There’s always something new to do in Palm Springs, California and this trip was no exception. The city is the premier LGBTQ vacation destination and just received a 100% rating from the HRC, and is part of eight cities in the Coachella Valley. 

WHAT TO DO

Visit the new Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in downtown to learn about the history and culture of the Agua Caliente band of the Cahuilla Native Americans. Learn about their history where each canyon had their own separate group. Learn about the Sec He, the mineral springs that the museum sits on top of. Learn about basketry. A 12-minute animated film describes how the Agua Caliente settled in the Coachella Valley. It celebrates their heritage with a gathering place and oasis trail along a stream with native plants. Their new Spa at Sec He is also a hit where you can get a private bath and luxury treatment in the hot mineral spring, All are part of the Agua Caliente Hotel and Resort and Casino complex.

Visit Indian Canyons for a hike in an oasis with native palm trees.

Walk with the Front Runners and Walkers. They meet near the Mizel Center for a three mile walk every day except Sunday at 8:00 a.m. It’s a fantastic way to meet folks. They meet in the parking lot at 480 S. Sunrise.

 Enjoy the LGBT stars on the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars downtown. Truman Capote, Rock Hudson, and other stars used Palm Springs as a retreat from Hollywood. Palm Springs has been a LGBTQ destination since the 1920s.

Take in VillageFest Thursday night downtown including visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum which is free at that time. The VillageFest has food vendors and stuff for sale including art. Pick up some dates. The Art Museum has food and music on the outdoor patio.

Swim at the Palm Springs Swim Center. The Olympic size pool has a stunning view of the mountains. You will find them at Pavilion Way.

Work out at the Steel Gym (formerly the World Gym). It’s extremely popular.

Hike on the Lykken Trail just west of downtown off Ramon Road. Enjoy the barrel cacti and other desert plants and the view of Palm Springs.

WHERE TO STAY

The Descanso Resort (288 E. Camino Monte Vista) is just north of downtown in the Uptown/Arts and Design District. The resort features free bikes, a pool and spa, continental breakfast, and a complimentary poolside lunch. Happy hour runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Staff is very attentive. Guests enjoy a salt water pool and spa, a mist-cooling system, and outdoor shower. Every spot in Descanso’s courtyard boasts views of Coachella Valley’s San Jacinto mountains which rise straight up to 11,000 feet from the Valley floor. Other amenities include a 24-hour snack cantina. This was my second stay there and I loved it. 

Another alternative is the new Twin Palms Resort at 1930 S. Camino Real. They have rooms facing a pool and hot tub plus free use of bikes (and helmets). Enjoy the made to order continental breakfast and lunch delivered at 12:30 p.m. Under the gaze of the San Jacinto mountains, twenty guest rooms and suites open to a swimming pool, spa, and patio space. Take the bike over to the Smoke Tree Plaza to dine out at one of the restaurants like Native Foods or pick up some to go foods at Ralph’s or Jensen’s food stores. Continue on the many bike trails and bike lanes to explore the iconic Twin Palms neighborhood (the original Modernist style of homes are found here) nearby including a ride up to Indian Canyon. Details at TwinPalmsResort.com

Several other inns for men can be found in the Warm Springs neighborhood. Traditional hotels include the Ace Hotel, a hipster hangout which is also in the Twin Palms neighborhood. The new Kimpton Rowan Hotel is also an upscale choice downtown. The Best Western La Brisas is also very handy. I have also stayed at the Saguaro Hotel, this year’s host of the White Party. Always check for resort fees when comparing hotel room prices.

NIGHTLIFE

Most of the bars are on Arenas Road downtown, a one block strip between Indian Canyon and Encilia. Hunters has a fun happy hour and outdoor patio with great drink specials. It’s my favorite (and of the same owners as the one in Wilton Manors, Florida). Streetbar (224 E. Arenas) always has something going on. Go shopping at GayMart (305 E. Arenas). Other fun bars on Arenas Road include Blackbook, Chill Bar, and Dick’s. All feature outdoor seating. Close by is the new hot novel dance bar, Reforma. They have large video screens as well.

Down the road in the Sunny Dunes area, you will find The Tool Shed (600 E. Sunny Dunes) has a fun leather crowd. Food available like tacos. They have a huge outdoor patio in the back and dancers inside. Nearby is the Club 541 which I hear is fun. You can also shop at Q Trading or Gear and have breakfast at a local favorite in this strip.

Over in Cat City (aka Cathedral City, another LGBTQ friendly city in the Coachella Valley) are several fun bars. The Barracks is known for its Sunday beer busts and Wednesday underwear night. The One11 is good for talking and they also have drag and bingo crowds.

WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT

The Coachella Valley is known for its dates, olives, and oranges, and grapefruit. Try a date shake. The Nature’s Health Food and Café features fresh juices and healthy options. Try the fresh squeezed carrot juice and order the quesadillas. You will find them at 555 S. Sunrise.Trio is an excellent choice at 707 N. Palm Canyon. The nearby 849 is particularly good. Both are in Uptown just north of downtown which features trendy shops like Shag.

Always remember you are in California and things are different here. You are not in Kansas anymore. The “traditional potato salad” at the LaQuinta Resort lunch buffet was purple. And delicious.

GETTING THERE/GETTING AROUND

I took Southwest Airlines through Denver each way without incident. Get a window seat for the flight into Palm Springs and you will see the Rockies and the Grand Canyon. Southwest now allows you to take an earlier flight for free. A user friendly airline despite their recent woes.

Once in Palm Springs, UBER and LYFT can get you around. However, both feature annoying surprise junk fee surcharges for this and that. LYFT went to surge pricing twice, so I took UBER instead. So shop around. You can walk outside the airport and catch your UBER across the street (at City Hall) to avoid the airport surcharge.

Or better yet take the #4 Sunline bus for $1 just west of City Hall (across the street from the airport). The #4 takes you right downtown (which is just two miles west of the airport). 

You do not need a rental car and they also feature junk surcharges. My friend waited 90 minutes at the counter to get one. If you absolutely must have one, get it for a few days at an off airport location to avoid the fees and the crowds.

And if you stay downtown or close to it as I did, you can walk or bike everywhere in the perfect weather of this desert oasis. But beware—you are in Southern California and the car is king. While Palm Springs has put in many new bike lanes and trails, they still have work to do despite having a perfect biking environment (flat with perfect weather).

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

January 15-24, 2024: International Film Festival

February 15-25 Modernism Week—Celebrates the midcentury architecture of the region. (Midcentury means homes from the 50s and 60s. Catch the butterfly style.)

March 29-31 White Party (this is the annual circuit party that needs to change its name)

FOR MORE INFORMATION

GED Magazine is your source for up to date information and happenings in Palm Springs. The Coachella Valley Independent is the free monthly. KGAY 106.5 is your radio station. The KGAY Gay Desert Guide has all you need to know about visiting the Coachella Valley. Rage Magazine out of San Diego is also distributed here and covers the Palm Springs Gay Scene.

I visit Palm Springs once or twice a year. It makes for a perfect winter getaway for the LGBTQ+ traveler. There is always something new to check out or revisit. And their cute little airport makes it so handy.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.