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Free and Fun Things to Do in Palm Springs

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The Greater Palm Springs area is often described as a playground for the rich and famous. You’d be amazed at what you can do for free. Street fairs, art museums, classic cars, lots of hiking trails, architecture, polo and even movie screenings.

Thanks to the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau for their awesome list of free activities and events.

1. Palm Springs Art Museum

The nationally noted Palm Springs Art Museum offers “free 2nd Sundays” with children’s activities, performances, exhibitions and films. Admission is also free every Thursday night from 4-8 p.m. 

2. Palm Springs VillageFest

Every Thursday night, historic Palm Canyon Drive (between Baristo and Amado) is the place to be. This giant “block party,” a Palm Springs tradition, offers music, food and entertainment. Locals shop the Farmer’s Market. Find unique jewelry, clothing, art and other perfect gifts for those back home.

3. Free Hiking

Explore the natural beauty of the oasis while hiking along mountainsides and palm trees. Hardcore hikers and outdoor-loving families alike find plenty of free trails to explore in Greater Palm Springs. Be sure to go early in the morning and bring plenty of water.

4. Historical Society and Museum of Palm Desert

The Historical Society and Museum of Palm Desert showcases the rich history of Palm Desert and the celebrities who called it home. Kids love the old fire truck.

5. Cabazon Cultural Museum

Stop by the museum in Indio to learn about the history of the Cabazon Band of Misison Indians in the desert.

6. Night Adventures in the Monument

Discover an array of night creatures with Friends of the Desert Mountains. Family-friendly hikes are scheduled on select days through September.

7. Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert

Add some art and culture into your trip with a stop at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Four dedicated galleries offer rotating exhibits all year long, and admission is always free.

8. Fritz Burns Park

Families and dogs alike can find plenty to enjoy at this La Quinta park. Besides the dog park, there are picnic tables, a playground, public art, skate park, swimming pool, tennis courts and a water feature.

9. Shields Date Garden

Opened in 1924, Shields Date Garden is worth a visit. Explore the Garden, a 17-acre landscaped date farm and have a date shake or lunch on the patio overlooking the gardens. Don’t miss the free movie, “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”

10. Backstreet Art District Art Walk

Tucked along Highway 111 just 10 minutes from downtown Palm Springs is the Backstreet Art District, an enclave of studios and galleries featuring everything from paintings to sculptures to jewelry. Join the free monthly art walk on the first Wednesday of the month from 6-9 p.m.

11. Vista Point

Sweeping views of the Oasis can be found for free with a short drive up Highway 74 to Vista Point. Here, at the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest, you’ll discover a new perspective on the Coachella Valley.

12. Palms to Pines Highway

Turn your trip to Vista Point into a scenic drive along Highway 74, also known as the Palms to Pines Highway. As you climb this winding mountain road, you’ll enjoy desert- and forest-inspired sights before reaching the charming mountain town of Idyllwild.

13. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

The desert’s past comes to life at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, where visitors can learn about the native Cahuilla tribe that originally lived in the Coachella Valley. Learn about basket-weaving techniques, see historic photographs and check out rotating exhibits. Admission is free.

14. Star Parties

The clear skies of Greater Palm Springs are lit up with a dazzling array of stars each night, making stargazing a popular pastime in the Oasis. If you forgot your telescope, the Astronomical Society of the Desert has you covered with their ongoing free Star Parties at Sawmill Trail and the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument Visitors Center in Palm Desert.

15. Self-Guided Architecture Tour

Greater Palm Springs is home to an incredible collection of midcentury modern architecture designed by greats like Donald Wexler, Albert Frey and E. Stewart Williams—and you can see many of these buildings on a self-guided tour.

16. Palm Springs Walk of Stars

Did you know Palm Springs has its very own Walk of Stars? Throughout the downtown area, look down and you’ll see a variety of stars dedicated to celebrities, philanthropists and locals who left their mark on the oasis.

17. Rock Yard Concerts

Rock out at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, where their Rock Yard concert series features tribute bands for all of your favorite bands and performers of yesteryear. Concerts are free.

18. The Street Fair at College of the Desert

Saturday and Sunday mornings are abuzz at the College of the Desert campus as dozens of vendors set up shop at this sprawling open-air market. Everything from art to clothing to household items is on sale, plus a food court and farmer’s market are on-site, too.

19. Downtown Palm Springs

Downtown Palm Springs is teeming with storefronts, architecture and history waiting to be discovered. From museums and art galleries to midcentury modern architecture and furnishings, downtown’s Palm Canyon Drive is a must-walk.

20. Windmills

Looking for a free souvenir? Why not snap a few unforgettable photos in front of the iconic windmills that stand in front of the San Jacinto Mountains? Photographers love the vantage point off Indian Canyon Drive, where you can get the perfect shot to remember your trip to the oasis.

21. Play Tennis

The weather in Greater Palm Springs is perfect for outdoor activities, and with plenty of free tennis courts, why wouldn’t you grab a racquet and play a few rounds? You’ll find courts at DeMuth Park and Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs.

22. Vintage Shops

Take a stroll down memory lane at one of Greater Palm Springs’ many vintage shops. From home décor to clothing, these shops offer a fun look at midcentury style. Must-visits include Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs and Perez Road in Cathedral City.

23. Rancho Mirage Observatory

Look up to the stars at the newly opened observatory at the Rancho Mirage Library. Daily tours let you explore this new celestial spot, while ongoing stargazing parties let you soak in the beauty of the desert’s night sky.

24. Chill at Ace Hotel & Swim Club

There’s always something to enjoy at Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. Every month, dancers, a drum circle and card readers fill the poolside area under the light of the moon during the hotel’s Full Moon Parties. Weekly bingo, trivia and karaoke nights add to the fun, and there’s always new events being added to their calendar. 

25. Get Your Instagram On

Looking to up your ‘gram game? Greater Palm Springs is bursting with spots to give your followers some serious FOMO. Beyond the classic poolside shots, you’ll find murals, modernism and more to make your Instagram swoon-worthy.

26. Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden

Surround yourself with lush desert landscaping and incredible artwork at the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Palm Desert location. The four-acre garden features 10 sculptures and is open year-round.

27. Sunday Polo

Experience the thrills of this historic game at Empire Polo Club and Eldorado Polo Club, two beautiful grounds in Indio that host polo matches from January through April. Spectating is free, so pack a polo picnic and make it an afternoon to remember.

28. Dive-In Movies

Stay chill all summer long with free movie screenings at ARRIVE Palm Springs (21+). Films featured this summer are Austin Powers, Risky Business, Grease, and The Big Lebowski.

29. Take a Trip to the Salton Sea

Just outside of Greater Palm Springs, the Salton Sea is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. While you’re in the area, don’t miss your chance to stop by the International Banana Museum, home to the largest collection of banana-related items in the world.

30.  Chill Deals

Combine your free fun with some great deals on everything from resorts and meals to attractions and things to do. Check out the best deals in Palm Springs and beyond here.

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