Our favorite family-friendly activities in the coachella valley

By Kylee Niederhauser

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Visiting The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a unique experience that combines entertainment and education in the heart of the Coachella Valley. The Living Desert stands out for its emphasis on showcasing the diverse wildlife and plant life found in desert ecosystems around the world. As families explore the exhibits, they encounter a wide array of fascinating animals, from North American mountain lions to African meerkats, to Australian wallabies, and don’t forget to feed the giraffes!

The Living Desert offers an immersive environment where visitors can learn about conservation efforts and gain a deeper appreciation for the delicate balance of desert habitats. It feels less like a “zoo” and more like a wildlife park.

Beyond the animal exhibits, kids (and adults) of all ages flock to the model trains. The attention to detail in these tiny landscapes is so impressive and even though our family frequents the Living Desert, watching the trains never gets old.

Our top tips:

  • Arrive early to see the animals in their most active state. This is even more true in the warmer months of the year.
  • You can bring your own food and drink into the park.
  • The food options in the park are “just ok”, but the best option is in Village Watutu
  • Wild Lights are held twice per year (Christmas and Spring) and both are excellent!

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Taking the family on an adventure to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway promises an unforgettable experience for kids and parents alike. Picture hopping aboard a rotating tramcar that slowly ascends the towering San Jacinto Mountains. The excitement builds as the tram rotates, giving everyone in the family a 360-degree view of the stunning Coachella Valley below. It’s like stepping into a magical ride, and the kids are sure to be thrilled as they watch the landscape change from the desert floor to a cool alpine forest at the mountain’s peak.

Once you reach the top, families can explore the mountain station, which offers observation decks with panoramic views, and maybe even play in a bit of snow during the winter months. There are also nature trails suitable for all ages, allowing the family to take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the crisp mountain air. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway provides a unique blend of adventure and scenic beauty that makes it a fantastic family-friendly activity, creating lasting memories for both the young and the young at heart.

Our top tips:

  • Bring layers – there is often a big variance in air temperature (typically ~20 degrees F) from the base of the tram and the top, even in the summer months.
  • Pack water bottles and snacks. There are multiple dining options at the top of the tram, or picnic tables if you want to pack a lunch as well.
  • Buy tickets in advance online, if possible. TIckets can be purchased at the tram station, but you may have to wait a while, especially during the busy season.

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert has been closed for several years, but the whole Valley is buzzing with excitement and anticipation of it’s reopening. While we don’t know exactly what changes have happened behind closed doors, we do know that the museum is designed with kids in mind, featuring hands-on exhibits that spark curiosity and creativity.

From exciting science displays to imaginative play zones, the Children’s Discovery Museum creates an engaging environment where children can explore, discover, and learn in a playful way. Parents will appreciate the educational value, while kids will be thrilled by the interactive exhibits that make learning an exciting adventure. So, if you’re planning your visit post-renovations, be ready for a fantastic day of family bonding and discovery at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert.

Our top tips:

  • TBD. Expected reopening date is March 25, 2024

Palm Springs Air Museum

If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure that’s both educational and exciting for the whole family, the Palm Springs Air Museum is a must-visit destination. This museum isn’t just about staring at old planes; it’s about getting up close and personal with aviation history. From World War II fighters to modern jets, the Palm Springs Air Museum showcases a diverse collection of aircraft that will capture the imagination of kids and adults alike.

Imagine the excitement on your child’s face as they climb into the cockpit of a vintage plane or learn about the heroes who flew these machines in combat. The museum offers interactive exhibits, knowledgeable staff (many of whom are Veterans with lots of stories to share), and even the chance to watch restoration projects in action, providing a hands-on experience that brings history to life. So, whether your family has a budding aviation enthusiast or just loves a good adventure, a trip to the Palm Springs Air Museum promises an unforgettable experience filled with excitement and discovery.

Our top tips:

  • If you want to add a once-in-a-lifetime experience to your museum visit, book a Warbird Ride. Passengers must be at least 13 years old.

Indian Canyons

Heading to Indian Canyons with the family is like stepping into a natural wonderland, offering a perfect mix of adventure and exploration. The canyons, located on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation, provide an excellent opportunity for families to connect with nature and discover the beauty of the desert landscape. Picture hiking through picturesque canyons, surrounded by stunning palm oases and rugged rock formations that will captivate the entire family.

The Andreas Canyon and Palm Canyon are the primary highlights, each offering unique sights and experiences. In Andreas Canyon, families can meander along a well-maintained trail, crossing over crystal-clear streams and marveling at the vibrant colors of the indigenous plant life.

Palm Canyon, on the other hand, boasts one of the largest native California fan palm oases in the world, creating a lush and shady haven. Kids will love spotting wildlife, such as birds and lizards, while parents can appreciate the tranquility and natural beauty of the surroundings. With the sound of rustling palm fronds and the scent of the desert air, Indian Canyons provides a serene and family-friendly escape into the heart of the Coachella Valley’s breathtaking landscape.

Our top tips:

  • Get an early start in the warmer months of the year
  • Bring plenty of water

Civic Center Park in Palm Desert

Civic Center Park in Palm Desert is a fantastic spot for families seeking a mix of relaxation and outdoor activities. This expansive park offers lush green spaces, playgrounds, and picturesque ponds, creating an ideal setting for a day out with the kids. One of the park’s charming features is the ponds, where families can often spot turtles leisurely sunbathing or swimming. This delightful encounter adds an extra layer of excitement for the little ones, turning a simple stroll into a mini wildlife adventure.

Apart from turtle spotting, Civic Center Park provides playgrounds equipped with swings and slides, ensuring that children have plenty of space to run, play, and burn off some energy. Families can bring a picnic and enjoy a meal together at the designated picnic areas or take a leisurely walk along the well-maintained paths that wind through the park. With beautiful landscaping, a vibrant atmosphere, and the added joy of spotting turtles in the ponds, Civic Center Park in Palm Desert is a go-to destination for families looking for a relaxed and kid-friendly outdoor experience.

Our top tips:

La Quinta X Park

La Quinta X Park is a fairly recent addition to the city’s family-friendly activities, and is a haven for skateboarding enthusiasts and novices alike. With a unique blend of modern design and diverse features, this skate park is a must-visit for those seeking an adrenaline-packed experience on wheels.

For just $5, non-residents can access the park, where they’ll discover a concrete pump track that offers thrilling twists and turns, a contemporary street course adorned with stairs, rails, and ledges, and three distinct bowls catering to skaters of all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned skateboarder looking to master new tricks or a 5-year-old with a scooter and a helmet, X Park provides a vibrant and inclusive space to roll, grind, and carve.

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