Palm Springs has been a gay mecca for decades. Today, with more than 30 gay hotels and guesthouses in the area, this desert city is a prime destination for the LGBT traveler. Whether you’re visiting for Palm Springs Pride or the city’s popular Modernism Week, this town really does have it all.
Some describe Palm Springs as the Hamptons of Los Angeles, but after visiting for the first time last year, it felt more like Fire Island to me. Both offer incredible architecture, it’s where sexy (and often wealthy) gays go to hideaway and clothes are for the most part optional. Sure, Palm Springs may not have the Meat Rack, but for what it’s worth, it does have the CCBC Resort.
Unlike its East Coast counterpart, though, Palm Springs has a lot more to offer than fancy parties and Sunday show tunes, including blue skies, top-notch entertainment, sensational food and breathtaking views. Not to mention year-round sunshine, which makes it the perfect winter getaway.
All that is why, during the first week of November each year, more than 125,000 people celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride. What began as a social dinner and variety show in the grand ballroom of the Riviera Palm Springs Resort in 1968 now consists of a downtown block party, a Pride parade and a free Palm Springs Pride Festival (five stages packed with entertainment over three days).
Here are 5 reasons why Palm Springs Pride is a go-to LGBT celebration:
1. Palm Springs has a welcoming and larger-than-life LGBT community.
The appeal of Palm Springs is that one can drive two hours from L.A. and feel like you’re in another world. The privacy this beautiful oasis in the Southern California desert provides is what made it a coveted retreat for Hollywood’s elite.
The town has long been tolerant of LGBT locals and visitors, and that’s why a lot of them choose to flock here. Nowadays, more than 50% of the annual resident population of Palm Springs is gay, making it a pretty queer city. Due to this, a lot of businesses — from bars to boutiques — are gay-owned. Beyond that, the community is exceptionally amiable.
2. Palm Springs offers diverse gay bars and hotels.
Beat the heat and the wind by grabbing a cocktail or more at one of the many bars in the area. Toucans, the first gay bar you’re likely to pass on your way into the city, should be your first stop. A favorite place among locals, the atmosphere, clientele and music here are lively.
Find decent and cheap drinks in a seedy, dark setting at The Tool Shed. If leather daddies aren’t your cup of tea, hit up Hunters Nightclub, located in the East Arenas Road strip of Downtown Palm Springs, where you’re sure to enjoy watching the go-go dancers.
When it comes to accommodations, you can sleep at the multicolored Saguaro Hotel or relax at The Westcott, a newly renovated art deco jewel in the heart of Palm Springs. Looking to lose your clothes? Stay at Santiago Resort a private, swimsuit-optional getaway for gay men. Want to continue the party or misbehave? Opt for the Bearfoot Inn or Canyon Club Hotel.
3. Palm Springs has scenic Pride festivities and LGBT events.
Greater Palm Springs Pride is considered to be one of the best Pride celebrations in the States, this year taking place Nov. 3–5 against the beautiful backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains. The Pride Festival lineup for 2017 is packing with fun queer artists from around the world, including Unsung Lilly, DJ Aaron C and GayC/DC.
On Friday, Nov. 3, kick off the weekend with Viva La Vida Street Party, get out and celebrate life. On Saturday, Nov. 4, attend the Annual HRC Palm Springs Garden Party. That night, dance in the center of the ring at Desert Heat, Stripper Circus. On Sunday, Nov. 5, grab your rainbow flag and enjoy the colorful parade. (Assembly starts at 9 a.m. in the Uptown Design District at Tachevah and Palm Canyon Dr.) If you have any energy left, put on your campiest pool attire and join the House Of Avalon for Bears in Space at the Ace Hotel.
Beyond Pride, Palm Springs holds LGBT-themed events throughout the year. There’s the Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival in September and Palm Springs Leather Pride in October, not to mention Jeffrey Sanker’s infamous White Party Palm Springs at the end of April.
4. Palm Springs is a cultural and culinary paradise.
Palm Springs is a dream come true for creators and innovators. Top events include Modernism Week in February, the world-renowned Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the spring (which takes place in nearby Indio), Village Fest every Thursday night and the exploration of the Kinetic Art movement of the 1950s and ’60s by South American artists currently exhibited at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Whether dining al fresco beneath stringed lights and swaying palms or indulging in sophisticated pub food, Palm Springs has something for every palette. Las Casuelas Terraza is an institution in the area for generations, as the Delgado family has been serving authentic Mexican food for generations.
Eight4Nine’s abstract décor and eclectic menu make for an Alice in Wonderland-esque dining experience. Bar food tends to be greasy or gross, but the recently opened Blackbook (in the heart of the gayborhood) sets the bar high. The nachos — served on a baking sheet in a single layer — are on point!
5. Palm Springs is guaranteed to be an Instagram-worthy vacation.
Palm Springs is full of breathtaking locations, including colorful doors, iconic hotels and desert scenery. Nothing screams “I’m in Palm Springs” quite like a photo at the windmills outside of town along Interstate 10 or in the sand of majestic Joshua Tree.
The neighborhood of Indian Canyons is home to the instafamous #thatpinkdoor. The white breezeblock wall and orange door of The Parker Palm Springs provide the ultimate backdrop for all your #OOTD needs. If you’re up for an excursion, Salvation Mountain — artist Leonard Knight’s outsider art masterpiece — is a photographer’s dream.
Head here for more information on Palm Springs Pride, taking place Nov. 1–5.
Featured image by zoff-photo via iStock