hot in the summer months. Our kids liked this trail a lot because they were constantly searching for lizards, and counted almost 20 that they found in all! They were also really fascinated by the idea of an oasis in the desert, and loved the big palm trees along the trail.
This park has no admission, but a donation is suggested. We found the best information on their trail system to be online, but there is also a little information hut when you enter the trail head area. We took the most popular trail to Mc Callum Pond, which was just about a flat 2 miles out and back. The trail starts in a oasis area right near the parking lot which is a swampy area, with boardwalk style paths and HUGE California Fan Palm trees all over. It was nicely shaded, but short lived.
The next section of the trail was the bulk of the walking. It was flat, and sandy and no shade was provided at all. My kids did not love this part of the trail as there just wasn’t much to see for the. It was beautiful, but not as fun for them because they were also hot in the sun. Mind you, it was 60 degrees, but the sun is relentless.
Eventually this trail leads to the Mc Callum pond, which is a beautiful oasis, also filled with California Fan Palm trees. The trail loops around the pond, and our kids enjoyed this part much better because they had a great time playing around the giant palm trees. There favorite area was the top of the pond where there were a series of benches in a circle surrounded by palm trees. This was an excellent place for a snack and a break out of the sun. I am glad we did this trail, as it was very unique compared to hikes we’ve ever done, but it wasn’t any of our favorites.
More things to do in Palm Springs with Kids
We didn’t have time to visit everything and were heavily focused on the hiking and exploring outdoors. Here are some additional Palm Springs activities for families:
- The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
- Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert
- Cabazon Dinosaurs – We did a drive by for this one because we were short on time and felt it was a bit overpriced for a quick visit.
- Red Jeep Tours
- Palm Springs Air Museum
Where we Ate in Palm Springs with Kids
This looks like your typical “diner” style breakfast joint when you pull up and park. But trust me, it is so much more than that. The food is quick, affordable, and totally amazing! My best suggestion is to make sure someone at your table orders their famous German Pancakes.
We came to La Perlita one night with no reservations and while it was busy we were seated fairly quickly! The food was delicious and the service was great!
We came here on a whim after the morning hiking. The menu had a great selection of fish – and both my husband and I ordered the fish tacos. They also had a very cheap kids’ menu which is always a win! The food was yummy, portions huge, and we were very impressed! Kicking myself for not snapping a pic of the fish tacos…
Where we Stayed in Palm Springs with Kids
We stayed at the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage. We chose this hotel for the location because it was fairly central to all we wanted to see. But we also chose it because of the pool for the kids. Honestly it was a bit cold to swim when we were there, but one pool with the slide was heated. The kids were more than content with hanging in that one pool, and must have each gone down the slide 100 times. The poolside bar was perfect too!
Visiting Palm Springs with Kids
Overall we loved the area and had a great time expanding our hiking experience with the kids. Joshua Tree with kids was a great National Park to explore in and we would love to return one day. We also had lots of things we had no time to visit – so another visit is in order 😉