I love road trips! There’s nothing more fun than the open road and the excitement of what we’ll find along the way. One of our favorites is a road trip to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. It’s a fun destination, and it’s close – just about a 2 hour drive from San Diego to Palm Springs. You’re on the road just long enough to feel like you’re really on vacation, but it’s close enough that you can visit for a last minute weekend get away.
The entire Coachella Valley is often referred to as “Palm Springs” as a general term, but it’s actually made up of 8 distinct cites, each with their own personality and attractions. The cities of the Coachella Valley include Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, and Coachella.
There’s something for everyone in the Coachella Valley – from families, to couples, to retirees. Popular activities include golfing, hiking, shopping, and just relaxing by the pool. There are also casinos with fun entertainment, hot springs, and great restaurants.
These are some of my favorite things to do on a Palm Springs / Coachella Valley road trip:
Thursday Evening Street Fair and Dinner at Las Casuelas Terraza
On Thursday evenings there is a street fair called “VillageFest” where you’ll find arts, crafts, food, and entertainment. The evenings are delightfully warm. We usually park behind Las Casuelas Terraza and make a reservation for dinner after we are done at the street fair. We really enjoy eating on the patio, listening to their dance music under the stars.
Shopping Downtown Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs has several cool stores that are very reasonable. The teenagers love them. One is Heavenly Couture where everything is $16.00, it is so fun.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
For the best views of the valley and beyond, take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, it will take your breath away! Buy your tickets online or at the base of the tramway. There’s a restaurant at the top Peaks Restaurant, A Culinary Experience Above the Clouds that features locally sourced fruits and vegetables, dry aged meats and poultry along with fresh breads from local bakeries.
The people at the Palm Springs Visitors Center are so helpful and friendly, they have great information on their web site and at their location at 2901 North Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, CA 92262 (800) 347-7746.
Shields Date Garden
For a special breakfast it is Shields Date Garden on the patio, after breakfast we walk through their beautiful garden that is the 14 stages of Christ. The garden is free if you spend $25.00 otherwise it’s $5.25 per person, and well worth the price. The garden is incredible! We took our time and spent about 45 minutes, reading all of the stages as we walked through. There were tears in my eyes many times, it is so beautiful and the story is done so well. It is a great experience one we will do many times. More about our stop at Shields Date Garden.
Jackalope Ranch for Dinner
For some dinner restaurants in Indio, Jackalope Ranch is a great experience. If you aren’t big eaters I suggest you go to their happy hour outside you will be pleasantly surprised. The grounds are gorgeous and the prices are half price. You’ll love sitting on the beautiful patio.
College of the Desert Swap Meet/Street Fair
The College of the Desert Swap Meet is every Saturday and Sunday morning. As the weather gets hotter it is important to go early it opens at 7 AM. You won’t be disappointed it is free and there is a lot of great booths and great merchandise.
If you want to see some really nice stores go to El Paseo in Palm Desert. I actually love to go there in the summer – there are some incredible sales! With over 300 shops to explore, you’ll enjoy the clothing boutiques, art galleries, jewelers, restaurants and much, more…all lined along a lovely boulevard lined with flowers and art work. There is so much to explore and so many restaurants to enjoy.
Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
And while you’re on El Paseo…Sammys Woodfired Pizza has a great pizza, of course, but my fave is the Chicken Basalmic Salad (here’s the link to their awesome dressing!). If you are having a birthday they give you a free Messy Sundae it is a $10.00 Sundae that’s big enough to share….if you want to.
Papa Dan’s has 2 great Italian restaurants serving delicious pizza at reasonable prices. Their small antipasto salad is so good and serves 4 easily.
The Cliff House
The Cliff House in La Quinta is fun if you sit outside. They have a great happy hour in the bar.
Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant
Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant in La Quinta is very special. We really enjoy sitting outside. And if you are dining with children, they have a little putting green that will entertain kids and parents until their dinner comes.
Other Coachella Valley Attractions and Shopping
Cabazon and Desert Hills Outlet Mall
I’m not sure if they’re technically in the Coachella Valley, but if you’re a shopper, you’ve got to make a stop in Cabazon. I like to go there off season because parking is not great when it is crowded. Just about any store you want is there. It is very linear so I usually do a drive thru to see where I want to park. The Cabazon Outlet Mall and Desert Hill Outlet Mall are right next to each other, together they are one HUGE outlet mall filled with top designer outlet stores – like UGG, Kate Spade, Tommy Bahama, Guess, Karen Kane, Donna Karan, 7 For All Mankind, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Chicos, Dolce & Gabbana, Joe’s Jeans, Neiman Marcus, Rag and Bone, Saks Fifth Avenue, Jimmy Choo, Sketchers, Tod’s Cole Haan…and that’s just getting started. Wear comfy shoes and bring an empty trunk – there’s shopping to be done!
Sketchers Distribution Center
Of course you have the humongous Sketchers Distribution Center on I-60 with a huge selection and fabulous deals. It’s a little outside of the Coachella Valley area, but as you can see, I’m committed to the area shopping!
I have lots more tips for the desert more later. Happy Road Trip!!!