A popular weekend trip from Los Angeles, Palm Springs offers an easy escape from the city, as well as a roster of outdoor activities for nature lovers and more leisurely pursuits for laid-back travelers. From Jeep excursions to architectural tours, this desert oasis has something for everyone. Here’s how to spend two days in Palm Springs.
Day 1: Drive Out to the Desert
Morning: A huge draw for Palm Springs visitors, Joshua Tree National Park provides a somewhat surreal experience with its famous groves of spiky trees (for which the park is named) and its rock formations. Join one of the many guided half-day tours that explore the park via air-conditioned vans, SUVs, Jeeps, and even Hummers.
Afternoon: While in Joshua Tree, take a rock climbing class and learn the fundamentals of the sport such as knot tying, belaying, and the proper lingo. (No experience is necessary.) Alternatively, visit a working wind farm to see some of Palm Springs’ 2,000-plus windmills, find out why this renewable energy source is important to the Coachella Valley, and check out the latest technology.
Night: In the evening, head back out into the desert to do some stargazing. Since it’s not affected by the light pollution of a city such as Los Angeles, the dark night sky here offers the perfect chance to score a clear view of planets and stars, aided by a telescope on a guided tour.
Day 2: Town Highlights
Morning: A must-do in Palm Springs, the aerial tram ascends 5,783 feet (1,790 meters), offering unparalleled views of the San Jacinto Mountains and Chino Canyon. Plus, you’ll experience the change in temperature from hot and dry to cool and crisp. At the top, take in the surrounding scenery from the observation deck.
Afternoon: Known for its mid-century modern designs, this desert destination attracts plenty of architecture enthusiasts, as well as fans of old Hollywood. Learn about the city’s history on a guided tour of the former homes of stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, and see why it was a popular getaway from La La Land.
Night: Take a sunset tour of the desert in an open-air Jeep. The excursion typically starts a few hours before the sun sets, so you’ll be able to see the magical time before the desert is covered in darkness. Also, be on the lookout for local wildlife emerging at night.