Best Things to Do with Kids in Palm Springs

Great Things to Do with Kids in Palm Springs

Some of our fondest memories can be traced back to the family vacations of our youth, so when it comes to bringing the family to Palm Springs, you’ll want to treat the kids to the very best experiences the desert has to offer. Luckily, Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley offer activities to fit every child’s interest, whether they love nature, enjoy playing indoors or prefer a bit of thrill-seeking.

If your family is more of the nature-loving type, you can explore the desert by foot with a hike through the Indian Canyons. Another great option is to take a guided tour with Desert Adventures or Elite Land Tours. Elite Land Tours’ Hummers offer a comfortable, air-conditioned experience, while Desert Adventures’ open-air jeeps make you feel at one with the desert.

Or you can take family vacations to new heights with a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, where your kids can check out the desert with 360-degree views as you ride up the San Jacinto Mountains. At the top, you can take the kids for a nature walk through Mount San Jacinto State Park. If the kids are a little older and more adventurous, take to the skies with a hot air balloon ride courtesy of Balloons Above the Desert.

No matter what your kids love to do, they’ll find plenty to enjoy in Palm Springs. Check out the full list of the 10 best things to do with kids in Palm Springs below.


As the deadliest war in history, WWII forever changed the course of American and international history. Today, visitors can view the largest collection of flyable WWII planes in the world at the Palm Springs Air Museum. The kids will learn a wealth of airplane trivia and WWII history from the museum's passionate volunteers. Most of the museum's volunteers served during WWII and are eager to talk about the planes, the war and American history with little ones. Docents will happily share the stories behind each plane, such as which fighter plane was flown by Ben Affleck's character in "Pearl Harbor." In addition to its impressive plane collection from planes, the museum also has vintage cars, flight simulators, documentary screenings and an onsite cafe.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Palm Springs Air Museum boasts the world's largest collection of flyable WWII planes, a must-see for kids who love history or planes.

Marissa's expert tip: You can bring the kids to see the museum's historic planes take to the sky on holidays like Memorial Day.

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Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, but it feels like a world away. Filled with hiking trails, scenic vistas and larger-than-life rock formations, Joshua Tree is the perfect destination for families looking to get back to nature. The alien-like boulders and twisted Joshua trees make will impress the kids and make for popular photo ops, whether you decide to hike the trails with the family or simply drive through the park. The preserve is actually the result of two great deserts, the low Colorado and the high Mojave, which come together at Joshua Tree to create a 794,000-acre geological and floral wonderland. A Visitor's Center, art gallery, and cafe-deli welcome you at the park's entrance.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Joshua Tree National Park offers family-friendly hikes and incredible views your kids won't soon forget.

Marissa's expert tip: Avoid bringing the kids during the summer months, when temperatures can soar a bit too high for little ones.

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The Coachella Valley is a beautiful, peaceful sight from the air, and the picturesque landscape as seen from above is filled with vineyards, polo fields, golf courses, and orchards. Older kids can enjoy the views on a family-friendly ride. Perks of each trip include an in-flight champagne toast for parents and complimentary shuttle service from major desert resorts. You can also arrange for in-flight photos and commemorative flight certificates so the kids can have a souvenir to hang onto for years to come. Special events to celebrate birthdays and graduations can also be arranged. Host Clotaire Castanier has been flying balloons professionally since 1967.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Balloon Above the Desert offers a way for older kids to see the desert from above on an unforgettable hot air balloon ride.

Marissa's expert tip: Get in touch early to arrange a special event, such as a celebration for a birthday or graduation.

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Once a community center for the native Cahuilla people, the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons are a recreational oasis for hikers, horseback riders and nature lovers. Protected by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the area's hiking trails include Andreas Canyon, Murray Canyon and the popular Palm Canyon. Stop by the Trading Post near the entrance for a trail recommendation, a hiking map and water, if you forgot to bring it. For a relaxing experience in the canyons, pack a picnic and make a day of exploring Palm Springs in its natural state. Streams, natural palm oases and canyon formations are just a few of the natural wonders awaiting canyon visitors.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Indian Canyons are filled with hiking trails that will impress the little ones with the desert's natural beauty.

Marissa's expert tip: Opt for a guided hike with the kids. While visitors are welcome to explore the trails on their own, a guided hike with a park ranger offers trailblazers a much richer experience. Not only will your guide be able to teach you about the plants and wildlife found in the canyons, but rangers also share the folk tales and lore of the native Cahuilla people who once inhabited the land.

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Elite Land Tours

Make memories your family won't soon forget by booking an adventure with Elite Land Tours. The company offers tours to local desert attractions like the San Andreas Fault, Joshua Tree and the iconic Palm Springs windmills. The family will travel in the comfort of an air-conditioned Hummer as your guide shows you a side of Palm Springs that's largely unseen. Tour guides will teach you more than you thought possible about trees, plants, wildlife and the desert's history. Best of all, the tours are entertaining and your kids won't even realize they're learning. From tracking animal prints to scouting out archaeological finds, children and parents alike will love this hands-on experience.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Elite Land Tours offers a comfortable, air-conditioned way for the family to experience the desert's natural wonders.

Marissa's expert tip: Lighten your load: Your tour guide will provide snacks and drinks to keep the kids happy and your bags light.

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Discover the outdoors from the open bed of a red jeep on a Desert Adventures tour. The tour company specializes in eco tours of the Coachella Valley, including tours of Joshua Tree National Park, the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons, Mecca Hills and the San Andreas Fault Line. Many of the guides have been with the company for years and know the desert's wildlife, environment and history better than most locals. The fault line tours are always a popular choice for visitors, offering a rare glimpse into the heart of the San Andreas Fault. Desert Adventures has exclusive access to parts of the fault line through Metate Ranch, a 840-acre site that includes a recreated Cahuilla village and mining camp.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Desert Adventures offers family-friendly ecotours of the Indian Canyons, San Andreas Fault and Joshua Tree.

Marissa's expert tip: For a little variety, opt for one of Desert Adventure's night tours. As the sun sets, you'll be treated to a tour of a natural palm oasis and the fault's slotted canyons. After dark, your tour guide will lead you through a stargazing session at Metate Ranch's recreated mining town.

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Knott's Soak City Water Park Palm Springs

With 360 days of sunshine in Palm Springs each year, it's no wonder locals and tourists alike have flocked to Knott's Soak City to beat the heat since 2001. This 16-acre water park is generally open from March through October and offers 20 water attractions, including more than a dozen water slides, a 600-foot lazy river and an 800,000 gallon wave pool, a popular spot for children and adults alike. Plenty of food and drink options are available onsite, including Hodad's, which serves theme park classics like hamburgers and chicken strips, and the All American Dog House, which serves hot dogs, turkey dogs and footlongs.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Knott's Soak City Water Park Palm Springs is a family favorite for keeping the kids cool in the desert.

Marissa's expert tip: Bringing the family? Grab a few lounge chairs near the wave pool or rent a private cabana for the day. Looking for a more adult pool party? Head to the Big Island Yacht Club, a special poolside section serving alcoholic drinks for guests 21 and older.

Read more about Knott's Soak City Water Park Palm Springs →

There's no better way to view the Coachella Valley than from above. Don't settle for the view from your airplane window, though. For the best views of the desert, round up the kids and take a cable car into the mountains at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. A 12.5 minute ride in the world's largest rotating aerial tramway will offer 360-degree views of the greater Palm Springs area as you climb two-and-a-half miles to Mountain Station in Mount San Jacinto State Park. Once you get to the top of the tram, enjoy nature walks, hikes or a meal overlooking the Coachella Valley at Peaks Restaurant. In the winter, leave the hiking gear at home and pack your scarves and mittens to play in the snow.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway wows kids with 360-degree views of the desert and the nature walks waiting at the top.

Marissa's expert tip: Plan your trip to the tramway in the afternoon, if possible. You'll escape to cooler temperatures during the hottest time of the day and catch the best evening views of the desert from the top of the tram.

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Have your kids ever wondered what a roadrunner and coyote really look like? At The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, you can meet the real life inspiration for these desert-dwelling "Looney Tunes" characters. This Palm Desert zoo focuses on educating visitors about animals from deserts in North America and Africa, including giraffes, warthogs, jaguars and bighorn sheep, to name a few. The Living Desert also has a number of gardens showcasing the various cacti and other plants native to the desert. Hikers, be sure to bring your gear. The Living Desert has 1,080 acres of undisturbed desert land and a number of nature trails through the preserve are open seasonally to the public.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Living Desert hosts kid-friendly ways for the little ones to learn about the desert's native wildlife.

Marissa's expert tip: Arrive early in the day, if possible. Not only will temperatures be cooler and the wildlife more active, but the kids can also watch animals undergo annual exams and surgery at the Marilyn and Bill Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center.

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Whether you need a place to set your inner child loose or let your actual children play, the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert has more than 50 hands-on activities to peak your curiosity and keep the entire family entertained for hours. Exhibits are grouped by theme, such as science, physical activities, how things work, exploration and the desert. Through fun activities like an archaeological dig, an interactive station where you can make their own animations and a pretend grocery store ready for roleplaying, children discover themselves, the world around them and the art of self-expression without realizing they're learning. Other hands-on activities include a miniature rock-climbing area, a magnetic sculpture wall, make-it-and-take-it-apart projects, a rope maze and a family center.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert is both entertaining and educational for the family.

Marissa's expert tip: Don't miss a chance to paint a real Volkswagen Beetle. The permanent exhibit is constantly evolving as visitors add their own creative flair, so be sure to leave your mark!

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Meet Marissa Willman

Marissa Willman moved to the Coachella Valley in 2001 and loves discovering the best that the desert has to offer. As a Palm Springs local, Marissa enjoys sharing her knowledge of this desert...  More About Marissa