When the planning for my recent trip to Southern California began, the first destination that I knew I wanted to visit was Palm Springs. I have wanted to visit Palm Springs for years, ever since I watched the Palm Springs episode of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love series on PBS. In that episode, it seemed like such a unique California destination and looked absolutely beautiful, so I was immensely excited to finally check it out for myself.
I only spent about 48 hours in Greater Palm Springs, but I discovered that it was just as wonderful as I wanted it to be. There were accessible attractions and beautiful desert views, but my favorite thing about Palm Springs was how relaxed I felt throughout my visit. If you’re looking for the ultimate place to unwind on the west coast, look no further than Greater Palm Springs.
In my travel guide below, I cover some of my favorite wheelchair accessible attractions and things to do in Greater Palm Springs, and where to stay. This is in no way a complete guide to accessibility in Greater Palm Springs because there is a lot more to enjoy in the area as a wheelchair user, but hopefully it gives you a few ideas and inspires you to consider this Southern California destination for your next trip!
Wheelchair Accessible Greater Palm Springs Attractions & Things to Do
Go on an architecture tour in Palm Springs
Since this was my first time ever in Greater Palm Springs, I was really excited to see the iconic midcentury modern architecture. As soon as I arrived, I met up with Tom Donohue, who is an expert on the architecture in Palm Springs, for a fantastic tour. Tom jumped in our rental van and directed us toward some of the most well-known sights.
During our two-hour tour, we saw some of the most significant architectural wonders in Palm Springs, including:
• Tramway Gas Station (2901 N Palm Canyon)
• (William Cody’s) Circle K (2796 N. Palm Canyon Dr.)
• Kaufmann Desert House (470 W Vista Chino)
• House of Tomorrow (1350 Ladera CI)
• Dinah Shore, Leonardo DiCaprio House (432 W. Hermosa PI)
• Palm Springs Art Museum (101 Museum Way)
• Coachella Valley Saving and Loan #2 (Chase) (499 S Palm Canyon)
You could visit the above on your own, of course, but I would highly recommend doing a proper tour. Hearing about the history of each building from our guide was incredibly fascinating. We also got out of the van at certain stops for better viewing and photo ops. The tour was fully customizable, which was nice.
Visit the Sunnylands Estate & Gardens
One of the most unique places to visit in the Greater Palm Springs area in California is Sunnylands. Sunnylands was founded by Walter & Leonore Annenberg as their private estate, but it has hosted numerous world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth, presidents (President Obama has been here 13 times!), and it serves as a place for world leaders to meet & solve important issues. It’s considered the Camp David of the west coast. The history of Sunnylands, and its founders, truly is fascinating and I’d encourage you to research more about it.
Being such an important place politically, I was surprised that Sunnylands is available to visit. It has a 15-acre garden and an indoor museum space, where you can learn all about Sunnylands & watch a twenty minute film about it. Both the garden and museum are completely free to visit as well, so there’s no excuse as to why you shouldn’t check it out during your trip.
If you’d like to explore more of the massive Sunnylands estate though, open-air tram tours are available for a cost (about $30 per adult). An accessible tram is available, but you do need to request it in advance of your visit if possible. The tram had a ramp, so it was easy for me to board and the narrated ride throughout the estate was smooth and nice.
I absolutely loved rolling around the gardens and doing the open-air tram tour. It was incredible to see the Sunnylands estate and recognize the important role that it has played in American history. This is a definite must-do while in Palm Springs!
See animals at The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
If you’ve been following along with my travel adventures for a while, then you probably know that I always love a good zoo visit. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is considered one of the best zoos in the country, so I had to check it out. After visiting, I can definitely see why it’s consistently ranked as one of the best.
The zoo is located in the middle of the desert in the Greater Palm Springs area, but is a sprawling oasis with hundreds of animals. I saw rhinos, wallabies, wolves, and so much more during my visit. I was even able to feed a giraffe and ride a wheelchair accessible carousel. The fact that this is all located right in the desert is so unique.
Accessibility at The Living Desert is fantastic. The zoo is mostly flat & there are smooth, paved paths throughout. I had no issues getting around the zoo and I was happy to see companion care restrooms available as well.
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is pretty big, so I would suggest planning at least a few hours or a half day for your visit to really see everything and fully enjoy it. Ticket prices start at about $30 per adult and $20 for children ages 3-12.
Where to Stay in Greater Palm Springs: JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
While in Greater Palm Springs, I stayed at the beautiful JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. This resort was exactly what I envisioned a resort to look like in Palm Springs. It was luxurious with stunning surroundings of the desert.
In my wheelchair accessible room, there were two beds and an accessible balcony. The room was pretty spacious, but the beds were on a block frame, so a hoyer lift could not roll under them. They were also a little on the tall side (about two inches above my knee), so keep that in mind if you self-transfer.
The bathroom worked perfectly for my accessibility needs. There was a pull-under sink, grab bars by the toilet, and a great roll-in shower. The roll-in shower had smooth entry, a handheld shower wand, and there was a fold-down bench.
Accessibility throughout the resort was fantastic. I noticed multiple pools with access lifts and I loved browsing in the numerous shops (and the arcade!) that were at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa as well.
The resort has a couple restaurants on-site and I enjoyed dinner at Mikado one night. It is a hibachi-style Japanese restaurant at the resort and the food was delicious.
The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa is a destination in itself and I loved the time that I got to spend at the resort. The next time I’m in Greater Palm Springs, I already know where I’ll be returning to stay.
My time in Greater Palm Springs was so much fun and, without a doubt, it lived up to my high expectations. I really enjoyed exploring the area as a wheelchair user, but I am already looking forward to seeing more during my next visit. If you have ever dreamed of visiting California’s desert oasis, now is the time to make it happen!
*Thank you to Visit California for working with me on this trip and showing me the best of wheelchair accessible Palm Springs! While my experiences were complimentary, all opinions expressed are authentic and my own.