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Palm Springs: The perennial paradise for the Queer traveler

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Gonzalo Lebrija's History of Suspended Time (A monument for the impossible) in front of Palm Springs Art Museum — Photo courtesy of Ed Walsh
Gonzalo Lebrija's History of Suspended Time (A monument for the impossible) in front of Palm Springs Art Museum — Photo courtesy of Ed Walsh

After a drought-busting winter followed by a cool spring and a typically hot summer — topped off by flooding from Tropical Storm Hilary in August — Palm Springs is gearing up for a busy fall. A number of events designed to bring more visitors to the desert city are coming up, including the Dinah, Cinema Diverse, Leather Pride, Pride, and Halloween.

Palm Springs is about a 3-hour, 45-minute flight from Sea-Tac, with flights starting around $250 round-trip on Alaska or Delta Airlines. The Palm Springs airport is also one of the world's most convenient: it's less than three miles from downtown, and the car rental lot is just steps from the terminal. Ubers and taxis are plentiful, or you can take a SunLine bus to downtown for $1.

Drag Queen Crossing at the Arenas District — Photo courtesy of Ed Walsh  

The Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, better known as the Dinah, kicks off the fall Sept. 20—24. The Lesbian-centric gathering, which includes pool and dance parties, is one of the most popular events of its kind in the world. The Margarita Resort and Spa is "Dinah Central." It's already sold out, but there are still a few rooms left at the event's overflow hotel, the Hilton Doubletree. But if that fills up, September is generally a slow month in Palm Springs, so you probably won't have much trouble finding another lodging nearby at a reasonable rate.

The 16th annual Cinema Diverse LGBTQ film festival partially overlaps with the Dinah, Sept. 21—24 and Sept. 28—Oct.1. For a film schedule and to buy passes, check out https://www.psculturalcenter.org/filmfest

PS Leather Pride is held the weekend before Halloween, Oct. 26—28. Hotel Zoso is the host hotel, conveniently located adjacent to the Arenas District, where the biggest concentration of Gay bars and nightclubs is situated.

Palm Springs' Halloween block party will be held this year on Sunday, Oct. 29, 4—10 p.m. Admission is free, but there is a suggested donation of $10, with the proceeds going to LGBT charities. A $75 VIP pass that includes an open bar can be purchased online at https://www.halloweenpalmsprings.com

The 37th annual Palm Springs Pride is Nov. 3—5. Broadway star Idina Menzel headlines the stage at the Arenas District block party on Saturday, Nov. 4. On Sunday, Nov. 5, the parade steps off in downtown Palm Springs at 10 a.m.

Twin Palms Resort, Palm Springs' newest gay resort — Photo courtesy of Ed Walsh  

Gay resorts
Palm Springs has a dozen Gay resorts, more than any other place on the planet. All are marketed toward Gay men and all are clothing-optional, with 24-hour pool and hot tub access, so you can take advantage of a warm fall night swim without having to worry about sunburn. Most have free continental breakfasts, all have free parking, and some even throw in a free lunch. Five of the 12 gay resorts still don't charge the dreaded resort fee, so be sure to check out the bottom line when you are comparing prices.

The newest, Twin Palms Resort, will be celebrating its first anniversary in November. Twin Palms is a modern, stunning luxury resort. The hotel includes an expanded continental breakfast and a free lunch. It also has bicycles free for guests and a free wine happy hour. A 24-hour canteen offers free drinks and snacks.

Twin Palms' sister properties, Descanso and Santiago, are also known for a similar high level of service and luxury. They also provide a free breakfast and lunch and a 24-hour canteen with free snacks and soft drinks. Descanso is centrally located just north of downtown, and Santiago is just south of downtown, with a huge pool and hot tub. Twin Palms, Descanso, and Santiago all charge a resort fee of $16 a day. Nightly rates at the three hotels start around $250.

The Triangle Inn is on the same block as Santiago and deservedly has a very loyal following. Michael Green and his husband Stephen Boyd are known for their service to the LGBTQ community. Green is the executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Association, which runs Cinema Diverse. The Triangle Inn was built in 1958 by Hugh Kaptur, who was one of the city's most acclaimed mid-century modern architects. Both architecture and landscaping buffs will find plenty to love about this picture-perfect resort. Rates start around $175 a night, and it thankfully still has no resort fee.

The Canyon Club Hotel is the only Gay resort in downtown Palm Springs and has the cheapest rates, starting at $119, with no resort fee. It's not a luxury property, but it has a huge backyard with a koi pond and a hedge maze. Day passes are available for $15. Renovations are underway at this property to bring it back to its past glory.

The biggest concentration of Gay resorts is in the Warm Sands neighborhood about a half mile east of downtown. El Mirasol Villas is a historic property (built by Howard Hughes in 1947) and eventually turned into a Gay hotel in 1975, the oldest in town. Rates start at $159 a night, with no resort fee.

All Worlds Resort, next to El Mirasol (on the property that was formerly Inn Exile), is the only one of the resorts in Warm Sands that offers day passes. Expect to pay extra fees, starting at about $20 a day, tacked on to the already hefty room rate that starts at about $350. All Worlds creatively calls the fees "Energy Cost Fee" and "Merchant Service Processing Fee."

Vista Grande is a fabulous Gay resort that includes three pools, a huge hot tub, a waterfall, and a steam room. Breakfast and lunch are free. There is a resort fee starting around $8 a day. Its sister property, Atrium, is diagonally across from the main resort and has its own pool. Rates start at about $239 a night.

The Hacienda Palm Springs is next to Vista Grande and is known for its pampering of guests — it even has a pillow menu. The luxury resort also includes a free breakfast and lunch. The property boasts two pools and a hot tub with a mountain view. It has a resort fee starting around $30 daily, but that includes all tips to staff. Hacienda's rates start around $430 nightly.

InnDulge is just across the street from Hacienda and deservedly stays busy even during the slower summer months. It has a great happy hour with free drinks and snacks every early evening; free pizza is included with the cocktail hour on Thursday evenings. Rates start around $250 a night, with no resort fee.

The Desert Paradise Resort is another first-class property that includes steam and dry saunas and a continental breakfast. It is kitty-corner from the Hacienda. Nightly rates start about $179, with no resort fee.

The Cathedral City Boys Club, better known as CCBC, is the only Gay resort in Cathedral City, which is just south of Palm Springs. The expansive property (3.5 acres) hosts a number of special events and is open all the time for day passes. CCBC no longer serves a continental breakfast, and it has the steepest resort fee of any of the Gay resorts: $35 a day. Rates start about $275 ($310 with the resort fee).

Palm Springs' newest spa, The Spa at Séc-he, opened in April in downtown and is one of the most modern and upscale in the country. You can bathe in the hot springs for which the city is named. Those waters are considered sacred by the Agua Caliente tribe, which owns the property. A day pass costs $145, but if you schedule a massage or other individual spa service, you can enjoy all the benefits of a day pass without an added cost.

Most of Palm Springs' nightlife is centered in the Arenas District, in downtown, on E. Arenas Rd. just east of Indian Canyon Drive. That is where you will find the popular Hunters, Chill, Quadz Palm Springs, Dicks on Arenas, BlackBook, and StreetBar.

The newest bar in the district is the retro speakeasy bar called the Evening Citizen. Its entrance is hidden on the backside of the building, where Stacey's used to be.

A couple of Gay nightlife options outside of Arenas are Toucans, which is on the north side of the city, and Tool Shed, on the south edge of the Warm Sands neighborhood. The latter is making permanent its huge outdoor patio, which it started during the pandemic. The patio is slated to open in late October, in time for Leather Pride.

Reforma is a huge Gay-friendly restaurant and nightclub in the heart of downtown. You will often see a line wrapped around the block on the weekend there. The restaurant has an intimate feel and serves up top-notch gourmet grub in a dark and dramatic intimate setting.

Nightlife options in Cathedral City include The Barracks, The Runway (at CCBC), One Eleven Bar (formerly Studio One 11), The Roost Lounge, and the AMP Sports Lounge.

For a great guide to nightlife options when you are in town, check out the excellent Gay Desert Guide online at https://www.gaydesertguide.com

If you want to get a great sampling of locally made art and crafts and sample some of the best eats and entertainment in the desert, check out the city's Village Fest street fair every Thursday evening, 7—10 p.m.

By the way, the Palm Springs Art Museum is free every Thursday night 5—8 p.m., so you can combine it with a visit to the street fair. Through February 2024, the museum includes the special exhibits "Contemporary African Art" and "Meditations in Glass," the latter being a stunning collection of glass sculptures.

For more information, check out the Palm Springs' official web site at https://www.visitpalmsprings.com