Palm Desert, California: A Kid-Friendly Vacation in Southern California
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.
The Central California Desert is Great for Kids of All Ages
Our first trip to 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. Palm Desert
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
47900 Portola Ave
Palm Desert, CA
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 : postcards, shirts and sweatshirts, stuffed animals, and more. Palm Desert
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:
California Evening Primrose
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
© 2010 Stephanie Hicks
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