Palm Springs, California
Apply Sunscreen (Everywhere)

Apply Sunscreen (Everywhere)

A first-timer’s naked vacation in Palm Springs, California

By Andrew Schaeffer

“Doing something wildly out of character was exactly what I needed.”

Big changes at work had me feeling stressed and I needed some relaxation. While gossiping around the water cooler, a co-worker suggested doing something I’d never considered before: staying at a gay, all-male, clothing-optional resort in Palm Springs. I, being a guy who likes putting on pants in the morning, wasn’t sure about the idea. I didn’t really know much about Palm Springs—from the freeway, it looked like a wind farm. But the idea lingered and doing something wildly out of character was exactly what I needed for perspective.

We keep it casual

Those same wind turbines I remembered waved to me as I exited the freeway. Driving south, I passed through the bustling streets of Palm Springs’ core and was surprised. Far from a quiet, dusty town, local galleries, shops and restaurants surrounded me. Before exploring, though, I needed to drop my bag—and, I suppose, my drawers.

Arriving at Triangle Inn Palm Springs, I was definitely nervous, but walking onto the resort grounds immediately relaxed me. Time seemed to slow and the chill vibe was already working its way into my psyche. As I passed the pool to get to the office, I saw two guests already totally at home (read: naked) soaking in the sun.

I met with the owners Michael and Stephen and, when I expressed my hesitation about being au natural, they reassured me that the resort was clothing-optional—not strictly nudist—and I’m welcome to be as clothed as I’d like.

“It’s Palm Springs. We keep it casual.”

“This eight-room resort has a lot of repeat visitors—the relaxed vibe being the biggest draw.”

Michael told me Triangle Inn Palm Springs opened in 1958 and was the first commercial project designed by famed mid-century modern architect Hugh Kaptur. The main building is a prime example of the steel, glass and stone designs—and, of course, the distinctive clean simplicity—you picture when you think mid-century modern. I was pleased to find my room was no exception. Mid-century furnishings paired well with the teal-green interior, and every detail looked intentional.

Now to work up the courage to get into full relaxation mode. I shucked off my clothes and applied a healthy dose of sunscreen—paying special attention to the places that tend to not see the sun—but wavered on actually opening the door. I put my boxer briefs back on and exited my room. Not ready yet.

I found a good spot to lounge poolside. I was getting a little jittery without my phone. I may not be the typical millennial who takes selfies nonstop, but being without the virtual connection to my friends made me feel more naked emotionally than I was physically.

That was, until I started chatting with a visiting couple. At first, I had to consciously think about not letting my eyes drift south, but after a moment, their nudity became a non-issue. They told me this eight-room resort has a lot of repeat visitors—the relaxed vibe being the biggest draw. This couple has been coming to Triangle Inn Palm Springs for 25 years—from Germany!

As we talked and laughed, I could feel myself relaxing more and more. Once the sun went down and I had a cocktail in my hand, I even managed to lose my shorts and get the full experience lounging in the bubbling Jacuzzi.

Feeding body and mind

Now that I’d been able to relax, the next day was all about seeing the town.

With Michael as my guide, I headed over to Arrive Palm Springs. A newly opened boutique hotel, Arrive is what I’d call modern mid-century modern. The elements of mid-century are still there with the materials, the openness and the seamless boundary between inside and out, but you can definitely tell it was built in 2016. The menu at Reservoir, the on-site restaurant overlooking the large pool area, was also decidedly hip. Piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to use a fork if you order the wrap—it’s stuffed full and you won’t want to miss a bite!

After lunch, it was time to peruse. First stop was The Shag Store in the Uptown Design District. The vivid colors and bold lines in the paintings and serigraphs drew me in and the clever use of attitude kept me looking. Both the art and the space were distinctively mid-century modern, keeping true to the Palm Springs aesthetic.

As I made my way through the district, I stopped into too many shops and galleries to name, but my favorites were Christopher Anthony—filled with enough beautiful decor for me to redecorate my entire home—and Autoerotica Gallery—brimming with delightful edginess and humor, as well as photography printed onto hoods of classic cars.

The window-shopping worked up an appetite. A quick refueling at Azúcar would hit the spot. Before going into its restaurant, I admired La Serena Villas. Another boutique hotel, the main draw here seemed to be complete luxury. In a style mixing Spanish with mid-century modern, these private villas offer what I assume are very romantic escapes. But my grumbling stomach didn’t let me linger; it was taco time! The open interior is filled with Spanish touches, and large doors opened the dining space up to the outside. The view of the sun setting behind the mountains was the perfect dessert to the cauliflower tacos.

Heading back to the main drag, I checked out the weekly VillageFest. Every Thursday, Palm Canyon Drive closes off to vehicles and is filled to the brim with local artisans, food stands and happy festivalgoers. While the gallery spaces and shops showcased more established area artists, this was the place to find the up-and-coming artists.

After a full day downtown, I returned to the hotel to relax. I was so at ease I actually fell asleep by the pool—naked!

Up the mountain

At breakfast before checkout, one of the regulars recommended I ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway before heading home. So, after thanking Michael and Stephen for helping me break out of my shell, off I went.

The drive to the tram was a different kind of beautiful than I saw in the heart of Palm Springs. Whereas the shops and galleries were polished and colorful, the base of the San Jacinto Mountains had a rugged beauty that left me in awe. Even so, it was easy to see I was still in Palm Springs by the tram station design—mid-century modern is going to remind me of this trip for the rest of my life.

Not only does the tram offer a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Chino Canyon, but the floor also rotates so you see it all from every angle. The ride is about 12 minutes to the top and the tram does two full rotations along the way so riders don’t need to coordinate the Cupid Shuffle to see every vista.

“Sitting amongst the rocks and pine trees, I could see those wind turbines waving back at me, but this time, I knew there was a lot more to Palm Springs than what you see from the freeway.”

While we rose 6,000 feet in elevation to the mountain station, the temperature dropped 30 degrees. On one side of the station, the pristine alpine wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park awaits with numerous hiking trails and—in the colder months—a romp in the snow. On the other, viewing platforms let you see for hundreds of miles beyond the valley floor.

After a bite in one of the two restaurants at the top, I took a short walk through the forest on a paved trail. Conserving energy for the drive home, I turned back to relax with the valley views. Sitting amongst the rocks and pine trees, I could see those wind turbines waving back at me, but this time, I knew there was a lot more to Palm Springs than what you see from the freeway.