Palm Springs with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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Palm Springs, Calif., is a desert resort town reminiscent of old Hollywood. Although it is not often thought of as a top tourist destination for families with young children, Palm Springs still maintains a retro vibe and has tons of adventures and activities to offer vacationing families. Below is a list of things to do while on vacation in Palm Springs with kids.


Morning

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for your children. Panera Bread's (5200 E Ramon Rd.; 760-778-5150) bakery and cafe offers lots of delicious breakfast options that will satisfy every member of your family. Choose from an array of muffins (pumpkin is my favorite), scones, pastries and sweet rolls. Kids especially love to order one of the many flavored bagels, including French toast, blueberry, or cheese. Get it toasted and add a touch of flavored cream cheese. For something a little different, order one of the baked egg soufflés like spinach and artichoke or four cheese.

After an early breakfast, spend the morning at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert; 760-346-5694). Visiting this 1,200-acre zoo and botanical garden is one of the best things to do on vacation in Palm Springs with kids. The zoo and gardens showcase plant and animal life from various deserts of the world, including the local Sonoran Desert. Wander through habitats featuring indigenous animals including bighorn sheep, snakes, lizards, and several species of birds. Visit authentic mud huts at Village WaTuTu, a replica of an African village. Here you will see leopards, hyenas, camels and more. Have your camera ready -- you will want to snap some pictures while your child plays among the animals in the petting kraal.

Your young one can also check out Gecko Gulch (a children's play area), ride the merry-go-round, catch a show, or visit the Discovery Room where they can explore, examine, and touch things found in the desert. There are also G-scale model trains on display year round. Get here early to avoid the heat and to see the animals when they are more active (they also like to rest when it's hot). The zoo is open 9AM-5PM during season and 8AM-1:30PM during the summer. Ticket prices vary according to season and range from $12.50 for adults to $7.50 for children 3-12.


Afternoon

Now that all of you have worked up an appetite, it's time for some pizza at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza (73595 El Paseo, Palm Desert; 760-836-0500). Order from an extensive, moderately priced menu featuring tasty pizzas cooked in a woodfire oven. Choices include barbeque chicken, Hawaiian, Thai, thin crust, and Caprese (our favorite) with mozzarella, basil, olive oil and sauce. They also serve salads, soups and pastas. Sammy's has a great kids menu offering pizzas, salad, and pasta for $5.95 including a drink. Sammy's is open Sunday-Thursday 11AM-9PM and Friday-Saturday 11AM-9:30PM.

Your next stop should be the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium (1701 S. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760-327-6555). You and your kids will have fun meandering through this small, one-acre, family-owned garden filled with several species of desert plants and cacti. Established in 1938, this unusual collection of over 3,000 cacti and plants is grouped according to desert region. Kids love to stroll along the trails and through the greenhouse to view cactus plants they never knew existed (including some really funny looking ones). Admission prices are $3 for adults and $1.50 for children. The garden is open 9AM-4:30PM Monday-Saturday and 10AM-4PM Sunday. It is closed on Wednesdays.

Insider tip: The gardens are located away from the tourist areas and are usually not that crowded. It's a great place to learn a little something about the plants that inhabit our deserts.

There is nothing better on a hot day than ice cream. Grab a cool afternoon treat at Lappert's (130 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760-778-3700), a small Hawaiian ice cream shop. Here, your kids can try out some flavors not typically found at your everyday shop, like passion fruit, date, or coconut. Don't forget to grab a scoop of Kauai Pie for yourself (coffee ice cream with coconut, macadamia nuts and chocolate fudge). Yummy! Take a break and sit outside on the patio and do a little people watching before you head off to your next adventure.

Let your children play the afternoon away at the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert (71-701 Gerald Ford Dr.,
Rancho Mirage; 760-321-0602). This 18,000-square-foot museum offers your children over 50 hands-on, interactive and educational exhibits. Parents are often encouraged to participate in activities which fuel the curiosity and imagination of your young ones. Let your kids dress up, do art projects, explore science, climb a rock wall, navigate a rope maze or dig for dinosaur bones. Unlike home, kids are encouraged to touch everything, paint on cars (like a VW bug) and just go a little crazy here! This is a great place to connect with your children and let them expel any remaining energy. Check their website for additional information and a schedule of rotating and seasonal exhibits. The museum is open 10AM-5PM Tuesday-Sunday and Mondays as well from January through April. Admission is $8 for ages 2 and up.


Evening

Why not enjoy a little surf culture in the desert during your family vacation to Palm Springs with kids? At Islands Restaurant (72-353 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-346-4007), your family will feel like they are hanging out at the beach while devouring some excellent burgers. The atmosphere is casual, the tables look like surfboards with plants, and palm trees are all over the place. Multiple televisions play videos of surfers and other extreme athletes doing what they do best.

But the real reason to come here is the food. Islands offers an extensive menu of salads, sandwiches, soups (the tortilla soup is really good and is loaded with chicken and veggies) and tacos, but the burgers are the best. Try the Hawaiian with pineapple slices, the Pipeline with chili, or my personal favorite - the Bleunami, with blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing. The fries are a must. Order a big basket to share and don't forget the ranch dressing for dipping! Islands also offers a lower calorie menu as well as a kids menu with hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and more. It is open Sunday-Thursday 11AM-9:30PM and Friday-Saturday 11AM-10PM.

Insider tip: The portions are large, so don't be afraid to share a burger.

Food coma! Can you think of any better way to end your perfect family vacation day?
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