Oh, What Fun!

Oh, What Fun!

Deck your holiday with these desert excursions.

Ashley Breeding Attractions, Current Guide

Oh, What Fun!
Train display at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Finding an activity that everyone in the family will enjoy on vacation is easy in Greater Palm Springs — our desert communities offer a range of attractions that will keep the crew busy and bring holiday cheer to kids of all ages. What are you waiting for? Lace up your sneakers, pack a picnic, and get moving.

Explore the Outdoors

From palms to pines, some of the area’s most visually spectacular hikes are also the most family-friendly. Don’t miss Indian Canyons, where a dusty loop trail winds around a bubbling stream and Palm Springs’ only native fan-palm oasis. At nearby Tahquitz Canyon, stop by the visitor center to browse artifacts before ascending the rocky path to a cascading waterfall. At Whitewater Preserve, watch trout fish wiggle around the pond, then stroll alongside the blue-green river, named after the snowmelt that rapidly carves through here each spring. In the High Desert, Joshua Tree National Park offers scenery you won’t see anywhere else in the world; littler legs easily handle a skip along the park’s Hidden Valley Trail, while intermediate hikers find panoramas at the top of Ryan Mountain.

Go Wild

The desert offers a world of animal attractions. Spend the afternoon at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, where giraffes lope through long-grass meadows and evenings come alive with the annual WildLights holiday display. To bond more closely with nature, take a trail ride at Smoke Tree Stables, where ranch hands pair you with a horse whose personality best fits yours before leading you on an epic adventure through the desert wash or Indian Canyons. Or take a trip to prehistoric times at Cabazon Dinosaurs, a nearby roadside attraction with more than 50 lifelike dinos; you can explore the inside of a T-Rex and even go digging for fossils.

Get a Birds-Eye View

In Palm Springs, you don’t need to be a dedicated hiker to reach a mountaintop. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you up Mount San Jacinto in fewer than 10 minutes and boasts 360-degree views of the Coachella Valley and beyond by way of rotating cable car. At the top, snowshoe through coniferous forests, tube down a powdery knoll, visit a natural history museum, and enjoy a good meal with a side of epic scenery. Forests also await in the mountain town of Idyllwild, a few twists and turns up Highway 74. On your way, stop at Vista Point for a family photo against the sprawling Coachella Valley.

Get in the Spirit

Even Santa is a snowbird. You can visit him during an afternoon Christmas Walk on El Paseo, Dec. 8 in Palm Desert, where several businesses along the boulevard host festive activities. To the west, Desert Ice Castle in Cathedral City offers an ice-skating rink with weekend-night laser skating sessions. View some of the area’s best residential holiday light displays on Candy Cane Lane (Minerva Road, located between Tachevah Drive and Avenida La Vista in Cathedral City) and at Robolights in Palm Springs, a wonderland of illuminated “junk” that lights up excitement throughout the holiday season.

Make Education Fun

Want to learn how the human body works? Or discover what makes the wind blow, water flow, plants grow, and cars go? At the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert in Rancho Mirage, curious kids can participate in more than 50 art and science activities. Meanwhile in Joshua Tree, Desert Institute hosts group hikes and a variety of nature workshops, teaching things like outdoor survival skills and how to photograph wildflowers.

It’s a Date

These sugary fruits are what we’re known for, so don’t leave without trying them. Shields Date Garden & Café in Indio serves them fresh, dried, in fluffy pancakes, stuffed with prosciutto, or — the best way — in a (locally) famous date shake, made with vanilla ice milk (which has less butterfat than ice cream) and Shields’ specialty date crystals. Explore the date palm groves after you eat to see where the tasty ingredient was grown.

Date Shakes

The beloved date shake at Shields Date Garden & Café