15 Best Things to Do in Palm Desert (CA)

Palm Desert is a city with an estimated population of 50,000 situated in the Coachella Valley area of Riverside County.

The city is known for its year-round hot weather and is a popular retreat for visitors seeking refuge from the cold winter back home.

In Palm Desert, there are many parks, golf courses, boutique shops, art galleries, entertainment venues, and restaurants. As you walk around the city, you’ll see beautiful public art along roads and walkways.

Several festivals and events take place in Palm Desert throughout the year, including the Desert ARC Italian Festival, the Greek Festival, The Armenian Festival, CanadaFest, and the Scottish Festival.

Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Palm Desert, California.

1. Visit Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum HouseSource: Ron of the Desert / Flickr | CC BY-ND
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum House

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is a historical home that was built in the early 1940s by Cabot Yerxa. At four stories high, and featuring 35 rooms, the home was still not complete in 1965 when Yerxa passed away.

The exterior of this large property is a captivating example of the Pueblo revival design. It was built using various items found in the natural desert surroundings.

Inside the home are exhibits and galleries filled with art and artefacts related to the life and times of the family who once lived there.

2. Kick Back in Civic Center Park

Civic Center Park, Palm DesertSource: Kamil Zelezik / shutterstock
Civic Center Park

At 70 acres, Civic Center Park is the biggest community park in Palm Desert. Everything you need for a relaxing or active day outside is on-site, including an open grassy area, picnic areas, a playground, and restrooms.

There are walking trails around the park and, as you explore the area, you’ll also find a rose garden and public art. The amphitheatre is where many events, such as concerts, take place throughout the year.

Baseball fields, tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts are also on-site.

3. Fly High Over Palm Desert with Balloons Above

Hot Air Balloons over the Coachella ValleySource: Tyler W. Stipp / shutterstock
Hot Air Balloons over the Coachella Valley

There are many ways to experience Palm Desert and its surrounding area but the most unique and exciting way is from the air.

For over 40 years, Balloons Above has been flying visitors high up above the city and surrounding Coachella Valley in hot air balloons.

A hot air balloon experience is much different from a helicopter or plane experience because there are no engine or propeller sounds and you have a 360-degree view.

As you soar across the sky, you’ll see stunning desert landscapes and sprawling cities. Sunset flights are also available.

4. Spend a Day Golfing at Desert Willow Golf Resort

GolfSource: Kati Finell / shutterstock
Golf

At Desert Willow Golf Resort, you don’t just have access to one award-winning 18-hole course, you have access to two top golf courses considered to be the best in the region.

The Firecliff Course is the one to play if you’re up for a challenge. It features a range of hazards and water features that are sure to keep your game interesting.

The Mountain View Course is a more laid-back and smoother course with a few challenges along the way.

Several restaurants and bars are on-site serving a range of food and beverages. Outdoor dining is available.

5. Enjoy Seafood in the Desert at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

Pacifica Seafood RestaurantSource: Pacifica Seafood Restaurant / Facebook
Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

Pacifica Seafood Restaurant is one of the top seafood eateries in Palm Desert. This cozy and friendly restaurant serves fresh, delicious seafood in a beautiful setting.

The menu features a wide variety of items, including appetizers, salads and entrees. Highlights are the sugar-spiced salmon, Chilean sea bass, shrimp scampi pasta and filet mignon. Outdoor dining is available on the patio with views of the nearby mountains.

A bar is also on-site and happy hour takes place daily. A wide selection of vodkas, wines, and handcrafted cocktails are available.

6. Spend a Day in Nature at the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

Thousand Palms Oasis PreserveSource: sbedaux / shutterstock
Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is a pristine 20,000-acre wilderness area in Coachella Valley, about 20 minutes away from Palm Desert.

This fascinating desert nature area features picnic areas and a series of hiking trails. You may or may not spot some wildlife, but stunning landscapes and unique plant life are a given.

Basic services are available at the visitors centre and themed guided hikes are offered on certain days of the week.

7. Admire Beautiful Art at the Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Art MuseumSource: duckeesue / shutterstock
Palm Springs Art Museum

At the Palm Springs Art Museum, you can browse a vast collection of artworks from around the world.

Some of the types of art you’ll see in the exhibits include Native American Art, Western American art, and a vast assortment of paintings and sculptures from various periods and locations.

Guided tours are available and the museum also hosts live performances throughout the year.

8. Hike the Bump and Grind Trail

Bump and Grind TrailSource: Karen Gaabucayan / shutterstock
Bump and Grind Trail

You may hear it called by many names around Palm Desert, but no matter what it’s called, there’s no denying the fact that the Bump and Grind Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the region.

If you’re seeking a fun and challenging way to sneak a workout into your vacation, this 4-mile loop trail climbs to an elevation of around 1,000 feet.

Along the way, you’ll see pretty wildflowers, as well as stunning views of Palm Desert and the surrounding area. You’ll also possibly spot some of the wild animals that live in the area.

9. Check out the Palm Desert Certified Farmers’ Market

Flowers at the Farmers MarketSource: Swami Stream / Flickr | CC BY
Flowers at the Farmers Market

The Palm Desert Certified Farmers’ Market takes place once a week throughout the year and features a wide assortment of fresh, local fruits, and vegetables.

Other items you’ll find at this market include flowers, pastries, herbs, cheese, nuts, olive oil, honey, eggs, handcrafted soap, and baked sweet treats.

As you browse the market, you can enjoy the sounds of live local music being performed in the background.

10. Take a Mini Road Trip Along the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

Palms to Pines Scenic BywaySource: Ritu Manoj Jethani / shutterstock
Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

Stunning scenery is not uncommon for Palm Desert, but to see the best of the area drive along the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway.

This windy 67-mile scenic route starts in the desert landscape just outside Palm Desert and ends in the snow-peaked mountains at Banning Pass. Along the way, you’ll pass through vastly different ecosystems and landscapes.

Although services and man-made attractions are limited along this road, the scenery more than makes up for it.

11. Sample Local Spirits at Desert Distilling

DistillerySource: Fotos593 / shutterstock
Distillery

Desert Distilling is a Palm Desert distillery handcrafting fine rum, gin, and other spirits daily. These top-quality spirits can be sampled in the on-site tasting room on certain days of the week.

Tours of the distillery are also offered and bottled spirits are available to purchase.

12. Learn About Desert Life at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Living Desert Zoo and GardensSource: Simone Hogan / shutterstock
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

A desert is an intriguing place filled with unique plants, wildlife and diverse ecosystems. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is where you’ll learn about desert life from around the world.

This zoo and botanical garden showcase a wide variety of plant and animal species that are native to the Earth’s deserts.

As you explore the facility, you’ll see wolves, giraffes, badgers, leopards, zebras, camels, and many other species.

The garden focuses on cactus and palms. A butterfly garden is also on-site and there are several interactive attractions, including nature trails and a petting zoo.

13. Take an Excursion with Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours

Desert AdventuresSource: Inspired By Maps / shutterstock
Desert Adventures

Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours is a local tour company that’ll take you on an unforgettable excursion in the landscape surrounding Palm Desert.

A variety of tours are offered, including tours of Painted Canyon, Mecca Hills Wilderness Area, and Palm Springs Indian Canyons.

The company also has an 800-acre range where you can participate in activities, including hiking, sightseeing, and wagon rides.

14. Cool Off at Palm Desert Aquatic Center

Swimming PoolSource: Roman Samborskyi / shutterstock
Swimming Pool

It gets very hot in Palm Desert, so residents and visitors alike head to the Desert Aquatic Center when the temperatures soar.

This water park is open all year round and features a wide range of attractions suitable for all ages.

On-site, there are spray areas, three swimming pools with water slides, and many play features. Exercise classes are offered at certain times.

15. Sample local Craft Beers at the Coachella Valley Brewing Company

Coachella Valley Brewing CompanySource: Coachella Valley Brewing Co. / Facebook
Coachella Valley Brewing Company

At Coachella Valley Brewing Company in nearby Thousand Palms, you’ll have the chance to sample delicious, local brews made right on-site. You’ll also have the chance to see how those brews are made.

Tours of the brewery are offered on certain days of the week. The craft beers produced at this brewery are all made with local ingredients. More than 20 different types can be sampled in the taproom, along with a variety of delicious appetizers.

 

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Palm Desert, California (CA)
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15 Best Things to Do in Palm Desert (CA):

  • Visit Cabot's Pueblo Museum
  • Kick Back in Civic Center Park
  • Fly High Over Palm Desert with Balloons Above
  • Spend a Day Golfing at Desert Willow Golf Resort
  • Enjoy Seafood in the Desert at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant
  • Spend a Day in Nature at the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve
  • Admire Beautiful Art at the Palm Springs Art Museum
  • Hike the Bump and Grind Trail
  • Check out the Palm Desert Certified Farmers' Market
  • Take a Mini Road Trip Along the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway
  • Sample Local Spirits at Desert Distilling
  • Learn About Desert Life at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
  • Take an Excursion with Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours
  • Cool Off at Palm Desert Aquatic Center
  • Sample local Craft Beers at the Coachella Valley Brewing Company