Palm Springs offers summer deals
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I was eating lunch at the Hacienda at Warm Sands in Palm Springs last Tuesday in 92-degree heat and an hour later I was working off the meal on a hike in Mount San Jacinto State Park, where it was a very comfortable 60 degrees. While some may be reluctant to visit Palm Springs in the middle of the summer, there is still plenty to do â€" even outside â€" despite the average high temperature this time of year of 100-plus.
If you can get to the desert city over the summer, you will be greeted with cheap hotel and restaurant deals, less traffic and crowds at all the attractions, and you can enjoy a warm late night swim at one of the many gay boutique hotels where pools are kept open 24/7. The city's LGBT businesses have banded together to entice you further with the Summer Splash program that offers discounts and hotel specials from now until mid-September. A full list of deals can be found at http://palmspringssummersplash.com/.
Palm Springs has 17 gay resorts. Most use misting systems that make sunbathing bearable even when it's very hot. You can still hike, even at the lower elevations, but be sure to do so early in the morning before it gets too hot. Palm Springs gets bathed in shade more than an hour before sunset when the sun dips below the mountains to the west, effectively giving the city an extended twilight.
A visit to Mt. San Jacinto is a must-do for any visitor to Palm Springs in the summer. A 10-minute ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (https://www.pstramway.com/) whisks visitors to a cool mountainous wilderness. You can easily spend a day hiking around the summit in temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than Palm Springs.
Joshua Tree National Park also makes for a comfortable early morning hiking trek. It is about 45 minutes from Palm Springs. The temperatures there in the high desert are about 10 degrees cooler than in the city.
You may not think of rushing whitewater streams when you think of Palm Springs, but the Whitewater Preserve is less than a half hour outside the city and is worth checking out. The park includes picturesque holding ponds and whitewater streams that are abundant this year with the big rainfall we had during the winter. You can reward yourself after your morning hike by dipping your feet in the cool water.
If you like to shop, be sure to check out the Cabazon Outlets, which are about 20 minutes north of Palm Springs and feature brand names at discounted prices. By the way, you will pass by the turnoff for the Whitewater Preserve on your way to the outlets so you could easily combine the two trips.
On the other end of the shopping spectrum are the Shops on El Paseo in Palm Desert, about 25 minutes south of Palm Springs. It is known as the Rodeo Drive of the desert. While you won't find many bargains there, it is a nice place to window shop. The Gardens on El Paseo is a beautiful courtyard park surrounded by upscale shops.
The Palm Springs Art Museum is one of the world's most underrated museums. For years, many tourists never knew it existed because it was tucked back on a street behind Palm Canyon Drive, the city's main drag. The museum is still a block behind Palm Canyon but a new development project is creating a pedestrian walkway that will be lined with shops leading from the street to the museum. The best time to check out the museum is on Thursday nights, when it is free. Thursday night is also the night for VillageFest, the city's street fair, which gets underway at 7 p.m., about the time when the summer sun dips below the mountains ( http://villagefest.org/).
The biggest concentration of gay nightlife in Palm Springs is on E. Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs, a block south of S. Palm Canyon Drive, between S. Indian Canyon Road and S. Calle Encilia. The block is packed with gay bars, restaurants, and shops. The newest gay bar and restaurant is Blackbook. It replaces Cafe Palette, which closed last year. Blackbook opened just last month and is already drawing a loyal clientele. It takes traditional bar food up a notch while still keeping its prices reasonable and it serves food late into the evening. It has an expansive patio and its glass walls can be opened up when it's not too hot or cold.
The other bars on the block include Hunters, with a big dance space that is open on weekends; the video bar SpurLine; the unabashedly dive bar, Score; the oldest bar in the desert and one of the most popular, StreetBar; the upscale Chill bar; and around the corner on S. Indian Canyon, Tryst, known for live music performances.
Toucans Tiki Lounge is a Tiki-themed bar and nightclub on the north end of town along N. Palm Canyon Drive. While there are no full-time lesbian bars in Palm Springs, Hunters and Toucans tend to attract more gay women than some of the other gay bars in town. Toucans also hosts a regular lesbian night called Velvet. For more information, check out its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VelvetPS/. It held a party last month and the next one will probably be in August.
The Palm Springs area has two Levi/leather bars, the Tool Shed is in the Warm Sands neighborhood and the other is the Barracks on E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City. By the way, the Barracks is very difficult to find even with a good GPS because it is set behind E. Palm Canyon Drive behind the Arco station. The gas station is very well lit and it's hard to see that there is even anything behind the station at night.
Up until the 1990s, all of the Palm Springs gay nightlife was in neighboring Cathedral City but now there are just three gay bars left there. Besides the Barracks, Studio One 11 is a friendly cocktail lounge in a strip mall on E. Palm Canyon Drive and Trunks, formerly Digs, is another very friendly bar with pool tables, sports playing on TVs, and square dancing nights. Trunks took over Digs in December and has the same owner as Trunks in West Hollywood.
One of the most unique things about Palm Springs for gay travelers is the gay resorts. It boasts more gay resorts than any other place in the world. Sadly, with the sale of Casitas Laquita last year, there are no longer any lesbian resorts, but East Canyon Hotel and Spa changed ownership earlier this year and is marketing itself as gay, lesbian, and straight-friendly. It is also the only gay resort that is not clothing optional.
While not all the resorts are participating in the Summer Splash program, all have lower rates or offer some kind of deal for folks visiting in the slower summer months. One of the best gay men's resorts, La Dolce Vita Resort and Spa ( http://ladolcevitaresort.com/), is offering discounts at its resort for up to 40 percent over the summer. Its men's spa is top-notch and is offering a 10 percent discount on massages on weekdays and $20 off facials every day.
The aforementioned Hacienda at Warm Sands (http://thehacienda.com/) deservedly has the distinction of being TripAdvisor's #1 of 42 specialty hotels in Palm Springs. It is the place to be if you enjoy being pampered, and who doesn't? Its rates include a gourmet lunch served in your room or poolside.
If you want to sample a gay resort, the Canyon Club Hotel in downtown Palm Springs and the All Worlds Resort in Warm Sands offer day passes.
For a complete list of LGBT hotels in Palm Springs, check out the city's official website: http://www.visitgaypalmsprings.com/.