Palm Springs sits like an oasis in the desert of Southern California. Its proximity to Los Angeles has made it a go-to escape and retreat for decades, including for well-known Hollywood celebrities whose homes are on tour maps and whose names line the streets of the greater Palm Springs area. But, you don’t have to have a Screen Actors Guild card to enjoy Palms Springs with kids. This desert retreat welcomes everyone, including families, and there are myriad city gems for families to explore.
Where to EAT
Palm Springs has some great family-run, independent restaurants that offer a welcome change from franchises and fast food. El Gallito is an historic Mexican eatery that has been a local Palm Springs favorite for 36 years. They offer an extensive menu of delicious specialties that your family already loves, like burrito especial, beef or chicken tacos, quesadillas, chips with salsa and yummy guacamole. The line-up out the door attests to the tasty food, great service and comfortable atmosphere of this super family-friendly restaurant.
Blu Ember is an upscale, family-friendly restaurant at the Rancho Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage. Make reservations to ensure a seat on their large outdoor patio and enjoy a delicious, if pricey, selection of excellent cuisine featuring local ingredients like dates and beets.
In old Palm Springs, Birba is all the buzz for an Italian pizza dinner. They have a wide selection of thin crust, wood fired pizzas, as well as salads and pastas. It is a very busy restaurant, so reservations are highly recommended.
Where to PLAY
Just south of old Palm Springs sits the expansive Indian Canyons conservation area. There are a variety of walking, hiking, cycling and horseback riding trails for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. We chose the two-mile loop hike in Andreas Canyon, just past the entrance gate into the conservation area. The hike was a fairly level pathway, with some small elevations from the creek bed into the hillside, but nothing too strenuous. Arrive early in the morning to enjoy cooler temperatures before the desert canyon heats up during the day. The hiking trail in Andreas Canyon is in partial shade from the many fan palms that our unique to this area. Stop to admire the rock formations along the creek bed. Their unique colors and shapes represent a geological journey through time that is interesting to rock fans. Hike safely: Don’t forget to pack along some water and a hat in this dry desert environment.
The Palm Springs Air Museum is a must for any aviation fan or military history buff… or simply for your little airplane enthusiast. The large museum is staffed by knowledgeable Air Force veterans and is divided into a Pacific and European Theatre, showcasing World War II history and battles. The indoor plane collection is extensive, and the outdoor planes date from the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Take time to enjoy the informative history displays and don’t by shy of asking questions — the volunteers love to share their incredible military and aviation knowledge.
For incredible views of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, ride up the Palms Springs Tramway, just 30 minutes from the city. The rotating gondola takes just 10 minutes to travel to 8500 feet at Mount San Jacinto State Park. Pack a jacket as the temperature will be much cooler than in the valley! The Tramway station has restaurants, facilities, and a state park nature interpretation display. The 1-1/2 mile Desert Trail is an easy loop hike (it’s stroller friendly) with five lookout points, called notches. They offer beautiful views of the valley and the mountains, and even the San Andreas fault.
Where to SHOP
To the east of old Palms Springs, in the town of Indio, is the Shields Date Garden. Growing and selling dates since 1924, this date farm offers tours of its extensive grounds, date tastings, date movies in its vintage theater, and a store selling every kind of date you can imagine. Don’t leave without trying their famous date shakes made with date sugar crystals. They’re very sweet but very delicious!
To the west of Palms Springs sits the enormous Desert Hills Outlet Mall, part of the Simon Premium Outlets family. This outdoor shopping mecca has many high-end fashion labels, including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Prada and Saks Fifth Avenue, along with trendy and popular shops such as Forever 21 and Polo Ralph Lauren. If you’re a shopper, you’ll probably want to plan at least a half-day visit.
Where to STAY
Palm Springs is filled with beauty and history. The Waldorf Astoria property of La Quinta Resort & Club dates back to 1926. It was built as a refuge for Hollywood celebrities to escape and relax in the desert and the guest list has hosted the best of Hollywood history from Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich to Greta Garbo and Errol Flynn. La Quinta Resort remains a very popular destination for film stars and discerning guests of more humble stature, with or without family in tow. The property boasts 41 pools, private haciendas, villas, fitness facilities, a kids club and professional tennis courts that host celebrity and charity tournaments year round. Enjoy breakfast of fresh fruit or eggs benedict at Twenty 6 Cafe and a gourmet dinner of surf and turf at Morgan’s in the Desert.
Rancho Mirage is centrally located in the greater Palm Springs area, and home to many family-friendly hotels. The Hilton Garden Inn has spacious rooms, comfort adjustable beds, in-room Keurig coffee machines and a lovely pool area surrounded by palm trees and fragrant flowering jasmine. The hotel is close to restaurants, shopping and tourist amenities, including the impressive mid-century Sunnylands estate of the Annenberg family. Book tickets in advance to tour Sunnylands, as it is a very popular destination.
Upscale, mid-century modern chic comes with cute valet car service and posh surroundings at this boutique hotel property in Palm Springs. Tucked away behind high walls and lush landscaping, The Parker offers luxury, privacy and full modern amenities on its 13 acres. The property includes two pools — one for kids and the other for adults only — tennis courts and a couple of swish restaurants that offer the ultimate, top drawer Palm Springs experience.
This City Gems post was contributed by Claudia of The Travelling Mom.
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