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TRAVEL FEATURE

Summer Bargain: Palm Springs


Andrew Collins | June 18, 2004

The swanky Wyndham Palm Springs is a frequent host of gay and lesbian events - Photo by Andrew Collins
The Little Black Book

  • Ballantine's - 1420 N. Indian Canyon Dr., 760-320-1178 or 800-485-2808
  • Caliente Tropics Resort - 411 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-327-1391 or 866-HOT-9595
  • Casitas Laquita - 450 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-416-9999
    Cathedral City
  • Cathedral City Boys' Club - 68-369 Sunair Rd., Cathedral City, 760-324-1350 or 800-472-0836
  • East Canyon Hotel - 288 E. Camino Monte Vista, 760-320-1928 or 877-324-6835
  • Hacienda at Warm Sands - 586 Warm Sands Dr., 760-327-8111 or 800-359-2007
  • Inndulge - 601 Grenfall Rd., 760-327-1408 or 800-833-5675
  • La Posada - 120 W. Vereda Sur, 760-323-1402 or 888-411-4949
  • La Posada East - 280 E. Mel Ave., 760-323-2868
  • Le Parker Meridian - 4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-770-5000
  • Orbit Inn - 562 W. Arenas Rd., 760-323-3585 or 877-99-ORBIT
  • Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism - 760-778-8415 or 800-927-7256
  • Queen of Hearts - 435 Avenida Olancha, 760-322-5793 or 888-275-9903
  • Santiago - 650 San Lorenzo Rd., 760-322-1300 or 800-710-7729
  • Terrazzo - 1600 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-778-5883 or 866-837-7996
  • Triangle Inn - 555 San Lorenzo Rd., 760-322-7993 or 800-732-7555
  • Viceroy - 415 S. Belardo Rd., 760-320-4117 or 800-237-3687
  • Wyndham Palm Springs - 888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, 760-322-6000 or 800-822-4200
  • Few places in the world can claim the sheer quantity of gay-oriented accommodations that Palm Springs does – you'll find resorts, most of them clothing-optional and male-oriented, set throughout town. There are also few places in the world with consistently higher summertime temperatures, a fact that may scare you from visiting from June through September, when daytime highs regularly surpass 105 degrees. But summer can also be a great time to vacation in Palm Springs: crowds are few, every accommodation in town has a big pool and patio cooled by misting machines, and resorts slash their prices – often by 50 percent or more.

    In recent years, many of Palm Springs' gay properties have undergone extensive, and impressive, upgrades. In summer, you may be able to afford a stay at some of the fanciest places, even ones you found too pricey from November through April. Even better news for lesbian and gay visitors: a slew of historic boutique hotels have been given retro-chic makeovers, and many of these stylish pads have begun actively jockeying for a slice of the queer tourism pie. If you love Palm Springs, but you're not so much a fan of clothing-optional, single-gender accommodations, you've got plenty of great gay-friendly choices.

    Here's a roundup of some of Palm Springs' most alluring accommodations. Note that low-end room rates are listed in parentheses next to the name of each property – these can change depending on availability and other factors, so check first. Also, many properties offer special low-season deals, such as "stay two nights and get the third one free."

    Some Gay Guy Faves
    It's sometimes tough to distinguish the many properties in the Warm Sands neighborhood, home to about a dozen gay resorts. Hacienda Warm Sands (from $149) deserves consideration for being the best of them all. In-room accents, depending on the suite, include Saltillo-tile floors, Asian rugs, teak and bamboo furniture, double showers, and custom kitchens with high-end appliances. Rates include some of the most lavish breakfasts and lunches of any resort in town. One of the friskier men's resorts, nearby Inndulge (from $115) has 24 rooms and draws a lively, sexually open bunch (the 12-man hot tub is very popular). The staff is fun-loving, accommodations are spacious and bright, and the pool is one of the best in town.

    A stellar choice in the San Lorenzo area, a few blocks south, is Santiago (from $119), whose large rooms (furnished with contemporary light-wood furniture and VCRs) overlook a huge rectangular pool; there's also a 12-man sauna. Or consider the Triangle Inn (from $109), which dates to the 1950s and ranks among the city's most distinctive examples of mid-century modern architecture. In addition to eight beautifully furnished suites, there's a four-bedroom house – a nice option for groups of friends planning a vacation together.

    Another appealing spot is La Posada (from $129), in the glamorous Las Palmas area, where many movie stars once lived. It's a great all-around property whose pool offers mesmerizing views of the nearby mountains. Luxurious, individually decorated rooms have sophisticated Southwestern furnishings, Saltillo-tile floors, and in many cases kitchens. Friendly and enthusiastic owners took over Terrazzo (from $109) guest house in 2004, and they're busily making upgrades. This is a laid-back place with Southwestern-inspired decor, and the staff works hard to make guests feel pampered - a full complement of breakfast, lunch, and snack foods is included. The only slight drawback is a bit of noise from the busy road outside. A full-service spa - complete with facials, massage, body treatments, and shiatsu - has made the fabulous East Canyon Hotel (from $109) one of the most talked-about gay getaways in the West. This lushly landscaped Spanish Colonial complex has large, handsome rooms with CD stereos, VCRs, top-quality linens, and earthy desert tones.

    There are a few larger resorts in nearby Cathedral City, close to the big discos. A favorite with visitors seeking a steamy atmosphere is the Cathedral City Boys' Club (from $69), a virtual shrine to the male libido. The 2-acre grounds are landscaped, and the pool is one of the largest around. Rooms are spacious but unspectacular. The steam room, gym, and bunkhouse, however, are wonderful places to become closely "acquainted" with other guests – and yes, day passes ($15) are available.

    Where the Women Are

    The majority of lesbians who vacation in Palm Springs choose a mainstream hotel, but the town does have a pair of superb women-oriented resorts. Upscale Casitas Laquita (from $125) is a hip and attractive complex of Spanish Mission-inspired casitas, many with kiva-style fireplaces and all with full kitchens. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, with an on-site barbecue and a small basement library-lounge where guests sometimes mingle. In-room spa treatments are available. Queen of Hearts (from $105) is also a real stunner, and it's a great value year-round. Again, Southwestern-style decor predominates, and rooms have tile floors, VCRs, hair dryers, fine linens, and sumptuous furnishings; eight have kitchens. The grounds are bright and striking, with orange trees, strings of white lights, and a pretty pool that's bikini-top-optional. The same owners run the more intimate three-suite Honeysuckle Inn, just across the street.

    The Mega Resorts

    The host to many gay gatherings, the well-maintained Wyndham Palm Springs (from $99) has expansive grounds and is within walking distance of several Palm Springs gay bars. The large rooms are brightly furnished. Slated to open in October 2004, the ritzy Parker Meridien is going to be one of the snazziest properties in the region, complete with a spa called - rather amusingly for a desert resort - the Palm Springs Yacht Club. Keep your eye out for this one, and expect the rates to be stratospheric year-round, although you still may find some good summer deals.

    Boutique Hotels

    The Viceroy Hotel (from $119) is Palm Springs' chicest small hotel, a favorite of celebs (Barry Manilow often stops by the chichi white-on-white bar-restaurant, Citron). Many of the 70 units have full kitchens and hot tubs. It's the kind of place that revels in its shag carpeting and retro-glamorous appearance. Ballantine's (from $135) celebrates '50s camp with great panache - the 14 rooms contain such quirky decorations as Eames surfboard tables and yellow vinyl headboards. One room is a red-white-and-blue tribute to Jasper Johns' flag artwork; another pays homage to Elvis-in-Hawaii movies.

    A Polynesian-theme resort built in 1964, Caliente Tropics (from $105) is a study in Pacific Rim kitsch. It's a fun spot, although the motel-style rooms are somewhat ordinary-looking compared to the whimsical facade. Orbit Inn (from $149) comprises two funky properties, the Hideaway and the Oasis, both of which contain curvaceous, low-slung furnishings, many of them created by interior design legends of the 1940s through '60s. Guests can order facials, wraps, and massage treatments from the extensive spa menu.

    Getting There

    Here's one final enticement to visit in summer: airlines often greatly reduce their fares into Palm Springs International Airport during these months - just keep your eye out for summer sales, when round-trip tickets often fall well below $300 from the East Coast and below $200 from West Coast cities. This compact, passenger-friendly facility, which is a super-short cab ride from downtown, has direct service from dozens of major cities on nine airlines.

    Now, all you need are a pair of sandals, a cute swimsuit, and some high SPF sunscreen, and you're well on your way to enjoying a relaxing – and affordable – summer vacation in one of the world's leading gay destinations.

     

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