palm springs villagefest

5 Free Things to Do This Summer

The heat does limit outdoor activities a bit in the desert, but here are five events in Palm Springs and surrounding desert cities that won't break your bank.

JIM POWERS Attractions, Current Digital

palm springs villagefest
Villagefest may not be as crowded during the summer, but it's still a popular choice on Thursday nights in downtown Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID A. LEE
VillageFest

This time of year the crowds thin some and there are not as many vendors as you might see in March. However, you can still witness Palm Springs’ true sense of community every Thursday night on Palm Canyon Drive. The street is closed to vehicular traffic starting at Amado Road south to Baristo and transforms into a festive, pedestrian street fair. There are plenty of food vendors to explore or take in one of the restaurants on Palm Canyon and make a night of it. Hours, 7-10 p.m. villagefest.org

Street Fair at College of the Desert

If you can’t make it to Villagefest, reserve one of your weekend mornings for Street Fair in Palm Desert. The parking lot at COD becomes a shaded shopping plaza where you’ll find more vendors than in Palm Springs. There are some eating options, but the vendors will help keep you hydrated. Street Fair offers over a thousand items for sale from artisans, home goods, fashion, furniture, vintage cars, a farmer’s market, and live entertainment. Hours, 7 a.m. to noon through September. codaastreetfair.com

Guided Nature Walks at Mt. San Jacinto State Park

Free guided nature walks by state park volunteers are underway and continue Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 1. This is a better choice in the summer than trying to hike on your own. The structure of a guided-hike ensures a greater degree of safety and allows you to focus more on the sights and sounds of the trail. These walks feature a choice of two easy trails – the Desert View Trail, a 1.5-mile beginning at 11 a.m. and the Long Valley Nature Trail, a ¾-mile loop beginning at 1:30 p.m. No advance registration is required.
There is no charge. msjnha.org

Palm Springs Summer Indoor Certified Farmer’s market

Fresh and locally grown produce available in the Coachella Valley is available from the people who grew it in many cases. The indoor facility in Palm Springs means you can take your time and peruse the goods. Subscribe to their weekly newsletter that highlights an item for sale that weekend. Hours, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, through September. certifiedfarmersmarkets.org

StarGazing

The desert has long been chosen for gazing at the galaxies because of the uninterrupted view. The recent addition of the observatory in Rancho Mirage provides more free choices for you to explore.

Sky’s The Limit in Twentynine Palms. Free star parties are Saturday nights when the moon is not quite full, starting about an hour after sunset (around 9 p.m.,) and lasting two hours. Check their calendar page for exact times and programs. skysthelimit29.org

Rancho Mirage Observatory. If you’re looking for a daytime excursion, the observatory offers tours Tuesdays through Saturdays at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The stargazing parties are subject to time and day scheduling, so they recommend you register for their newsletter to receive program information. Also, only 40 people are allowed for stargazing parties and pre-registration is required. More details, call 760-341-7323 or visit ranchomiragelibrary.org

Monument Night Adventure. First you’ll have a chance to see the desert at night and discover the creatures who come out after the lights are turned off with a short walk along the Randall Henderson Trail. The Astronomical Society of the Desert will have telescopes set up at the Visitor Center to observe stars, planets, and other features of the night sky. This is a great family event and minors must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Bring water and wear closed-toed shoes. Reservations are required. To reserve your spot, call 760-862-9984. desertmountains.org