15 Things to Do in Palm Desert (CA)

Palm Desert is a city of approximately 50,000 in the Coachella Valley region of Riverside County.

Known for its year-round hot weather, the city is a popular holiday destination for tourists returning home during cold winters.

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

Palm Desert hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including Desert ARC Italian, Greek, Armenian, Canadian and Scottish festivals.

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

1. Visit the Pueblo Museum in Cabot

Cabot's Pueblo Museum

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is a historic home built by Cabot Yerxa in the early 1940s. The four-story, 35-room house was still unfinished when Yerxa died in 1965.

The exterior of this large property is a fascinating example of Pueblo Revival design. It was constructed using various items found in the natural desert environment.

The house has exhibits and galleries filled with art and artifacts related to the lives and times of the families that once lived there.

2. Back to Civic Center Park

Civic Center Park, Palm Desert

The 70-acre Civic Center Park is Palm Desert’s largest community park. Everything you need for a relaxing or active day outdoors is on site, including open grass, picnic areas, playgrounds and restrooms.

There are walking trails around the park, and you’ll also find rose gardens and public art as you explore the area. The amphitheater is where many events such as concerts are held throughout the year.

There are also baseball, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts on site.

3. Fly high over the Palm Desert with a balloon

Hot air balloon over Coachella Valley

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

For more than 40 years, Balloons Above has been flying tourists over the city and around the Coachella Valley in hot air balloons.

A hot air balloon experience is very different from a helicopter or airplane experience because there are no sounds of engines or propellers, and you have a 360-degree view.

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

4. Spend a day of golf at Desert Willow Golf Resort


At Desert Willow Golf Resort, you have access to not only an award-winning 18-hole course, but two top-rated golf courses considered the best in the area.

If you’re up for the challenge, Firecliff Course is the place for you. It features an array of dangers and water features that are sure to keep your game entertained.

Mountain View Course is a more laid-back, smoother course with some challenges along the way.

There are several restaurants and bars on site, serving a variety of food and beverages. Outdoor dining is available.

5. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant Enjoy seafood in the desert

Pacific Seafood Restaurant

Pacifica Seafood Restaurant is one of Palm Desert’s top seafood restaurants. This cozy and friendly restaurant serves fresh and delicious seafood in a beautiful setting.

The menu features a variety of items including appetizers, salads and main courses. Highlights are sweetened salmon, Chilean sea bass, shrimp pasta and filet mignon. Al fresco dining is available on the patio with views of the nearby mountains.

There is also a bar on site and a happy hour is held every day. Offers a wide variety of vodkas, wines and craft cocktails.

6. Spend a day in nature at the Thousand Palms Oasis Reserve

Thousand Palms Oasis Reserve

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

This stunning desert natural area features picnic areas and a range of hiking trails. You may or may not spot some wildlife, but the stunning scenery and unique plant life are a given.

The visitor center offers basic services and themed guided walking tours on certain days of the week.

7. Admire beautiful art at the Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

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

Some of the art types you’ll see in the exhibits include Native American art, West American art, and a variety of paintings and sculptures from various periods and places.

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

8. Hiking the bumpy and grinding trails

Bump and Grind Trails

You may hear a lot of 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 area.

If you’re looking for a fun and challenging way to exercise on your vacation, this 4-mile loop climbs to about 1,000 feet.

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

9. Check out the Palm Desert Certified Farmers Market

farmers market flowers

The Palm Desert Certified Farmers Market is held weekly throughout the year and serves a variety of fresh local fruits and vegetables.

Other items you can find in this market include flowers, pastries, herbs, cheese, nuts, olive oil, honey, eggs, handmade soaps and baked desserts.

You can enjoy the sound of live local music playing in the background as you browse the market.

10. Take a mini road trip along the Palm to Pines Scenic Byway

Palm to Pine Scenic Byway

Stunning scenery is not uncommon for Palm Desert, but take the Palm-to-Pine Scenic Byway for some of the best views in the area.

This windy 67-mile scenic route begins in the desert landscape outside Palm Desert and ends in the snow-capped mountains of Banning Pass. Along the way, you will travel through vastly different ecosystems and landscapes.

While the road has limited services and man-made attractions, the scenery more than makes up for it.

11. Taste local spirits at a desert distillery


Desert Distilling is a Palm Desert distillery that handcrafts exquisite rums, gins and other spirits every day. These top spirits can be sampled in the on-site tasting room on certain days of the week.

Distillery tours are also offered, and bottled spirits can be purchased.

12. Learn about desert life at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The desert is a fascinating place full of unique flora, wildlife and diverse ecosystems. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is your place to learn about desert life around the world.

This zoo and botanical garden showcases a variety of plant and animal species from Earth’s deserts.

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

The focus of the garden is cacti and palm trees. There is also a butterfly garden on site and several interactive attractions, including a nature trail and a petting zoo.

13. Take a desert excursion with Red Jeep Tours

Desert Adventures

Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours is a local tour company that will take you on an unforgettable tour of the landscapes surrounding Palm Desert.

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

The company also owns 800 acres of land where you can engage in a variety of activities, including hiking, sightseeing and horse-drawn carriage rides.

14. Cool off at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center

swimming pool

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

Open year-round, this water park has a variety of attractions for all ages.

There are spray areas, three swimming pools with water slides and many rides on site. Exercise classes are offered at specific times.

15. Try local craft beers at Coachella Valley Brewing Company

Coachella Valley Brewing Company

At Coachella Valley Brewing Company in nearby Thousand Palms, you’ll have the opportunity to sample delicious local beers made on site. You will also have the opportunity to learn how these beers are made.

Brewery tours are offered on certain days of the week. The craft beers produced at this brewery are made with locally sourced ingredients. Over 20 different types of dishes can be sampled in the bar, as well as a variety of delicious appetizers.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Palm Desert, CA, CA
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