There are tons of gay-owned gems and LGBTQIA+-friendly shops to explore in Palm Springs, which is great news if you’re in town for a getaway or live here in the Coachella Valley. Our desert oasis is a cornucopia of quirky gifts, mid-century modern household goods, thrift stores that give back to the queer community, and everything in between. So if you’ve got $500 that’s just burning a hole through your wallet right now, consider making some time for a little retail therapy. Here are my votes for the best queer shopping in Palm Springs:

Adult gifts (for men)

Gear Leather & Fetish

For men who like to play hard, Gear Leather & Fetish on East Sunny Dunes Road carries some of the best fetish products from the top manufacturers in the world. Go grab a beer at the Tool Shed next door for some inspiration first.

Rough Trade Gear Palm Springs

The Arenas District in Palm Springs is home to Rough Trade Gear, featuring some of the sexiest men’s street, fetish, sport, and play wear. It’s just one of many shopping options in the ever-popular Arenas District “gayborhood.”

Antiques shopping

Palm Springs Vintage Market

The Palm Springs Vintage Market features the best selection of Southern California vendors selling vintage and antique furniture, art, clothing, jewelry, and home furnishings. Experience it for yourself on the first Sunday of every month (October through May), from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Palm Springs Cultural Center (formerly Camelot Theatre).

Antique Galleries of Palm Springs

If you can’t catch the Vintage Market, you can discover all sorts of inspiring things at Antique Galleries of Palm Springs. They have one of the largest collections of antique, vintage, and retro everything in the Coachella Valley.

This is just one corner of Antique Galleries of Palm Springs. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Clothing (for men) 

GayMart USA

In the heart of the Arenas District, GayMart USA proudly refers to itself as “America’s Favorite Gay Superstore.” Their specialty is swimwear and underwear of all kinds, but they also sell entertaining cards, presents, and toys for adults.

GayMart USA has it all. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Division Palm Springs

If you really want to dress the part of a Palm Springs local, Division Palm Springs is the place to shop. Also nestled in the Arenas District, Division always has a beautifully curated contemporary collection of button downs, clever T-shirts, classy swimwear, and ever-popular short-shorts that practically every gay man in town wears with pride.

Division’s storefront gives you a hint of what’s inside. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Gifts

Queertique Palm Springs

There’s no shop more unique in Palm Springs than Queertique. They are a queer lifestyle shop dedicated to amplifying the voices of independent queer artists and their art and apparel. You can even take a selfie in the store’s fabulous dressing room (and be sure to tag them in your Instagram post if you do)!

There is so much to see at Queertique. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Just Fabulous Palm Springs

Just Fabulous Palm Springs is, well, … just fabulous! Located next to Koffi North in the Uptown District, Just Fabulous is a lifestyle boutique with artwork, original gifts, mid-century modern photo books, and modern home decor items that are as inspiring as they are entertaining. Their greeting card selection alone could keep you entertained all afternoon.

Home furnishings

Ace Hardware

Yes, you read that right. Palm Springs Ace Hardware isn’t just your daddy’s hardware store (or is it)? It’s every gay man’s ideal version of a hardware store, and then some. From beautiful mid-century modern patio furniture to a vast selection of HVAC air filters, Ace is the place (sorry, I couldn’t resist) for all of your desert household needs. And they are as LGBTQ+ community-focused as a local business can be.

PS Homeboys

PS Homeboys are primarily home-staging specialists, but they’ve got a stunning showroom in the Arenas District full of beautiful, reasonably priced indoor/outdoor furniture and home decor. You can even browse through their inspiring wallpaper library to find the perfect look for your desert dwellings.

Design inspiration abounds at PS Homeboys. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Thrift stores 

Revivals

Revivals knows how to put the “care” in health care! The most socially-conscious gay locals shop and donate their furniture, appliances, jewelry, artwork, and time at Revivals. This is because all four Revivals store locations in the Coachella Valley donate 100 percent of their revenue, amounting to more than $1 million annually, to support comprehensive healthcare at DAP Health (the Desert AIDS Project).

Mitchells Palm Springs

Mitchells Palm Springs offers contemporary designer clothing, shoes, and accessories from the 1970s through ’90s for men and women. Boasting carefully-curated vintage and iconic designers, like Gaultier and Versace, Mitchells always aims for sleek and sexy. Picture a day of shopping before passing through the velvet ropes to get into Studio 54 — that’s the Mitchells experience!

Fabulous vintage clothing can be found at Mitchells Palm Springs. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

The art of tipping can be confusing. How many times have you asked a friend how much they tipped the hotel housekeeping staff or how much of gratuity to give a parking attendant?  International travel writer Linda Milks shares everything you need to know about gratuities when you travel to Palm Springs or elsewhere.

How Did Tipping Begin?

Tipping actually began as a custom in Europe. The belief is that wealthy Americans traveling abroad saw tipping and brought this custom home to “show off” their aristocratic class.

The beginnings of tipping started in taverns of 17th Century England where money was slipped “to insure promptness” (or T.I.P.) After all, these tavern imbibers didn’t want to sit around waiting for their next drink.

Mixologist Preparing Cocktails

In America, in the late 1800’s, there was a movement against tipping. The reasoning was that it created an aristocratic class. In fact, six states attempted and failed to pass an anti-tipping bill to make gratuities unlawful. Who knows if this was their true motivation?

What Are Tipped Minimum Wage Employees?

When I started exploring tipping in the United States, I found that there is a tipped minimum wage which is an hourly pay rate for employees who receive tips on a regular basis, and it is often lower than the general minimum wage.

Believe it or not, the U.S. federal government requires tipped employees to be paid at least $2.13 per hour in direct wages, as long as this amount equals the federal hourly minimum wage when combined with tips. To be a tipped employee, an employee must receive more than $30 per month in tips. This tipped minimum wage applies whenever the state-tipped minimum wage pays less than the U.S. tipped minimum wage.

Small Barn Restaurant Server with Tomahawk Steak

The good news for tipped minimum wage employees in California is that at the current time, California requires employers to pay tipped employees full state minimum wage before tips. Currently, in California that wage is $13 with 25 employees or less and $14 with 26 or more employees. This minimum can even be higher in some parts of California, such as the Bay area.

How Much Is The Acceptable Tip At A Hotel?

Just who qualifies as a tipped employee? Yes, it’s the person retrieving your car from valet parking, the person who provides spa treatment, and the hotel housekeeper, in addition to the bartender and server at a winery or a restaurant.

Hotel Housekeeper Preparing to Clean a Room

How much should you be tipping each of the people who are taking care of you? The tipping rate per day for a Hotel Housekeeper should be $3-5 per day or as much as $5-$20 per day in exclusive resorts. It’s best to tip this housekeeper every day rather than at the end of your stay so that the person who does the work for each day gets the tip.

What about the person who brings your luggage to your room? The suggested amount is $1-$2 per bag. If they give you a great orientation, you may want to tip a little more. A flat rate of $5 plus $1 per bag is customary for storing your bag and then taking them to your room.

Shuttle service to and from a hotel should run between $1-$2 per person or $4-$5 per party.

A concierge or front desk attendant giving you detailed information such as obtaining a desirable restaurant reservation or hard-to-get tickets should be tipped at least $5.

How much for valet service? Tipping when your car is delivered is recommended to be $1-$5. Tipping when your car is parked is up to your discretion but not necessary.

How Much Do You Tip Outside The Hotel For Service?

That special hairdresser should be tipped between 18-22%, especially if you have received excellent service.

Hairdresser Blow Drying Customer’s Hair

How about a massage therapist or manicurist? Tipping with cash is the most desirable way for these professionals to receive a tip. A massage therapist should receive between 15% and 20% of the cost of the treatment. For a manicure or a pedicure, a 20% tip is the norm.

Bartenders should get a $1 tip for a drink like beer, but $2 for a cocktail. If it’s a 2-for-1 special, you still should tip on two drinks. Cash is much appreciated rather than putting it on a card. And, whatever you do, don’t wave your money around. This will not get you faster service.

Do you really need to pay 20% tip on a bottle of wine? The answer is “yes.” That bottle is part of the atmosphere where you are dining, it has probably been selected and described by your server, and has been carefully stored for your enjoyment.

Wine Server Pouring a Glass of Wine

Now let’s talk about restaurant servers. Please don’t be one of those persons who deducts the sales tax when calculating a tip at a restaurant. Many times your server shares the tips with the bussers, the dishwashers, and runners in a “tipping pool.” That server creates a special mood while you are dining and deserves to be compensated for that experience. Think of the difference between a pre-tax tip on a $100 meal and an after-tax tip. If the tax is 10% (the highest in the country), then you are paying an extra $2. That is just not worth the thought or effort.

Is a Service Charge A Tip?

Group of Ladies at Lunch Where They Will Be Charged a Service Charge

Be aware that when a Service Charge is tacked onto your bill in California, that Service Charge belongs to the employer. That employer can either give the money to the employees, give part to the employees, or keep it all for themselves. Perhaps that would be a good question to ask the employer when booking a large group where a Service Charge is required.

Traveling, hotel stays, special treatments, and dining are all wonderful ways to treat yourself and enjoy time with others. Make sure you provide an adequate tip for those working in the service industry to keep everyone happy and receiving a decent pay.

Wake up in Palm Springs with the sun gloriously shining and grab your glamorous floppy hat, recyclable water bottle, and sunglasses. It doesn’t matter if the museums are closed because there’s so much fabulous public art to explore in Palm Springs.

Start your walking tour in the Uptown Design District on North Palm Canyon.

First Stop – Palm Springs Desert Art Center

The center for Palm Springs creative arts is the Desert Art Center at 550 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262. Often overlooked, this grand building is the home for numerous art classes, exhibits, and theatre performances. One of our city’s latest art installations is on the Desert Center’s palatial grass-covered lawn.

MIDABI is an artist and philosopher focused on large-scale public art using text in sculptures and murals. Residing in Palm Springs since 1998, with family roots going back to the 1950s, MIDABI continues a family tradition of contributing artistically to the desert.

Large, bold, and thought-provoking, MIDABI creates works of art that seek to inspire and challenge the viewer to think for themselves and see reality differently. One may feel shaken, for emotional core values may be questioned.

Since you have your walking shoes on, head on down Palm Canyon; along the way, you will see colorful benches to rest upon, which our local artists created.

Second Stop – Koffi North

If you want to have a cup of coffee, you might want to stop at Koffi North. Be sure to go straight through the store to the back and see the courtyard. The locals hang out here during non-Covid times.

Third Stop – Near the Palm Springs Art Museum

Now that your energy is restored, head down to Museum Way and turn right.

Before you get to the Palm Springs Art Museum and located in what we locals call the “Sand Pit,” (and future home of an underground parking lot) are ten sculptures, 11 ft long X 9-foot fiberglass babies. A barcode replaces any semblance of a face.

Czech artist David Cerny has loaned this art installation to Palm Springs through 2022. He wanted to make a statement about the dehumanization of society due to big tech and data. We are betting you will have an opinion.

Check out the wall on your left as you overlook the Sand Pit. You’ll spot a mural by Santa Monica artist, Peter Tigler, who worked with attendees of all ages to create this 7-foot-tall-by15-wide mural at the Annual La Quinta Arts Festival in 2019. Look closely; it was created by finger painting. The bright colors and numerous scenes invoke the sense of “Wish you were here.” It’s a great place to take a selfie to post your social media.

Fourth Stop – Graffiti Park

Across the street from the Sand Pit is our Graffiti Park. While waiting for the area to be developed, artists are encouraged to express themselves through their art. The various cement pillars and stones, remnants of past construction, serve as canvases. The art is constantly changing, so be sure to come back and see it on your next visit.

Fifth Stop – Right Side of Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum is closed, but the parking lot holds a surprise. Check out the Road Signs scattered throughout the premises. They were created by artist Gerald Clark, who identifies himself first as an artist; and secondly, a Cahuilla Indian.

These Road Signs were created for an exhibit of his work in the Palm Springs Art Museum a couple of years ago. Walk to the museum’s right side first, then see the rest of them on the museum’s left side.

Sixth Stop – Left Side of the Palm Springs Art Museum

After you have pursued both sides of the museum, you will see a large semi-truck parked in the parking lot. In the semi is a three-story all-metal house, called the Aluminare House, designed by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher. The house was donated to the Palm Springs Art Museum for its permanent collection and will be reassembled in 2021. It is considered to be one of the most outstanding examples of Modernist architecture in the world.

We hope you have enjoyed this tour of some of our public art. There are many more installations–both inside and outside–scattered throughout the city. However, we wanted to give you a small taste of the many treasures that await your visit to Palm Springs.

Alcazar Palm Springs’ outdoor pool, patio, and terrace at night

Dry Heat Creates Cool Experiences

PALM SPRINGS, California (May 25, 2018) —Summers in Palm Springs sizzle, but given its low humidity, summer is celebrated in ways that other destinations simply can’t match. From museums to Botanical Gardens, homemade gourmet ice cream to mile-high fun, Palm Springs is perfect for luxuriating in dry summer heat.

In Palm Springs, the pools are legendary. Imagine an oasis with hundreds of sparkling pools, each one with its own personality. Alcazar‘s saltwater purified pool is surrounded by misters and shaded by palms, while The Santiago’s huge swimming pool — it’s 20 feet by 50 feet — is the largest hotel pool in the city.

Once a month, Arrive presents a Dive-In Movie, with the flick starting at dusk. Open to the public (21+), there are seats available poolside, and if you get there early enough, you can grab a float and watch the movie from the pool. This summer’s selection includes The Hangover (May 25), Austin Powers (June 29), Risky Business (July 27), and Grease (August 31). You’ll want to buy a beverage, but the movie and popcorn are free. And to satisfy a late night craving for cold, Arrive’s Ice Cream and Shop(pe) stays open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday.

The Moorten Botanical Garden is home to more than 3,000 types of cacti and desert plants, grouped by geographic locations. To keep guests cool, it’s only open in the summer from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. “The Moorten Botanical Garden is so cute,” Kathy Friedle, owner of The Monkey Tree Hotel, said. “If you’re not from this area and haven’t seen cactus life, go there.”

In just 10 minutes, the rotating Palm Springs Aerial Tramway lifts visitors up to the top of Mt. San Jacinto State Park, where the temperatures are always lower and the views unparalleled. Grab dinner at the Peaks Restaurant or Pines Café, and stop for a drink at the Lookout Lounge. Several Palm Springs Boutique Hotels, including Los Arboles and La Maison, offer tram packages to eliminate waiting in line to purchase tickets.

Felipe Castañeda, owner of Los Arboles Hotel, recommends visiting the Palm Springs Air Museum, which boasts 59 flyable and static planes inside four air-conditioned hangars. “You can look at the planes, and if you’re lucky, some of the servicemen who flew them hang out there and when they see you are interested, start telling stories,” he said.

Another suggestion: check with the hotel host for summer recommendations. Boutique hoteliers often distinguish themselves by offering an insider’s perspective to Palm Springs hidden summer treasures.

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Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels is a consortium of independently owned, boutique hotels, which are an essential part of this desert resort town’s unique culture and economy. From quirky, to charming, mid-century modern to clothing optional, Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels has got your stay. Follow the fun on Facebook and Instagram.

Vibe Style and Design

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced during this ongoing pandemic is gathering our families in a safe setting. So here is a great idea. When we are allowed to safely travel again, why not consider bringing your family to one of the lovely small boutique hotels in the Palm Springs?

Recently, representatives from several of these hotels shared their experiences and thoughts with me about planning gatherings of families and close friends.

Many of these hotels encourage guests to buy out the entire hotel. There are many advantages to a buyout, such as knowing you are with a familiar group (your own “bubble”) while not interacting with strangers. You can also relax with confidence knowing that the hotels have taken all kinds of protective measures so that your stay is safe. At the same time, you can enjoy the beautiful Palm Springs setting.

Since the start of the pandemic, Dive (playfully decorated in a St. Tropez style) has hosted more than a dozen gatherings of families and close friends. Like many small hotels, it is well designed to accommodate small groups. Guests can enjoy spacious outdoor gardens, pools, multiple lounging areas, and fountains spread across a half-acre lot, making socially distancing easy and comfortable. Dive, which has 11 rooms, welcomes small groups, but if you need more than five rooms, the hotel requires a full buyout, which means you would have exclusive access to the property and a dedicated staff for support.

The Weekend, a small, mid-century modern hotel, where I have stayed and which I love, has ten deluxe suites, most with two bedrooms and two baths, along with living rooms, kitchens, and patios.  During the pandemic, the owners prefer that the entire hotel be bought out so you will not encounter other guests besides your family members.

One advantage at The Weekend and most other small boutique hotels is there are no hallways or elevators and the rooms open directly to the pool so there are plenty of opportunities for social distancing.

Both Hotel El Cid and The Marley (sister hotels) are private boutique hotels that rent to only one group at a time so they are perfect for families or close friends. They are also lovingly decorated and totally luxurious. The Marley has nine bedrooms and El Cid has seven bedrooms.  Both hotels are completely walled and gated for total privacy. Each hotel has full kitchens that allow guests to cook for themselves or groups can bring in professional chefs

Dining options are varied but ample at most of the small hotels. The Weekend delivers a lavish continental breakfast to each suite every morning. Their suites have a kitchen (no stove) with a full-sized refrigerator, ice maker, and four-seat dining room table. At Dive, two amazing chefs are available to support whatever dining needs guests have. In addition, each guest receives a complimentary organic breakfast each morning. During the current Covid situation, all food and drinks are served in single-use containers to ensure guests’ safety.

The safety and well-being of guests are the top priorities at the PSPSH hotels. Each hotel has enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures in place. All staff members are equipped with proper PPE — sanitizers, gloves, and masks. At The Weekend, staff members have daily temperature checks.  At all the hotels, guests are asked to wear masks coming and going from the hotel and to socially distance while relaxing at poolside. Outside visitors are not allowed.

So many of us have been mostly confined to our own homes for the last many months and, if you are like me, you are chomping at the bit to get out and start traveling again. Staying at a small boutique hotel is an ideal way to reconnect with close family members and friends while enjoying a luxurious setting in a fabulous location. Even if you live close to Palm Springs, you will feel as if you have really gotten away. Just go to the PSPSH website to find out when hotels are open and then you can explore the many enticing options for small groups in Palm Springs.