A jewel of a desert oasis set in California's storied Coachella Valley, Palm Springs proves to be quite the active ( and relaxingly passive ) getaway for the Midwestern queer. Weary of the weather? How does near-constant sunshine strike you? The flat Illinois plain leaving you nonplussed? Try a vigorous hike through the Indian Canyons or an exhilarating 8,000 ft. zip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Don't like wearing clothes? Well, they've got you covered there, too.
Palm Springs' early history can be traced back to the Cahuilla ( pronounced kah-WE-uh ) Indians, who have inhabited the area for hundreds of years. A true taste of this history and the Cahuillas' respect for the natural beauty of the area can be had with a hike through the Indian Canyons on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. Try your feet at hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous and marvel at pristine streams, abundant California fan palms and more than 150 species of plants. In the Andreas Canyon, you'll find the Indian Grinding Mortar, a special rock used by women of the area for grinding acorns, wild oats and other indigenous ingredients. Judging by the depth of the some of the mortars in the rock, this site had been in use for up to 600 years!
Should you find yourself overheated from the hike, you may want to head across town to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The tram, which rides along 3-inch diameter cables suspended from four towers along the way, rises to an altitude of 8,516 feet and fully rotates, offering 360-degree views of your journey to the top. On average, temperatures at the top can be 30 degrees cooler than in the valley. You might remember seeing this world-famous tram on such TV shows as Mission Impossible, Beverly Hills 90210 or from a 1985 episode of General Hospital. Only this dramatic vista could provide an adequate backdrop for Robert Scorpio's battle against his foe. But, I digress…
A proper way to take in the best variety of sights and sounds is to experience VillageFest. Every Thursday night, downtown Palm Springs stays open a bit late and spills out onto expansive Palm Canyon Drive. At VillageFest you'll take part in a vast array of artists, entertainers, purveyors of fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, jewelry, snacks and sweets. What better way to sample local delicacies than to top it off with a pleasing evening stroll?
Palm Springs is the birthplace of Desert Modernism, a mid-twentieth century offspring of the Modernism movement inspired by the stunning mountain views and the desert plain. This style of design pervades in Palm Springs' whimsical yet solid domiciles by such famed architects as Albert Frey, William Krisel and Donald Wexler.
Robert Imber, an empassioned champion of Palm Springs' classic architecture ( and a genuine character, to boot ) offers extensive car tours of homes, resorts and business districts. Be prepared to be star-struck as you cruise through the Las Palmas district where you will see current or former homes of such celebs as Kirk Douglas, Lily Tomlin, Dinah Shore, Jack Warner and Elizabeth Taylor. Make sure not to miss The Honeymoon House, which played host to a certain honeymooning King of rock and roll and his teenaged bride. There was a whole lotta shakin' goin' on that night!
Speaking of shaking at night, there are certainly many opportunities for you to do just that. Palm Springs' LGBT nightlife is bristling with entertainment, friendly faces and lip-smacking cocktails. Hunters ( yepas in Hunters; they have a Palm Springs location as well ) offers show-your-undies drink specials on Wednesday nights, Fur Fridays for the hirsute honeys and PINK! Girls' night on Saturday. Surely, you will find whatever it is you are looking for at this Palm Springs fixture.
Toucan's Tiki Lounge is a sight to behold, should you choose to believe your eyes afterwards, that is. Step into the grass-hut themed megabar and hula yourself up to the bar on Wednesday nights for Judge Judy bingo. It's all the fun and frolic of everyone's favorite judicial curmudgeon with liquor thrown in for good measure. On Tuesday nights, beware of the all-too-tempting two-for-one drink specials. Keep in mind, though, that one drink alone is quite large and surprising low-priced. Throw a second drink on top of that and you've got yourself a party. Make sure to get yourself a cab shortly afterwards.
If you partake in two-for-one Tuesdays at Toucan's, I highly recommend a morning trip to Pinocchio's in the Desert. Their elegant selection of Benedicts ( including Salmon Benedict, Lox Benedict and Crab Cake Benedict ) will set you right in a soothing deluge of hollandaise. Their bottomless champagne for $3.95 will provide that hair of the dog you may be seeking, as well.
It's not all about the Benedicts, baby. Palm Springs boasts a veritable buffet of culinary choices. The new, upscale Trio serves up a sea food stew with clams, mussels, shrimp and cod in a tomato and fennel vegetable broth. Enjoy ( and indulge in ) their Trio Mac and 5 Cheese ( fontina, cheddar, bleu, Romano and goat cheeses, to be exact ) topped with tomatoes and bread crumbs. If you hunger for art, Trio will delight with walls full of modern art, all for sale and benefitting The Art Institute at Palm Springs High School.
Other right bites include Azul, a tapas-inspired lounge and patio downstairs from the famed George's Alibi Video Bar. Swing in the sunshine on charming, swinging park benches as you feast on their fried blue crab sandwich, their battered Portobello mushrooms or their ever-changing variety of flatbreads. Wing on down to Wang's for contemporary Chinese in an opulent setting or pull up a chair at Hamburger Mary's table ( yepas in Hamburger Mary's; those Wright brothers are all over the country by now! ) for their critically-acclaimed burgers, salads, fresh salmon and island-chillin' Mojitos.
So if relaxing poolside in one of the gayest cities in the world is at all appealing to you, start planning your trip today at www.visitpalmsprings.com .