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, Steve Pougnet is gay, the previous mayor too, 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.
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.
From 27 Canadian cities WestJet has frequent air service to Palm Springs.
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' gay magazine, with local listings, reviews and a calendar of events.
Two other area gay publications, BottomLine Magazine and Pulp, are not online at this time.
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.
The Palm Springs Gay Men's Chorus (formerly Caballeros) present seasonal concerts at the Temple Isaiah, 332 W Alejo among other venues.
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."
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.
Clinic Bar and Lounge (188 S Indian Canyon Dr), modern cocktail lounge and music bar, live bands, open mic nights, variety of DJs/music types.
Crazy Coconut Bar & Grill (166 N Palm Canyon Dr), gay-owned bar, "best burgers," lunch, dinner, Thursday-Saturday karaoke 8pm-2am.
Cub Meat (369 N Palm Canyon Dr), Palm Springs’ biggest bear and cub party; held monthly at Georgie’s Alibi.
Desert Fox (224 North Palm Canyon Dr), mixed cocktail lounge, karaoke, snacks, occasional live bands, guest DJs.
Digs (36737 Cathedral Canyon Dr, Cathedral City) karaoke, country dancing, beer busts with BBQ, Wii sports, pool, darts and games, Sister's Bingo.
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, undies parties.
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, mixed locals video bar, karaoke, showtunes, and other nightly entertainment.
Streetbar (224 E Arenas) oldest bar in town, cabaret shows, karaoke, good conversation, smoking patio overlooking street, mountain vistas.
Studio One11 (67-555 E Palm Canyon, Cathedral City) at the former Elevation location, upscale cocktail piano bar on the second floor, karaoke, live music, special events.
Toolshed (600 E Sunny Dunes) leathermen & bears cruisebar from 8am weekends, free pool games underwear nights, beer and soda busts, leather and fetish nights.
Toucan's Tiki Lounge (2100 N Palm Canyon Dr) popular video bar and dance club, incredible staff, drag revues, go-go dancers, many ages and genders mix.
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 and restaurant.
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, 4 pools, 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.
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 guests and day pass visitors, walking distance 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.
Casitas Loquita (450 E Palm Canyon Dr), secure, private, international Lesbian paradise resort, inner courtyard gardens, , pool, fireplaces, kitchens, large heated pool.
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 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, 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.
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 spa, sunny-all-day pool and garden, relaxed not heavy party scene, kichens, and private patios. The former Chestnutz.
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.
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 men-only resort in rambling, park-like, clothing-optional oasis, 20 rooms, two pools, massage, facials, spas, and gym.
La Joya Inn (545 S Warm Sands; 800-962-0186), was Inn Exile, gay boutique hotel rooms/suites, apartment, four outdoor pools, Jacuzzis, fitness lounge, outdoor fireplace, breakfast.
Pura Vida (589 S. Grenfall Rd; 760-832-6438), gay luxury boutique hotel; intimate, private, secluded, poolside cocktails and snacks.
Queen of Hearts (435 E. Av. Olancha; 888-275-9903), secluded, romantic lesbian hotel, surrounded by fruit trees and flowers; heated pool, outdoor fireplace, outdoor big screen TV, continental breakfast.
Santiago Resort (650 San Lorenzo; 760-322-1300) intimate clothing optional gay men's resort serves upscale market, 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.
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,clothing-optional pool in private compound.
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, clothing-optional 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.
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 long known for tapas-inspired dining, with evening cabaret entertainment, also lunch and Sunday brunch. Bella da Ball, hosts a retro talent night here, the site of Carol Channing’s 90th birthday party.
Blame It On Midnight (777 E Tahquitz Canyon, in the courtyard), new owners, fine dining, bar and lounge.
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.
Delhi Palace (1422 N Palm Canyon Dr) authentic Indian Cuisine, all the traditional favorites for vegetarians or omnivores.
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.
Jake's (644 N Palm Canyon Dr) American bistro, comfort food, sandwicherie, favorite of fitness-conscious WeHo boys, courtyard seating to watch the street action, Saturday & Sunday brunch.
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.
The King’s Highway (701 E Palm Canyon Dr), at Ace Hotel, goes retro chic in a renovated-to-distress former Denny’s with Tex-Mex breakfasts, tequila-cured lox and a reviving house brand of coffee.
Koffi (515 N. Palm Canyon Dr) gay-popular internet cafe and bistro, panninis, wraps, indoor and courtyard service from 5:30am.
Nature's Health Food & Cafe (555 S Sunrise Way/ 301) 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 good variety of modern American cuisine in beautiful surroundings. The crawfish pot pie, pot roast and mac and cheese are 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.
Zin American Bistro (198 S Palm Canyon Dr) European-American Cuisine for lunch or dinner, and an elaborate Sunday brunch menu.
Zini Café Mediterrano (140 S Palm Canyon Dr), neighbourhood pub vibe, a spectacular chef, friendly, impossible to fluster staff with helpful suggestions about their tapas and Spanish/Mediterranean offerings.
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.
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.
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.
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.