Palm Springs is a draw for summer tourists

  • by Ed Walsh, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday June 26, 2024
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Jacquelyn James, left, and Melissa Lieperman volunteered at the Big Gay BBQ benefit for Palm Springs Pride June 7. Photo: Ed Walsh
Jacquelyn James, left, and Melissa Lieperman volunteered at the Big Gay BBQ benefit for Palm Springs Pride June 7. Photo: Ed Walsh

Palm Springs is growing in popularity as a summer destination. But the desert city still offers deals on hotel stays, and you probably won't have to wait at your favorite restaurant.

The Greater Palm Springs area has 12 gay resorts, more than any other place on the planet, and the demand, even over the summer, has never been stronger.

"We are busier than ever," said Michael Green, who along with his husband, Stephen Boyd, owns the Triangle Inn, a gay clothing-optional Mid-century modern gem that attracts a very loyal following.

"We could use more hotels," Green added. "The demand for gay hotels is bigger than the supply."

All the gay resorts are geared to gay men and are clothing optional. The resorts also use misters that make sunbathing tolerable in 100-plus degree heat. All the gay hotels also keep their pools open 24 hours, so you can swim at night when it is still warm and don't have to worry about getting sunburned.

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum opened last December and has exhibits on the struggles and the victories of Native Americans before and after their home was first discovered by Spanish explorers in the early 1700s. Photo: Ed Walsh  

Newest resorts
The newest gay resorts in Palm Springs are Twin Palms and Descanso. Both are known for luxury amenities, including complimentary breakfast and lunch, and a canteen with free soft drinks, coffee, and snacks that is open 24 hours. Those resorts offer complimentary afternoon wine served poolside.

The resorts have the same owners as Santiago, which also is known for its high level of service. Twin Palms and Descanso are offering summer specials of $195 per night.

By the way, Twin Palms, Descanso, and Santiago charge a daily resort fee of $16. Several other resorts, including Triangle Inn, do not charge any extra fees. But starting July 1, when the anti-junk fee law Senate Bill 478 goes into effect, all hotels in California have to include the resort fee in their advertised prices. Hotels participating in the Greater Palm Springs' "Summer Splash" discounts can be found at and, in a few days, that advertised price must include extra fees.

The pool at Santiago Resort is a welcome amenity for guests. Photo: Ed Walsh  

Palm Springs has two sunsets. The first sunset is when the sun goes below the mountains to the west, shading the city. That happens about an hour before the actual sunset. The extended twilight makes an early evening summer stroll tolerable.

The Palm Springs Village Fest street festival runs from 7 to 10 p.m. every Thursday on the city's main drag, Palm Canyon Drive. You can combine that with a trip first to the Palm Springs Art Museum, which is free on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.

The museum includes an exhibit room on the first floor entitled "To Move Toward the Limits of Living." The museum says the exhibit takes its title from novelist Larry Mitchell, who wrote about LGBTQ+ communities living "between revolutions" in the 1970s. Featured artists include San Francisco porn icon Peter Berlin, Ruth Bernhard, Jim Isermann, Bob Mizer, Catherine Opie, John Sonsini, and Andy Warhol.

Palm Springs' newest museum is well worth seeing and is a good way to spend a hot afternoon after you get tired of the pool. The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum opened in November. Admission is just $10 or $5 for those 65 and older.

Before you enter the main museum, you will be ushered into a 360-degree view theater where the story of the Native Americans who first called the Greater Palm Springs Area home is shown. Exhibits in the main museum show the struggles and victories of the Native Americans before and after their home was first discovered by Spanish explorers in the early 1700s.

The Spa at Séc-he is next door and opened in April 2023. It has already earned a reputation for one of the best spas in the country. The modern facility is best known for its private mineral baths. The spa boasts that the mineral bath waters are being brought aboveground for the first time in 12,000 years. The spa and museum are owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

One outdoor attraction that gets even more popular in the summer is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It is a must-do attraction. The temperature at the Mt. San Jacinto summit is about 40 degrees cooler than the city. You can enjoy a 70-degree weather hike at the top of the mountain while the city may be 110 degrees. Tickets for the 10-minute ride to the top are $30.95 round trip. After 4 p.m., and for an extra $10, you can also dine at the Pines Cafe restaurant at the summit.

Palm Springs Surf Club is the city's newest mega-attraction. It used to be Wet and Wild, but the new owners expanded and refurbished the property to include a wave pool. Since that pool's opening January 1, the mechanism that makes the waves has worked only intermittently and, as of this writing, it was waveless. But the waterslides and lazy river are running as usual. The property also has a spacious restaurant, Amala, where you can enjoy a meal or a drink with a view of the fun.

Most of the LGBTQ nightlife in Palm Springs is clustered in the Arenas District on E. Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs, two blocks east of Palm Canyon Drive. That is where you will find the video bar Quadz, Chill Bar, Dick's on Arenas (formerly Eagle, and, before that, Score), BlackBook, Streetbar, The Evening Citizen, Hunters, and Tryst, which is around the corner on Indian Canyon Drive.

The Arenas District regularly hosts a number of community events and block parties. Most recently it held the Big Gay BBQ, a fundraiser June 7-8 to help keep Pride events free. Palm Springs Pride this year is October 31-November 3.

There are no full time lesbian bars in Palm Springs, but Hunters has lesbian night once a month on a Thursday and the establishment is always women-friendly. On the north end of town, Toucans Tiki Lounge is known for its drag shows and is also popular with women.

The other Palm Springs mainstay is the Tool Shed, south of downtown on Sunny Dunes Road, next to the gay shops Q-Trading Co. and Gear. Tool Shed now has a permanent large backyard patio after it decided to make its temporary COVID patio permanent. One of its most popular events is underwear night on Thursdays. The sex club 541 is around the corner from Tool Shed on 541 Industrial and is open Thursdays through Sundays.

The gay nightlife scene used to be centered in Cathedral City, the city next to Palm Springs, but, in the 1990s, more and more gay bars opened in Palm Springs while bars closed in Cathedral City. There are three popular gay bars in Cathedral City that tend to draw a higher ratio of locals to tourists than the Palm Springs bars.

The Levi and Leather themed Barracks is similar to the Tool Shed and equally as popular. Its underwear night is on Wednesdays. It's on Palm Canyon Drive but, even with GPS, it is hard to find because it is kind of hidden behind the Arco station. Farther down Palm Canyon Drive, you will find One Eleven Bar, a popular piano and drag show club.

Runway is a popular restaurant and bar that is part of the CCBC gay resort. But you can check out the restaurant and bar without having to buy a day pass to the resort. By the way, CCBC and the Canyon Club Hotel in Palm Springs are the gay resorts that offer day passes. Sadly, Amp sports bar closed last summer, but the bar Roost, just around the corner, is going strong.

Eating out
One of the newest restaurants in Palm Springs is also one of the best. Alice B. Restaurant is named for Alice B. Toklas, who was Gertrude Stein's partner and an author in her own right. She wrote a cookbook that includes personal anecdotes along with recipes. The restaurant is a creation of James Beard and Julia Child award-winning chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. Feniger is a lesbian and, after she realized she preferred women, in 1984 introduced Milliken to her ex-husband, Josh Schweitzer. They hit it off immediately, married, and have been together for 40 years. Alice B. is part of Living Out, a luxury resort-style apartment complex for active LGBTQ adults 55 and older that opened late last year, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

Another new restaurant, Canopy Wine Lounge, opened in downtown Palm Springs in December. It includes a wide selection of wines from all over the world. It is a perfect stop to enjoy a bite and vino while checking out downtown.

Like most places with a large LGBTQ population, Palm Springs is very dog-friendly, and one restaurant takes its canine appreciation to a new level. Boozehounds is on the north end of town, across from Toucans Tiki Lounge. Dog owners can treat their pets on the back patio, selecting from the restaurant's canine menu, while inside, people without pooches can enjoy delicious food with a mountain view.

For more information, check out the Greater Palm Springs official website at It includes an LGBTQ section that has links to all 12 gay resorts.

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