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Cool Free Things To Do in Palm Springs

Cool Free Things To Do in Palm Springs

By California.com
January 04, 2021

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe. 

With beautiful modern architecture, striking desert landscapes, hot springs, and a rich cultural heritage, Palm Springs is brimming with unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Whether you’re embarking on a weekend getaway to Palm Springs or just looking for a fun desert road trip, a visit to the playground of the stars is sure to quench your thirst for a glamorous adventure. 

Since Palm Springs has a reputation for luxury and high-end living, many people assume they need to have an extra zero in their bank account to afford a trip to the desert-chic town—this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are plenty of free things to do in Palm Springs. From outdoor escapes to architecture tours, here are the city’s best free attractions to check out next. 

Fun and Free Things to Do in Palm Springs

Enjoy free admission to the renowned Palm Springs Art Museum on certain days of the week.

Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum has three locations—two in downtown Palm Springs and one in Palm Desert—and on the second Sunday of each month and from 4 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, you can gain free access to over 12,000 artworks.

First opened in 1938, the museum initially housed natural science exhibits and Cahuilla Indian artifacts to educate visitors on the desert environment and the native peoples. Now, the Palm Springs Art Museum also boasts a large collection of fine and contemporary art pieces as well as 28 galleries, two sculpture gardens, four classrooms, a resource center, an artists center, five storage vaults, an 85-seat lecture hall, a 433-seat theater, a 1,000 square-foot store, and a popular local bistro.

The museum's on-site performance venue, the Annenberg Theater, typically hosts free film screenings throughout the summer months as well. Head to the museum for an immersive day filled with interesting exhibitions, children’s activities, and performances.

Head to downtown Palm Springs to discover eclectic shops, trendy eateries, the Walk of Stars, and the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Stroll Through Downtown Palm Springs

Downtown Palm Springs has something for everyone to enjoy. Offering everything from upscale designer stores and cute local boutiques to fine-dining restaurants and casual cafes, the downtown area is arguably the most energetic spot in this desert town and is a wonderful reflection of the effortlessly cool Palm Springs vibe.

One of the best free things to do around downtown is to stop by the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, which honors over 400 notable people—including Elvis Presley, Ginger Rogers, and Ronald Reagan—who’ve lived in the Greater Palm Springs area. The Walk of Stars is a popular destination, so if you’re planning to visit during peak months (January to April), try to go on a weekday when the streets are emptier. You’ll have a better chance at social distancing and window shopping in peace.

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Check Out Palm Springs VillageFest

One of the most popular free things to do in Palm Springs is visiting Palm Canyon Drive on Thursdays for VillageFest (open under normal circumstances). Also referred to as the Palm Springs Street Fair, this beloved event provides plenty of entertainment for anyone seeking a fun evening of art, crafts, food, and music.

Visit with your four-legged friend (the fest is pet-friendly) and mingle with local artists, chefs, and performers. Don’t forget to try the assorted produce, international street food, and sweets sold by local vendors. For a cool souvenir, take home some fresh flowers, jewelry, or a piece of original art.

Palm Springs is famed for its mid-century modern architecture, so take a tour to view the dreamy homes lining the streets.

Go On a Self-Guided Mid-Century Modern Architecture Tour

It would be a crime to visit Palm Springs without checking out the captivating architecture in its iconic neighborhoods. From world-famous Alexander homes to Spanish Revival mansions, Palm Springs provides the ultimate house-renovation inspo for anyone looking for it.

This free thing to do requires no expert knowledge of architecture—just the names of the neighborhoods you’re looking to visit. Drive by the previous homes of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, and admire some of the coolest architecture in California from the comfort of your own vehicle.

Admire the works of local ceramists, painters, jewelry makers, photographers, and more by visiting the Backstreet Art District.

Discover the Backstreet Art District

Creatives from all around the Golden State will enjoy meandering through the Palm Springs Backstreet Art District, where dozens of galleries, original modern art, and artists in action await. Discover your next favorite piece from the ever-changing array of paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry, and ceramics in the unique community.

This free thing to do also offers a one-of-a-kind experience: You can enjoy behind-the-scenes access to nationally and internationally recognized artists’ workshops. Visit on the first Wednesday of every month for a free art tour that’ll take you inside the studios of the local artists and give you a chance to interact with them while they work.

Hit the open road and cruise from Palm Springs to the nearby town of Idyllwild, making sure to stop at the various vista points along the way.

Drive the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

Blast your road trip playlist and go on a scenic drive that offers high-mountain wilderness and breathtaking pit stops along the way. The smooth trip on Highway 74 will take you from the desert through the Santa Rosa and the San Jacinto Mountains, before descending again to the desert floor.

You’ll cruise past the Coachella Valley Vista Point, Lake Hemet, Paradise Valley, and other greater Palm Springs destinations before you arrive at the final destination: Idyllwild. Upon reaching the beautiful mountain town, you can easily park your car and explore the local shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Take a short drive to the Coachella Valley Preserve to marvel at this beautiful pond and other natural wonders.

Explore the Coachella Valley Preserve

For a day of hiking, bird watching, picnicking, and horseback riding, visit the Coachella Valley Preserve. Situated about 30 minutes east of Palm Springs, this protected area boasts natural oases and lush vegetation almost year-round thanks to the San Andreas Fault, which produces seismic activity that feeds underground springs.

This hikers’ paradise has over 25 miles of trails with varying levels of difficulty, so hikers of all levels can find an ideal path here. Whether you’re looking to take a leisurely stroll surrounded by nature, challenge yourself on a strenuous climb, or enjoy other activities in the great outdoors, you’ll find plenty of free things to do at this Palm Springs destination.

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