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November 2009 Email this to a friend

Palm Springs

By Scott Brassart


Keith at INNdulge

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Palm Springs article click DailyXtraTravel

Palm Springs is best known as the "playground of the stars," a reputation earned during Hollywood's Golden Age when the friendly little desert oasis was both close enough and far enough away to appeal to the silver screen's A-list. With an average of 332 days of annual sunshine and 360-degree mountain views, it's easy to understand the appeal.
In recent years Palm Springs has become, per capita, one of the gayest cities on earth. The mayor is gay, the previous mayor is gay, most of the city council is gay, and practically every hotel, restaurant, and business in town is either gay-owned or gay-friendly.
In other words, if you trip and fall, you'll probably land in your next lover's lap.
If you're looking for a big-city atmosphere with a booming club scene, you need to look elsewhere. Palm Springs is a quiet, relaxing resort town. Certainly there is a thriving nightlife, but that's hardly the city's main appeal. Sunshine, swimming pools, world-class golf courses and tennis courts, great restaurants, and awe-inspiring mountain vistas are the reasons to visit.

Getting here
Palm Springs International Airport is serviced by 10 airlines with direct flights to hundreds of cities worldwide, including most major airline hubs. Conveniently located in the center of town, Palm Springs International is one of the most pleasant and manageable airports on the planet. Ontario International Airport is about an hour from Palm Springs. You may be tempted to save on airfare by flying into Ontario. Don't. Flying into Ontario is more hassle than it's worth.
If you're driving, Palm Springs is a two-hour car trip from Los Angeles -- unless you hit traffic. Southern California freeways are notoriously overcrowded, and rush hour can be a nightmare.

Getting around
Palm Springs is relatively spread out, and you absolutely do not want to rely on public transportation. Cabs are available, but usually must be called for in advance. Rates are also higher than in big cities. If you plan to experience more than just your hotel's swimming pool, your best bet is to rent a car. Maps of the area are readily available, and it's easy to find your way around.

All areas of Palm Springs are gay, or at least gay-friendly. That said, several neighborhoods are worth a visit. Warm Sands and Arenas are good for walking. You'll probably want a car if you plan to tour Deepwell or Las Palmas.

Warm Sands: Warm Sands is home to a cluster of gay resorts, most of which are clothing optional. (Adult film aficionados will recognize several pools and saunas.) At night the area is an outdoor cruising grounds, with visitors milling around inside and outside the resorts, and locals cruising in cars, on bikes and on foot.

Arenas: Home to gay bars, gay restaurants, and gay shops, the section of Arenas Road between Indian Canyon and Calle Encilia is the traditional gay hub of Palm Springs.

Deepwell: A blend of mid- century modern designs, superb views, and elegance, the area has been home to such stars as Jerry Lewis, Jack Webb, and William Holden. Those interested in mid-century modern architecture may want to walk or drive through this upscale residential neighborhood.

Las Palmas/Movie Colony: Las Palmas has attracted movie stars and studio moguls since the 1920s. David O Selznick, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Jack Benny, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Liz Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Barbra Streisand, Dinah Shore, and dozens of other luminaries have called the Las Palmas neighborhood home. Many of the houses were designed by famous architects, including William Cody, Donald Wexler, Palmer and Krisel, Paul R Williams and A Quincy Jones. Most of the stars have moved to gated communities, but the area is still beautiful to walk and/or drive through.

Gay media
BottomLine Magazine is Palm Springs' gay magazine, presenting both local and national news, along with an extensive calendar of events.
Other area gay publications include:
The Desert Daily Guide; Talk Magazine; and Pulp.

The Desert Entertainer is not a gay publication, but it's gay-friendly and it has a great calendar section.

Pride Day
Greater Palm Springs Pride is a two-day celebration held each fall. This year the event is November 7 and 8. Palm Springs has a thriving leather community (as well as lively bear and drag communities), with Palm Springs Leather Pride scheduled for November 12 to 15, 2009.

Stopping in at the Desert Pride Community Center , 611 S Palm Canyon in the Sun Center, is a great way to become familiar with Palm Springs' gay community. Men of a certain age may wish to visit the newly opened and wildly popular Golden Rainbow Senior Center , 700 E Tahquitz Canyon Way.

In the desert, jungle fever
It's big, it's long, and it's hard. If you're in the mood you can sit on it. It's also Palm Springs' most recognizable public sculpture.
Sculptor Delos Van Earl's Jungle Red - - 14 feet high, 15 feet wide, 38 feet long -- graces the entrance to Warm Sands, the most vibrant gay neighborhood in Palm Springs. The 2008 installation marked the culmination of three years effort by the Warm Sands Neighborhood Association.
"The site suffered from benign neglect for years," says Robert Stone, who spearheaded the campaign, in reference to the formerly ugly median strip at the entrance to the neighborhood. "We thought it would be good for everyone if the site were rehabilitated."
Van Earl admits that he usually avoids doing public art.
"It doesn't suit my personality," he says. "It's a lot of paperwork and process, and I don't deal with that very well."
This project was special, though, because he wanted to give back to the Palm Springs community.
"I've been fortunate," he says. "The gay community in particular has been very supportive of my work. So this sculpture is a wonderful way for me to give back, especially where it's situated, right there in Warm Sands."
The work is from Van Earl's Luna series, a collection of large-scale sculptures based on the linear form. "I call them subterranean," he says. "A portion of the work is beneath the ground, and is imaginary."
Like all works in the series, Jungle Red appears to be a single, rhythmic line undulating over and around and through itself -- a sculpted steel version of modern dance.
One of the great features of Jungle Red is that it is interactive, designed to be viewed from all angles, walked through, and touched.
"That's what I like best about this piece," Van Earl says. "You can stand next to it, you can sit on it. The back tail is actually designed so people can get up on it."
"The installation is important to the city and especially to the neighborhood because the location is the gateway to Warm Sands," Stone says. "Thousands of cars pass by the site every day, and thousands of visitors come to stay in the Warm Sands resorts each year. The sculpture is good for the neighborhood, good for business, and good for the image of Palm Springs."

Top experiences

Get High: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a spectacular 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride through four biological life zones. The 5,873-foot rise is the equivalent of a road trip from the Sonora Desert in Mexico to the Alpine fringe in Alaska. The flora and fauna literally change right before your eyes -- and you're guaranteed to not miss any of the view, since the cars rotate during the trip.
At the top Peaks, the more upscale of two restaurants here, has great views of the Coachella Valley.

Get Naked: Most Palm Springs gay resorts are clothing-optional. For many visitors, "resort action" is the city's primary draw.

Get Rich: The Palm Springs area has several casinos, including the Spa Resort and Casino in the center of town. The Agua Caliente Tropics Resort in nearby Rancho Mirage hosts world-class performers at its new entertainment venue, called The Show.

Get Out: Palm Springs is a haven for outdoor sports. Some of the world's finest golf courses are located in and around Palm Springs.
The Nabisco Women's Golf Championship (better known as Dinah Shore Weekend), the Skins Game, and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic are annual events. Tennis venues are equally abundant.
The local mountains and nearby Joshua Tree National Park are more than enough to satisfy even the most avid hikers and climbers.

Get Erudite: The recently renovated Palm Springs Art Museum houses a world-class collection of (mostly modern) art. The museum is impressive, but small enough to experience in an hour or two. Browsing the city's many art galleries is also worthwhile. The newly formed Backstreet Art District is off the beaten path but worth a look.

Get Cool: Palm Springs International Film Festival in January and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films each summer are among the world's largest and most important film festivals.
The star- studded feature film festival in January has a special emphasis on foreign films, screening nearly all of the films submitted each year for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards.

Get Hot: The Electric White Party takes place April 9-12, 2010, with the biggest lineup of international djs in White Party history.

Bars and clubs

Alibi (369 N Palm Canyon Dr) video bar and restaurant above Azul, top-40 hits, sports, comedy clips, burgers and grill food.

Barracks (67-625 E Palm Canyon, Cathedral City) leathermen, bears, fetish, uniform, and cigar bar, Sunday beer busts 2pm -2am, barbecues on their patio.

Club W (36737 Cathedral Canyon Dr, Cathedral City) Wednesday karaoke, Thursday underwear parties, and Saturday country dancing.

Confession (611 S Palm Canyon Dr -formerly Club Oasis) huge dance venue, big late crowd, 6pm happy hours for early birds. Thursday night "Noche Latino," Saturday afterhours until 4 am, Sunday All Male Reviews.

El Destino (83085 Indio Blvd, Indio) Friday and Saturday night latino club with dancing, strippers and drag shows.

Evolution (67-555 E Palm Canyon, Cathedral City) the former Sidewinders location is a brand new cocktail lounge for a mixed crowd, open daily noon to 2am.

Hunters Video Bar (302 E Arenas) local mainstay bar and dance club, lots of action from early evening until late.

Score Bar (301 E Arenas) party bar with manly and friendly bartenders, opens early for cocktails and beer, with lively patio, regular gatherings and celebrations.

Spurline (200 S Indian Canyon Dr, at East Arenas) relaxed locals bar with karaoke, showtunes, and other nightly entertainment.

Streetbar (224 E Arenas) oldest bar in town, hot men, cabaret, legendary performers, good conversation, smoking patio overlooking street.

Toolshed (600 E Sunny Dunes) leathermen / bears cruisebar from 7 am, free pool game, underwear nights, beer and soda busts, leather and fetish nights.

Toucan's Tiki Lounge (2100 N Palm Canyon Dr) video bar with incredible staff, and drag revues. Especially hot Thursday and Sunday nights.


Ace Hotel & Swim Club (701 E Palm Canyon Dr; 760-305-9900) one of several in boutique chain, variety of rooms, cedar sauna, massage, health spa.

The Alexander Inn (1425 S Via Soledad; 760- 327-4970), secluded in walled grounds, with lush garden, pool, and mountain views is within walking distance of local restaurants.

All Worlds Resorts (526 Warm Sands; 800-798-8781) all-male clothing-optional resort associated with the porn studio, 4 pools, hots tubs, saunas and steam, play areas, DJ music and go-go boys, satellite TV, adult video, nice rooms, Sunday barbeque pool parties, plus lots of special holiday events. Day and night passes available.

The Andreas Hotel & Spa (227 N Indian Canyon Dr; 888-327-5701), a landmark dating from the 1930's at the heart of downtown dining, shopping and entertainment, with 25 deluxe rooms and suites.

Bacchanal (589 Grenfall Rd; 800-806-9059) an elegant, secluded men-only bed & breakfast resort, with clothing optional pool, pet friendly too.

The Calla Lily Inn (350 S. Belardo Rd; 888-323-3654), lush and tranquil oasis at base of San Jacinto Mountains with large rooms, pool, spa, yoga, wine, art and live music.

Camp Palm Springs (1466 N Palm Canyon; 888- 242-9386) big cruisy resort complex with big pool and large hot water whirlpool. Day pass visitors mingle freely with hotel guests.

Canyon Club Hotel (960 N Palm Canyon; 877-258-2887) clothing optional gay hotel and spa for guests and day pass visitors, walking distance to local clubs.

Casa Ocotillo (240 Ocatillo Ave; 800-996-4108) four rooms around original 1934 Spanish-style villa, each a work of art in itself set in attractive landscape.

Cathedral City Boys Club (68-369 Sunair Rd, Cathedral City; 800-472- 0836) heated pool, cock-n-balls jacuzzi, steam, play spaces, unfussy rooms, suites, naked young men contests.

Century (598 Grenfall Rd; 800-475-5188) modern, hip and comfortable design, courtyard facing mountains and sunshine, heated pool and spa.

Chaps Inn (312 Camino Monte Vista; 800-445-8916) English hoteliers, laid back fetish-welcoming, totally male, kitchens, private patios, busy steam room, salt pool, day visitors 10am-5pm.

Chestnutz (641 San Lorenzo; 800-621-6973) men-only gay clothing optional spa, pool, promotes relaxed not heavy party scene, kichens and private patios.

Desert Eclipse (537 Grenfall Rd; 800-798-0655) intimate men- only clothing optional resort, suites with kitchens, all amenities, near clubs and restaurants.

Desert Paradise (615 Warm Sands; 800-342-7635) partnership events, 15 porn channels, free wi-fi, pool, beautiful gardens, phallic ornaments, Cafe Paradise breakfasts.

East Canyon Hotel and Spa (288 E Camino Monte Vista; 877-324-6835) party elsewhere, this world class luxury gay hotel and spa is for pampered relaxation.

El Mirasol Villas (525 Warm Sands; 800-327-2985) great service, custom designed one or two bedroom suites, studios, steam room, jacuzzi, two pools, space to roam.

Hacienda Warm Sands (586 Warm Sands; 800-359- 2007) among top ten North American guesthouses Out & About, a spacious gay resort to pamper you.

Helios (280 E Mel Ave; 760-323-2868) has leather/fetish parties co-hosted by Gear Leather store. Lavish guest rooms, breathtaking views, international mix.

Hotel Zoso (150 S Indian Canyon Dr; 760-325-9676) plush accommodations, fine restaurant, pool playground with bar, two miles from airport.

Inn Exile (545 S Warm Sands; 800-962-0186) fully equipped clothing optional resort with gym, four pools, Jacuzzis, outdoor fireplace, mist cooling system.

INNdulge (601 Grenfall Rd; 800-833-5675) 24-hour pool, 12-man jacuzzi, clothing optional, all-day sunshine. Two-bedroom apartments, kitches, private patios, juice and snacks all day, gym, and WiFi

La Dolce Vita Resort (1491 Via Soledad; 877-644-4111) Spanish style resort in rambling, park-like, clothing optional oasis, pool, massage, facials, spas, and gym.

The Pepper Tree Inn (622 N Palm Canyon Dr; 866-887-8733) has adobe style rooms facing their pool or the San Jacinto mountains - many with fireplace, private terrace and/or Jaccuzi.

Santiago Resort (650 San Lorenzo; 760-322-1300) intimate clothing optional gay men's resort serves upscale market, full amenities, short drive to nightlife.

Terrazzo (1600 E Palm Canyon Dr; 866-837-7996) upscale gay men's clothing optional hotel to relax, rejuvenate, with heated pool and all the frills.

Tortuga del Sol (715 San Lorenzo; 888-541-3777) beautifully landscaped resort in exlusive neighborhood, oversize clothing optional pool, four blocks from downtown.

Triangle Inn (555 San Lorenzo; 800-732-7555) big morning sun, all-day quiet, bicycles and yoga classes, gardens, pool, cothing optional in private compound.

The View (354 E Stevens Rd; 877-977-8439) a new clothing-optional gay resort with two-room suites and studios with full amenities.

The Villa Mykonos (67-590 Jones Rd, Cathedral City; 800-471-4753) ten upscale villas, dual master suites, luxurious bathrooms, full kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms with fireplace.

Vista Grande Resorts (574 Warm Sands; 800-669-1069) includes Mirage, Avalon, and Atrium cruisy complex of resorts for men, with waterfalls, bamboo groves, huge hot tub, steam and dry saunas, heated pools, and a penis totem.

Warm Sands Villas (555 Warm Sands; 866-357-5695) spacious California-mission bungalow rooms, evening poolside refreshments, 24-hour swimming and jacuzzis, diverse mix of men.

Willows Inn (412 W Tahquitz Canyon Way; 800-966-9597) Mediterranean style villa at Mount San Jacinto, Old Palm Springs Village, antique furnishings, private garden.

Eating out

Azul (369 N Palm Canyon Dr) patio and lounge long known for tapas-inspired dining, with evening cabaret entertainment, also lunch and Sunday brunch.

Blame It On Midnight (777 E Tahquitz Canyon, in the courtyard) fine cuisine plus piano bar cabaret entertainment Tuesdays, and Thursdays through Saturdays.

Bongo Johnny's (214 E Arenas) good breakfast with after-the- bar service, burgers, BLTs and dinner menu.

Delhi Palace (1422 N Palm Canyon Dr) authentic Indian Cuisine, all the traditional favorites for vegetarians or omnivores.

Cafe Tonaca at Nature's Health Food (555 S Sunrise Way/301) expansive vegetarian menu for breakfast, lunch or dinner inside local health food market.

Hamburger Mary's (415 N Palm Canyon Dr) part of the chain it lives up to its name, open air bar, soda fountain and grill.

Johannes (196 S Indian Canyon Dr) talented Austrian chef adds a pan-Asian twist to the fine food, unpretentious, with an excellent wine selection.

Kalura Trattoria Italiana (124 S Palm Canyon Dr) native Italians chefs, rustic risottos and sauces, gourmet pizza and pastas, full bar, extensive wine list.

Koffi (515 N. Palm Canyon Dr) gay-popular internet cafe and bistro, indoor and courtyard service from 5:30am.

Look Patio Bar and Restaurant (139 E Andreas) perfect for dinner in warm desert evening air, also breakfast, Sunday brunch, and lunch.

Pinocchio (134 E Tahquitz Canyon Way) new gay-friendly international bistro, hearty breakfast, lunch, brunch, cocktails, wine and beer.

Pomme Frite French & Belgian Cuisine (256 S Palm Canyon Dr) international ambience bistro, French and Belgian Cuisine, wide Belgian beer selection, French and California wines.

Shame On The Moon (69-950 Frank Sinatra Dr, Rancho Mirage) with 25 years of elegant food in romantic setting, reservations are recommended.

Trio Restaurant (707 N Palm Canyon Dr) with popular and generous daily cocktail hours, 4-7pm; serving a good variety of modern American cuisine in beautiful surroundings.

The Tropicale (330 E Amado Rd) California and world cuisine, old-style Palm Springs cocktail lounge

Wang's in the Desert (424 S Indian Canyon Dr) Chinese dining in style around indoor pond, or open-air patio, popular Friday evening bar.

Zin American Bistro (198 S Palm Canyon Drive) European-American Cuisine for lunch or dinner, and an elaborate Sunday brunch menu.

Shopping and more

Bear Wear Etc. . (319 E Arenas) bear fashions and gear, underwear, cock rings, leather and rubber items.

Almost demolished not long ago, the pueblo-style buildings at Corridor Shops (515 N Palm Canyon Dr) were renovated to offer tranquil shopping or browsing around the only public garden courtyard in town.

GayMart USA (305 E Arenas) sexy "super store" with swimwear, club outfits, cards, and novelties in downtown Palm Springs.

Gear (650 E Sunny Dunes Rd) has leather and street ware, neoprene, and plenty of toys and fetish accessories.

Just Fabulous (515 N Palm Canyon Dr) has books, cards, music, gifts, art and home decor.

Q Trading Company (606 Sunny Dunes Rd) gay DVD sales and rentals, pride merchandise, sex toys, jewelry, even Christmas ornaments.

R and R Menswear (333 N Palm Canyon Dr) a boutique with all the right labels, shoes and accessories for cutting- edge fashions and sportswear.

Tuff Stuff Leatherware (407 S Industrial Pl) off-the-rack leather clothing and leather-repair services at affordable prices, bondage toys and devices.

If arriving from abroad (or heading out), exchange currency at Anderson Travel (700 E Tahquitz Canyon Way).

Gyms of note include:

World Gym (1751 N Sunrise Way);
Power of Fitness (170 S Sunrise Way); and
Basic Gym (1584 S Palm Canyon Dr).

Other diversions

Stunning views of Southern California's deserts, coastlines, lakes and wine country can be seen from a hot-air balloon with Fantasy Balloon Flights for groups of 2 to 10.

Caballeros, the gay men's chorus of Palm Springs has regular performances that include a Holiday Concert, December 19 & 20. Check their website for subsequent dates.

Every Saturday and Sunday, the College of the Desert Street Fair, (Collage Campus, Monterey Avenue and Magnesia Falls Drive, Palm Desert) brings together hundreds of vendors of merchandise, arts and crafts, and farmers market items from 7am to 2am in winter, until noon in the summer. Parking and entry is free, and there's entertainment too.

Every Thursday evening from 6-10pm (7pm summertime) Village Fest (Palm Canyon Drive) draws thousands of people downtown. A diverse gathering of artists, artisans, entertainers and venders of fresh produce, flowers, and jewelry amid the many area shops, restaurant and clubs, generates one of Southern California's most popular weekly events.

Prime Timers of The Desert (760-416-4421) is a social club for mature gay men. Their thousands of members have lunches, dinners, mixers, and theater outings, and their website is a source for useful information and links.

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