You will find so many fun things to do in Palm Desert, California. As nearby iconic Palm Springs spread, new communities formed, and elegant Palm Desert is one. It’s an easy drive of 20 minutes or so into downtown Palm Springs. So, you can sample the best of this area by staying in comfortable hotels or Airbnbs in Palm Desert, where more of the sandy desert remains to be seen. Palm Desert offers an abundance of restaurants and cafes and upscale shopping. And, with plenty of sun year-round, Palm Desert may inspire you to spend a good part of your getaway lounging poolside.
While we’ve been to Palm Springs and Palm Desert many times, we decided to take along our puppy recently and see whether he would enjoy the getaway, too. The answer is a resounding yes! Bailey loved the desert.
And we found plenty of things to do in Palm Desert with him. It’s definitely a dog-friendly place. Here are a few ideas for your getaway, with or without a pup in tow.
Visit Historic Aircraft at the Palm Springs Air Museum
It may surprise you that one of the premier air museums in the US is tucked away in the California desert. The Palm Springs Air Museum celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and has amassed quite a collection of historic aircraft. Lying adjacent to the Palm Springs Airport, the museum shares a runway to add new planes or fly those already in the hangar.
Stop for a photo op with aviator Charles Lindbergh out front, then enter the lobby and buy your ticket at the gift shop. Restrooms and an orientation movie in the Buddy Rogers Theater are in the lobby.
Then go straight ahead to any of the four hangars, which are organized by theme, with exhibits lining the walls. About 60 aircraft are on display. This trip, we spent about two hours in the European Army World War II Hangar and the small hangar that houses the huge B-17 Flying Fortress. The other two hangars are the Pacific Navy World War II hangar and the newest addition that houses planes and exhibits from the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam.
One of the delights of this museum is the docents. Many of them flew these planes or served on aircraft carriers. Be sure to chat with these friendly guides. They have stories galore about the planes on view.
For more information, check the museum’s website. Current prices are $19.50 for adults and $17.50 for children. The museum is located at 745 North Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs.
See a Collection of Desert Plants at the Moorton Botanical Garden
This small botanical garden is the perfect place for a half-hour walk through lush cactus gardens. Paths are tree-shaded, which is welcome in the heat. A palm tree oasis surrounds the gardens, and a greenhouse allows you to study growing plants up close.
This privately-owned arboretum is called a “cactorium” by the family. Among the 3,000 varieties of plants are some rare kinds you likely won’t see anywhere else, along with the lovely more common ones like the barrel cactus.
The Moorton Botanical Garden also includes pioneer and gold mining relics. And a tortoise. Bailey met the tortoise and all went well.
You can stop in the nursery on your way out and pick up a succulent to take home with you.
Stroll in Downtown Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs, along Palm Canyon Drive, is a lively scene filled with color, cafes, and boutique shops. The town grew to fame in the 1950s when Hollywood stars drove about 100 miles east to play in the desert. After a downturn, the center of the city is once again vibrant. A walk in downtown is a must if you visit.
One fun part of downtown Palm Springs is the extensive Walk of Stars. This is similar to the Hollywood version of sidewalk tributes to stars. You’ll find more than 400 stars along Palm Canyon Drive and along the short side streets. Among those honored are Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Sophia Loren, and Mary Pickford. For a map of whose star is where, download the excellent app. You can find your favorite star’s star, and a map of the area is helpful, too.
While you’re downtown, keep an eye out for a bronze statue of Sonny Bono, one-time mayor of Palm Springs. And Lucille Ball is sitting on a bench ready to pose with you. She’s on E. Taqhuitz Canyon Way, just off Palm Canyon Drive.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to grab a coffee, try Koffi on E. Taqhuitz. A small lawn for your dog, free wi-fi, and notable coffee drinks will give you a nice break from the hustle and bustle of central downtown.
For a Memorable Lunch, Head to Sherman’s Deli
Just a few blocks from downtown Palm Springs, Sherman’s Deli & Bakery may not grab your attention, but it is a top choice for lunch. It fills early with locals as well as tourists, but we waited only about 15 minutes for a table. The sandwiches on homemade bread and the potato salad are so tasty. And a cellist sat on the sidewalk and serenaded the diners for an added touch of fun.
Take in the View at the Lookout on Highway 74
The Pines to Palms Highway, or Highway 74, winds from the trees of the Idyllwild area down to the palms of the desert. Just above the town is a lookout that you can stop at either on the way in or after a short drive during your stay. Looking down at Palm Desert from far above is fascinating. The severe switchbacks of the highway are startling, too. And the shadows on the desert mountains behind you are beautiful.
Hike If It’s Cool
We had a hike at the Mission Creek Preserve on our itinerary, as it’s a dog-friendly trail. But it was simply too hot for both us humans and our dog to trek in the desert. We hope to return in the cooler winter months and explore this trail. Some trails in the area don’t allow dogs, so I searched a while to find this one. It’s on my list for future adventures.
The sandy trail runs for more than 17 miles and features old stone buildings and Mission Creek. Desert flora and fauna live here, and the desert hills and Mount San Gorgonio are in view.
Enjoy al Fresco Dining
The Palm Desert and Palm Springs area boast so many restaurants that you’ll be able to find whatever kind of cuisine you’re wanting. Not all restaurants are dog-friendly, though. Here are two Palm Desert gems that welcome pets and serve outstanding dinners.
Fresh Agave Restaurant
73325 Highway 111
The large patio dining is behind the restaurant and isn’t visible when you drive up. So don’t worry whether there’s outdoor seating. The food at Fresh Agave is delicious, and pleasant live music accompanied our enchilada dinners. Bailey met other dogs, people engaged in conversation with us, and it was quite a party atmosphere. And I can recommend the Margaritas.
Backstreet Bistro – Italian
72-820 El Paso
In the mood for Italian food? Or fresh seafood? Try Backstreet Bistro in the El Paseo area of Palm Desert. I was all set for pasta, but the fresh salmon with veggies swayed me. And it was mouthwatering. With friendly service, a basket of warm bread, and a glass of wine, this restaurant aims to please.
We had a glitch on arrival because we had warmed Bailey’s chicken dinner at the hotel but forgot to put it in the car. The restaurant was filling up for the evening and we didn’t want to drive back to the hotel. So, the chef cooked Bailey a chicken breast that came cut up in a dog bowl. We felt very well taken care of that evening.
Top Off Your Desert Day with Ice Cream
On vacation, an ice cream cone is sometimes just what you need to end your day of sightseeing. For great atmosphere as well as tasty ice cream, go to Ben & Jerry’s at the River in Rancho Mirage. Just on the border of Palm Desert, the River does have a river running through it. Sitting outside in the warm desert evening with lighted palm trees in view, we enjoyed soaking up the desert life.
The River also has shopping, a movie theater, and restaurants.
Where to Stay
You have many options when choosing a pet-friendly hotel in Palm Desert. We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn, which turned out to be perfect. The rooms feature full kitchens, so we were able to take and refrigerate food for Bailey. The living area has a sofa so you can sit comfortably and watch a movie with your pup by your side.
The grounds are spacious enough that we could take pleasant early morning walks among blooming desert landscapes. And right by our room we found the lawn for pets, complete with bags and a trash can. For some reason, Bailey preferred the sand to the grass. I guess he is a true desert dog.
For more Palm Desert hotels that welcome dogs, check out the Bring Fido site.
A Note on Safety
We found the town of Palm Desert welcoming and safe for Bailey. Do be sure to take water and a water bowl for your dog wherever you are going. Temps were in the 90s the weekend we visited, which is not that hot for the desert. But we frequently offered Bailey a drink during our sightseeing, and he slurped up the water. Same for people, too, of course. Stay well hydrated in this desert milieu.
We hope to go back to Palm Desert with Bailey for more adventures. We just scratched the surface of things to do in Palm Desert. We never did fit in time to relax by the pool. But what a refreshing time we had in Palm Desert with our pup for company.
PIN IT FOR LATER!!