March 7, 2018
Palm Springs has always been on my ‘lust list’ to explore, as I love mid-century modern architecture and the free-spirit hippie vibes of Joshua Tree. We needed to keep the two 5 year olds busy, so developed this list of top things to do in Palm Springs with kids.
We squeezed in this quick trip in the middle of a hectic few weeks at work, so we chose to spend most of our time lounging by the pool soaking up the atmosphere at the delightfully vintage home we stayed at in Rancho Mirage.
Here’s our highlights (and lessons learned) for traveling with children in Palm Springs:
First of all, there’s NOTHING like a pool surrounded by palm trees to hit the chill out switch and keep kids busy and active for HOURS. Like, these kids were happy swimming for six hours a day. We’ve been hitting the swimming lessons hard, and this was the first time mommy got to sit on the poolside and read a book while the kids were swimming. It was heaven, not to mention a respite from that sweltering February heat. I can’t imagine how hot it gets in the summer months!
This roadside attraction prides itself as California’s best … and I might add that it’s probably also the cheesiest. We loved it.
I’m a sucker for all things retro, and these large dinosaurs had a certain old fashioned, low-tech charm. My hubby rolled his eyes and coughed when he learned the entry fee for adults was $12 and kids $10, and asked if we REALLY needed to go into the museum part. The answer was YES. The kiddos were fascinated by the animatronic dinosaurs, outdoor jungle, and the fact that we got to go INSIDE the T-Rex’s head. Our son said this was THE highlight of his entire trip and drew about this in his kindergarten travel journal.
Warning: there’s an overpriced gift shop in the belly of the massive brontosaurus. Steer clear.
If you’re going to Palm Springs with children, add Cabazon Dinosaurs to your list.
I’m usually not afraid of heights, but this one freaked me out. The tram goes up the mountain, rotating 360, and swings back and forth at every tower. The combo of the height, spinning, and swaying was quite scary for me. Kind of like a roller coaster. The little guy loved it.
Up top, it was like a whole different ecosystem with pine trees and SNOW! We hiked for over an hour and saw some impressive views. The air was so thin, our son had a bit of an asthma attack so needed to be piggy backed up the final hill and rewarded for his hiking efforts with marbles from the gift shop.
We’d recommend checking this one out with the family if you have an extra day in Palm Springs and love to hike: https://www.pstramway.com/
Oh, Joshua Tree. I’ve been dreaming of its free-spirit, boho vibes for years. We did a bit of research and were thrilled to find several websites describing what a GREAT place it is for kids. I was excited and hopeful. I even packed my very best hippie gear: Birkenstocks and cutoffs and crochet fringe beach cover.
SPOILER ALERT: Joshua Tree is NOT all that kid friendly. It’s SUPER HOT, there’s NO WATER, and there are NO WASHROOMS for hours and hours. Why the heck isn’t there even an outhouse?
We entered at the south entrance, which basically meant we drove for over an hour through flat desert. We stopped at the scenic Cactus Garden, where Cholla Jumping Cacti will pop off its babies at unsuspecting tourists. My hubby had one jump onto his foot, which delighted the kids to no end. It was hilarious. Our guidebook described them as “jumping teddy bears”. Ummm….
We kept on driving and were astounded by the sudden, randomly placed giant granite boulders that appeared. We took this time to read the guidebook and learn about glaciers, erratics, and erosion. There are SO many stunning formations, but we went directly to Skull Rock which did not disappoint. The kids and adults alike loved climbing and exploring the rocky landscape and caves.
By this time, the kids were hot and tired and needed to go to the bathroom. I’ve already mentioned that the entire National Park has NO WASHROOMS. This was a problem. Whining kids. And I still hadn’t gotten a photo of a Joshua Tree.
To make a long story short, we drove PAST all of the Joshua Trees, out of the park to the nearest gas station washroom. I was so choked; I NEEDED at photo of a Joshua Tree before we left. All I wanted was to spend a few moments outside, surrounded by them.
Unfortunately, there were a ton of houses around and didn’t give me the ‘deserted desert’ vibe I wanted. We veered off towards some random side-roads and found the perfect spot for my Joshua Tree shot. You can see how thrilled I am that I could FINALLY be one with the Joshua Trees, even if it was only 5 minutes while the grumpy kids waited in the car with an adult.
Most of all, I NEED to go back there.
Find out more at: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm
Last but not least, I was told that a date shake is a MUST in Palm Springs, and I was so delighted when my hubby delivered one to me at the pool—with a mini donut on top, no less. I’m not one to normally consume whipped cream, blended dates and a gazillion grams of sugar, but with a firm ‘carpe diem mindset; I enjoyed the entire thing. Mmmmm.
Next time, especially without kids, I need to check out #thatpinkdoor, Elvis & Priscilla Honeymoon Hideaway, rent a vintage airstream at the edge of Joshua Tree Park, stay at the Ace Hotel, and go to a vintage market. And go back to Joshua Tree, entering on the north end.