Now's the time to plan the perfect SoCal road trip

After an unusually cold, wet winter, spring seems to have finally sprung in Southern California. Warm weather, sunny skies, and lots of social opportunities mean this is a great time to get behind the wheel and spend 24 hours in each of four Golden State cities that welcome gay travelers with open arms.

San Diego

With 300 days of sunshine annually, San Diego makes for the perfect place to start our SoCal roadtrip. Spend your day at the world-famous San Diego Zoo, or, if it's truly warm enough, hunt for wildlife of an altogether different type at clothing-optional Black's Beach. Check into the lovely Inn at the Park, located in the Hillcrest neighborhood where you will also find a number of the city's most popular gay hangouts like Rich's nightclub, Flicks video bar, and Urban Mo's.

Long Beach

Take the 5 Freeway about 100 miles north toward Long Beach, a city with a half million residents and a surprising amount of gay street cred. If you happen to arrive the weekend of May 18-19, Long Beach Pride is the third largest celebration in the country (behind only New York and San Francisco), and, Robert Garcia, the city's mayor, is openly gay too.

Spend the day shopping for vintage clothing, mid-century housewares, and other unique finds in the boutiques along Retro Row (more plainly known as Fourth Street.) If all this retail therapy has worked up a thirst, grab a nightcap at the leather-leaning Mineshaft or the relaxed and divey Silver Fox. When its time to call it a day, check into the Hyatt Regency Long Beach with its splendid views of the waterfront and the Queen Mary. 

Los Angeles

Although the 405 Freeway is the most direct route to take, it can often be the most congested, so definitely consult Waze before heading north.

If it's your first time visiting, take an early morning hike through Runyon Canyon in Hollywood. Not only will you get some great cardio in, you'll be treated to fantastic people watching, and some of the best views of L.A. you'll find anywhere. 

Skip the Walk of Fame and do some serious celeb sighting by grabbing a drink at the Sunset Tower Hotel bar where it is not uncommon to see some of the biggest names in town having dinner a few feet away. When you're ready to let loose, take the party to Santa Monica Boulevard and hit up Weho favorites like The Abbey, Micky's, and Mother Lode.

Palm Springs

Take off down the 10 Freeway toward Palm Springs, SoCal's desert oasis. If you plan your weekend right, you may find yourself visiting during two of the city's biggest LGBTQ parties: Dinah Shore Weekend (April 4-7) or the White Party (April 26-29). 

If at all possible, try to be in town for VillageFest, a street fair that takes over Palm Canyon Drive every Thursday night. Grab dinner at The Tropicale or Lulu California Bistro before hitting up nearby Arenas Road where you'll find most of the gay nightlife. Hunters Nightclub and Chill Bar usually draw in a crowd on weekends.

As for where to stay? The design-forward Arrive is a solid choice, as are The Ace Hotel and the colorful Saguaro. If you're feeling a little more adventurous, there are plenty of clothing-optional hotels like INNdulge or Santiago on and around Warm Sands.

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