These Day Trips are all less than 1.5 hours from downtown Palm Springs. The locations are places I have visited and appreciate. I continue adding.
Joshua Tree National Park: Joshua tree is about one hour from downtown Palm Springs. There is something serene about being in this National Park. Hugh rock formations and clear skies abound. It is a great day trip from Palm Springs, takes about an hour. I suggest going in the evening right before the sun sets for the best experience. Great area for Photos or to inspire your Geology interest. Google it. You can hike, rock climb-my kids love playing on the rocks. There are some trails for 4×4’s too.
BMW Driving Experience: Nearly 45 minutes from downtown Palm Springs. I have not experienced this first hand but my wife has. I have did something similar in Arizona. Different options are available in regards to price range. My wife did the $299 option. I asked her what it was all about. My main thing was about how regulated the speed was. She said they encourage you to punch it on the track! With her option they got to drive a few BMW’s on the track.
Idyllwild: Escape the Palm Springs heat and commute to Idyllwild Via Highway 74. The drive takes about an hour and it is much cooler up there in the summer than it is down here in the Desert. The drive is scenic. The mountain community is great for walking around town and grabbing some grub at one of the local spots. There are Artist up there who have shops and handmade nick knacks like any other mountain community. Hiking trails are within 10 minutes of downtown Idyllwild. Camping up in Idyllwild is nice, I know this from firsthand experiences. If you have a motorcycle Highway 74 is maintained well, I’ve driven up there a few times without worrying about potholes or big cracks in the pavement.
Palm Springs Tram: The Tram is about 10 minutes from downtown Palm Springs. For locals the Tram is the place to be in the summer because of the vast difference in the weather. One time I visited the Tram in the summer when it was 105 degrees down here in the baking desert and about 85 degrees once I reached the top of the Tram. Up there we enjoyed a lunch over looking the cliffs and floor of the Palm Springs desert. There was plenty of short shady trails to take walks on. In the Winter there is enough snow to play around in. Being up there is really a change of pace to your visits to Palm Springs.
Salvation Mountain in Niland: Something different. Change of scenery. Practically in the middle of nowhere but only about 1.5 hours away. Some eclectic artistic value. The Folk Art Society of America declared it “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” in the year 2000. In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as “a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives”.
The Living Desert: About 20 minutes from downtown Palm Springs. You will likely see Jaguars, Giraffes and the Native Big Horn Sheep if you get there at the right time “early” usually. And many more Animals. This is not nearly as big as the Los Angeles or San Diego Zoo’s. But it is worth at least one visit. I have visited a few times and spent from 1-3 hours floating around the park. They frequently have Volunteering opportunities available too. They do offer a shuttle to get around the park as well. There are drinking fountains throughout the park, Dining options and a little Store.