Looking for Affordable Spring Break Sunshine? Try Palm Springs

Photo (cc) by Shockingly Tasty

Palm Springs, California, is missing from most lists of top spring break destinations. Unlike the usual meccas — in Florida, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Texas and elsewhere in California — Palm Springs has no beach. It’s in the middle of the California desert.

But Palm Springs gradually is gaining stature as a spring break destination, thanks to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and to the town’s hipster, party-time atmosphere. If you get pulled into Palm Springs’ orbit this year, you’ll find that it can be a budget-friendly vacation when you plan ahead and know where to look for bargains.

Getting there and getting around

Eighteen airlines fly in and out of Palm Springs International Airport. When comparing deals, also check out the cost of flying into nearby Ontario International Airport (about an hour and a half away) or Los Angeles International Airport (two to three hours) and taking a shuttle, rental car or Amtrak to Palm Springs.

For getting around Palm Springs, to the festival and to other desert towns and destinations, Sunline Transit Agency bus lines is your best bet for saving money.

Invariably, the sun is shining in Palm Springs, and the city boasts many miles of bike routes through downtown and historic neighborhoods. Download this map of bike routes and trails. Call or visit the official visitors center: 800-347-7746, 2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive, to ask about bicycle rentals and tours.

Where to stay on a budget

Your biggest expense, after concert tickets, is accommodations. Don’t waste a minute getting yours lined up because, as you surely know, demand is high during spring break season. Hotels are fun and CBS Los Angeles names three popular with spring break vacationers: Colony Palms Hotel, Ace Hotel (“for those looking to party”) and the Saguaro Palm Springs.

But your money goes further when sharing a vacation rental home with a kitchen and several bedrooms and baths. Even if you don’t cook you’ll save by fixing coffee, refreshments, breakfast, sandwiches and frozen pizza in your unit.

Here are a few sites for bargain-hunting:

The Coachella Festival has links to campgrounds, parks and RV parks.

Music and nightlife

Jenny and Johnny at Coachella Music and Arts Festival
Photo (cc) by Jared Eberbardt

The wildly popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (April 15-17 and April 22-24) is a big draw. Nearly 200,000 tickets were sold in 2015 and advance tickets for this year sold out in a few hours in January 2016. The Desert Sun lists possible (pricey) alternative ways to find tickets.

If you can’t get in, though, don’t worry. There are a lot of other ways to have fun:

Window shop and gallery hop

Photo (cc) by Sam Howzit

Whether you prefer window shopping or dropping some cash, the Palm Springs area is known for shopping. Palm Springs is only one of a cluster of affluent desert cities and El Paseo Drive, in nearby Palm Desert, is like Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive, a glittering district with high-end international boutiques. You may want a car to reach them.

PalmSprings.com has store directories for El Paseo Drive, downtown Palm Springs and The River, an upscale center in nearby Rancho Mirage. Retreads make their way to a myriad of consignment stores. See Yelp for the details. And if you are in a driving mood, you may want to explore the big outlet malls about 17 miles east of Palm Springs, off Highway 10 in Cabazon.

Gallery hop

Palm Springs and the neighboring communities are filled with galleries and studios:

Palm Springs: The Palm Springs Art Museum brings stunning, big-city level exhibits and collections to the desert. The museum’s Annenberg Theater presents plays, dance and nationally recognized performers. The intriguing Backstreet Art District has local galleries. Meet artists in their studios each first Wednesday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Frances Stevens Park holds sales of original works by California artists. Parking and admission are free. Look here for art events at Stevens Park and other desert locations.

Palm Desert: Palm Desert’s El Paseo shopping district has a dozen or more museum-quality galleries and features an art walk on every first Friday evening of the month, from November through May. The Palm Springs Art Museum’s new 8,400-square-foot Palm Desert building mounts art exhibits and a large sculpture garden.

Joshua Tree: Ask at The Joshua Tree Art Gallery — “your cultural outpost in the desert” — for information about art “crawls” and the art scene in Joshua Tree, 35 miles east of Palm Springs: 760-366-3636.

Forage for food

You’ll find locally grown produce at farmers markets in three desert towns

  • Palm Springs: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 2300 E. Baristo Road
  • Old Town La Quinta: Sundays 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 78100 Main St.
  • Palm Desert: Wednesdays 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 72-559 Highway 111

Get more details and directions at the Certified Farmers Market.

Get outdoors

Photo (cc) by Brian Roberts

Palm Springs Life gives directions and descriptions for five “amazing” desert hikes, from easy to strenuous, in such stunning spots as Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs Indian Canyons and the San Jacinto Mountains.

Tips: This is the desert. Start early when it’s cooler. Don’t get caught in the midday sun. Carry a lot of water and use strong sun protection, including clothes, hats and high SPF sunscreen.


Do you travel to the sunshine in the later winter or early spring? Or, are you among the residents of those warmer climes who witnesses the annual influx from the north? Share your experience with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Things You Should Rent Instead of Buying

You may think you’re looking at a must-have purchase. But do the numbers and think twice.

21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On

With some items, it makes sense to pay a little more rather than hopping on the lowest price.

The Most Common Reason That Older Adults Fall Down

The good news: It’s possible to avoid potentially devastating falls.

7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New

Take a few steps to preserve the beauty of your car, and you stand to get a lot more money at trade-in time.

17 Amazon Finds Under $20 That Will Organize Your Life

We’ve rounded up must-have products to help you get your ducks in a row.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

5 Changes to Your Federal Tax Return Form in 2021

The new Form 1040 features two new tax breaks, among other changes.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

29 Purchases That Can Save You Money Every Day

Sometimes, you’ve got to spend to save.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.