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The Best Things to Do in Palm Springs on Your Next Trip

Palm Springs, a cosmopolitan oasis in the Sonoran Desert, is best known for its mid-century modern structures by famous architects, soothing hot springs, and stunning landscapes. About 100 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is the principal city of the Coachella Valley, a string of desert towns in Southern California. Palm Springs draws visitors from around the world with reliably beautiful weather and scenery, chic shops and boutiques, and its many spas and resorts. Not sure what to see and do in this glossy California desert? Consider the following top-rated sights when visiting Palm Springs, California.

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01Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

A view of Palm Springs Aerial Tramway featuring the world's largest rotating gondola sainaniritu / Getty Images

Take a ride aboard the world's largest rotating gondola nearly 6,000 feet up the cliffs of Chino Canyon into Mt. San Jacinto State Park to catch breathtaking views of Southern California's Coachella Valley. Opened in 1963, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was originally a way of reaching the top of San Jacinto Peak from the Coachella Valley floor. Today, the tramway offers visitors to Palm Springs, California, a one-of-a-kind perspective of the city and the surrounding area.

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02Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum entrance Michael Buckner / Getty Images

Located in downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum is dedicated to art, natural science, and performing arts. The museum's permanent collection consists of more than 24,000 objects ranging from fine art and photographic archives to Native American and Mesoamerican art and artifacts. The museum also showcases 12,000 archaeological and geological specimens, such as ceramics, minerals, fossils, tools, and weapons. Among notable landscape artists with works on display or curated by the museum are John James Audubon, best known for documenting and illustrating American birds, and German American artist Carl Eytel.

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03Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault

The San Andreas Fault extends roughly 745 miles through California, and one of the best ways to visit the fault is on an exhilarating Jeep Tour. Experience beautiful scenery as you wind your way through the geological canyons of the San Andreas Fault Zone. You will enjoy the Coachella Valley's spectacular views and unique geological features and learn about the plants, animals, and seismology of the fault zone and the California desert.

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04The Sunnylands Center and Gardens

Flowers at the Sunnylands Center and Gardens Solidago / Getty Images

The Sunnylands Center and Gardens, the mid-century modern retreat of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, offers visitors a glimpse into the historic estate and information about the history and cultural significance of Sunnylands. Surrounded by nine acres of desert gardens, the estate once entertained famous entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and political leaders, including eight U.S. presidents.

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05San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm captured in daylight GaryKavanagh / Getty Images

The San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, one of three major wind farms in California, has become a fascinating feature in the landscape of the San Gorgonio Pass. The wind farm features more than 4,000 wind turbines that can harness 650 megawatts of renewable energy or enough energy to power 195,000 California homes. A neat feat of human engineering, the Wind Farms offer a unique opportunity to learn about wind energy in one of the windiest places in southern California.

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06Palm Springs Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour

Tour Palm Springs while solving trivia-style riddles on this engaging walking tour. As you enjoy the sunshine, this tour takes you on a walk to various landmarks to discover the art, culture, and history of the area. Some of these tours are interactive and require that you participate on your smartphone and earn points and to be guided further along the route.

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07The Movie Colony Neighborhood

The Movie Colony is a neighborhood in Palm Springs. It is made famous by Hollywood's biggest stars, who owned homes there between the 1930s and 1960s. Located within walking distance to downtown, the neighborhood has about 170 homes featuring Spanish Colonial Revival style, Mid-century Modern, and California ranch-style architecture. Notable celebrity estates include those of Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, and Jack Benny.

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08Cabazon Dinosaurs

This roadside attraction features the world's biggest manmade dinosaurs, Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr. Rex, towering at 150 feet tall. These steel and concrete dinosaurs were completed in 1975 and 1986, respectively, to attract more customers to a nearby restaurant, which has since closed. The dinosaurs have appeared in everything from commercials to music videos, and since then, this dino pair has been a popular attraction for grownups and little kids.

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09Mount San Jacinto

Beautiful landscape of Mount San Jacinto State Park in the San Jacinto Mountains David McNew / Getty Images

Mount San Jacinto State Park is in the San Jacinto Mountains of the Peninsular Ranges system. The second highest peak and mountain range in Southern California, Mount San Jacinto, lies on the Pacific Crest Trail, a popular trail for hiking. Visiting Mount San Jacinto State Park is a great way to explore the stunning landscapes of Southern California. Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea are easily visible from the peak.

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10Palm Springs Air Museum

Named as one of the top 14 aviation museums in the world by CNN Travel and a non-profit educational institution, the Air Museum's mission is to educate and exhibit the role of the World War II combat aircraft as well as the role of the pilots and American citizens had in the war. Watch as history comes alive and get close to the vintage World War II, Korea, and Vietnam-era aircraft.

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11The Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens

A tiger captured in the Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens worldphotosbypaola / Getty Images

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, formerly the Living Desert Museum, is a desert botanical garden and a zoo that specializes in the deserts of the world. The park provides visitors with an up-close-and-personal experience and wonderful hiking trails and picnic areas. With a mission of conservation and preservation, the Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens has more than 40 fascinating species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the region.

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12Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

Visitors touring the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway in Palm Springs David McNew / Getty Images

The Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, also nicknamed the House of Tomorrow, is an iconic mid-century modern home once owned by the King of Rock and Roll. It was by renowned architect William Krisel. Elvis and Priscilla Presley lived in the house in 1966 and 1967 and honeymooned here after their wedding. The spacious 5,000-square-foot home consists of four circular living spaces stacked on three levels.

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13Tahquitz Canyon

A scenic view of the landscape in Tahquitz Canyon Hike Trail surrounded by yellow fall leaves Cheri Alguire / Getty Images

Tahquitz Canyon has been inhabited for at least 2,000 years by the Agua Caliente band of Native Americans and holds significant importance in their stories of creation. While visiting the canyon, you can view a 60-foot waterfall, rock art, ancient irrigation systems, and native wildlife and plants.

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14The Plaza Theatre

The stage at the Plaza Theatre Kozlik_Mozlik / Getty Images

The Plaza Theatre is a historic theatre on South Palm Canyon Drive. It housed a vaudeville-like show called The Fabulous Palm Spring Follies from 1990 to 2014. Built in 1936, the theatre originally screened films until it was renovated in 1989 to accommodate Broadway-caliber entertainment. Although the theatre has been inoperable since the end of the Follies, theatre fanatics can admire this valuable part of the city's history from South Palm Canyon Drive.

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15Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons scenery in the clear blue sky Wildroze / Getty Images

Naturists can discover the quieter side of Palm Springs with a visit to Indian Canyons. It is a nature preserve and group of canyons located within the Agua Caliente Cahuilla tribal land on the west side of Palm Springs. Footpaths provide breathtaking views of soaring red cliffs, picturesque fan palms, and interesting cacti. At the trail's end, a terraced waterfall named Seven Sisters greets hikers. A visitor center also highlights the region's Native American culture.

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16Palm Canyon Drive

Palm Canyon Drive, and Indian Canyon Drive beside it, is home to the Palm Springs Walk of Stars and the beautiful majestic palm trees. Lined by countless shops, restaurants, art galleries, and attractions, Palm Canyon Drive is the best place to explore the mid-century lifestyle in Palm Springs. The city's downtown area has a historical society, with a free museum and other exhibits on Native American history. Besides visiting the numerous establishments, you can pass by the souvenir shops and fantastic restaurants and pamper yourself some more.

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17Palm Springs Walk of the Stars

The Palm Springs Walk of Stars has a great showcase of notable entertainers, humanitarians, civic leaders, architects, artists, authors, athletes, and other celebrities who either lived in Palm Springs or made it in their fields. Some of these honorees include Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Adam West, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and more.

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18Coachella Valley Preserve

Just twenty minutes drive from Downtown Palm Springs, Coachella Valley is a great place to explore if you are a nature lover. There's a lot of cultural and geological history here. The preserve protects endangered species such as the Fringe-toed Lizard, has walking trails, and is home to many native plants, birds, and animals. In addition, this popular tourist spot has countless outdoor activities to enjoy, including horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and observing birds.

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19Palm Springs VillageFest

Downtown Palm Springs comes to life every Thursday evening when part of Palm Canyon Drive is closed off so that vendors can set up and display their hand-made artworks, candles, photography, and food. The colorful VillageFest is a fun evening out. You can shop for arts, crafts, jewelry, and other interesting trinkets and try some tasty treats from nearby local restaurants and artisanal providers. Musical performers, buskers, and other street artists provide additional entertainment as you shop or stroll by the booths. This old-fashioned street fair is also a perfect place to meet new friends.

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20Moorten Botanical Garden

Moorten Botanical Garden is one of the best places to visit in Palm Springs for plant and nature lovers. Established in Palm Springs back in 1938, this privately-owned one-acre arboretum was created to share the beauty of a true desert wonderland. It features cactuses, desert trees, colorful succulents, and other prickly plants, ranging in size from miniatures to giants. In the world's first cactarium, a name coined by the Moorten's, visitors will discover a special exhibition of rare plants seen nowhere else. The Moorten Botanical Garden is a living museum of desert lore. With glistening crystals, colorful rocks, ancient fossils, and pioneer gold mining relics, it has something of interest to everyone. The classic collection on display comprises more than 300 varieties of plants designed in concentrated habitats along a nature trail.

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21Crotchet Museum

Contrary to a typical museum, a visit to this bizarre yet cute attraction in Joshua Tree, about 45 minutes drive from Palm Springs, will warm your heart. The Crochet Museum has a colorful selection of fun and beautifully hand-made animals, dolls, and decorative trinkets. You don't have to be a crochet fanatic to have a fantastic experience here, so be sure to check it out.

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22Palm Springs Windmill Tours

Wind Turbines just outside of Palm Springs, California. TraceRouda / Getty Images

Palm Springs is famous for its hundreds of wind turbines that dot the landscape, and you can't miss the massive windmills as you enter the Palm Springs area from the West. This area is the first commercial wind farm in the U.S. There are tour guides that take you up close to the windmills to learn more about this renewable energy source as well as green wind history. It's best to visit the wind farm at sunset to get some quintessential pictures.

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23Robolights

Robolights is an incredibly popular spot during Christmas. Thanks to artist Kenny Irwin, visitors are treated to impressive light displays strung up all over the artistic creations. In addition, there are a ton of amazing sights featuring illuminated robots and rocket sleds on the property, making this spot a fantastic destination for the entire family. You can plan to visit this four-acre destination for at least an hour for a wholesome excursion experience.

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