Palm Springs readies for Halloween, Pride

  • by Ed Walsh, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday October 19, 2022
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Destination PSP founder Jeffrey Bernstein stands next to a display of dinnerware in his shop. Photo: Ed Walsh
Destination PSP founder Jeffrey Bernstein stands next to a display of dinnerware in his shop. Photo: Ed Walsh

Tourism in Palm Springs has rebounded with a vengeance, surpassing pre-pandemic records in both hotel occupancy and arrivals to Palm Springs International Airport. Tourism officials say that while there are still fewer international visitors, domestic travelers have more than made up for that difference.

LGBTQ travelers were among the first to return to the desert city and they returned early and often. Palm Springs' gay resorts are often sold out even during the quieter weekdays. That may sound like a good problem for the resorts to have but Michael Green, who owns the very popular Triangle Inn along with his husband Stephen Boyd, told the Bay Area Reporter that he is hopeful that the unprecedented demand for gay resorts will soon be satisfied with other properties being developed.

"Some people have said that the gay resorts would fade away, but just the opposite has happened," Green said. The resort owner added that he hoped that gay travelers won't become frustrated and get out of the habit of visiting the city because they aren't able to find a room at a gay hotel.

The formerly gay resorts Bearfoot Inn and La Dolce Vita were sold and closed late last year, while the downtown Canyon Club Hotel is in limbo in a legal dispute after one of the owners died. Green said he is hopeful that plans by the owners of Descanso and Santiago to convert the Twin Palms resort into a gay resort would proceed quickly to help meet the growing demand. The new Twin Palms is expected to open sometime next month.

Fall in full swing

Fall is in full swing in Palm Springs. The city hosted the lesbian-focused weekend, The Dinah, and the LGBTQ film festival, Cinema Diverse, last month. Palm Springs Leather Pride is October 27-30. The Desert AIDS Walk steps off from Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs at 9 a.m. on Saturday, October 29. The traditional Halloween block party will be held on Halloween Eve, Sunday, October 30, on E. Arenas road just east of Indian Canyon Road, where most of the gay nightlife is situated. Palm Springs Pride is November 4-6, highlighted by a parade that Sunday that steps off at 10 a.m. at Palm Canyon Drive at Tachevah Drive and ends at the festival entrance at Amado Road.

If you want to avoid the crowds, early December, before the holidays, is a good time to visit. The 30th Annual Palm Springs Festival of Lights is set to take place on Saturday, December 3, kicking off at 5:45 p.m. in downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive between Ramon and Tachevah. In nearby Palm Desert, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens features its annual Wild Lights spectacular light display November 23-December 30.

The Trixie Motel in Palm Springs opened in June under the ownership of "RuPaul's Drag Race" alum Trixie Mattel (aka Brian Michael Firkus) and her husband, David Silver. Photo: Ed Walsh  

Gay resorts
The Greater Palm Springs Area still boasts the most gay resorts anywhere. All are marketed to gay men and are clothing optional. The newest resort, Descanso, is among the very best. It is north of downtown in the space that was occupied by the East Canyon Hotel and Spa, which eventually was sold and became a mainstream property only to return to its gay roots for its current incarnation. The property's general manager Kent Taylor has helped restore the luxury touches of the old East Canyon and taken it to an even higher level. The hotel's employees pamper guests with a high-end continental breakfast, complimentary lunch, and a pantry with complimentary drinks and snacks available all day.

Descanso's sister property, Santiago, is just south of downtown and is also known for its high-end amenities including an expanded continental breakfast and lunch. It is the only two-story gay resort in town and has the largest pool and hot tubs of any of the resorts.

The aforementioned Triangle Inn is just steps away from the Santiago. Green and Boyd, the longtime owners, live on the property and make guests feel like family. The mid-century modern building is a neighborhood gem with a beautiful front garden framing the property.

The largest collection of gay resorts is in the Warm Sands neighborhood, about a half-mile from downtown. The Warm Sands mainstay InnDulge is owned by a gay couple, John Jackson and Sandy Miller. Besides a continental breakfast, they host a complimentary cocktail hour every night. Miller seems to remember everyone's names and is great with making introductions so that all the guests can get to know each other.

The Hacienda at Warm Sands in Palm Springs is a luxury property across the street from InnDulge and includes two pools and a hot tub. A complimentary lunch is also included. It is known for pampering guests and the resort even has a pillow menu to satisfy even the most finicky guests.

Desert Paradise Resort Palm Springs is kitty-corner from Hacienda and is another high-end resort with a steam room and dry sauna.

Vista Grande is another luxury property that includes a huge hot tub grotto and steam room. The resort boasts three pools all heated to 94 degrees, making for comfortable swimming on the coolest nights.

El Mirasol Villas is a historic resort that was originally built by reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. The expansive resort includes two pools.

CCBC is the only resort in neighboring Cathedral City. With 3.5 acres it is the largest of the gay resorts. It is also open for day passes and is particularly popular with bears. The attached Runway Bar and Restaurant serves up great food and hosts live shows.

While not an exclusively gay hotel, the Trixie Motel opened in June under the ownership of "RuPaul's Drag Race" alum Trixie Mattel (aka Brian Michael Firkus) and her husband, David Silver. The motel makeover was featured on the Discovery+ channel. Trixie is pretty — and pink — but she ain't cheap. A night in one of her very colorful and unique seven rooms will cost you on average about $600 and rates go as high as $900 a night during peak demand.

All gay nightlife was centered in Cathedral City up until the 1990s. Now LGBTQ nightlife is beginning to go back to Cathedral City, which boasts five gay bars. The biggest concentration of gay bars in Palm Springs is in downtown Palm Springs on E. Arenas Road, just east of S. Indian Canyon Drive. With the closure of Delilah's 15 years ago, there are no longer any lesbian bars in Palm Springs, but Toucans and Hunters in Palm Springs are among the most popular with lesbians.

Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret is famous for its drag shows, dancing, and Latin Fever Mondays. Hunters has a huge dance room, main bar, and expansive patio.

Hunters started serving food during COVID lockdowns so it could stay open and it has continued that tradition.

StreetBar is a favorite of locals and always draws a crowd, especially in the early evenings.

Quadz video bar is another Arenas Road mainstay with karaoke on Thursdays and Sundays. To help celebrate Halloween, Quadz will host a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" sing-along on Tuesday, October 25, at 7 p.m.

Chill Bar Palm Springs is right next to Quadz. The bright, glass-walled corner bar always seems to draw a crowd. Like Hunters, it also serves food.

BlackBook is the new kid on the block and is known for its delicious gourmet bar food.

The Eagle 501 is a favorite with the leather, Levi's, and bear crowd.

Tryst Bar and Lounge is just around the corner from Arenas Road, on S. Indian Canyon Drive, and is known for showcasing local musicians.

The Tool Shed, on the edge of the Warm Sands neighborhood, is famous for its Thursday night underwear night. It expanded to the parking lot in response to the pandemic, so it can accommodate a large crowd and cater to people who don't feel safe being in large indoor gatherings.

Cathedral City's version of the Tool Shed, the Barracks, has its underwear night on Wednesdays. It has always had a large outdoor patio.

One Eleven Bar is a popular piano bar featuring karaoke on Thursdays and Sundays and a popular drag brunch on Sundays.

The AMP Sports Lounge gets its name from the couple who own it, Paul and Antonio Lopez-Cochran. AMP stands for Antonio marries Paul. Besides being the place to watch sports in town, AMP's stage showcases karaoke on Fridays and drag bingo on Thursdays.

Roost Lounge is around the corner from AMP and is revered for its monthly "Chicken Ranch" charity fundraisers. It boasts that it raised $18,000 for breast cancer this month. Wednesday is karaoke night, Fridays are for disco, and bingo is on Sundays.

Good eats
Palm Springs is chock full of great restaurants. Among the best are Tropicale, with its huge outdoor patio area ideal for those who don't feel comfortable eating inside. Fried chicken is among its most popular dishes.

Trio is famous for its happy hour and its fabulous gourmet food. Its $24.99 prix fixe menu from 3 to 6 p.m. daily is a great bargain considering the quality of the restaurant.

The Kaiser Grille has great food, an exceptional wraparound patio, and is a good place to people-watch on Palm Canyon Drive, in the heart of downtown.

The Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge is a great splurge restaurant with delicious food served up in style in its very comfortable and colorful dinner rooms.

Midmod Cafe is a great breakfast and lunch spot with a good selection of burgers, burritos, and salad bowls at reasonable prices.

Shop gay
Jeffrey Bernstein and his husband, Oscar Chamudes, own the Destination PSP shop on Palm Canyon Drive in the heart of downtown. The store specializes in California-produced clothes and Palm Springs-themed mid-century modern keepsakes. The shop works with nonprofits to produce T-shirts with the group's name and logo with a portion of the sale going to the organization itself. You can see Destination PSP merchandise at various shops throughout the city. By the way, Bernstein is running for a seat on Palm Springs' City Council in the upcoming November 8 election.

GayMart, in the heart of the gay E. Arenas Road strip, specializes in trendy men's clothes and swimwear. BearWear is just steps away on Arenas Road and carries clothes that fit men of all sizes.

In Warm Sands, just steps from the Tool Shed bar, you will find the Q Trading Company that sells everything from cards and books to erotica. Its nextdoor neighbor, Gear, specializes in fetish clothing and gear.

For more information, the city's official tourist website.

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