Every Thursday night, Palm Springs’ main drag pulsates to a carnival-like beat during VillageFest, an awesome outdoor street festival with arts and crafts vendors, musicians, food booths, and a Farmers Market featuring the freshest fruits and veggies. The hip sidewalk cafes that line Palm Canyon Drive offer choice vantage points for some of the best people-watching in town.
2. Art Walk Central
Art lovers can find everything from the traditional to the avant-garde on exhibition at hundreds of galleries throughout Greater Palm Springs. Gallery hop, rub elbows with local and visiting artists, and enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres at the BackStreet Art Walk, or “SoDo”, a fascinating collective of nine artist-owned galleries (first Wednesdays). In Palm Desert’s fabled El Paseo shopping district, check out the El Paseo Art Walk (first Thurdays) popular with locals and visitors. On first Fridays, The Art Place galleries and design showrooms open their doors for an evening block party featuring live entertainment.
More than 300 vendors set up shop at this popular open-air bazaar held at College of the Desert every Saturday and Sunday until 2 p.m. (noon in summer). Pick up a breakfast burrito or yummy doughnut in the food court, and then feel free to browse or buy – no pressure here. The COD Street Fair aisles are filled with all kinds of unique merchandise ideal for affordable gift-giving.
Palm Desert deftly integrates art displaying more than 140 museum-quality works ranging from functional objets d’art like bus shelters to stunning large-scale abstract sculptures. Take a free docent-guided tour of Palm Desert’s colossal collection the second Saturday of each month (Sept-June). Or navigate Palm Desert’s art and significant architectural offerings at your own pace with this complimentary map.
5. Polo at Empire and Eldorado Polo Clubs
Greater Palm Springs is a renowned winter (Dec-April) destination for polo players and spectators. Pack a picnic basket – don’t forget the Champagne – and drive over to Eldorado Polo Club and Empire Polo Club in Indio to tailgate Palm Springs-style, stomp divots, and watch world-class equestrians compete against a breathtaking mountain backdrop.
Housed in an E. Stewart Williams midcentury modern gem, the Palm Springs Art Museum showcases one of the finest displays of contemporary art in Southern California. Beyond an extraordinary permanent collection and major traveling exhibitions, the Museum also features a gift shop, delightful Muse Café, and sculpture gardens, and a recently-opened a satellite museum in Palm Desert. Admission is free every Thursday from 4-8 p.m. and the second Sunday of every month.
Encompassing 252,000 acres and rising from the desert floor to an elevation of more than 10,000 feet at the peak of Mt. San Jacinto, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument offers a recreational paradise with endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. Hike and bike miles of trails, head to the backcountry for wilderness camping, and even cross country ski in winter. Keep your cameras handy - wildflowers abound in spring and the wildlife sightings are incredible – you may even spot a rare peninsular bighorn sheep bounding across the trail. Be sure to visit the Monument Visitor Center on Highway 74 in Palm Desert, which offers trail maps, a bookstore and gift shop, and guided hikes. Can’t hoof it – no problem. Drive the Palm to Pine Scenic Byway, which features panoramic lookout points.
8. Coachella Valley Preserve
Explore the 25 miles of hiking trails in the Coachella Valley Preserve, located 10 miles east of Palm Springs near Thousand Palms. Home to several magnificent palm oases, massive sand dunes, and the rare Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, this natural wonderland situated atop the San Andreas Fault sprawls across 20,000 acres. Wildlife viewing is plentiful with black-tailed jackrabbits, bobcats, sidewinders and more than 183 bird species. Try a guided night hike for a one-of-a-kind celestial adventure.
9. Palm Springs Bike Paths
Hop on a pair of bikes and cruise through Palm Springs’ celebrity neighborhoods or along verdant golf courses and bucolic washes. Click here for a map of Palm Springs bike paths and loop courses. For the truly intrepid, local mountains provide ample opportunities for mountain biking along rugged trails. Funseekers! website is an excellent source for off-road biking information.
10. Live Music & Special Events
Sunny days, starry nights and air that envelops like warm velvet – it’s no wonder that Greater Palm Springs comes alive 24/7 in season and even most balmy weekends in summer. From amped up bands on the green to star-studded film festivals, urban-inspired food and wine festivities to world-class sporting events, one or more special attractions is sure to be on tap during your stay; with many free or affordable for the most budget conscious traveler.
Find more things to do in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley here.