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Palm Desert, California: A Kid-Friendly Vacation in Southern California

Stephanie loves to travel. She has written numerous articles with tips, photographs, and information on places to visit.

Palm Desert is a Family-Friendly Vacation Spot

Palm Desert, California is not just for retirees! We've been heading to the Southern California desert for annual vacations for the past 15 years. Our kids love the nice, warm temperatures (year-round), and we like the fact that its an affordable family vacation, no matter what time of year you visit.

There are a number of family-friendly locations in the Palm Desert area, which is just east of Palm Springs along I-15. The desert is less than 2 hours away from Los Angeles, or a half-day's drive from the San Francisco Bay area. Las Vegas is a few hours away to the east, as well.

Last March, our family drove from Central Oregon to Palm Desert in one day. Yes, it was a long drive, but we left early and arrived late so that we could maximize our pool time during Spring Break.

All photos in this hub are the property of Stephanie Hicks. Please contact me for permission to use.

Make Palm Desert California your next Family Vacation Destination

Make Palm Desert California your next Family Vacation Destination

The Central California Desert is Great for Kids of All Ages

Our first trip to Palm Desert as a family included my son when he was just shy of 1 year old. We stayed at our family's condo unit in Deep Canyon Tennis Club which allowed us the luxury of choosing a number of smaller pools during the day, all of which we so close to the unit that we could get our son back in time for a nap.

While there are year-round residents at Deep Canyon, and a number of retirees, you can also find plenty of younger families with children no matter what time of year you are visiting.

Holidays and Spring Break see the most traffic in Palm Desert. But if you go just slightly off season (we love October and May), you can still enjoy beautiful sunny weather with far fewer people.

Deep Canyon Tennis Club

My extended family has a condo unit at Deep Canyon Tennis Club. Located off Highway 74, which runs southwest towards San Diego, the gated private community is safe and fun for families.

There are 12 pools throughout the resort, all within easy walking distance. One main pool at the clubhouse has lanes for swimming laps and a changing area. Each of the pools has their own bathrooms, tables for picnicking and lounge chairs. Be sure to bring your own towels and pool toys!

Free putting greens are dotted throughout the complex and of course, you can play tennis on one of the 8 tennis courts.

Last March, my four kids practically lived at the swimming pools during our stay. At times, we had the pool completely to ourselves. Grandma and I read books while the children played in the pool. We were less than 25 yards from the condo, so it was very easy to head back inside for lunch and snacks.

My mom and I like to exercise, so the approximately 1 mile loop around the complex was just perfect. Head out early in the morning before it gets too warm. More adventuresome families can head across Highway 74 to hike one of the many trails very close by in the San Jacinto / Santa Rosa Mountains.

Rental rates vary, depending on the unit and time of year. However, most of the units are 2-3 bedroom and 2-bathroom, with full kitchens, washer/dryer and dishwasher. Covered parking and plenty of guest parking is available.

On Sunday mornings, free donuts and coffee are offered at the clubhouse!

Information About The Living Desert


Open daily October 1 to May 31
9:00am to 5:00pm
Last admission at 4:00pm.
Closed December 25

Open every day June 1 to September 30
8:00am to 1:30pm
Last admission at 1:00pm

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47900 Portola Ave
Palm Desert, CA


(760) 346-5694

Admission Rates

General Admission $12.50 ($12.75 summer)

Seniors (62+) $11.00 ($11.25 summer)

Military $11.00 ($11.25 summer)

Children (Ages 3 - 12) $7.50 ($7.75 summer)

Children under 3 FREE

The Living Desert in Palm Desert, California

Kids of all ages love to visit The Living Desert, which is Palm Springs' local zoo. In many ways, the Living Desert reminds me of our local High Desert Museum. Both non-profit organizations have similar goals and educational purposes.

According to The Living Desert's website:

The Living Desert was established in 1970 by several trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum who foresaw the impact that resort development would have on their local desert ecosystem. This foresight led to an interpretive nature trail and preserve in Palm Desert. Among the trustees was Philip L. Boyd who also founded the Riverside campus of the University of California and the Deep Canyon Research Station in Palm Desert. Among his first tasks was to hire a resident naturalist. This person turned out to be a young woman with energy, intelligence and ambition, as well as experience as a zoo keeper and park ranger, plus graduate work in wildlife biology. Karen Sausman is now beginning her thirty-ninth year as President and CEO. Her vision and love of the desert, shared by Philip Boyd and by our members, volunteers, staff, trustees and friends, have built The Living Desert.

For almost four decades The Living Desert has been engaged in the important work of preserving, conserving and interpreting the desert and all its varied plant and animal life. Even as we take immense pride in our accomplishments over the last 38 years, we remain as dedicated as ever to the goals that initially inspired us when we first began operations in March of 1970.

When we visited The Living Desert in March 2010, it was a very hot day! My children wilted faster than lilies without water, but we still had a great time. Check out the photographs below! From hyenas to long-horned cattle, the zoo showcases animals you won't find just anywhere!

Several years ago, zoo keepers walked through The Living Desert with a cheetah on a leash. I really wish I had a photograph of that amazing moment, but you'll just have to visit and hope that you see get a similar experience!

In the meantime, check out our photos below. Lots of fun activities for kids of all ages at The Living Desert!

Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

One day during our visit to Palm Desert California in March, we went to the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The property is owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The visitor center is a quick 10 minute drive out of Palm Desert. Wildflowers are the gift for your travel time from March through July.

Right outside of the free visitor center, you'll find the Ed Hastey Loop Trail, a short 1/2 mile trail which features drip-irrigated desert perennials. The visitor center does not collect any admission, but donations are much appreciated. You can also browse the gift store, which includes a number of fun items to commemorate your visit to Palm Desert: postcards, shirts and sweatshirts, stuffed animals, and more.

The visitor center, located at 51-500 Highway 74 in Palm Desert, is open 9:00-4:00 daily.

Wondering what you'll see? Here's a list:

Chuckwalla Delight
Desert Dandelion
California Evening Primrose
Palo Verde
Apricot Mallow
Desert Lavender
Desert Heron Bill

Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes along the trails. Check out our photos below:

Palm Desert Visitor's Center

Who would have thought that a visitor's center would actually be worth visiting?  In Palm Desert, CA, the visitor's center not only has free coloring pages, maps and other information, but you can also browse the gift shop, which has some wonderful books, shirts, caps, and more.

Even better is the fact that the Visitor's Center includes a lovely desert garden, with a 3/4-mile trail loop for people to enjoy flora and fauna in the California Desert.

The Oasis in Palm Springs, CA

I will admit right now that my kids have not been to The Oasis in Palm Springs, California. But, I personally have visited the water park.

Located very close to the Palm Desert airport, the 21-acre water park has water slides, body-and-board surfing, wave pools, inner tube rides and beach volleyball.

Consider this information before heading to The Oasis in Palm Springs:

  • Daily Parking Rates: Autos: $10; Buses & RVs: $16; Preferred parking (close to the park entrance): $15
  • No outside food or beverages!
  • Lockers available for rent for $10 per day
  • Free lift jackets
  • No personal flotation devices allowed
  • All-day admission starts at $19 per person

For more information read this!

© 2010 Stephanie Marshall


Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 24, 2010:

Thanks Peggy - we really do love visiting the desert in the spring. The kids always have a great time. I thought that Palm Desert/Palm Springs needed to be known as more than just a place to retire... :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2010:

How nice to have a family condo in Palm Desert! Your kids are adorable and look like they were having a wonderful time. What's not to like? Desert scenery, plenty of activities and nice weather. Pretty well sums up a nice vacation spot! Thanks!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 07, 2010:

You crack me up, Micky Dee! Thanks!

Micky Dee on October 07, 2010:

I voted funny with all the other buttons. It was fun- it had to be funny. Thank you!

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on September 29, 2010:

Ah....I never thought of that but I love our long Central Oregon winters....being a California girl I think I missed playing in the snow! It's really my dogs' fault - at least that's what I'm sticking with!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 29, 2010:

Palm Desert is a great get-away in the middle of our long Central Oregon winters :)

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on September 29, 2010:

I haven't been there in a billion years so thanks for the virtual tour!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 29, 2010:

Thanks you guys - yes, lots of tennis, golf and swimming in Palm Desert! But plenty of other things to see and do. Glad you enjoyed it.

ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on September 29, 2010:

It really sounds nice, especially the tennis (my favorite sport)

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on September 28, 2010:

I have been to Palm Desert many times to visit my brother and liked it very much. You have done justice to the different areas. Enjoyed the photographs. Thanks

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 27, 2010:

Thank you so much Lilly - I love the desert flowers and beauty and Palm Desert definitely has it all!

Lori J Latimer from Central Oregon on September 27, 2010:

This is a lovely Hub! A beautiful vacation spot! Thank you for the photos too!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 27, 2010:

Thanks nifty! We really can't wait to go back. My first trip to this area of California was also to Palm Springs. Great memories. :)

nifty@50 on September 27, 2010:

Used to vacation in Palm Springs as a boy back in the late 60's, Looks like a blast!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 27, 2010:

Thanks Simone - we had such a great time, the kids are hoping we go back to Palm Desert again next spring. :)

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on September 27, 2010:

Lovely hub! The photos, your personal notes, and the helpful details about each place are quite useful! Traveling with kids can be tough, but you've made it easy here XD

Philipo from Nigeria on September 27, 2010:

Very interesting.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 27, 2010:

Thank you Aris - enjoyed sharing our Palm Desert experiences :)

Aris Budianto from Lying along the equator Country on September 27, 2010:

You have great kids, Steph, thanks for telling this nice place, Great hub.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 27, 2010:

Hi BJ - thank you! Palm Desert is "newer" than Palm Springs, and definitely desert-like. We really enjoy getting down there. And yep - all 4 kids belong to me! :)

drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 27, 2010:

Hi, Steph - As a lifelong Easterner and part-time Mid-Westerner, I knew about Palm Springs but didn't have a clue about Palm Desert. Thanks for all this good information.

Your photos are great and the kids - some of which or all of which I am assuming may belong to you - look like they are really enjoying themselves.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 27, 2010:

Thank you images - we do love the desert in California!

images99 on September 26, 2010:

Lovely place.Check out my last hub in case you find the place interesting.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 26, 2010:

Thanks WannaB - if you don't like the heat, then you'll want to head to Palm Desert from November through February. Its just warm enough to help you thaw out, but not crazy warm. :)

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on September 26, 2010:

I remember how surprised I was to learn that deserts have their own kind of loveliness. I'm not much for hot weather areas in the summertime, but if I want to visit such an area, I'll keep this resort in mind.

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