Free Things to Do in Palm Desert, California

Did someone say free??

Let me tell you: I look for them deals. When someone says "free", I'm the first one in line. Entertainment and exhibits can be costly to see, so when I find a good deal, I feel compelled to share it with the world (after I check it out, of course!)

In this post, you will find an entire day's worth of activities in sunny Palm Desert at no cost. The only thing you will need to pay for is food and drink, and a little bit of sunblock. 

 

*Note: I recommend bringing enough water for everyone in your group. Even if the day starts out cool, it can get hot very quickly and dehydration is NOT fun.

Palm Springs Art Museum - Palm Desert

This museum has the best of both worlds, as it has both an indoor exhibit as well as an outdoor sculpture garden. The Galen (the interior portion of the museum) currently houses the Lost and Found exhibit, showcasing the artwork of Bob Van Breda. 

*Note: be sure to check the museum website by clicking the "Learn More" link below for more information on what exhibits are showing before you visit.

The outdoor portion, known as the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden, is a welcoming desert oasis. You can follow the blue "water" path throughout the garden to see all ten sculptures.

Both museum admission and ample parking are free.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The Living Desert is one of my favorite places to visit. The atmosphere is very soothing and calming, unlike mosts zoos you will encounter.

Typically, there is a cost for admission.

I know, I know. I said "free" in the title. So, listen Linda...

If you have a Bank of America debit card/credit card, your admission is FREE the first full weekend of every month. Simply show your card and your ID and BAM you get in for free (they will give you a receipt showing you paid $0). This museum is on the list for Bank of America's "Museums on Us" (free admission to select museums across the country during the first full weekend of every month). Yes, that definitely takes some extra planning, but if you can swing it, it will save you some money. If your plans don't include visiting on a weekend like this and you're fine paying for a ticket, the cost is $19.95 for adults and $9.95 for kids. While planning your trip, be sure to check the Living Desert website via the link above for any special deals or additional discounted days.

The zoo is divided in half, showcasing desert animals and plants from North America and Africa. While North America has the better gardens, Africa has the more beautiful (and interactive) animals.

The zoo has fun sights and activities for all ages. For an additional cost, you can feed the giraffes, ride a camel, ride the carousel, or enter an aviary of beautiful lorikeets. Save money by planning ahead and purchasing a "total adventure package", which includes all four activities for $17.95 per person.

As always, bring water on this activity. You really are walking around in the desert and mostly in direct sunlight and it is very easy to get dehydrated, especially if you are hiking.

Sunnylands

Technically considered to be located in Rancho Mirage, this location is a world of its own. The calm and serene gardens provide the perfect backdrop to the historic onsite estate. Known as the "Camp David of the West", the site has included visitors such as seven United States presidents and the British royal family.

While admission to the Sunnylands Center and Garden are free, it can be quite tricky to get a ticket for a tour of the estate. Tickets can be purchased online for the following month starting the 15th of the present month. For example: on March 15th, tickets are released for the month of April. Tickets sell out very quickly. If you are unable to retrieve a ticket and are still intrigued by the estate, you can view a video presentation inside the Sunnylands Center on the estate and it's famous visitors.

Coachella Valley Vista Point

For the best views of the Coachella Vally, take a drive up 74 in Palm Desert (past the Living Desert) until you see a small parking area on your left-hand side. Visiting the site is free, and you may see some big horn sheep along the way.

*Note: this spot can be windy at times.

Bonus Activity: Desert X

Desert X started in the spring of 2017 as a site-specific exhibition and was probably all over your Instagram feed. Everyone from Coachella goers to vacationers to locals went on this scavenger hunt-like art quest to find and photograph these pieces in the desert. Of course I joined in! 

According to the website (link above), Desert X will be back in the spring of 2019. Last year, all art exhibits were free to view. I am assuming it will be the same next year. Check the website for updates before you visit and locations for where to find the art.

Relax and Enjoy the Views

The desert has a beauty all its own. We have the most gorgeous sunsets and breathtaking mountain views. Even just driving to Costco is an adventure!

If you have tried any of these things or have any suggestions for me, please leave a comment below. Thanks, and happy adventuring!