5-day Family-Friendly Palm Springs Itinerary
Christina Trami Dang
Palm Springs, is a popular desert oasis that appeals to many different travelers who seek out the arts, architecture and adventure. Are you in search of a short and sweet family getaway to Palm Springs? If so, I have carefully crafted a 5-day itinerary for families traveling with young children, offering a perfect mix of discovery and relaxation. Activities are tailored to captivate school-age children, while still being mindful of any napping toddler(s). Additionally, I have curated dining options that cater to adults who appreciate upscale cuisine and creative cocktails, yet still in a family-friendly atmosphere. Connect with me if you want help tailoring this fun-filled itinerary for your own family!
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Drift Palm Springs
Spacious suites with spectacular mountain views in the heart of downtown Palm Springs.
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Day 1 - Relax and ease into Palm Springs
Begin your day with a quick grocery run to Trader Joe's to stock up on essentials and snacks for your pool days and for the relatively short road trip to explore the Joshua Tree National Park the next day. Upon returning to the hotel, take a leisurely stroll to the nearby Farm restaurant for their scrumptious brunch. I highly recommend trying the A la Banane Brioche French Toast and the Canard Omelet. Also, the delectable Botanical Berry cocktail is a must-try!
Afternoons are great for lounging poolside, as the cool desert mornings may be too brisk for a swim. Relax and soak up the Palm Springs vibes.
For dinner, Peppers Thai is a great option, especially for those with food allergies and dietary restrictions. The staff is kind and accommodating, and the low-key atmosphere is ideal for families with children.
After dinner, head to Lampert's for dessert. Their date shake is simply divine. No need to head to Disney, you can experience and indulge in the gluten-free and vegan Dole Whip here.
Day 2 - Explore Joshua Tree National Park
Grab some coffee and delicious pastries at Koffi Coffee before heading out to explore the Joshua Tree National Park. Purchase your park pass online and fill up your gas prior to entering the park. There are several entrances to the park. The north entrance near Twenty-Nine Palms is usually less crowded. While there are numerous food options on your way to the park, once inside the park, there is nowhere to purchase food and drinks, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks, food, and water (a gallon per person is recommended for day hikes), sunscreen, and your hiking essentials.
Driving through Park Boulevard, you can complete the park loop in a couple of hours without any stops. Nevertheless, a significant part of the park's appeal is the breathtaking scenery that can be enjoyed from the numerous observation points and trails. Young kids will particularly enjoy these fun and easy pit stops:
Skull Rock - Kids (and adults too) will love to climb the rock formation. There's also a 1.7-mile nature trail to explore.
Cholla Cactus Garden - A short 0.25-mile trail that is sure to delight the family with its whimsical Dr. Seuss-like vibes.
Cap Rock - Explore the Joshua tree woodlands and interesting rock formations on this easy 0.4-mile loop.
If your crew still has the energy for more adventure, head to Pioneertown and check out Pappy & Harriet's for BBQ and live music or the Redtown Saloon. Alternatively, head back into downtown Palm Springs and grab a relaxing dinner at the Fisherman Market & Grill. Try the Fisherman's Boat, which offers a seafood medley of beer-battered fried goodness. The restaurant is a local favorite for good-value and family-friendly meals.
Pro Tip - Consider pre-ordering food and beverages at one of the four Koffi Coffee locations to avoid the long lines!
Day 3 - Explore the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
Start your day with a hearty breakfast from Sherman's Deli. From there, make your way to The Living Zoo, located about 30 minutes away in Cathedral City. Your kids will be amazed at seeing the many different desert animals roaming freely in their expansive habitats. The zoo offers a mix of attractions such as giraffe feeding and rhino encounters, to interactive activities such as the Petting Kraal or the Discovery Center. During our visit, lunch options at The Living Zoo were limited to two on-site cafes. You can also bring your own snacks, food, and drinks.
After a day of exploring The Living Zoo, return to your hotel and unwind by the pool. Freshen up and then head over to your dinner reservations at Tac/Quila. Don't miss their delicious margarita flight, a must-try! The restaurant offers a wide range of great food and drinks, but I highly recommend the Mango Habanero Aguachile and Grilled Lobster Tail Tacos. The tasty dining experience will surely leave your group feeling happy and satisfied!
Pro Tip - If you belong to your local zoo, aquarium or garden, check to see if they offer reciprocal zoo admissions. We scored a 50% off discount on our admission tickets for up to four people, making it an even more worthwhile visit.
Day 4 - Hike the Tahquitz Canyon
If you're staying in downtown Palm Springs or nearby, don't miss the majestic Tahquitz Canyon, located just 5-10 minutes away from many of the area hotels. Start your adventure at the Visitor Center where you can purchase admission to access the 2-mile looping trail leading to the stunning Tahquitz Falls and back.
If you plan on hiking all the way to the waterfall and want to take a refreshing dip, consider wearing your swimwear underneath your hiking clothes. Don't forget your water or hat as there's minimal shade on the trail! If you traveling with a toddler, I strongly encourage wearing them in a baby carrier, or better yet, an Osprey Child Carrier or similar. The hike would be too strenuous for little feet.
After the morning hike, head back to the hotel to relax poolside with a refreshing drink. You can also pick up lunch at the nearby I Heart Mac & Cheese, a crowd pleaser for kids and adults alike.
For your last night in Palm Springs, grab dinner at the Malez. The food and ambiance at this rustic Baja eatery are fabulous. The must haves are the Grilled Corn Esquites and the Prime Ribeye. The steak portion was very generous and could easily feed 2-3 people!
You can't leave without trying their Burnt Summer and Milk Punch cocktails.
Day 5 - Brunch and Palm Springs Air Museum before departure
After checking out of your accommodations, head to Wilma & Frieda for brunch. Their Churro Waffles and Chili Verde Omelet were delicious! After finishing up brunch, head over to the impressive Palm Springs Air Museum, a living history museum, approximately 10 minutes away from the airport. Engage with the volunteers to learn about the historical significance of the aircraft and the memorabilia on display.
If you have a later flight in the day, consider grabbing either a late lunch or early dinner before heading to the airport. The airport dining options are rather limited, even at 3 pm on a weekday afternoon.
Thanks for perusing my Palm Springs family-friendly itinerary, I hope you found the short insights helpful. Please reach out with questions on how I can help you customize your own Palm Springs adventure or a different destination for your family!
Need to Know
Craving more travel tips? Check out Grace Hilty's guide to three days in Big Sur, California.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.