Palm Springs in June? After the long winter and non-existent spring we Chicagoans endured last year, even a trip to the desert during their off season was a real treat. You'll also find Palm Springs ideal for a winter getaway, Easter weekend's White Party, or March's Dinah Shore weekend.
If you've never been to Palm Springs before (as I had not), 2004 may be a good year to give it a try. Interstate 10 connects the area to Los Angeles while the Palm Springs International Airport offers plenty of flight options in and out of the area. An auto is recommended, but public transportation such as cabs and carriages are a good alternative.
Accommodations are plentiful and range from quaint '50s motor inns (the ones which your parents stayed at) to top-notch resorts and spas. Here's a rundown. I stayed at Triangle Inn where Steven and Michael were the perfect hosts. It's an historic Mid-Century inn that's been updated for the 21st century. Cocktails by the pool daily, a wonderful breakfast to start the day, and comfortable rooms in a lush setting make this one of the many places to consider. They own an adjoining home with private pool that can be rented by the week for groups of up to eight.
'We get great satisfaction from making someone else's vacation really wonderful,' said co-owner Stephen Boyd. 'When someone comes in frowning from the Chicago winter and leaves here smiling, relaxed and tan, we feel great. It's a reflection on us.'
For the more adventuresome traveler, there are a number of lodgings complete with 'friends and family' with which to play. INNdulge is one such place to stay where even the single traveler will find a friend or three. INNdulge features a 24-hour pool, workout gym and is clothing optional. Vista Grande turns up the temperature a notch with a lively steam room.
Indianola Tiki Resort is owned by former Chicagoans Michael Glenner and Steven Rockwell.
Caliente Tropics, another Tiki-style inn is non-smoking. Its Polynesian bar was featured in Boy Meets Boy. La Hacienda is beautifully appointed and on Out and About's Top 10 list of gay guesthouses. If you're looking for a spoiling, try East Canyon Hotel and Spa. The lobby features works of art and the rooms are among the finest. Notable also is Las Palmas Hotel. Resist the temptation to buy a resort and 'retire' here. Many have and most fail at it.
Palm Springs may be in the desert, but close by are beautiful lush forests and fauna. An Aerial Tramway ride up to the top of Mt. Jacinto is a well deserved break from the desert heat. The ride is just 8 minutes long, but you'll feel a million miles away with a forest of pines and babbling brooks awaiting exploration. (Remember the rock climbing scene in Boy Meets Boy.) Also nearby is great hiking in the Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon amazed us with its 60 foot waterfall.
Golfing and tennis are the sports of choice, with over 100 courses in the Palm Springs Valley. Many are open to the public. But the sport of choice is certainly cruising and there's no shortage of places to see and be seen. From an abundant supply of all-male resorts to many flavors of bars and clubs, Palm Springs is truly a gay Mecca.
The area is not without its redeeming social attractions. Spend a hot afternoon inside the Palm Springs Desert Museum and be prepared to be amazed at the diversity of exhibits. From a notable George Montgomery Western Art collection to a Chihuly glass sculpture, the museum is a great diversion for a little culture.
You'll probably eat breakfast where you stay, but try the new More Than A Mouthful for eclectic breakfast and lunch choices such as Hawaiian Pancakes. For authentic Mexican offerings, try El Mirasol where you might encounter a celeb or two. Suzanne Summers and Barry Manilow are rumored regulars. Palm Springs is full of Hollywood's past and present stars, which have used it as a winter getaway since the days of Bob Hope. Dinner recommendations include Spencer's, Atlas, The Kaiser Grille and The Chop House. Skip the five-star La Vallauris.
Bob probably never saw the gay nightlife of Palm Springs. Sister club to the suburban Hunters has drag shows and a great dance floor. Heaven boasts the city's best dance floor and Tool Shed is a favorite Levi and leather bar.
Best Web sites: www.DGTG.org (Desert Gay Tourism), www.Palm-Springs.org (Bureau of Tourism, with an official gay visitors guide just a click away), and www.PalmSpringsUSA.com .
The Villa's Remodel
The Villa Resort features 45 bungalow rooms nestled among 2.5 acres of lush landscaping, a fantasyland framed by the stunning San Jacinto mountains.
The Villa Resort, Palm Springs' largest full-service gay resort hotel, offers delights crafted for your pleasure:
— 45 expansive rooms
— Lunch on their expansive sun-dappled patio
— Romantic candle-lit dinners in Adobe at The Villa, their fine diningroom
— Your favorite libations at the Dates Bar
— 2 Huge heated pools
— 2 relaxing Jacuzzis
— 2 locally famous restaurants
— Live entertainment on weekends
— A spectacular calendar of special events
The Villa Resort is rich with history. Nestled among majestic date palms, The Villa Resort's adobe buildings are among the oldest structures in the Coachella Valley. Dating back to the early 19th century, this complex once served as a pony express stagecoach stop between Yuma, Arizona and Los Angeles. Later in the 19th century, one of the valley's pioneer families planted a 48-acre date palm grove, in which The Villa Resort is still situated. In 1951, the Elizabeth Arden Corporation purchased and developed the site as a 'beauty' farm, the first in the Valley. Although The Villa Resort has changed ownership since then, it continues to serve as a resort and spa.
Today The Villa Resort, under the loving care of new owners Bob Grinchuk and Reuel Olin (partners for 30 years), has recaptured its lustrous beauty.
'The Villa has an amazing reputation both with locals and with visitors from around the world,' said Olin. 'We feel strongly that our mission is to preserve the best of what makes The Villa such a popular destination and of course to build from there.'
Grinchuk and Olin, each of whom holds a Ph.D., are business partners as well as life partners. They own and manage residential property in and around San Diego as well as The Wine Lover, a popular Hillcrest wine bar, which will celebrate it six-year anniversary. This is their first venture with a hospitality property and they are excited about the possibilities.
The Villa is just unveiling stage 1 of a million-dollar renovation. The grand re-opening is set for March 5 with lots of festivities.
The Villa, 67-670 Carey Road, Cathedral City, Calif., 92234 (760) 328-7211 phone, or see www.thevilla.com .