Travel Review: Palm Springs & Joshua Tree National Park with Kids
This post may contain affiliate links. My stay at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa was paid for by myself.
When you hear about Palm Springs, most people think of parties (Coachella Valley is nearby) or retirees but it is actually really fun for families with children. Between checking out the gorgeous desert landscapes, an oasis and kicking back by the pool, we filled out days with socially-distanced fun. Read on for details for planning your own trip to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park.
When we went: November 2020
Ages of kids at time of travel: 7, 5 and 2
Where we stayed: Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, Rancho Mirage, California
What To Expect:
Palm Springs has two temperatures: deathly hot (triple digits) or super pleasant. To take advantage of the perfect temperature (70s-80s), go in the winter months. While prices will be way cheaper in summer, you will not be able to do much outside during the day and that is definitely one of the big draws for the area.
The Omni Rancho Las Palmas is a very family-friendly hotel situated on over 200 acres in the Coachella Valley, about 30 minutes south of Palm Springs. With options from standard rooms to spacious suites, you’ll find several options at various price points. We opted for the Luxury Suite which gave us a separate bedroom with an oversized bathroom and living room area with a pullout bed for the kids.
You can easily spend your days at one of the hotel’s many pools, including their own mini water park called Splashtopia. To help with social distancing, we did book a private cabana for our main pool day (about $200/day) which came with 2 loungers, 2 chairs, table and bottled water. Our was located right next to the beach area of Splashtopia which was great for letting the kids play while not hovering over them.
You definitely want to explore the area as there are amazing spots like Joshua Tree National Park within about an hours drive. Check out the list below for more ideas on what to do in the vicinity.
Things To Keep in Mind:
As mentioned above, the resort is very spacious and, if you love the pool, you could easily stay put for a few days. While the hotel does offer a few dining options from a counter-service snack bar/barista to sit down restaurants, you are definitely paying hotel food prices. We did splurge on a few meals for convenience, including lunch by the pool but, if you want to be a bit more frugal, there are a surplus of restaurants and shops in the area. We did get breakfast from the Starbucks across the street a few times and got takeout from a couple places.
The resort is quite big and while walking is very manageable, we did see several families with bikes or scooters for their kids. We don’t usually travel with this type of gear but, if you have the space and your child enjoys it, it definitely was popular there!
Joshua Tree National Park Recs:
Only about an hour away from Palm Springs, the expansive Joshua Tree National Park is worth a visit. Even if it is just a few hours, you can revel in the presence of the towering Joshua Trees and massive boulders while also seeing where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet. If you have younger kids, some the best places to check out are:
- Hidden Valley and Barker Dam have gigantic rock formations that are suitable for kids to check out.
- Find Skull Rock – located next to the main road. Also has a short hike but the main draw in the rock that, you guessed it, looks like a human skull.
- Plan to do at least one hike. Barker Dam, Cottonwood Spring, Hidden Valley are a few of the easier ones.
- Cholla Cactus Garden. Keep a close eye on kids and stay on the trail as these ones have a painful spine if touched.
- There are picnic spots dotted all over the park. Pack food, snacks and plenty of water and enjoy dining al fresco.
What Else To Do in the Area:
Joshua Tree National Park attracts lots of campers, hikers and climbers who will spend days in the park but, for families who need to add some variety to the itinerary, here are some other things to check out:
- Indian Canyons & Tahquitz Canyon (Palm Springs) – An absolutely gorgeous spot located on the land belonging to the Aguas Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians. We only visited Indian Canyons and it was well worth it. The Andreas Canyon hike was perfect for families and was beside a river oasis with towering palm trees.
- Moorten Botanical Garden (Palm Springs) – a great place to spend an hour learning about the plants of the desert. They also have a few tortoise. $5/adult and $2/child entry fee.
- The Living Desert (Palm Desert) – a zoo and gardens perfect for the whole family. $25/adult and $15/child. If you have a local zoo/aquarium membership, check to see if you have reciprocal benefits for a 50% discount. Buy tickets online for timed entry periods.
- Palm Springs Tram (Palm Springs) – Currently closed due to COVID-19 but an amazing way to see the area. Travel up to 8,516 feet and take in the views of Mt San Jacinto State Park.
- Love goats? Take a hike with them on this incredible AirBnB Experience hosted by Yogi Goats.
- Want to learn more about the history of Palm Springs and the Mid-Century architecture? Check out this tour.
Coming from the Bay Area? Consider breaking up the long drive by stopping in Solvang for a night or two.
There is no shortage of dining options in the Greater Palm Springs area. From fast food to restaurants offering takeout (and some with outdoor dining), there are lots of choices. Some of our favorites:
- Babe’s BBQ (Rancho Mirage) – across from the Omni hotel. Generous portions and lots of options for the kids. Save room for dessert – the pie is pretty tasty!
- Thai Smile (Palm Springs) – delicious Thai food. Everything we ordered was great.
- Great Shakes (Palm Springs) – save room for dessert after Thai food! Great Shakes can make pretty much any shake your heart desires and they even top it with a mini doughnut! Don’t let your eyes fool you – the smallest one is PLENTY!
What to Pack:
For the most part, this was a standard trip for us and we didn’t need too much extra gear. We packed:
- Casual clothes
- Swimsuits (bring at least two as there is night swimming, too!)
- For footwear, sandals for arounds the hotel/pool, a sturdier shoe for our hikes and a pair of water shoes for splashing in the river at Indian Canyons
- Water bottles to refill
- Pack & play for little ones (instead of using the hotel provided one) as well as any other baby gear (ex. booster seat, toys, etc)
- Extra blankets for the pullout couch bed – while you can definitely request extras from housekeeping, nice to have something familiar
- We brought a set of kids cutlery, plates and cups to make dining in our room more suitable for the kids
- Tons of snacks because my kids eat 24/7
- National Park Pass – a great investment and motivation to see more parks!
Notes on COVID precautions in the Region:
During our travels, California was not in lockdown so we were able to do most everything we wanted as our list was all things outdoors. The only thing I could not get tickets for was the Tram as it was very limited capacity. Dining was permitted outdoors on patios. For the most part, mask compliance was good.