The surrounding mountains are so close you feel as though you could reach out and touch them. I take in these spectacular views through a flashy pair of shades as I sip a crisp glass of white wine, lounging on one of the many restaurant patios that line Palm Canyon drive. The heat is dry, but not unbearable thanks to the cool refreshing spray of the abundant misters. I am in Palm Springs, baby. Hollywood’s playground since the 1920’s, this desert oasis has been attracting celebrities and sun-seekers for decades. Teeming with stylish boutiques, fantastic restaurants and luxury spa resorts, it is no wonder this town has earned such a glamorous reputation, but that doesn’t mean it is reserved for only the rich and famous. Palm Springs is down-to-earth, affordable and fun for families, which is why I want to show you how to enjoy Palm Springs with kids.
Keep the Cost in Check:
What I love about Palm Springs with kids is that it is a flexible town for various budgets. You can go ultra lux, if you want, with fine dining and lavish resorts or you can go budget-friendly with fun retro motels and plenty of reasonable dining options.
Off-season (summer) you will find the best rates, but be prepared for very high temperatures. The great thing is that Palm Springs has great pools and an even better nightlife, so it makes the dealing with intense desert heat endurable.
Drop Your Bags:
Whether you want a luxury resort experience or want to kick it old school at a funky retro motel, Palm Springs has got you covered. I’ve done it both ways and have had a blast each time. The accommodation options are endless, so I will share with you a couple of my favorites.
Luxury Spa Resorts:
- JW Marriot: This resort is a destination in itself. I recently feature JW Marriot in my article for Cigar & Spirits Magazine, because it is a true desert oasis. Technically located in Palm Desert, the JW features tranquil lagoons and channels, five pools, a lavish spa, two championship golf courses, world-class dining options and even exotic birds.
- Riviera Palm Springs: Built in 1958, you can’t get closer to all the activity of downtown Palm Springs than the Riviera. What we love about the Riviera, besides the location, are the lush gardens and pool view terraces. The pool is a highlight with a couple fabulous poolside bars, music and fire pits.
- Omni Rancho Las Palmas: A few minutes’ drive from downtown Palm Springs, the Omni is worth the distance, especially if you are traveling with kids. Also featured in my recent Cigar & Spirits article, it has the awesome golf course, luxury spa, and the delectable dining options; but what we love the most is the pool! Palm Springs with kids will feel like the ultimate family vacation when you are hanging out at Splashtopia, gliding down the lazy river or getting wild on the waterslides. For indulgence, relax in the cliff-side hot tub or sneak away to the Azure adults’ only pool.
- Ramada Ivy Palm: Like the Riviera, I’ve stayed here since I was a kid myself. Nothing over the top, but it is clean, affordable, good location, continental breakfast and has a nice pool to relax in during the day.
- Caliente Tropics: This place is great for a cheap getaway. Not only is this hotel ridiculously affordable, it is great for traveling with kids. It is island themed with tiki torches and totems all over the property, and the rooms are named after various Pacific islands. The Reef poolside bar is recently opened and has nightly features such as karaoke that the kids can enjoy!
- Vagabond: Not as bad as it sounds, really. Palm Spring Vagabond is actually decent and very budget-friendly. The pool is clean, which is really the most important thing when planning a Palm Springs with kids trip, because that’s where the kids want to be most the time. You can bring your own drinks down to the pool and Vagabond offers a surprisingly decent continental breakfast, all helping to keep things affordable.
Get Your Grub On:
Like many destinations I repeatedly return to, Palm Springs has amazing restaurants and bars. It is always the food and drink that keep bringing me back time and time again. The dining options seem endless, but here are some of our favorites.
- Ruby’s Diner: Not super unique, but one of the best places to go if you are in Palm Springs with kids. The prices are right, the food is appetizing to both adults and kids, there is beer and wine, and the location offers great views of the main strip. We love sitting on the patio under the misters, sipping milkshakes and simply people-watching.
- Las Casuelas Terraza: I have been coming here since I was kid and I can’t tell you how happy I am that it still holds its place on Palm Canyon Drive all these years later. First of all, the atmosphere is what you need in the desert; two shady patios, cloudy with mist, lush with foliage and twinkling with party lights. The Palapa Patio is our jam, with the thatched roof bar, dance floor and live band. It is great for families, because the parents can feel like they are having a night out without having to ditch the kids. I used to love dancing on this very dance floor as a little girl and now I can relive the fun with my own babies, but this time I get to have margaritas! Ha!
- Lulu California Bistro: Glamorous, yet approachable. Lulu is just so sparkly, colorful and fabulous. The food is delicious and don’t even get me started on the cocktails. Hello, beautiful Bloody Mary! You’d expect a venue with such a gorgeous atmosphere to be expensive, but the prices are so affordable. It is a perfect no matter what time of day. Early mornings, breakfast is the jumpstart needed and late night, Lulu becomes a happening night spot. Hot Daddy claims the French scrambled eggs changed his life, and I have to agree – we are now greeted on weekend mornings with his own concoction of creamy Boursin cheese-filled scrambled eggs!
- Gyoro-Gyoro Izakaya Japoniase: Great shaded, misty patio right in the mix of Palm Canyon Drive activity. The inside is fun too, with its mood lighting and bamboo features, but when I’m Palm Springs it is all about the patios. It is delicious Japanese food, but for a great value. The value made even more amazing thanks to lunch specials and happy hour. Oh and did I mention $8 bottomless fruit infused sake? Yes, it is true. For kids, the plates are well rounded including teriyaki chicken, sushi, fruit and a toy!
Day drinking, afternoon drinking, night drinking; anytime is a good time for a cocktail, even in Palm Springs with kids. Whether it is buckets of beer by the pool or a bottle of wine at one of the many trendy bars on Palm Canyon Drive, Palms Springs provides what is needed. Be on the lookout for great happy hours and drink specials throughout town. Staying in town? Even better, because the Palm Springs Buzz is free with a route that covers most areas of interest as well as many of the resorts and hotels.
- Milkshakes at Ruby’s
- Las Casuelas Margarita (large, of course)
- Gyoro-Gyoro Izakaya Japoniase Pickled Bloody and Bottomless Fruit Infused Sake
- Lulu California Bistro Bloody Mary
Yes, Palm Springs has hot springs, but it is known for its nightlife, resorts, celebrities and many festivals and events held throughout the year. There is a lot of fun things to do in Palm Springs with kids, whether you are looking for a fun weekend getaway with friends or a relaxing family vacation. There are even activities for the nature lovers and adventure seekers. Bottom line, this may be the desert, but it is not desolate. Let’s check it out.
Native Past: Palms Springs was first settled by the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians. Today, the Tribe has two hotels, two casinos, a golf resort, and entertainment venue. For history lovers, you can explore the remains of these communities such as rock art, house pits, and more with ranger-led tour through Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon. At the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum visitors can check out the many exhibits. At the Spa at Spa Resort Casino, you can dip into the hot mineral water or attend the Native FilmFest March.
Hollywood Playground: You are probably wondering how this desert town became so popular for celebrities. Well, Hollywood studios used to impose a two-hour rule on their actors, which meant that they couldn’t be more than two hours away in the event of last minute work. Hence, Palm Springs was just far enough away to feel like an escape, but close enough to make it back to L.A for a photo shoot.
Ready for some name dropping? Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Lily Tomlin, Sammy Davis Jr., George Hamilton, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Albert Einstein, Bing Crosby, Susan Sommers, Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant, and Jack Benny are just some of Palm Springs’ frequent celebrity visitors (and residences).
It truly is like a second Hollywood, it even has its own Walk of Stars. Some the stars you’ll find are Lisa Vanderpump, Sophia Loren, Kathy Griffin, President Gerald Ford, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope and more. We even found Keely Smith, so of course my girl had to take a photo. Even the streets are named after celebrities.
Festivals:Palm Springs draws thousands every year with its many festivals and events. The biggest ones are Coachella Music and Art Festival and Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Coachella started in 1999 and showcases various genres in music and art installations. It is held for three weekends in April, bringing in millions of dollars into the area every year.
The Palm Springs International Film Festival was founded by Sonny Bono, celebrity and mayor at the time. This event draws all the
Hollywood elites such as Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, Halle Barry, Dakota Fanning, Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood, John Travolta and many more.
Art & Architecture: Palm Springs has a very retro artsy vibe and that is enhanced by the concentration for Mid-Century Modern architecture, performing art theaters and art galleries.
On the way, make a stop at the Cabazon Dinosaur Museum. It is a funky American roadside attraction with a towering T-Rex and Apato long neck that you can climb inside. It is quite the sight after driving through miles of desert.
Nature: Nature lovers will love all the hiking trails through ancient canyons and preserve. If you prefer to enjoy the desert landscape without the walk, there are many jeep eco-tours and even luxury motor-coach tours available.
Adventure: The Aerial Tramway is something I have wanted to do for awhile. It is a 10 minute/2mile ride from the valley to the mountain. I heard the views are amazing, so stay tuned for photos when I do eventually do it myself. It will take you to the quaint mountain town of Idyllwild, which is also one of my favorite places to visit. See my post in Idyllwild, HERE.
Nightlife: Palm Springs has a great nightlife teeming with exciting restaurants, bars, clubs and casinos. As a family traveler, I love that going to Palm Springs with kids doesn’t hurt your nightlife experience. Many venues have live music and allow kids fairly late into the evening. Don’t forget about the Buzz, the free trolly! Stay safe my friends.
Back at the hotels, night swimming is always a highlight. Spring and summer yield hot nights, perfect for swimming under the stars. I have many fond memories of evenings spent by the pool as a child and now my kids are making the same memories. They thought it was so awesome to be out in the pool so late at night. One of the best parts to being in Palm Springs with kids.
Daylife: Palm Springs parties just as much in the day as at night. Pools are a popular hangout, because the sun is hot in the desert and keeping cool is key. Many of the hotels go all out on their pools, decked out with bars, live music, waterslides, lazy rivers and more. Although, when traveling with kids all you really need is the pool to be clean and cool.
In town, pop in for a fun brunch at on one of the many misty patios and enjoy a refreshing beverage while taking in the activity of downtown.
That’s A Wrap:
Magnificent desert landscape and Hollywood glamour unite to create one fabulous town that is truly one-of-a-kind. Palm Springs attracts a variety people of all ages. From the young to old, from the wild to retired; it is hard to not fall in love with this little Californian retreat. The vibe is amazing, yet so relaxed that Palm Springs with kids is an absolute blast. Parents don’t have to feel left out of the nightlife just because they chose family travel. Kids are welcomed warmly, helping parents and yes, even grandparents to unwind. Once you visit for yourself, it is easy to understand why Palm Springs is so hot!
Ever been to Palm Springs? What did you think?
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