When you think of Palm Springs, you might think golf courses and yuppies sitting by the pool. While Palm Springs is the playground and getaway spot for Southern California, the region brings a diverse set of experiences for everyone to enjoy, especially families or couples looking for a fun weekend or a week-long vacation.
My family is not one where we like to stay at a resort and just hit the pool all day. We we love our pool time, but we also want to get out and see the natural beauty and features as well. This article will feature two of the Palm Springs area’s best parks: Joshua Tree National Park and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway/San Jacinto State Park.
Establishing a home base
Our hotel for our time in the Palm Springs area was Marriott’s Shadow Ridge just outside of Palm Desert. This beautiful resort is expansive and has thousands of rooms spread across acres and acres of desert. The resort doesn’t feel massive or overly spread out as each pod of condo-style rooms has its own pool and recreation area.
Our room was a one-room suite and it was beautifully decorated. With tile floors, local photography and granite countertops, it was the perfect home base for our adventures. The patio looked out onto the pool and provided an amazing spot to eat breakfast in the morning and watch families play in the pool at the end of a long day.
Mariott’s Shadow Ridge features a wide array of free activities for you and your family. From tie-dying to tennis lessons and even hula hoop competitions, they’re fun and educational. There’s even an on-resort movie theatre laying films from early afternoon to night-time.
Joshua Tree National Park
Just a short 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Marriott Shadow Ridge is Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is known for dramatic desert landscapes, mountain climbing and stunning views of the Coachella Valley.
We arrived at Joshua Tree and started at the west end visitors center. The ranger told us about the sites not to miss along the 40 mile loop inside the park. If you’re headed into Joshua Tree for the day, don’t forget to take these items to make sure you’ll enjoy your time:
- A hearty snack or meal
- Plenty of water
- Comfortable clothes (layer up because some portions of Joshua Tree can be chilly)
- Comfortable hiking shoes
For those who want to see Joshua Tree from the car on a nice drive, there is plenty to see from the vistas along the roadside and parking lots. You can also see quite a bit by just hiking 10 minutes in on most trailheads. Also, if you’re a serious hiker, you can spend all day seeing rock formations, the famous Joshua trees and amazing wildlife in the park.
On the way home from Joshua Tree, be sure to hit Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for food and drinks. Plan ahead and make reservations before your trip. We were unable to get in the night we went to Pappy’s but everyone in the area ranted about how amazing it was. So, learn from us and call before your trip. 😉
San Jacinto State Park and Aerial Tramway
Ascending up above Palm Springs is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This tramway is the world’s longest rotating gondola and carries visitors from 2,000 feet on the valley floor up to 8,500 feet atop San Jacinto Mountain. During that jaunt, you ascend through 5 climate zones, bringing a huge variety of scenery and natural settings.
Again, visitors must plan ahead as there is a 30 degree temperature difference atop the mountain from the valley floor. When we were on the mountain, it was 39 degrees and it even snowed on us, so take a nice coat.
Once you’re up on the mountain, you can enjoy hikes that let you peer down onto the valley below, see amazing rock formations and even view snow banks and snow-fed ponds. There’s wildlife abound including birds and if you’re lucky, mountain goats. Be sure to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds to experience Mount San Jacinto to its fullest potential.
Get to Palm Springs!
The greater Palm Springs area has amazing activities for everyone that are affordable and fun. From horseback riding to golf to fine food and cocktails, this area is the perfect vacation spot for families of all stripes. Considering Palm Springs is a short flight for those on the west coast, it should definitely be on your bucket list of must-do vacation spots!
For information and help planning your visit, be sure to contact the Greater Palm Springs Visitor Information at 800-969-3767.
Disclosure: Marriott Shadow Ridge graciously provided accommodation for this trip. My opinions, however, can never be bought. 🙂