Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs: Family Adventure

Family Adventure

Discover magic, Indian trails and riding into the sky in Palm Springs

My family was packed and ready for a much anticipated three-day adventure to Palm Springs, California. The kids were on break from school and we had been planning for weeks. After a quick stop to pick up our luggage, we were checked in to our hotel within half an hour of landing. So easy.

After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, our first adventure into Palm Springs’ breathtaking backyard started with climbing into an open-air Jeep by Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events. The kids, who love to learn about nature, hung onto every word from our tour guide as she introduced us to the Indian Canyons and its lore.

After trading the Jeep’s seats for a well-worn hiking trail, we followed our guide along a streambed into the heart of the palm tree-lined Andreas Canyon. She pointed out the tree fiber the Cahuilla Indians once used to make cord. We also saw the holes worked into the granite rock over hundreds of years used by the women of the tribe to grind their mesquite flour. It was a natural history lesson come to life.

That afternoon, we cooled off at Wet ‘N’ Wild Palm Springs where the kids got the 411 on surfing techniques from the FlowRider simulator. Our two oldest kids caught the perfect wave again and again while our youngest hung out at the 4-story Kahuna Beach House with water slides, hose jets and a 1,000-gallon dropping bucket. Wet 'N' Wild was the perfect conclusion to the day, and you can’t believe how well the kids slept that night.

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Reaching new heights and relaxing, together

Day two in Palm Springs started out at Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym where all five of us graduated from the “Introduction to Climbing” class. The kids (and dad) lived out their Spider-Man fantasies. I, however, took more time to tap into my Spidey senses. At one point, I was stuck on a route where every teasing hold seemed just a little too flat, or just a centimeter out of reach. My eldest daughter offered me a little coaching from her perspective. She saw a way—use my forearm on the blue hold and put weight on my left foot to rest my fingers, and make a lateral move. From there I saw a diagonal path to the finish. My sweaty fingers fumbled for the little rope hanging from the bell.


The kids (and dad) lived out their Spider-Man fantasies.

Later that evening, back at Palm Canyon Resort where we were staying, the kids explored every square inch of the splash zone—a rock island formation with waterslides jutting out in every direction. There was so much hydro-centric fun to be had that I couldn’t tell if we were staying at a resort with a waterpark or a waterpark with a resort. Finally, after soaking any lingering stress away in the in-cave whirlpool spa, my husband and I lounged on the poolside patio, enjoying our adult beverages. Ahhh…

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Experiencing the world’s largest and out-of-this-world

The next morning, we headed up the road to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which would transport us to what seemed like the top of the world. While ascending the 2.5 miles up the San Jacinto mountains to the Mountain Station in the world’s largest rotating tramcar, we watched the valley floor and the canyon cliffs surround us as we ascended. The tram rotated 360 degrees, so we could effortlessly scope out every angle. Once we reached the top, we treated ourselves to a family meal at Peaks Restaurant. The views of Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley were unbelievable.

After the tram, we spent the afternoon hunting down a magical creature. I never anticipated there was a place in Palm Springs where we would be tasked with rescuing Merlin’s Magic School. But there we were, at Escape Room Palm Springs: clock ticking, magic wands waving and our hearts racing to find the missing spell book in time. It contained the words that could break the curse holding the school captive, and this was urgent! In the nick of time, we made it and shared high-fives all around.

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Getting hands-on and our heart rates up

On our last day in Palm Springs, we climbed aboard a golf cart for a tour of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. The kids deemed our ride a “golf cart limo.” Between the botanical gardens, animal enclosures, Discovery Center and wildlife hospital, there was a lot of ground to cover and life to be seen.

I will never forget the serenity of observing the big horn sheep enjoying the sun on their own private hillside. Still, I think the day’s most memorable moments came courtesy of the camels. After we all swung our legs over their broad backs, our handlers clicked their tongues—signaling it was OK for our new “rides” to get moving. I captured some priceless photos. One of them shows my husband’s expression of delighted surprise when he felt a dramatic incline from the camel dipping its shoulders forward.

What kind of activity can follow a camel ride? Feeding giraffe's, of course. After the carrots we held out disappeared (thanks to 20-inch-long tongues), we made friends with Nigerian pygmy goats and saw a hyena getting its annual exam at the wildlife hospital. While on the topic of yearly events, the kids suggested we add a trip to Palm Springs to the family calendar. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed. We'd actually already talked about that.

Find more ways to play in Palm Springs.
Where to play in Palm Springs

One more thing:

Where to eat and sleep.

Bring your appetite and slide into a booth at The Broken Yolk Café or Tyler’s Burgers—Palm Springs’ former Greyhound bus depot now serving gourmet burgers loved by locals and celebrities alike. Craving Mexican food? You'll never forget the hot sauces (they’re family recipes) at El Mirasol. Choose from its two locations—one just down the street from Moorten Botanical Garden and the other in the historic Los Arboles Hotel. In the mood for Italian? Pizza connoisseurs will be impressed by Bill’s Pizza’s crust—featuring the finest flour imported from Italy. Finally, if fresh seafood is one of your favorite food groups, you’ll have a hard time not ordering the entire menu at Fisherman’s Market and Grill.

You can’t eat 24/7, but you can pool hop for weeks in Palm Springs and never splash in the same swimming pool twice. Or, you can just stay at Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel and spend weeks exploring every inch of its 5,000 square-foot-pool—the largest in Palm Springs.

Speaking of superlatives, the neighboring Kimpton Rowan Hotel boasts the highest rooftop in Palm Springs, along with the area's only rooftop pool. Family-friendly favorite hotels in Palm Springs also include Palm Mountain Resort & Spa, Best Western Inn at Palm Springs and the completely non-smoking, pet-friendly Polynesian-themed Caliente Tropics Resort Hotel. And yes, all of these properties have pools!