Southern California’s Palm Desert offers wide-ranging outdoor activities, more shopping and dining than you’d probably expect, and friendly local folks.

It’s more resort-casual than Old West, so if you prefer your hikes with a martini chaser and your shops collected on a boulevard known as the Rodeo Drive of the Desert, this is the place for you.

Things to Do in Palm Desert

Things to Do in Palm Desert

Summertime temperatures here are serious business — regularly going north of 100°F — but if you want to be outdoors and enjoy a little respite from the valley heat, simply head to higher ground.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, an attraction all on its own with the largest rotating tramcars in the world, transports visitors from an elevation of 2,643 feet above sea level to 8,516 feet high in roughly 10 minutes, where temperatures are routinely 30 degrees cooler than below.

Once you arrive at the top of Chino Canyon — and maybe even after you put on a long-sleeve shirt or light jacket — you’re standing at the doorstep of Mount San Jacinto State Park and 54 miles of wilderness paths. The Desert View Trail is a relatively easy 1 1/2-mile loop that meanders through the forest and features multiple panoramic stops. Serious trekkers should consider a San Jacinto Peak summit attempt. It’s a gorgeous walk through mountain meadows and lodgepole pine timberlands, but the beauty comes with a real challenge. The trail is 5 1/2 miles one way and has an elevation gain of approximately 2,300 feet.

Things to Do in Palm Desert

Palm Desert Nightlife

Thursday nights in Palm Springs are known far and wide for Palm Springs VillageFest, a year-round community event that takes over downtown and is equal parts farmers’ market, craft show and street fair. In other words, whether you’re on the prowl for some locally grown ingredients to use back at your villa or a painting to hang on your living room wall back home — or you just want to mingle with the locals and listen to live music — this is the place to be.

Area casinos offer additional entertainment options and typically host a variety of popular musical acts. In addition to big-name performers playing special engagements, the Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs features some pretty fun gigs (think Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin tributes) every weekend. And even if you’re not into heavy guitar riffs and drum solos, it’s hard to beat the fact that the shows are free.