A short two-hour drive from Los Angeles, the open spaces and star-filled skies of Greater Palm Springs have attracted Hollywood celebrities and LGBTQ travelers alike in need of a recharge. With plenty of opportunities to shop, chill by the pool, relax at the spa, and dine at fun-filled restaurants and bars, it’s no wonder Southern California’s desert playground is an iconic gay oasis.
If you haven’t visited in a while or are planning an upcoming trip, here are the top ten must-see experiences to add to your bucket list in Greater Palm Springs:
1. Clothing-Optional Hangouts
We love Greater Palm Springs for its selection of boutique LGBTQ-exclusive hotels. If you want to socialize and meet new people, where better to gather than at a refreshing pool with other hot gay men?
For no tan line sun worshippers, men flock to clothing-optional resorts like Inndulge Palm Springs with its 24 poolside rooms and 12-man jacuzzi, the All Worlds Resort, a seven pool complex that offers day passes.
2. LGBTQ-Friendly Resort Spas
One of Palm Springs’ newest men’s-only properties is the Descanso Resort. This hip hotel has everything gay men are looking for in a relaxed stay. Lush gardens, a heated saltwater pool, a day spa, and a whole lot of privacy. On the weekends, it hosts a “wine o’clock” happy hour for resort guests.
Want to treat yourself? Visit the spa at the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. After your indulgent treatment, relax in one of its multiple steam rooms and saunas, take a plunge in the hot tubs or lounge on the sundeck. If you’re a Greater Palm Springs local, this serene retreat offers a membership, giving you full access to spa facilities, the fitness center, and other hotel amenities (even complimentary valet parking) any day of the week.
If you’re looking for family-friendly accommodations, check out the Hyatt Regency in Indian Wells. That waterslide is sure to buy you an hour, or two, of quiet time away from the kids.
Discover more LGBTQ-exclusive resorts in our Palm Springs City Guide.
3. Arenas Road
When the sun sets, the action moves indoors for karaoke, dancing, and outright cruising. Arenas Road is the epicenter of gay nightlife in Palm Springs. With more than a dozen gay-owned businesses clustered together, it’s where everyone goes to be seen. Here, you’ll find go-go boys dancing under a disco ball at Hunters, men mingling and getting flirty at Quadz, and groups of guys sipping drinks on the patio at Chill Bar Palm Springs. Saturdays are reserved for drag queen bingo, or folks dining and having a martini at Blackbook. And if you happened to forget to pack, Bear Wear and Rough Trade have clothing and accessories for every imaginable occasion.
4. White Party Palm Springs
For many, making the drive to the desert centers around attending one of the area’s travel-worthy parties. And there are plenty of LGBTQ events scattered throughout the calendar year to keep the gay, lesbian, and transgender communities coming out to celebrate.
The most popular event, hands down, is White Party Palm Springs. This “Gay Burning Man” attracts 30,000 men ready to party ‘til dawn. Held in April, the event is known for men in barely-there outfits looking for any opportunity to show off their hard bodies and sculpted abs. The weekend is packed with events from wild pool parties and T-dances to live performances and shows.
5. Splash House
Another popular summer festival is Splash House. The music festival occurs over multiple weekends (June 10-12, August 12-14, and August 19-21) on poolside stages at three host resorts–The Saguaro, Margaritaville, and The Renaissance. Partygoers are known to show some skin while taking in a multitude of performances.
6. Modernism Week
When you need to step away from the pool and leave the resort, Greater Palm Springs has a lot to offer architecture buffs. It’s a mecca for mid-century modern architecture. Pick up a map and cruise the neighborhoods on a self-guided tour. Or you could attend Modernism Week, a signature architectural capsule program of exclusive tours and viewings. Shining a spotlight on modernist design, this event aims to preserve Greater Palm Springs’ most unique buildings while promoting sustainable living.
7. Pride Events in Greater Palm Springs
The biggest gathering, of course, is Greater Palm Springs Pride, taking place this year on November 4-6. The celebration, now into its third decade, features block parties, live entertainment, and a fabulous parade through downtown Palm Springs.
Later in October, Palm Springs hosts Leather Pride, where burly men (and the guys who love them) break out their chaps and harnesses and run the town. We should also mention Dinah, one of the largest lesbian parties in the world, scheduled for September 21-25 this year. Women from all over the world make their way to the desert for this epic five-day spectacle. Events include pool parties, concerts, comedy shows and so much more.
8. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
And for those looking for cooler afternoon temperatures, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is your ticket. Zip 8,516 feet above sea level to the San Jacinto Mountains. Once you’ve arrived, satisfy your inner mountaineer with over 50 miles of hiking trails, rent cross country skis on fresh powder days, or soak in the view of the valley below from one of the observation decks. If heights aren’t really your thing, you’ll find refuge with a light lunch or cocktail at Peaks Restaurant.
9. Cathedral City
Just outside of Palm Springs proper, you’ll find another noteworthy gay hotspot–Cathedral City. Check out the popular leather bar Barracks, or The Roost and Runway, where you’ll find karaoke, comedy, bingo, and live entertainment most nights of the week. The crown jewel of Cathedral City? The rainbow-colored facade of the CCBC Resort Hotel, the area’s largest nude resort.
10. Transgender Cabaret – AsiaSF
Last, but certainly not least, one of our most beloved hangouts, AsiaSF. Here, dining, entertainment, and nightlife come packaged together with a nice neat bow. This dinner show will no doubt be a highlight of your trip. AsiaSF performers, all transgender women, put on a show lip-syncing to popular pop songs, Broadway hits and so much more.