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From Hot Springs to Hollywood Glamour: The Best Things to Do in Palm Springs

In addition to its natural beauty, Palm Springs is full of stylish and quirky things to do. From the world’s first rotating tram car to drag queen brunches and outstanding street art there are so many great things to do in Palm Springs California that I think you’ll love.

I will start this slideshow with what I consider to be the five best things I did whilst in Palm Springs. I’ll then take you through some of the other options available to help you plan the best possible Palm Springs vacation.

1. Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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First opened in September 1963, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car. This means visitors receive 360 degree views over the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs.

The tram travels over two and half miles along the cliffs of the Chino Canyon and lands at Mt San Jacinto State Park at an elevation of over 8,500 feet. This means it is generally between 30 and 40 degrees cooler at the top than on the desert floor. 

2. Relax at The Spa at Sec-he

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Sec-he is located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. It is an ancient hot mineral spring that emerged from the ground over 12,000 years ago. This is how Palm Springs came to be known as Palm Springs. The spring is cared for and protected by the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians. 

A major renovation of the structures around the spring was completed in 2023 and the site is now known as the Spa at Sec-he. I have visited many spas in my time and this is one of the best. There is 73,000 square feet of space, all dedicated to relaxation and rejuvenation. Not only does the Spa at Sec-he feature the opportunity to take the ancient springs, but it also has some of the most cutting-edge spa equipment I have seen. 

3. Visit Indian Canyons 

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The Indian Canyons comprise Andreas Canyon, Murray Canyon and Palm Canyon. They sit at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains and cover around 60 miles of hiking trails. Despite Palm Springs desert climate, the canyons contain streams and lush palms. And all of this just a few miles from downtown Palm Springs.

4. Visit Palm Springs Art Museum

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Founded in 1938, this museum is one of the top tourist attractions in Palm Springs. The Palm Springs Art Museum’s main location is in the heart of downtown Palm Springs near the Marilyn Monroe statue. It houses a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions and of course the building itself is a stunning example of mid-century architecture. 

5. See the Catci at Moorten Botanical Gardens

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You really don’t want to leave the desert without experiencing at least one cactus garden. Moorten Botanical Garden is a private arboretum in South Palm Springs. It was established in 1938 and contains a huge variety of desert plants from all over the world. 

6. Enjoy the Street Art

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Art is everywhere in Palm Springs. Palm Canyon Drive contains loads of concrete benches that have been painted in various styles. Utility boxes have been converted into works of art.

7. Visit the Palm Springs Visitor’s Centre

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This iconic building by Albert Frey is instantly recognizable due to its distinct soaring roof. The Palm Springs Visitor’s Center contains everything you would expect a visitor’s center to contain. The architectural significance of the building is the key point of difference for this visitor’s center. And some public art around the center makes for nice photo backdrops.

8. Get Your Photo Taken at the Marilyn Monroe Statue

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Forever Marilyn is a 26 feet tall statue of Marilyn Monroe designed by Seward Johnson. Marilyn is rendered in the classic post from The Seven Year Itch movie, where a gust of air blows up her white dress. This stainless steel and aluminum is now probably Palm Springs’ most iconic landmark. No trip to Palm Springs is complete without a picture under or next to Forever Marilyn.

9. Walk the Palm Springs Hollywood Fame

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As you explore the heart of Palm Springs, make sure to take a walking tour along the Palm Springs Walk of Stars along Palm Canyon Drive. This celebrated sidewalk honors not only Hollywood’s finest but also notable local leaders, humanitarians, and civic icons who have made significant contributions to the growth and reputation of Palm Springs. Celebrities with stars include Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley.

10. Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center

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The Palm Springs Art Museum I mentioned earlier in this article has several locations, once of which is the Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion. The center resides in a restored mid-century modern building. It runs various educational and community programs and rotating exhibitions highlighting design elements from the 20th century to the present.

11. Go to a Drag Brunch

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If you’re looking for something different to do in Palm Springs, why not head to a Drag Brunch? Apparently, Drag Brunches are now quite popular but I went to my first one in Palm Springs at The Saguaro Hotel. 

12. Enjoy an excellent Mexican Meal at El Mirasol

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My best meal in Palm Springs was at the fantastic Mexican restaurant El Miarsol. This family owned business opened its first branch in Palm Springs in 1985. I ate at its second branch, which is inside its boutique hotel, Los Arboles. This is classic Mexican made with the freshest ingredients and was fantastic.

13. Grab a Pink Coffee at Cafe La Jeta

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The Flannery Exchange is a cute mixed-use workspace on Palm Canyon Drive that is home to the super cute Cafe La Jeta and its gorgeous pink coffee cups. Their gorgeous outdoor patio is a popular spot for locals and the good coffee and breakfast offerings keep them regulars. 

14. Tahquitz Canyon

Tahquitz Canyon
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Like the Indian Canyons I mentioned earlier in this article, Tahquitz Canyon is part of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. It is best known for its rock art and the 60 foot tall Tahquitz Waterfall. The canyon offers a 2 mile loop walk that leads visitors to this beautiful waterfall. You’ll also see plenty of native wildlife and plants along the way. 

The Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center is located at the entrance to the canyon. Find out more by watching the Legend of Tahquitz video and don’t miss the observation deck. 

The canyon is open daily from 8am to 5pm. Overnight stays are not allowed. 

NB: The trail to the falls and back will have you gain 350 feet in elevation. It is steep, has many rock steps and has little shade. There are no restroom facilities or water fountains. It is considered to be a strenuous trek.

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