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, constituting an estimated 40-60% of the local population. Robert Moon, the current mayor, is gay, as were the two previous mayors, along with most city council members. Many hotels, restaurants, and businesses are gay-owned, and most are gay-friendly.
But 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 --these are the reasons to visit.
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, this 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.
WestJet offers flights to Palm Springs from 40 Canadian airports.
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. Sunline Transit operates the public transportation system.
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.
Media and resources
The Desert Daily Guide, is Palm Springs' weekly gay magazine, with local listings, reviews and a calendar of events.
The Desert Gay Tourism Guild website has lots of stay/play/dine and shop info too. The Desert Entertainer is not a gay publication, but it's gay-friendly and it has a great calendar section. The Desert Sun is another local paper and website, part of the Gannett Group.
The Leather Order of the Desert has info on the local Leather/SM/Fetish lifestyle from a pansexual social organization. Visit Palm Springs is the official guide to the city, with plenty of gay information, and a visitors center.
DFA, the Desert Fetish Authority, is a a fraternity of like-minded men, attracted to masculine fetish attire, who get together at play parties and other events.
The Palm Springs Gay Men's Chorus (formerly Caballeros) present seasonal concerts at the Temple Isaiah, 332 W Alejo, among other venues.
Bars and clubs
Barracks (67-625 E Palm Canyon, Cathedral City) leathermen, bears, fetish, uniform, and cigar bar, Sunday beer busts 2pm -2am, barbecues on their patio.
Hunters (302 E Arenas), local mainstay bar and dance club, lots of action from early evening until late; go go boys, bear nights, comedy nights, karaoke, drag, undies parties, bears' nights, Latin/Hip-Hop, EDM dancing.
Oscar's Cafe & Bar (125 E Tahquitz Canyon Way, #108), Saturday and Sunday breakfast until 2pm, lunch and sandwiches, dinner and cocktails; drag, music, cabaret and comedy entertainment, large courtyard patio, special events, Sunday disco tea dances.
Score Bar (301 E Arenas), games and party bar, TV sports, open early for cocktails and beer, pool, darts, video games, lively patio, regular gatherings and celebrations; mixed men/women crowd, bear events.
Spurline (200 S Indian Canyon Dr, at East Arenas) relaxed, mixed locals video bar, karaoke cabaret, showtunes, country music, nightly entertainment.
Streetbar (224 E Arenas), oldest bar in town, live entertainment, cabaret shows, karaoke, DJs, videos, good conversation, smoking patio overlooking street, mountain vistas.
Studio One 11 (67-555 E Palm Canyon, Cathedral City), upscale cocktail lounge, cabaret and piano bar, karaoke, bingo, live music, food and special events.
Toolshed (600 E Sunny Dunes) leathermen & bears cruisebar from 10am daily, free pool games underwear nights, beer and soda busts, leather and fetish nights, country-western events, DJs, go-go dancers.
Toucan's Tiki Lounge (2100 N Palm Canyon Dr), popular video bar and weekend dance club, cabaret shows, drag revues and contests, go-go dancers, many ages/ genders mix; Latin and bears' nights, DJ sets.
Trunks (36737 Cathedral Canyon Dr, Cathedral City), gay/mixed neighborhood bar open from 10am daily, sports on TV, pool game, Sunday Disco T-Dance. The former Digs.
CLOSED: Clinic Bar and Hester's (188 S Indian Canyon Dr), cocktail lounges. Hester's replaced Clinic, then also closed; Desert Fox (224 N Palm Canyon Dr), mixed karaoke/cocktail lounge,live bands, DJs; Hacienda Cantina/ Beach Club (1555 S Palm Canyon Dr), pool bar, cabanas, DJs, dancing, Mexican restaurant/bar.
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, large pool. swim club, restaurant and cafe late dining, bar/lounge.
Agua Caliente Casino, Resort & Spa (32250 Bob Hope Dr; 866-923-7244), Rancho Mirage desert getaway, full-amenities at good prices.
Alcazar Hotel (622 N Palm Canyon Dr; 866-887-8733), adobe style rooms facing the pool or the San Jacinto mountains - many with fireplace, private terrace and/or Jaccuzi.
All Worlds Resorts (526 Warm Sands; 800-798-8781) all-male clothing-optional resort associated with porn studio, 7 pools, 4 hots tubs, saunas and steam, play areas, DJ music, go-go boys, satellite TV, adult video, nice rooms, Sunday barbeque pool parties, plus lots of special holiday events. Day and night passes available. Now includes Inn Exile & Maze across the street.
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.
Caliente Tropics Resort (411 E. Palm Canyon Dr; 760) 327-1391) Tiki-themed LGBT-friendly resort, five minutes from downtown.
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.
Canyon Club Hotel (960 N Palm Canyon; 877-258-2887), clothing-optional gay hotel and spa for men, 32 rooms, private patio and full kitchen options, steam/ dry saunas and Jacuzzi, visitor day passes, walk to local clubs.
Casa Ocotillo (240 Ocatillo Ave; 800-996-4108) two suites in original 1934 Spanish-style villa; new carriage house suite and two bungalows, each a work of art in itself; salt water pool, set in attractive landscape.
CCBC, aka Cathedral City Boys Club (68-369 Sunair Rd, Cathedral City; 800-472- 0836), large clothing-optional resort, rooms and suites, heated pool, cock-n-balls Jacuzzi, steam and sauna, cruise and play spaces, video lounge, waterfalls and nude beach, suites. The many events include naked men contests and CumUnion parties.
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, heated salt water pool, day visitors 10am-5pm.
Desert Eclipse (537 Grenfall Rd; 800-798-0655) intimate, tranquil men-only clothing-optional gay resort, luxury suites with kitchens, saltwater pool, all amenities, near clubs and restaurants.
Desert Paradise (615 Warm Sands; 800-342-7635) gay men's clothing-optional playground resort, 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; spa therapists, Jacuzzi.
El Mirasol Villas (525 Warm Sands; 800-327-2985) great service, custom designed one or two bedroom suites, studios, steam room, jacuzzi, two pools, clothing-optional, space to roam, DVD library, breakfast, WiFi.
Escape (641 E San Lorenzo; 800-621-6973), gay clothing-optional resort/spa, sunny-all-day pool and garden, relaxed not heavy party scene, kichens, and private patios. The former Chestnutz.
Gypsy Rose (450 E Palm Canyon Dr760-416-9999), 15-suite guesthouse, inner courtyard gardens, pool, fireplaces, kitchens, large heated pool. Formerly Casitas Loquita lesbian resort.
Hacienda Warm Sands (586 Warm Sands; 800-359- 2007), "among top ten North American guesthouses" - Out & About. Spacious and luxurious gay men's all-suite resort, clothing-optional pools, spa and patios, poolside chaise lounges and cabana, breakfast and lunch.
Hard Rock Hotel (150 S Indian Canyon Dr; 760-325-9676), 163-room plush accommodations with balconies or terraces, fine restaurant, bar and lounge, pool and hot tub playground with bar, Rock Shop, two miles from airport. Formerly Hotel Zoso.
Inn Exile/ Maze (545 S Warm Sands Dr; 760-327-6413), men's resort combined with All Worlds Resort; guest rooms and studios, seven clothing-optional pools, four Jacuzzis, sauna, Maze play area, slings, g-holes, r-stations, 10-channel porn TV, booths, king-size rubber-covered gang mattresses, guest day passes.
INNdulge (601 Grenfall Rd; 800-833-5675), gay men's resort, clothing-optional 24-hour pool, 12-man Jacuzzi, 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 men-only resort in rambling, park-like, clothing-optional oasis. Twenty rooms, two pools, massage, facials, spas, and gym.
Little Paradise Hotel (435 E Av Olancha; 760-573-2080), adults-only boutique hotel, salt water heated pool, private patios, kitchens. Formerly Queen of Hearts.
Santiago Resort (650 San Lorenzo; 760-322-1300), intimate clothing-optional, 23-room luxury gay men's resort, upscale escape destination, heated pool, full amenities, short drive to nightlife.
Skylark Hotel (1466 N Palm Canyon; 760-322-2267), 15 large, stylish rooms and suites, mixed clientele, pool, modern amenities.
Thirteen Palms (962 E Parocela Pl; 760-413-2910), 5-unit/ 7-bedroom private resort, quiet neighborhood in harmony with the desert; kitchens, pool, in-ground spa, lush cactus gardens, hummingbirds, San Jacinto Mountains vistas.
Tortuga del Sol (715 San Lorenzo; 888-541-3777), beautifully landscaped men's resort, exclusive neighborhood, suites and studios, oversize clothing-optional pool, 10-man Jacuzzi, four blocks from downtown.
Triangle Inn (555 San Lorenzo; 800-732-7555), gay men's resort, big morning sun, all-day quiet, bicycles and yoga classes, tropical gardens, clothing-optional pool and Jacuzzi in private compound; kitchens, libraries, full in-room entertainment/ cable TV, generous breakfasts.
The Villa Mykonos (67-590 Jones Rd, Cathedral City; 800-471-4753), gay resort hotel, ten upscale villas, dual master suites, luxurious bathrooms, full kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms with fireplace; large pool, spa and BBQ island.
Vista Grande Resorts (574 Warm Sands; 800-669-1069) includes Mirage, Avalon, and Atrium cruisy clothing-optional complex of resorts for men, with waterfalls, bamboo groves, huge hot tub, steam and dry saunas, two heated pools, and a penis totem.
Warm Sands Villas (555 Warm Sands; 866-357-5695), spacious California-mission bungalow rooms, evening poolside refreshments, clothing-optional 24-hour swimming and Jacuzzis, roof deck; diverse mix of men.
Willows Inn (412 W Tahquitz Canyon Way; 800-966-9597), Mediterranean-style luxury hotel villa at Mount San Jacinto, Old Palm Springs Village; antique furnishings, private lush terraced gardens.
CLOSED: Helios (280 E Mel Ave), gay clothing-optional resort, pool, Jacuzzi, leather/ fetish/ porn star events; Pura Vida (589 S Grenfall Rd), now private facility.
See these and more lodgings options at our hotels/ guesthouses map and listings pages.
Alicante (140 S Palm Canyon Dr), Spanish/ American tapas, pizzas, salads, bocadillos/sandwiches, classic burgers; gluten-free and vegetarian options plus craft beers and wines, patio seating, lunch and dinner.
Aspen Mills Bakery (535 S Sunrise Way) lunch package deliveries include a sandwich made with fresh-baked bread, a sampling of their potato salad and a cookie - for those heading for a canyon hike, or just reluctant to leave the pool.
Azul (369 N Palm Canyon Dr) ,patio and lounge, tapas-inspired dining, evening cabaret entertainment, theme nights and special events; lunch and Sunday brunch.
Bongo Johnny's (214 E Arenas), good breakfast with after-the- bar service, massive salads, specialty burgers, BLTs and dinner menu; a very gay atmosphere designed for watching all the street action.
Jake's (644 N Palm Canyon Dr), American bistro in the Design District; comfort foods, sandwiches, favored by fitness-conscious WeHo boys; courtyard seating to watch the street action, Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Johannes (196 S Indian Canyon Dr), talented Austrian chef adds a pan-Asian twist to his unpretentious fine cuisine creations; excellent wine selections.
Kalura Trattoria Italiana (124 S Palm Canyon Dr), native Italians chefs, rustic risottos and sauces, gourmet pizza and pastas, full bar, extensive wine list.
The King’s Highway (701 E Palm Canyon Dr), at Ace Hotel, retro chic renovated-to-distress former Denny’s with redefined roadside diner fare, Tex-Mex breakfasts, tequila-cured lox and reviving house coffee. Amigo Room at Ace artisanal cocktails and craft beers in a cool, cavernous space.
Koffi (515 N. Palm Canyon Dr + 1700 S Camino Real), gay-popular internet cafe and bistro, panninis, wraps, indoor and courtyard service from 5:30am.
Melvyn’s Restaurant & Casablanca Lounge (200 W Ramon Rd), semi-formal restaurant at Ingleside Inn, gourmet meals prepared tableside, lunch/brunch, dinner, fine wines, cocktails.
Nature's Health Food & Cafe (555 S Sunrise Way/ 301), every day expansive vegetarian menu for breakfast, lunch or dinner inside local health food market, juice & espresso bar, outdoor seating.
Pinocchio (134 E Tahquitz Canyon Way) gay-friendly international bistro, hearty breakfast, lunch, brunch with multiple versions of eggs Benedict and omelettes, 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 variety of modern American cuisine in beautiful surroundings; crawfish pot pie, pot roast and mac and cheese standouts.
The Tropicale (330 E Amado Rd), old-style Palm Springs cocktail lounge, classic southern cooking with touch of pan-Asian flair. Their buttermilk-paprika boneless fried chicken is a classic, and the mile-high chocolate cake a must-try.
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.
Watercress Vietnamese Bistro (415 N Palm Canyon Dr), noodles/rice, pork belly buns, soups, salads, rolls, pho, meat/poultry and veggie breakfast, lunch and dinner; full bar.
Zin American Bistro (198 S Palm Canyon Dr) 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 "gay super store" swimwear, club outfits, cards, and novelties in downtown Palm Springs.
Gear (650 E Sunny Dunes Rd), leather and street ware, neoprene, and plenty of toys and fetish accessories.
Just Fabulous (515 N Palm Canyon Dr), books, cards, music, gifts, art and home decor.
Palm Springs Piercing (210 E Arenas Rd), world-class piercing expertise/customer service, two decades of experience: "If it dangles, they'll pierce it." High quality body jewelry, fine jewelry, clothing, and accessories.
R and R Menswear (333 N Palm Canyon Dr), boutique with all the right labels, shoes and accessories for cutting- edge fashions and sportswear.
If arriving from abroad (or heading out), exchange currency or plan for your next destination at Anderson Travel (700 E Tahquitz Canyon Way).
Gyms of note include:
Basic Gym (1584 S Palm Canyon Dr), nothing fancy "old school" fitness gym, weight machines, cardio, personal trainers.
World Gym (1751 N Sunrise Way), Palm Springs' largest gym, weights, machines; yoga, cardio, classes, membership or guest passes, trainers, steam rooms/sauna, tanning, boxing. Also cafe/smoothie bar and free WiFi.
In the desert, jungle fever --In Focus by Scott Brassart
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."