Palm Springs Rebounds
Palm Springs is booming.
That seems to be the consensus among many businesses in the city that was hard hit by the recession. Real estate prices have soared and hotel occupancy is up. There is new optimism in the city with construction of a new downtown upscale shopping mall under way.
Like most gay resort destinations, Palm Springs is constantly renewing, updating and re-inventing itself. Over the past year, a new gay resort opened, three changed hands, a gay restaurant/bar closed, and another reopened. The world-famous Fabulous Palm Springs Follies show announced this month that after 23 years, next year will be its last. The city’s newest landmark, the giant Marilyn Monroe sculpture, was scheduled to leave this month but her stay was extended until early September. Later this year, Hotel Zoso in downtown Palm Springs will be converted into a Hard Rock Hotel. The Hard Rock is emblematic of the city’s trend to attracting a younger, hipper crowd.
Palm Springs is very much a year-round destination, and if you can travel now during the slower summer season, you can benefit with much lower hotel prices. The area’s Desert Gay Tourism Guild is offering discounts at hotels, bars, restaurants, shopping, tours, and attractions. You need a Splash Pass to get some of the deals and you can get one when you check into a participating hotel. For more information visit the Summer Splash website at http://www.PalmSpringsSummerSplash.com.
While San Francisco celebrates Pride this weekend, Palm Springs avoids holding its Pride during the hot summer months. Instead, the desert city’s Pride happens on the first weekend of November. A downtown block party gets under way on Saturday, November 2, with the Pride parade the following day. All the details can be found at http://www.PSPride.org.
Palm Springs Leather Pride happens the following weekend, November 7-10. A pass to all events costs $125 and profits benefit community charities.
Palm Springs also does it big for Halloween with an annual block party downtown on Arenas Road, which is home to the biggest concentration of gay bars and shops in the city.
A conference of readers and authors of lesbian fiction known as the Left Coast Lesbian conference happens October 9-13. The lesbian resort Casitas Laquita is the host hotel and, if you register there, all the conference events are free.
The International Bear Convergence will be held in 2014 in Palm Springs over the Presidents’ Day weekend. If you want to stay at a gay resort that weekend, it would be a good idea to book your room now before your favorite hotel is sold out.
The biggest gay events happen in the spring, first with Dinah Shore Weekend, which boasts that it is the largest lesbian gathering of its kind in the world. It happens April 2-6. The White Party will be the last weekend of April. It had been tradition for the gay men’s circuit party to happen over the Easter weekend, but organizers decided from now on to hold it the last weekend of April. The later date means warmer weather and even hotter pool parties.
Some regular visitors to Palm Springs are content to relax by the pool all day but there is much more to do for those who want to be adventurous. The very gay-friendly Desert Adventures offers a wide variety of tours, including the Joshua Tree National Monument, San Andreas Fault, Indian Canyons and other oases in the desert. During the summer months, Desert Adventures offers a full-moon hiking tour.
Because of the high temperatures, you will want to avoid hiking in the middle of the day during the summer. But there is an easy alternative. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway scales the top of Mt. San Jacinto, where you can find an escape from the triple-digit heat. It can be 30-40 degrees cooler at the top. In the winter, you can be sitting by the pool and an hour later be cross-country skiing at the top of Mt. San Jacinto.
The Palm Springs Art Museum is a great way to escape the heat in the middle of the day. The museum benefits from the wealthy residents who live in the area and lend the museum art. The museum is poised to be the centerpiece of the city’s new downtown mall. It had been hidden from view from the city’s main drag, Palm Canyon Drive, but the new project will provide an inviting open corridor lined with shops and restaurants where developers hope people will stroll and shop on their way to the museum.
Knotts Soak City is Palm Springs’ water park. It is a great way to get cool and get in some exercise and fun. Or if you feel low energy, you can hop in an inner tube and take a lazy float down the stream without having to move a muscle.
Villagefest takes over Palm Canyon Drive downtown for a street fair every Thursday night. The Palm Springs Art Museum, just a block from Palm Canyon Drive, is offering free summer movies at 6 p.m. on Thursdays and the museum is free every Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m., so you can easily combine a stroll through Villiagfest and a visit to the museum for a cheap night out.
For a unique and very gay workout experience, check out the gay men’s Work Out Gym on North Palm Canyon Drive next to Toucans. Day passes are $12 and coffee and snacks are included. The well-equipped gym is a friendly place to socialize as well as exercise.
Changes to nightlife over the past few months include the closure of the Rainbow Bar and Grill in the East Arenas Road area and the reopening of the Barracks bar in nearby Cathedral City.
For the uninitiated, the biggest concentration of gay nightlife in Palm Springs is downtown on East Arenas Road, east of Indian Canyon Drive. That’s where you will find Hunters, StreetBar, Spurline, and Score. Hunters has the biggest gay dance floor in the Palm Springs area. StreetBar is a friendly bar with a lot of local regulars who take advantage of its expansive outdoor patio. Spurline is a video bar and Score is the place for early risers or very late nighters as it opens at 6 a.m. Early birds also save money as Score also has the cheapest drinks in town.
The very popular Toucans is on North Palm Canyon Drive, two miles from the East Arenas Road bars. It is famous for its tropical motif and Tuesday night drink specials.
You will find Palm Springs’ Levi leather cruise bar, Tool Shed, on the edge of the Warm Sands neighborhood on East Sunny Dunes Road. Fittingly, Gear Leather and Fetish shop is on the same block as is the expansive gay gift and accessory shop, Q Trading Company.
Cathedral City is home to three gay bars, Digs, Studio One 11, and Barracks. Digs is a friendly neighborhood bar famous for its Sunday beer busts, Studio One 11 is a lounge bar featuring live entertainment and karaoke, and Barracks is a leather/bear favorite.
With the demise of Delilah’s several years ago, there are no full-time lesbian bars in Palm Springs but Boudoir Entertainment organizes gatherings for women that are held at Georgie’s Alibi in downtown Palm Springs every other Saturday night. For more information visit http://boudoirnightlife.com. Also, the L Spot Palm Springs website is a good site for overall information on parties for gay women in the Palm Springs area.
Palm Springs is fortunate to have the greatest variety of gay hotel resorts in the world. Most of the more than two-dozen gay resorts are male and clothing optional, but two are lesbian and one of the newest is gay/lesbian mixed and family friendly. The biggest cluster of gay resorts is in the Warm Sands neighborhood, a short walk east of downtown. Another cluster of gay resorts can be found on East San Lorenzo Road, about a half-mile south of Warm Sands.
The newest gay resort in town, the Random Haus condominium hotel, is on East San Lorenzo Road and is also one of the most upscale resorts in Palm Springs. The all-suite hotel opened this spring. It is gay/lesbian mixed and is family friendly. Unlike most of the men’s resorts, bathing suits are required.
The Triangle Inn is just across the street from Random Haus and is a mid-century modern architectural landmark in the area. The couple who own the hotel, Michael Green and Stephen Boyd, also live on site and it shows in the attention to detail throughout the resort. The resort has nine rooms and suites and a separate detached house with its own pool that is available for rent, which is ideal for groups of friends traveling together.
The largest resort in the East San Lorenzo Road area is the luxurious 24-room Santiago Resort. Amenities include not only a complimentary continental breakfast, but a premium boxed deli lunch. The other two gay resorts across the street from the Santiago are Escape Palm Springs and Tortuga del Sol. Both are first rate and have earned a loyal repeat clientele.
The Bearfoot Inn opened just six months ago off Indian Canyon Drive near the Canyon Club Hotel on the north end of town. The modern and upscale 11-room resort caters to the bear crowd but everyone is welcome. Its owners estimate that about 80 percent of its customers are bears. It is owned by a gay couple from Toronto. If you are staying somewhere else and want to hang out for the day, day passes are $10.
The Warm Sands’ mainstays, Inn Exile and Warm Sands Villas, were sold to a corporation this spring. The company kept the Warm Sands Villas name but changed the name of Inn Exile to La Joya. A manager told the Bay Area Reporter that plans are in the works to extensively remodel the La Joya starting next month. Plans are to put a boutique clothing store where the entrance is now and move the hotel lobby where the old Skivvies restaurant used to be. The manager said both properties will stay gay.
A gay couple from Pasadena took over the Century Resort in Warm Sands in March. The 12-unit resort was already in good shape but the new owners are busy making it better than ever. Amenities include a continental breakfast with fresh baked goods and French-pressed coffee. A complimentary cocktail hour is also included.
The Vista Grande Resort in the heart of Warm Sands gets better every year and is trending to the upscale. The property is three resorts combined into one. The premium Mirage section offers spacious suites and treats guests to a complimentary delivered breakfast and a separate entry and parking area. The Mirage has a huge Jacuzzi, steam room, and a waterfall that cascades into a lagoon. In addition, the 27-unit property offers a dry sauna, two pools, beautifully manicured grounds, and a complimentary continental breakfast.
Since buying INNdulge in late 2010, life and business partners Jon Jackson and Sandy Miller have made the excellent resort even better. They enlarged and modernized the bathrooms and their attention to detail shows in every aspect of the property. The friendly and helpful staff no doubt helps them retain a loyal following as well. The resort has a small gym but offers guests free passes to the gay Work Out Gym on the north side of town. The gym is definitely worth checking out during your visit.
The Cathedral City Boys Club, better known by its initials, CCBC, is the largest gay resort in the Palm Springs area and the only gay resort in Cathedral City. It is open to the public for passes 24 hours a day making it one of the cruisiest and sexually charged resorts in the Palm Springs area.
The All Worlds Resort in Warm Sands, like the CCBC, offers day passes but night passes are available during the weekends only.
The two women’s resorts, Casitas Laquita and Queen of Hearts, are among the finest resorts you will find anywhere in the city. Casitas Laquita has a cool wine cellar and often hosts special events that are open to the public.
The gay-owned Trio Restaurant continues to be one of the most popular spots in the city. It is north of downtown in the Uptown Design district. It stays busy even in the slower summer season. Trio’s happy hour brings in locals and tourists alike. Trio is also known for its community spirit and often hosts charity fundraisers.
Alicante (formerly the Zini Cafe Med) on Palm Canyon Drive in the heart of downtown is one of Palm Springs’ newest restaurants and it is generating a good buzz. It specializes in Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine. Its official grand opening last month was also an AIDS LifeCycle benefit.
Ruben and Ozzy’s Oyster Bar and Grill is less than a year old and is the place to stop if you have a craving for its fish taco specialty. It also serves up some very tasty appetizers and chowders.
Wangs in the Desert is another very gay-popular eatery featuring pan Asian cuisine. Its Friday night happy hour is packed even in the slow summer season. Wangs is also well known for its LGBT community fundraising work.