Kid-Friendly

How to Make Summer in the Desert Cool with the Kids

Whether your family travel plans include toddlers or teens, it’s well worth turning your vacation days over to the desert. The desert? Yup. Indian Wells, California — and the rest of the Coachella Valley — serves up activities to keep everybody from wee ones on up to great grandparents entertained.

And with the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa as basecamp for your family’s fun, there’s a good chance your crew will start pestering you to make the desert your annual go-to spot for family together time.

Need convincing? Not a problem.

Dig Into Desert Life

Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa
Discover the secrets of desert life at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. (Photo: Getty Images)

Your toddler keen on butterflies? Your teen want to be a veterinarian? Drop your bags in your room and head straight to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in nearby Palm Desert. An immersion course in, as the name makes clear, desert life, you’ll be talking about this place for a good long time.

Make sure you get a chance to feed the giraffes. It’s beyond something to see when that long neck lowers, lowers, lowers to your kid’s height and for a look in their eyes (and a gentle grab of the food in their hands). You’ll all fall in love, right then and there.

Time to Tee Off

When you’re ready to hit the links with your little ones, the resort has you covered. The Renaissance Indian Wells partners with the city-owned Indian Wells Golf Resort to offer tee times, instruction and more. You’ll get your kids in on your favorite sport — while improving your own swing.

The resort offers individualized lessons that are about as family friendly as things get. Pay for a private lesson for the adults in your group, and kids under 17 can join in for free.

Prefer to play through without a lesson? With every paying adult, the 17-and-under set gets to play one round for free (daily, after 3 p.m.) and as long as they’re available, kids get free golf-club rental. Need more info? Just give the resort’s golf concierge a shout. Yes, a golf concierge.

Reach New Heights

Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa
Snap Insta-worthy family pics from the aerial tram. (Photo: Alamy)

Prefer a daytime way to beat the heat? Step onto the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a ride up into the mountains of Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Once there, wend your way around the 50 miles of hiking trails, wander the natural history museum, browse the gift shop and cool off with a lemonade at one of two restaurants.

Discover the World at Your Fingertips

Ready for some hands-on learning fun? The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert is ready and waiting. Toddlers and elementary school–aged kids will find plenty to keep them entertained — but parents will not be bored, either. Gather in front of the I Spy painting to see who can find the 50 objects hidden there first.

Get the camera ready for your wee one’s star turn as an archaeologist at work uncovering “artifacts” at a dig. And step into the “Local Learning” exhibit to find out about cultures, ecology and much more that make the Coachella Valley ever so special.

Ready, Set, Splash Time!

Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa
Cool off from the desert heat in the resort’s epic pools. (Photo: Courtesy of Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa)

Still looking for ways to cool down? Pool time! Renaissance Indian Wells’ pool provides plenty of space for relaxation and family beach fun. Head to the no-chairs-allowed sandy beach for sandcastle building. No need to schlep sand toys with you: Just ask a staffer to loan your wee ones a set.

Lawn Games and Laughter

Get in on the games out on the resort lawn. That’s where you and your kids can go head-to-head against other family members on oversize versions of Connect 4, Jenga, checkers and chess. There’s also a cornhole set for old-time good-time fun.

Kids want to play while you relax? Not a problem. You can keep an eye on them from your seat by the pool.

Light Up the Big Screen

While your kids might happily forego screen time while at Indian Wells, there’s one big screen you’ll all want in on. On Friday nights at 8 p.m., families take a break from the desert heat to head to the resort’s movie theater.

Kids in the know will want to get there early to snag one of the beanbag seats up front. There are six now, with more on the way.

On Saturdays the theater offers three additional movie times, all without repeating a single movie.

Need a Break?

There’s no need to spend every moment together while on vacation. Even little kids need some independent playtime. Indian Wells has you covered there, too.

With teachers from a local school serving as counselors, the drop-off camp (for ages 3 to 14) offers a safe place so the adults can head out for a bit of their own alone time.

Worry not; this is no boring room where the kids just futz around with toys. The teachers, er, counselors, plan activities that help kids learn about the desert, cooking and more.