Many felt sorry for us when we had to move from the almost-tropical paradise of San Diego to the hi-desert of southern California. My husband was one of them! I kept an open mind, and figured there would be plenty of hidden gems (or not-so-hidden) to keep the kids learning and playing. I found a great list of free or cheap activities for kids in the Hi-Desert of California and outside of Palm Springs.

I am participating in a California Kids blog hop today. At the end of this post you will get links to other California-based bloggers. All are sharing different ideas for quality, fun kids activities around Cali.

Let’s start with the Hi-Desert of California and Morongo Valley. It may be remote. It may be dry, but there are many interesting free or cheap kids activities here.

Free or Cheap Kids Activities: Hi-Desert of California

Joshua Tree National Park

A no-brainer when you are in the hi-desert area. A trip through Joshua Tree is entertaining whether you make it a ride or take a hike on one of the kid-friendly trails in Joshua Tree National Park.

A park pass can be purchased for a week or for a year. A 7-day pass costs $25 if you are driving into the park. For a year of park access it only costs $40. For those of us living in the hi-desert it’s a great value to buy an annual pass. Military members can get a free annual pass. Show your military ID at the park ranger station or park entrance for details and pass.

We only live about 25 minutes from the park and there are quite a few kid-friendly hiking trails. An annual pass is more than worth it while we live in the area.

I recently took the kids to the Hidden Valley trail. It’s a 1-mile hike of varying terrain. All of my kids did well on it and enjoyed the scenery. My youngest were 3 1/2 at the time and handled it well.

You can find an entire list of easy trails that are kid-friendly.

Old School House Museum

Located in Twentynine Palms, CA this free activity for kids and families is a great way to give kids exposure to hands-on history. The Old School House is open September through May, Wednesday through Sunday from 1-4pm.  Operated by the 29 Palms Historical Society, admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

I can’t wait to take my kids to the school house. The 29 Palms School House was originally built in 1927 and served students until 1954. Inside is an array of historical artifacts that help kids compare and contrast life now with life back in the World War I and II time frames.

Desert Christ Park

About an hour northeast of Palm Springs is a true diamond-in-the-rough encounter. Desert Christ Park is a walk through the New Testament of the Bible by way of life-size (and more than life-size) sculptures that depict different stages of Jesus’ life and ministry.

There is an interesting history between the town of Yucca Valley and the sculpture park. Volunteers keep up the park after years of damage, but it truly is a larger than life museum to experience.

High Desert Nature Center

Kelly, a reader of the blog, submitted this suggestion for the hi-desert area in California. Activities in the desert are actually really cool. The Hi-Desert Nature Museum has art and nature events regularly. It is a great location to get cool during the hot summers. Thanks for sharing with us, Kelly! (Do you have activity ideas to share? Use the form at the bottom of this post.)

Salvation Mountain

One man created a shrine for his love of God. It’s a form of art any kid will enjoy and probably will even want to recreate at home! Salvation Mountain is located an hour and a half east of Palm Springs in Niland, CA.

Joshua Tree Farmer’s Market

Who doesn’t love to support local farmers and business? I seek it out! The Joshua Tree Farmer’s Market presents local businesses and vendors in one place every Saturday. Get fresh local produce, gifts, unique items and fresh flowers. Kids can plan a favorite meal and help you shop for the ingredients at the market.

Salton Sea

Drive down the hill from the hi-desert to the Imperial and Coachella valleys and you can make a stop at a unique inland sea. Salt-water, and located on the San Andreas fault, the Salton Sea is a sight to behold.

Children will learn about natural landforms, phenomena, farming impact on natural resources, and geography. The Salton Sea also has a surrounding nature preserve. The actions that created the sea are fascinating, and children will love the sight of water in the desert!

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

Extending from the Mojave Desert to Desert Hot Springs, this nature preserve has many trails. Free admission makes it a free activity for kids in Morongo Valley. Big Morongo Canyon Preserve even offers a wheelchair accessible boardwalk through the nature preserve. What a perk!

Amboy Crater

Do your kids like volcanoes? There is a cinder cone right in our backyard-almost. The Amboy Crater is a site to see. The 250-foot-high crater is about 6,000 years old and one of the best examples in the Mojave Desert of a volcanic cinder cone.

A footpath leads to the top of the cone where you can get a good view of the surrounding area. This does take 2-3 hours round trip, so older kids may do well, but younger ones may not be able to make the climb. What a sight to see!

Grab some free or cheap kids activities by location to do in your area. This ongoing series shares great resources of free or inexpensive activities for kids in specific areas around the world. Have a great free or cheap activity for kids suggestion? Submit your ideas too!

Do you have other suggestions for kids activities in the Hi-Desert or Morongo Basin?

You can submit your ideas through the form below. I’ll even add them here to share with other moms!

Check out the other California Family Destinations shared by our partnering blogs below.

Think there is nothing to do in the hi-desert of California? Think again. There is a fun list of free or cheap kids activities in the hi-desert of California and the Morongo Basin.

California Family Destinations

Today we are joining with other California bloggers to share favorite family destinations in the Golden State!  Find great resources in this list, plus link up your own below!

Participating Blogs

All Done Monkey
Family Review Guide
The Funny Mom Blog
Mama Smiles
The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide
Little Hiccups