Palm Springs, California, isn't just for the older members of the family. Long-known for catering to those with silver in their hair and golf enthusiasts, Palm Springs is now an excellent choice for family fun in the warm California sun. From exhilarating water parks to museums with hands-on activities, this desert city and surrounding area offers enough variety to strike boredom from the family agenda.
Nothing pleases kids and goes better with hot weather than playing in the water. The Knotts Soak City (soakcityps.com) offers a variety of wet options appropriate for all age groups. The park offers a baby wading pool where caregivers, infants and toddlers can cool off in the water, and a tidal wave pool and several water slides for the older kids and adventurous adults. A less expensive and more civic-oriented aquatic option is available at the city-owned Palm Desert Aquatic Center (desertymca.org) run by the YMCA in Palm Desert -- just a 14-mile trip southeast of Palm Springs. Swim lessons, open swim, lap swim and water polo are offered in the center's three year-round pools.
Forget stuffy and archaic: The several Palm Springs area museums offer action and hands-on interaction. The Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert (cdmod.org) features a rock climb, rope maze and a self-pulley system that gets kids' hearts pumping and stimulates their brain waves with the science behind each activity. The Palm Springs Air Museum's (palmspringsairmuseum.org) features static displays of aircraft from World War II set up in air-conditioned hangars. The planes are not roped off: Kids are allowed to get up close with the airplanes from their grandparent's youth. A visit to Ruddy's 1930's General Store Museum (palmsprings.com) with more than 6,000 unused items in their original containers gives kids yet another glimpse at what life was like for the older generation. The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum (accmuseum.org) exposes kids to the history of local native peoples and the opportunity to make native crafts such as baskets, pottery and musical instruments.
Civic Center Park
Also located in neighboring Palm Desert, the Civic Center Park (cityofpalmdesert.org) offers parents and kids a full day of family fun. Baseball, tennis, pickleball, basketball, volleyball and skateboarding venues are available. The "tot lot" offers pint-sized playground options and the dog park offers a no-leash run for Rover. The park features walking trails, grassy picnic areas and picnic tables. Check out the park's extensive art collection featuring a Holocaust Memorial and mix some culture and history into an active day.
Kiddos love to watch animals: The Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Garden (livingdesert.org) featuring animal and plant life found in the area's Colorado Desert satisfies that curiosity. Guest services offer zebra-themed strollers for rent and a shuttle tour for when little legs are too tired. Ample shade trees and misted rest areas are available. A romp at the playground and a camel ride ought to be enough activity to ensure a toddler sleeps well that night. Palm Springs offers a couple of dining options with grown-up and little people choices plus high-back booths to provide privacy when your little angel misbehaves: Traveling Mom recommends the Grind Burger Bar and Grill (grindbrgrbar.com) and the Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill (rioazulpalmsprings.com).
A 12.5-minute ride from the floor of the Coachella Valley in the Sonoran Desert travels through five life zones and ends at the alpine forest in the Long Valley in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (pstramway.com) enclosed cars complete two full rotations on the trip allowing each rider views in all direction during the trip. Once atop the mountain, explore the nearly 300,000 acres of protected state and national lands before grabbing a bite to eat at one of two restaurants near the tramway.