Plenty to do in gay-friendly Palm Springs
I was bundled up as I walked through the snow in a pristine forest earlier this month. Kids and adults were cross-country skiing, sledding, and playing in the snow. Just an hour later, I was at a patio restaurant in a T-shirt in the warm sun looking for a table with shade.
The Bay Area’s favorite gay getaway is the perfect antidote for a wet winter. And the real winter is just a 10-minute ride away on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. If you can travel to Palm Springs this time of year, you can have it both ways.
The recession has left gay Palm Springs fairly unscathed. A new upscale gay resort, the View, opened over the fall, while the Desert Bear folded. A new gay bar, Studio One 11, opened about a year ago while its neighbor in Cathedral City, Sidewinders, closed. The city’s only after hours gay dance club, Confession (formerly Oasis), closed just before Halloween because of a fire.
Besides the abundant sunshine and warm weather, the biggest attraction for gay tourists to Palm Springs may be the wide variety of more than two-dozen gay resorts. Most are for men but a couple are for lesbians. The room rates are less expensive than you will find in most other parts of the country. You can find a room at some of the gay resorts for less than $100 if you can travel midweek, even in the current high season. Almost all of the resorts offer a free continental breakfast and a few offer lunch and an evening cocktail hour.
The biggest cluster of gay resorts is in the Warm Sands area of Palm Springs, about a half-mile from downtown. There are other clusters of resorts along San Lorenzo Road and in the north end of Palm Springs. Resorts run the range of very cruisy to those that are more couple oriented.
In Warm Sands, the 40-unit Vista Grande is four resorts in one. It was started by Bob Mellen 26 years ago. Mellen is a founding father of Warm Sands and helped the other gay resort owners get established. Now, 11 gay resorts are clustered in Warm Sands. Vista Grande’s centerpiece is the cruisy Mirage Resort, which is a lushly landscaped property that includes a waterfall, steam room, and huge hot tub.
The nearby INNDulge deservedly has a loyal repeat business. The owners, John Williams and Jean-Guy Lachance, have maintained a family atmosphere among its guests and employees. They provide a free cocktail hour that is a perfect opportunity to meet guests from all around the world. The resort has a good mix of couples and singles.
The Century Palm Springs is just across the street from INNDulge and is one of the most upscale gay resorts in the country. It received Out and About’s highest "five-palm" rating. It has six rooms that embrace the mid-century modern design but with all the contemporary comforts of the 21st century. The resort is a must-see for the eyes of anyone who appreciates good design. Century Palm Springs also has a spectacular and unobstructed view of the mountains.
Warm Sands Villas is another top quality resort. It has 27 units and is across the street from Vista Grande. This property deservedly earns top ratings in www.TripAdvisor.com. The historic property was built in 1933 and in its pre-gay days was a home away from home to Hollywood celebrities from Shirley Temple to Clark Gable.
The 23-unit Santiago Resort is another five-palm-rated resort. All of its rooms are extra large and impeccably maintained. The picture-perfect grounds surround the largest pool of any of the gay resorts. The Santiago is in a residential area along San Lorenzo Road, in good company with three other resorts.
The nine-room Triangle Inn is across the street from the Santiago and has an upscale feel without upscale prices. The owners live on the property and keep everything in perfect condition. The resort is attached to a four-bedroom house that is for rent as well. The hotel was built in the late 1950s and is a good example of mid-century modern architecture. The building has never looked better since the wind knocked down a pine tree in front, revealing the beautiful triangle-shaped main building of the inn.
The 10-room Chaps Inn promotes itself to leathermen and bears. Amenities include a steam room, outdoor sling area, St Andrew’s cross, stocks, and puppy cage. The rooms have ceiling hooks for slings. If you didn’t bring your own, you can rent one there. The resort is just north of downtown.
Just around the corner from the Chaps Inn, you will find the newest gay resort in town, the View. It gets its name from the panoramic mountain views from the pool and many of its rooms. The resort was completely renovated after its previous incarnation as the Indianola Tiki Guesthouse. All 12 units have full kitchens. The resort just opened on June 1, 2009. To attract new customers, the View is offering rates starting at $99, a bargain considering the upscale quality of the resort.
For the ultimate intimate experience, never mind getting a room, get a house. The Casa del Sol is a luxurious two-bedroom, two-bath home that can accommodate up to six. It has a private heated pool and is just minutes from the heart of downtown Palm Springs.
Palm Springs has a couple of resorts for lesbians. The Caistas Laquita is a spacious 15-unit property that has earned a five-palm rating. Every room has a full kitchen. The beautiful resort evokes the vibrant colors of Mexico.
The lesbian Queen of Hearts Inn and its smaller sister guesthouse, the Desert Hearts Inn, are upscale properties just two blocks from Casitas. The Queen of Hearts has nine rooms, each with a full kitchen. The three-unit Desert Hearts Inn is just across the street.