13 Fun Day Trip Ideas Around The Palm Springs Area

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If you’re staying in Palm Springs for a few days, you may be at the point where a day trip out of the city is called for. But where should you go? We’ve done the research to bring you 13 fantastic options, all within a couple of hours away. In fact, some of these are near enough to make great half-day excursions which you can then combine into a day trip out of town!

 

13 Fun Day Trip Ideas Around the Palm Springs Area

Here are the best ideas for a day trip out of Palm Springs, CA –

  • Immerse yourself in the Fountain of Life, Cathedral City
  • See the stars at Rancho Mirage Library Observatory, Rancho Mirage
  • Honor the heroes at Old Town Victorville Veterans Memorial, Victorville
  • Commune with nature at Mount San Jacinto State Park, San Jacinto
  • Catch some flicks at Mary Pickford 14 movie theatre, Cathedral City
  • Walk in the steps of world leaders at Sunnylands Center and Gardens, Rancho Mirage
  • Talk to the animals at Hesperia Zoo, Hesperia
  • Get your kicks at the California Route 66 Museum, Victorville
  • Saddle up at the Ivey Ranch Equestrian Center, Thousand Palms
  • Shop the day away at The Street Fair at College of the Desert, Palm Desert
  • Swim the day away at Palm Desert Aquatic Center, Palm Desert
  • Go up, up in the air at Palm Desert balloon rides, Palm Desert
  • McCallum Theatre, Palm Desert

These 13 destinations near Palm Springs, give any California-bound traveler given the rare and wonderful opportunity to explore the hidden cities of this golden state; those quiet, out of the way communities steeped in both untouched and untainted natural beauty and fun, family-friendly novelty attractions. Of course, you’re probably not familiar with them at this point. That’s what this post is for! Keep reading for a detailed review of each one, so you can make the most of your day trip!

13 Great Day Trip Ideas from Palm Springs, California

 

Palm Springs reigns supreme in terms of its beautiful sights and upscale lifestyle. There’s no shortage of things to do in the city itself, we know. But if you live there, or perhaps have some more time on your hand – and a car to travel in – you may enjoy a quick but highly rewarding trip outside its scenic boundaries; venturing outward to discover the hidden gems of California. And whether you seek a fun day out for the family, an up-close encounter with the wonders of Mother Nature, or a hearty dose of cultural and educational enlightenment, rest assured that the possibilities spring eternal in the cities surrounding Palm Springs.

1. Immerse yourself in the Fountain of Life, Cathedral City, California

15 minutes away from Palm Springs

 

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Standing at the heart of Cathedral City is The Fountain of Life, a beautiful work of art that manages to double as a family-friendly water park. Situated in the town square and surrounded by restaurants, shops, and theaters, the splendorous mosaic-style fountain also comes surrounded by colorful statues of various whimsical animals.

Unlike most public fountains, children are welcome to run free in crystalline streams of falling and squirting water. Other decorative accents include lovely bronze statues and stunning emerald green landscaping. Except for occasional closings for maintenance, the Fountain of Life is always open and available for public use. Admission is free.

2. See the stars at Rancho Mirage Library Observatory, Rancho Mirage, California

23 minutes away from Palm Springs

Making learning fun is the primary objective of the Rancho Mirage Library Observatory, where you can read books and gaze upon stars in equal measure. This public education center offers onsite tours, telescope viewing and stargazing, and endless educational programs. And, if you’re so inclined, you can check out some awesome books as well!

The observatory, like the library, is free and open to the public. Regular tours of the observatory are scheduled from Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.; additional tour times can be scheduled based on docent availability.

In addition, the observatory maintains a full schedule of stargazing parties, educational seminars, and programs developed by city astronomer Eric McLaughlin, astronomy programming, introduction, and discussion of films and videos related to astronomy, and lectures and conversations with astronomy and science professionals representing NASA, Jet Propulsion Lab, and other organizations.

Rancho Mirage Library Observatory is located at 71-100 HWY 111, Rancho Mirage, CA. Please call (760) 341-7323

3. Honor the heroes at Old Town Victorville Veterans Memorial, Victorville, California

1 hour, 32 minutes away from Palm Springs

 Old Town Victorville Veterans Memorial
Old Town Victorville Veterans Memorial | Photo by Mlpearc, City of Victorville

A stately and distinguished memorial marker that bears the names of more than 30 area veterans, this shining marble monument is a tribute and testament to the bravery of soldiers who gave their all in the historical conflicts of Vietnam, World War II, Iraq and Desert Storm. Erected in 1996, the memorial also boasts the script of a touching memorial poem titled “We Remember,” along with national emblems and seals. The Old Town Victorville Veterans Memorial is always open for public inspection. Admission is free. The memorial is located at 15451 7th Street, Victorville CA 92395.

4. Commune with nature at Mount San Jacinto State Park, San Jacinto, California

46 minutes away from Palm Springs

Mount San Jacinto State Park
Mount San Jacinto State Park | Photo by Lola’s Big Adventure!

Mount San Jacinto State Park is a sprawling nature made mecca of trails and greenery nearly 22 miles long in size. Featured highlights include the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the 10,834-foot summit of picturesque Mount San Jacinto, two full campgrounds, subalpine forests and fertile green meadows, and extensive wilderness areas.

Perfect for hiking, walking and mountain climbing, the park features plentiful opportunities for rest and recreation in the ultimate outdoor setting. The park offers environmental campsites, family campsites, hike or bike campsites, primitive camping, RV sites w/hookups, and RV access; hiking trails and horseback riding; historical and cultural landmarks, picnic areas, an environmental learning/visitor center, exhibits and programs, guided tours, interpretive exhibits, a vista point, nature and wildlife viewing, museums, family programs, geocaching, parking, restrooms and showers, and drinking water available.

The Mount San Jacinto State Park maintains office hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Idyllwild Campground is open year round. Stone Creek Campground is open May 1 through Oct. 31. For more information, call  (951) 659-2607.

5. Catch some flicks at Mary Pickford 14 movie theatre, Cathedral City, California

15 minutes away from Palm Springs

 

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Reigning as a premiere star of the vintage film era, Mary Pickford was also an accomplished director, producer, writer and studio executive. So it’s only fitting that she be the namesake of one of California’s largest and most opulent movie theaters.

Boasting 14 screening rooms with big screens and stadium seating, the theatre’s host building likens a movie set all in itself. Constructed in the style of a Spanish Cathedral, this elegant cinema also includes a bell tower and a three-story lobby.

The theater is located at 36-850 Pickfair, Cathedral City, CA 92234; call the movie line at (760) 328-7100. Online regular admission is $11.50 with concessions available for seniors, kids etc.  On ‘Tightwad Tuesday,’ all guests pay $5.95 to see most films.

Are you a senior citizen? Here’s a tip for you then: On Golden Wednesday, guests 60 and older will pay $6.50 all day for most films. They also get a refreshment choice of free popcorn or free coffee.

6. Walk in the steps of world leaders at Sunnylands Center and Gardens, Rancho Mirage, California

23 minutes away from Palm Springs

 

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The onetime home of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg, the lush 200-acre Sunnylands property has been visited by presidents and world leaders. Now the general public is welcome to tour this magnificent estate, which features nine acres of picturesque gardens designed in a deliberate artistic formation, a historic mansion of a home, and even a golf course!

Come and discover the wonders of Sunnylands, 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. The center and gardens are open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The Sunnylands Center & Gardens can be toured during these times with free admission and parking. Tours of the Sunnylands home are scheduled at various times throughout the year, at an advance ticket purchase of $48 per person. Call (760) 202-2222.

7. Talk to the animals at Hesperia Zoo, Hesperia, California

1 hour, 33 minutes from Palm Springs

 

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Home to animals of rare, native and endangered species originating from six continents, the exotic 10-acre Hesperia Zoo just might be the ultimate destination for a fun-filled family day trip. Featuring a diverse and exotic collection of primates, big cats, marsupials, hooved animals, and exotic birds, the zoo offers both general and feeding-centered tours, along with special events. See the animals as they were meant to be seen, in the realm of a natural habitat.

The Hesperia Zoo is located at 19038 Willow St., Hesperia, CA 92345. For information, call (760) 948-9430.

For general and Feeding Frenzy Tours, admission is $7 for adults aged 13 and over, $5 for children aged 2-12 and seniors aged 62 and over. A Guided Tour with a Feeding Frenzy reservation is available at $30 per person for a feeding tour and a T-shirt. Tours are guided 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

8. Get your kicks at the California Route 66 Museum, Victorville, California

1 hour, 32 minutes from Palm Springs

 

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What could be better than an exciting and invigorating road trip straight down Route 66? Lovers of all things nostalgic simply must visit the California Route 66 Museum, a 4,500-square-foot interactive museum that—while serving as the setting of some major car shows—features far more than just autos on display. Sure, you will be able to admire and touch a 1917 Model T Ford; but you’ll also tour and pose for some fun photos in theme-relevant settings that include a ‘50s diner, a VW Love Bus (hippy wigs included), and even an outhouse!

Also, pick up some primo Route 66 souvenirs in the museum gift shop, and visit the site’s informational library. Get your kicks at the California Route 66 Museum! And, believe it or not, admission is free; donations are welcome. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The California Route 66 Museum is located at 16825 South D St., Victorville, CA 92395; call 760-951-0436.

Ride the trails and lounge in the shades with your favorite equestrian ride at the Ivey Ranch Equestrian Center, an authentic, tree-shaded ranch featured wide open green spaces plus workout arenas and round pens and large shaded stalls.

The perfect place to both board and ride your horses, the Ivey Ranch Equestrian Center is also a quiet and scenic haven away from the hustle and bustle of California life; with special programs offered for therapeutic riding and fun holiday horse-themed events open to the public. Saddle up and get away!

The Ivey Ranch Equestrian Center is located at 110 Rancho Del Oro Dr, Oceanside, CA 92057; please call (760) 409-4751 for boarding rates and more information.

10. Shop the day away at The Street Fair at College of the Desert, Palm Desert, California

29 minutes from Palm Springs

 

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For 36 years, visitors have enjoyed the ultimate open-air shopping experience at the Street Fair at College of the Desert; a bountiful market that offers art, fashion, furniture, home goods, fresh foods (via a special farmer’s market section) and many other items. You can also enjoy a look at vintage automobiles along with some premium live entertainment and gourmet food. As an added bonus, all proceeds from market booth rentals go to benefit students in attendance at the College of the Desert.

The fair is located at 43-500 Monterey Avenue in Palm Desert, CA 92260; please call 760-636-7957  for more information. It is open every Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. October through May, 7 a.m. to noon June through September.

11. Swim the day away at Palm Desert Aquatic Center, Palm Desert, California

29 minutes from Palm Springs

 

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Hosted by the YMCA, the spacious and tropical Palm Desert Aquatic Center is a center of family fun featuring a trio of pools, multiple slides and diving boards, and a vast variety of play features. Swim classes and other activities are also up for offer at this 8-acre facility. Dive right in for ultimate fun!

Palm Desert Aquatic Center is located at 73751 Magnesia Falls Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260. Admission is $4 for adults with concessions available for kids and seniors.

12. Go up, up in the air at Palm Desert balloon rides, Palm Desert, California

29 minutes from Palm Springs

Experience the sublime beauty of the Coachella Valley from the best possible vantage point: the ethereal arena of the great blue sky. No fewer than five companies in this region offer hot air balloon rides in Palm Desert.  Whether enjoyed at sunrise or sunset, in the company of your entire family or that special someone (or, what the heck, even by yourself!), a premium hot air balloon ride is sure to sweep you and yours right off your feet!

13. McCallum Theatre, Palm Desert, California

29 minutes from Palm Springs

 

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A day at the theatre is the ultimate getaway from the stress and rigors of everyday life; one that offers education and entertainment in equal measure. One of the premier performing arts venues in the state of California, The McCallum Theatre has hosted shows featuring a vast variety of stars and luminaries; everyone from comics Bob Newhart and Lily Tomlin to musical acts like The Canadian Brass and Celtic Thunder, plus famous productions such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Jersey Boys.

Special events like the Waring International Piano Competition and the 21st Annual Choreography Festival also are presented in grand style at the McCallum, as are fun family-friendly programs that include Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience. Snacks and drinks are available at the theatre, at which no dress code is imposed for any performance.

Prices and times for theatre shows vary by performance and presentation. McCallum Theatre is located at

73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260. For more information, call the box office: (760) 340-2787 
or toll free: (866) 889-2787.

Where to stay while at Palm Springs?

If you’re reading this while planning your Palm Springs vacation, we thought we’d throw in a few recommendations for great places to stay. These links will take you to Booking.com where you can easily make your reservations.

For a luxury vacation

Palm Springs is a fantastic place for a luxury vacation, and if that’s what you’re after, the following places will not disappoint. These places get the highest possible score, based on the recommendations of real travelers like yourself:

Little Paradise Hotel

La Maison Hotel

Hotel California

For budget travelers

There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy Palm Springs on a shoestring. Or at least at very attractive rates. Many of the excursions we listed above are either free or at least inexpensive. You can combine them with any of the following hotels for an awesome holiday – without breaking the bank. The good news is that you’ll still have a quality stay. We’ve picked the hotels that still get great review scores, even while offering some of the most competitive rates in Palm Springs.

Knights Inn – Palm Springs

Caliente Tropics

West Racquet Club Art Room (At the very least, check this one out. Fantastic reviews at a very reasonable price range).

And finally – the map

Before we leave you to continue with planning your Palm Springs holiday, here’s a map showing all of the destinations mentioned in this post –

Have we missed anything? If you live in Palm Springs or have visited the area, add a comment and share your own local recommendations! Thank you in advance!

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