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I’ve been visiting Palm Springs since I was a teenager, and even then I knew there was something special about this unique and friendly destination. Through the years I’ve continued to visit the area frequently, and when we started a family, it was only logical that we would bring our children to Palm Springs. Nearly 17 years later, it is a favorite family getaway destination of ours. Truly, Palm Springs is the LGBTQ family’s happy place.
Seriously, even the hotels in Palm Springs scream rainbow and happy.
After so many years of being one of the LGBTQ-friendliest cities in the world, Palm Springs continues into the modern era by welcoming both parents and their kids. It’s a natural progression, really. As more members of the LGBTQ community become parents, we want to go where we are most comfortable and have fond memories in order to share that experience with our children.
Palm Springs sits within the Coachella Valley, which sports an average daytime temperature of 72 degrees in the winter and 85 degrees in the spring and fall. Our family likes it hot, and we’ve also visited in the summer when it can get as hot as 115 degrees (or more!). Not to worry, because there are swimming pools everywhere and plenty of ways to stay comfortable.
What to Do in the Palm Springs Area
Even though playing in the pool is probably Palm Springs’ most popular activity, there is plenty to do when the kids (or parents) get waterlogged.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Any time of the year, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a great diversion away from the flat desert floor. Rising quickly up the mountainside, the world’s largest rotating tram drops you atop the highest peaks overlooking the entire Coachella Valley. In the heat of summer, the temperatures provide a welcome respite at 30 degrees cooler — instant air conditioning. In the winter, you can enjoy the snowy drifts while looking down at sun-drenched cacti in the front yards far below. There is great hiking up here, too.
Jeep Tour to San Andreas Fault: Growing up in California, we’ve been taught to respect and fear the San Andreas Fault. Yet there is great fascination with the fault and the geology behind all the earth movement. We highly enjoyed our Red Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault in Palm Springs. The off-road tour had us laughing over bumps while we took in the beauty — and mystery — of this deep desert trek.
The Living Desert Zoo: When people think of the desert, they typically envision endless sand dunes, scrubby little plants, some cactus, a bunch of rocks and maybe a lizard or two. But a zoo in the desert? Yep, and it’s awesome — The Living Desert is a zoo like no other. Located in Palm Desert near Palm Springs, it’s an amazing destination right in the middle of the blazing sun and dry, dry, dry conditions.
Water Park: Who doesn’t love a water park? With so many options for slipping, sliding, floating and relaxing, Wet n’ Wild Water Park has a water-related activity to match your comfort zone. Want to float in the lazy river all day? How about zip down those high-flying water slides? Or simply splash in the shallow end of the wave pool? Personally, I like to sample all three. Do note that Wet n’ Wild will be closed in 2019 for renovations, but hopefully will reopen better than ever in the future.
Village Fest: Every Thursday night in downtown Palm Springs, organizers close off Palm Canyon Drive and set up booths and stages. More than 180 booths are set up, featuring artists, crafters, food vendors and more. Local businesses stay open late to accommodate visitors and guests. When we were there, the kids loved listening to live music, shopping for earrings and smelling all the delicious food being prepared on-site. Best of all, it’s totally free.
Getting to Palm Springs Is Easy
Whether your family flies or drives to Palm Springs, getting there is easier than many destinations. Eleven major airlines offer flights to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) — particularly in the winter when snowbirds want to escape to warmer climes. Not only that, but the Palm Springs Airport itself is easy to navigate, adorable and mostly open-air thanks to the wonderful weather much of the year.
There are nonstops from 19 different cities, including New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Houston and more. (JetBlue is currently offering its Mint service from JFK to PSP.)
Our family currently lives in San Diego, which is about a 2.5 hour drive — about the same as driving from Los Angeles. (There is even a ride-sharing program from Los Angeles.) We can pick the kids up after school on Friday and be in Palm Springs in time for dinner. From my hometown of San Francisco, we would fly in regularly nonstop from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). For example, Alaska Airlines currently offers regular flights from SFO to PSP starting at $79 one way.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs
Palm Springs is situated at one end of the Coachella Valley, which is dotted with desert cities stretching all the way to Indio at the other end. All of these cities have great places to stay, and we’ve tried many of them. (Here’s a resort Mommy Points enjoyed.) Our family still keeps going back to Palm Springs proper, mainly because of the city’s charm and abundance of activities. For sure, this family thinks Palm Springs is the LGBTQ family’s happy place.
In Palm Springs, there are several hotels and resorts we recommend for LGBTQ families:
The Riviera Palm Springs: A Tribute Portfolio Resort — part of Marriott (from $89/night; it’s a Category 5 that costs 35,000 points per night). This fun resort is splashy and kitschy, with a decidedly mid-century vibe and a party track playing at the pool making it a fun scene.
Hyatt Palm Springs (from $153/night or 12k World of Hyatt points). This property is very family friendly and well situated right downtown on Palm Springs’ main route, meaning you can walk to shops, dinner, movies and other cool destinations.
Hilton Palm Springs (from $119/night or 35k to 50k Hilton Honors points, depending on the season). Also located right downtown and within walking distance to tons of great places. There are spacious rooms and great family pool.
Kimpton Rowan (from $212/night or from 60k IHG Rewards Club points). Hip and happening, this brand-new hotel is located downtown right next to the Palm Springs Art Museum. With a rooftop pool and stunning views, The Rowan is a very cool place to stay.
The Saguaro (from $79/night). Fun boutique hotel with a very colorful scheme of rainbow walls and many Instagram-able spots. Movies on the lawn at night, yoga classes in the sun, and pool toys for the kids.
Places to Eat in Palm Springs
A long-held myth is that Palm Springs is haven for retirees, and yes there is plenty of silver hair. But just as prevalent are families with kids who are welcomed in all but the stuffiest places. We have several favorites spots where the kids beg to return:
Cheeky’s: Breakfast and lunch with a menu that changes weekly, Cheeky’s is famous for its bacon flights and cinnamon rolls. Our kids could make an entire breakfast from those two food groups, but there are plenty of other delicious things to try.
Blue Coyote: Old school Mexican food in a fun setting with fountains, courtyards and lots of random rooms for dining inside or out. When the nights are warm, this is a great spot for guacamole and chips (with maybe a nice margarita for the parents).
Lulu California Bistro: Mid-century modern meets old Hollywood kitsch at this lively and fun restaurant downtown. The menu here has something for everyone, and the pickiest of eaters can be accommodated.
Koffi: More than a coffeehouse, this restaurant serves great breakfast rolls, sandwiches are more. Located within the Uptown Design District, it opens on to a giant courtyard with grass, tables and chairs. Kids love to run off some energy out here.
Palm Springs is the LGBTQ Family’s happy place for many reasons — the culture, location, weather, activities, food and more. We’ve shared a view of our Palm Springs favorites in hopes other families can enjoy this great family destination, too. If you go, be sure to share the cool places you discover. This way, we’ll all have new places to explore the next time we are back in Palm Springs.
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