The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens#5 in Best Things To Do in Palm Springs
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is part-zoo and part-botanical garden, all in the extraordinary setting of a desert. Along with animals like mountain lions, bighorn sheep and meerkats, there are a handful of gardens that showcase more than 1,400 species of plants, including multiple varieties of cacti, prickly pear and agave.
Past visitors enjoyed seeing The Living Desert's animals but recommended arriving early, since the park offers little shade and temperatures often rise above 100 degrees. Many also suggested paying an extra $5 to feed the giraffes, and if you're traveling with little ones or don't want to walk between exhibits, consider purchasing a ticket for the property's hop-on, hop-off shuttle. Passes cost $6 for adults and $3 for children between 3 and 12.
From October 1 to May 31, The Living Desert is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the summer (from June 1 to September 30) the attraction is open every day between 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. General admission is $19.95, but discounted rates are available for seniors and kids ages 3 to 12. Camel rides are also offered select months for $6 per person. Park tickets can be purchased on the property's website, but some extras (like giraffe feedings) cannot be booked in advance. In addition to the attraction's exhibits and gardens, you'll find a free parking lot, two gift shops, restrooms, a model train set, the interactive Miriam U. Hoover Discovery Center, a seasonal carousel and two eateries. The Living Desert is located about 17 miles southeast of Palm Springs in the adjacent city of Palm Desert.
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#1 Coachella Valley Preserve
The Coachella Valley Preserve may seem like a barren desert, but keep your eyes peeled and you'll see that its 20,000-plus acres are more than just sand and brush. The preserve encompasses the smaller Thousand Palms Oasis preserve, which boasts more than 25 miles of hiking paths. Along the trails you'll spot rare wildlife, lush palm woodland oases and desert wetlands, which at different times of the year blossom with wildflowers.
Before heading out, past visitors recommend stopping by the visitor center – located in a log cabin at the entrance of the park – to pick up a map of the trails. You can also download it here. Additionally, some suggested arriving early before temperatures become unbearable and the small parking lot fills up. And if you visit between October and March, consider joining one of the preserve's free guided hikes.
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