Gay Palm Springs
gears up for fall
by Ed Walsh
Gay Palm Springs is gearing up for a trifecta of events this fall. It starts with Halloween, which is on a Wednesday this year. The city celebrates Pride the following Saturday and Sunday, November 3-4. Leather Desert Pride follows the next weekend, November 8-11.
While the Castro Halloween is dead, Palm Springs is embracing the day. A street party and costume contest takes place on Arenas Road, the Castro Street of Palm Springs. Entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Palm Springs drag celebrity Bella Da Ball. Drag performer "Nicky," as Carol Channing, hosts the 8-10 p.m. costume contest.
Palm Springs Pride starts on Pride eve with the Broadway in Drag pageant on Friday, November 2, at 8 p.m. at the Palm Canyon Theatre. The Pride festival is on Saturday and Sunday. Arenas Road will host a block party on Saturday night, November 5, from 6 to 11:30 p.m. Coinciding with Pride, the 2012 AIDS Walk will celebrate its 25th year on Sunday, November 4, at 8:30 a.m. and will join with the Pride Parade, which heads down Palm Canyon Drive starting at 10 a.m.
Desert Leather Pride begins on Thursday, November 8, with a meet and greet event at Hunter's Nightclub. The event will be packed with activities all weekend. The Palm Springs Convention Hall will host the Mr. Palm Springs Leather contest from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, November 10.
It's never been easier to get to Palm Springs. Virgin America began seasonal service to Palm Springs last year from San Francisco International Airport and Allegiant Air will soon begin flying nonstop from Oakland. Virgin begins service on October 18. Allegiant service begins November 15. Virgin will fly daily, but for now Allegiant makes the trip just twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays. Allegiant is offering $39 (plus tax) fares as part of its introductory special. But keep in mind, Allegiant charges $13 each way for your second carry-on bag. Your first carry-on is free as long as it fits under the seat in front of you. Virgin, United, and Alaska all fly nonstop to Palm Springs from SFO. Airlines have various other fees that may apply. For South Bay residents, Alaska offers seasonal nonstop service to Palm Springs from San Jose's airport. Service resumes this year on October 5.
Palm Springs International Airport may be the easiest airport in the world. It is perfectly situated less than 2.5 miles from the heart of downtown. The newly renovated airport has free Wi-Fi and an outdoor park past the security check in, so you can work on your tan as you wait for your flight home. The airport also makes it very easy to rent a car. Just go to the car rental counter and walk a few steps to your vehicle.
A giant sculpture of Marilyn Monroe is Palm Springs' newest tourist attraction. The nearly three-story, 34,000-pound beauty arrived in May. She stands watch over Palm Canyon Drive at Tahquitz and is quickly becoming a city icon. Palm Springs officials would like Monroe to stay there permanently, but if efforts fail, she'll be packing her bags in June.
If you've traveled to Palm Springs but haven't ventured out of the city, you don't know what you are missing. The area surrounding the city is full of surprises for those who think it's just a barren desert. The Indian Canyons are oases just minutes from downtown and a treat for anyone who appreciates nature or wants to learn more about Native American culture and history. Joshua Tree National Monument is less than an hour's drive away.
The very gay-friendly Desert Adventures is the perfect way to get the most out of any sightseeing trip. Desert Adventures' latest tour includes the whitewaters just outside Palm Springs. Whitewater might be the last thing you would expect in the desert, but a whitewater stream is always running thanks to snowmelt and natural springs. If you go, bring your swimsuit. After a hike, you can cool down in a wading pool. The whitewater tour also includes a tour of the windmill farms just north of the city. Desert Adventures also plans a separate windmill tour.
The biggest concentration of gay bars and nightclubs is on Arenas Road, just east of Indian Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. The biggest nightclub on the strip is Hunters. Streetbar recently expanded and remodeled. Locals love to pack the Streetbar patio and watch the street scene. Across the street, you'll find Score and the video bar, Spurline.
Toucans Tiki Lounge is a couple of miles away on North Palm Canyon Drive. It's famous for its two-for-one drink special on Tuesday nights and draws a big weekend crowd.
Palm Springs' leather/bear bar is the Tool Shed on Sunny Dunes Road in the Warm Sands neighborhood. The other leather/bear bar is the Barracks, almost five miles away in Cathedral City. The other gay bars in Cathedral City are Digs, famous for its Hot Diggity Dog Sunday afternoon barbeque and the piano and lounge bar, Studio One 11. In general, the bars in Cathedral City tend to have a lot more locals than tourists compared to the bars within city limits of Palm Springs.
Since Delilah's closed, and was eventually replaced by Studio One 11, there are no full-time lesbian bars in the Palm Springs area but Toucans and Hunters are very lesbian friendly, although a lesbian night at Hunters was discontinued months ago because of lack of support. Check out http://www.lspotpalmsprings.com for a number of special events geared towards lesbians.
If you plan to attend the three big fall events and want to stay at one of the city's more than two-dozen gay resorts, be sure to book ahead. Some are already filled up.
Palm Springs is fortunate to have a variety of gay resorts. They run the range from couple-oriented properties to ones that are very cruisy. A few offer day passes. The city also has three lesbian resorts: Casitas Laquita, Queen of Hearts, and its sister property, the Desert Hearts Inn.
The city lost the gay resort Terrazzo this year when the resort was sold and its new owners turned it into a mainstream hotel. But a new gay resort, the Bearfoot Inn, is slated to open next month. It is located at 888 North Indian Canyon Drive, kitty corner from Canyon Club Hotel and an easy walk to downtown. Like the name implies, it will cater to the hirsute and their admirers, but the gay couple who own it say they expect it will attract a wide range of clientele. The property used to be a straight nude resort. The new owners used to own the Bearfoot Inn in Toronto before heading south. They have obviously put some big money into the building. It will be super high-tech with iPads in every room.
Since taking over InnDulge nearly two years ago, the new owners Sandy Miller and Jon Jackson have done an amazing job transforming the property that was already in good shape to an even better property. The rooms feature newly remodeled bathrooms with big showers and modern yet classic features. Plans are in the works to remodel the gym and lobby areas.
With the closing of Terrazzo, InnExile has the largest and best-equipped gym of any of the gay resorts in Palm Springs, so it's the place to be if working out while you are on vacation is a must. The expansive property has two pools, two Jacuzzis, a steam room, and a stunning reflecting wading pool that runs along a passageway separating two buildings. This resort is very cruisy especially after dark, so it's particularly popular with singles.
The Hacienda is a small and very upscale property in the heart of Warm Sands. Breakfast and lunch are included. This resort is at the other end of the sexual temperature scale from InnExile so it's particularly popular with couples looking for a friendly but romantic place to get away.
For a good list and descriptions of the gay resorts in Palm Springs, check out http://www.visitpalmsprings.com. Click on the "Stay" tab and then "LGBT." The only gay resort left in Cathedral City is the Cathedral City Boys Club. It is open for day passes and is the largest gay resort in the Palm Springs area.
Cheeky's on North Palm Canyon Drive changes its menu weekly to adjust to whatever fresh food is available. And don't skip dessert. All the pastries are baked fresh on the premises. It's outdoor dining area is just right this time of year.
Rainbow Bar and Grille, in the heart of the gay Arenas Road area, recently took on a gay business partner, Keith Barnacastle, and he helped renovate and redecorate. The restaurant is known for its reasonably priced American cuisine and is open for lunch and dinner. The bar section of the Rainbow features nightly live entertainment.
For casual diner-type comfort food, be sure to check out Hamburger Mary's on Palm Canyon Drive, Pinocchio's in the Desert in downtown on East Tahquitz Canyon Drive, or nearby Bongo Johnny's in the heart of the gay Arenas Road district. Pinocchio's, by the way, is the home of the city's second Monroe statue. She is life-sized and stands watch outside the restaurant, usually draped in a rainbow flag.