Travel | A Long Way Home: Palm Springs

Long considered the last enclave of the “old Hollywood” getaway culture, Palm Springs is a relatively short drive from Los Angeles. I used to say it was two hours from my West Hollywood apartment to having a cocktail poolside in Palm Springs.

First, the downside: it’s hot. You are definitely in the desert, and the hot, dry heat can easily wear you out. And you have to enjoy the desert: what some people see as majestic sand-drizzled picturesque scenes of beauty, others see as desolate, apocalyptic dry endless expanses. And, the pace is certainly more relaxed. If you are looking for hustle and bustle, look somewhere else.

But the upsides are many: the desert offers many shifting opportunities for adventure, and a great place to start is San Jancinto State Park, where you can drive through, hike through or rock climb at various locations. If the heat becomes unbearable, you can take the famous tram up the mountain (at whose base the village is nestled) and find yourself on endless trails in a cool, temperate location thousands of feet above the desert. There is shopping – quaint shops along the main drag of downtown Palm Springs, or a terrific outlet mall about 20 minutes outside of the city. And there is gambling – thanks to much of the land being on Indian reservation property. There are several casinos within driving distance, and one squarely in Palm Springs proper.

For the foodie in you, Palm Springs and the neighboring cities offer various gastronomic experience that run from the neo-modern approach to the rough and tumble diners of the great west. If you like to experience architecture, there are many (and many more to come) retrofitted motels that have been turned into deco or art-house boutique hotels. There are also chain hotels, so there is definitely something for every taste. There is a Hard Rock Hotel in downtown Palm Springs, and the newly-christened uptown design district, you’ll find gems like The Riviera, a stunner of a property, even just to walk through and admire.

If you are an active traveler, bring your clubs and racquet, because golf and tennis is plentifully available, and many properties are actually a part of, or adjacent to, golf courses. If you swing more toward total relaxation, there are several fine spas in the area, many of which include various hydro-therapy, massage and cleansing stays. And if you are seeking gay-stay-and-play fun, you can’t go wrong with the infamous B&B’s along Warm Sands – many of which are clothing optional. Some are a bit more frenetic than others, but all are friendly and affirming.

If time and money are no object, there are a couple events every year worth remembering. The Palm Springs Film Festival, near the first of the year, brings out the celebrities with screenings, premieres and awards. Check out next year’s plans here: There are typically art shows and exhibits year round in the many galleries in or near downtown. Downtown also hosts a street festival that heats up when the sun goes down, with commercial and food vendors, including some one of a kind works of art. It’s called VillageFest, and information is here: And, of course, one of the grandmother of all gay events, the White Party, is usually held in April of each year. The low-down of getting down for that is here:

But for my money, going off season, finding a chair with an umbrella by a pool, a cool drink and a good book is about the best way to enjoy Palm Springs. It can be reached via flights directly into Palm Springs airport; or nearby Ontario (about an hour away), or Los Angeles (start there before or after the drive out to the desert to get your big-city fix).