When I was in my 20s, I visited Palm Springs, California for the first time, and I swore it was my last. So how we ended up choosing it as a family vacation destination for spring break last year takes a little bit of explaining.
During that first visit, I remember sleeping on the floor of a friend’s humble apartment and then going on a long parched hike through the desert where we nearly ran out of water from our CamelBak hydration packs and almost passed out from heat exhaustion. Afterward, we briefly hit up the wrong part of the downtown strip, which was not my scene. I had been living in California but longed for the Northwest, and had a fair amount of angst towards all things desert (not to mention we were visiting during peak heat).
Fast forward many years, two kids, and a pandemic later, and I’ve completely changed my tune on Palm Springs (and the desert in general). After two years of pandemic isolation in the lush Pacific Northwest, I began to long for palm trees and flowering succulents, and upon researching short flights from Oregon and condo options with our family’s RCI membership I decided to give Palm Springs a second look. I’m so glad I did!
Perfect Palm Springs
Armed with a newfound interest in the desert, better planning, and a sunny SoCal vacation mindset, my experience with Palm Springs this second time around was completely different. From the palm trees that greeted us at our condo to the mountains that surrounded us we had a memorable family trip. And traveling during the most ideal time of year weather-wise, the spring, made it all the more perfect. The skies were blue, the wildflowers were blooming, and the temperatures were excellent.
Palm Springs has been a popular vacation destination since the 1930s, but it feels like the pandemic has sent even more folks flocking to this desert resort town oasis. Located about two hours from Los Angeles, there is something to please everyone here, and for us, it was COVID-safe outdoor recreation. Located in the Coachella Valley in the Sonoran Desert, family outdoor recreational opportunities abound, under beautiful blue skies.
7 Things We Loved About Palm Springs
1. The weather in Palm Springs is perfect in the winter and spring
The climate is just what the doctor ordered for sun-deprived Pacific Northwesterners: with palm trees and blue skies for miles! The best time to go is generally January – April. We went towards the end of March, and the temperature was excellent. A friend went during her California spring break in April, and by then temperatures can be inching up into uncomfortable territory.
2. It’s a short direct flight to Palm Springs from many Northwest airports
It is a short direct flight to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) from cities such as Seattle (year-round) and the following Oregon cities seasonally: Bend/Redmond, Eugene, and Portland. Check out this great article in SFGate for more. Another thing we discovered and loved was the open courtyard at the airport. We had never seen something like that before, and it made COVID-safe travel a breeze.
3. Palm Springs is a great destination for winter and spring hiking
There are plenty of short family-friendly hikes in and around Palm Springs. (We loved Tahquitz Canyon and the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve within Coachella Valley Preserve, but there are many more to choose from.)
4. There are plenty of other fun things to do for families in Palm Springs, too, if you’re not a hiking family
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was a big hit for us, where you can take in spectacular mountain views without the climb, and we also loved visiting the Moorten Botanical Garden and stopping for crepes at Gabino’s Creperie and ice cream at Kreem right nearby. The Cabazon Dinosaurs were also on our list, although we did not make it, and the Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs Air Museum, and many more options are available.
5. Daily pool time is a hit for kids of all ages
Palm Springs boasts the ideal climate for pool fun, and we were sure to hit up our condo’s pool every afternoon. For Northwest kids, there’s nothing that screams “successful spring break” more than being able to jump into the pool 1,000 times, during a time of year when it’s typically in the 40s, gray, and pouring rain back home. I will hold tight to the memory of our son jumping over and over into that pool after three years of being homebound during pandemic breaks.
6. Joshua Tree National Park is just a short drive away
Joshua Tree National Park is less than an hour’s drive from Palm Springs, and rock scrambling is sure to be fun for kids of all ages. For our teen, hiking is not her idea of great fun, but both kids loved that most of the hikes are short and involve a lot of rock scrambling.
7. You can even plan a day trip (or overnight) to LA’s theme parks
A Universal Studios Hollywood or Disneyland day trip is manageable from Palm Springs for more motivated travelers who plan ahead. For our family, we booked one night at the Hilton Universal City and made sure to plan our drive carefully (leaving mid-day and returning after dinner), allowing us to spend a fun-filled day at Universal Studios without getting caught up in the challenging SoCal commute traffic.
From this point forward, I will sing the praises of Palm Springs with or without the kids, if you can go during the right time of year and with the right mindset. Memories of blue skies, blooming wildflowers, and countless positive family experiences will linger in my memory for years to come.
I hope that this post has inspired you to consider Palm Springs as a family vacation destination if you haven’t already, and I welcome your questions and comments below!
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