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The readers have spoken, and they love the Palm Springs International Airport.

The Points Guy, a travel website and blog, asks its readers every year to vote on their favorite airport, and for the 2021 TPG Awards, Palm Springs came out on top. The Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is the only commercial service airport in the Coachella Valley, with 11 airlines providing nonstop service to more than 30 destinations across the United States and Canada. It’s also known for its extensive art collection.

In a statement, Mayor Cristy Holstege and Visit Greater Palm Springs President and CEO Scott White said they are “thrilled” by the honor.

“With its open-air walkways and lushly landscaped courtyards that lead within minutes to baggage claims and its breathtaking mountain views, PSP is a surprisingly welcomed and stress-free experience for visitors,” White added.

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

?We’re having a heatwave. A tropical heatwave. The temperature’s rising, it isn’t surprising, we’re having a heatwave.?— Irving Berlin

Factoring in heat and humidity, Palm Springs is like…everywhere else in the world right now: hot and muggy. But we’re still Palm Springs — relaxed and groovy, a respite from traffic congestion, smog, and overworked, underpaid, crabby people. The sky remains blue, the stars continue to show off in the night sky, and as long as there is A/C (and there is) and a pool (so many pools), it remains paradise.

Splash House. Photo by Jose Negrete, courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

Many of the small boutique hotels are having specials, which is great because this month, for two weekends, Palm Springs hosts Splash House (August 12-14 and August 19-21), the DJ equivalent of the Coachella Music Festival minus the dust, grime, and the conundrum of how to get to the venue without sitting in traffic for hours and hours. And then there’s the parking. Oy!

As the name Splash House indicates, the parties are held mostly in and around the pool, but at night, after parties are held at Palm Springs Air Museum — a very cool venue. You should check it out during the daytime, too. There’s lots of flying memorabilia, including old planes, and you can actually book a joy ride on a warbird.

You’ll still want to ride share to these events in case you’d like to partake in alcohol or cannabis, because safety first. Plus, no parking hassles. (Check out this article for info on Palm Springs’ cannabis stores.)

Splash House is held at three large resorts, but you don’t have to stay in them. In fact, I would suggest that you enjoy the best of two worlds — a boutique hotel for quiet times and tranquil moments, and a big-ass party at the large resorts during the day.

So, check out the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotel specials here, and find your bliss for a little less wear-and-tear on the bank account. Because the boutique hotels have fewer rooms than the big boys, you’re not just a random face or room number. Many people develop lifelong friendships with hoteliers and other guests, and they meet up  year after year.

The tram on its way to cooler temperatures. Photo courtesy of Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

If you’re skipping the big pool parties, and opting just for the night events, there’s still plenty to do (keep reading). Everything is inside (please don’t hike) with the exception of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which is both inside and outside. And it is 30 to 40 degrees cooler at the top. Definitely worth the price of the ticket.

Splash House also isn’t the only music you’ll find this month. There’s Turn My Music Up Fest August 5, 6, and 7. Again, I’d encourage you to look at your options for small boutique hotels, not only because they each have their own personality, but because most are locally owned and operated, so you’re contributing to the welfare of the city itself.

Here’s all the rest of the action:

Thursdays: Street Fair and free admission to Palm Springs Art Museum, 5 to 7 p.m. The Art Museum has a bunch of programs, too, including a free Sunday on August 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. Check the link above for movies and more events.

Marilyn at the Downtown Park. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

August 17: Movies in the Park — Across from the Art Museum and next to Marilyn. This month they’re showing Some Like It Hot. It’s free and starts just after sundown (around 8 p.m.).

PS Underground — Expect the unexpected at this terrific dinner “theater.” Food and entertainment are exceptional and both are wildly creative. Dates and prices on the website. Some upcoming offerings include:

Gospel — Sunday brunch

Liquid Grooves — whatever that sounds like to you. Just know it will be scads of fun.

Ovation — Sunday brunch

Sound of Music singalong

PS Cultural Center

August 9 and 23: CV Philharmonic Society Chamber Series 

August 25: Bad Movie Bashing — In honor of National Bee Month: The Bees (1978). Described as “a giant creature feature of minuscule proportions that sees the late, great John Saxon fighting against a deadly swarm of killer bees that have invaded the United States, all in the name of honey and vengeance!”

August 5: MasterPiece Mash Up by artist and filmmaker Tyson Knight, featuring an exhibition of his art and his documentary about the homeless. Knight is a fascinating artist who has done many murals here in Palm Springs, and is an all-around cool dude.

Weekly live music: Sundays — Keisha D; Mondays — Mon Petit Salon (look into it); Tuesdays: Leanna + Jazz Collective; Saturdays: Farmers’ Market.

The Cultural Center is also home to Camelot Theaters, which plays new releases, indie films, and LGTQ+ films. In August, their series Palm Springs Unwinds focuses on Wes Anderson:

August 6: Rushmore

August 13: The Royal Tenenbaums

August 20: Moonrise Kingdom

August 27: The Grand Budapest Hotel

DJ Mod Girl — One of the best local DJs around. She’s so much fun, and ramps up the party by her presence alone — this girl gets down, people. You’ll be up and dancing in a nano.

The Alibi is back!  They’re adding dates and seeking out cool indie bands for their calendar, so keep checking. So far:

August 4: Thursday Throwdown — no info available at this time, check link above.

August 7: Rostam with Sam Buck — Rostam is a founding member of Vampire Weekend. This concert will run from 8 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. Swear to Cher that’s what it says on the website.

August 15: The Soul Rebels

August 18: Syence (pronounced Science)

New place alert! Pretty Faces Nightclub at Hotel Zoso. Open Thursday through (and including) Saturday, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Heist Escape Room. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

Palm Springs Escape Room — If you haven’t been to an escape room, this is a great time to try it. I went here for my birthday a few years ago and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. If you’re a fan of puzzles, or get your adrenalines from beating the clock, this is for you. BTW, it’s privately owned, not part of any other escape room, so it’s another way to support local businesses.

420 Bank and Lounge has old-timey games like Operation (which is a riot when you’re stoned) as well as a life-size chess set, pinball, and billiards. You can also purchase cannabis and consume it in the lounge. There are some very fun and Instagram-worthy shots to be had here. You’ll need to check their calendar, as they often have bands and comedians onstage. These lounges are popping up all over the valley, and are the cannabis equivalent to a bar.

Oscar’s. Courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

Oscar’s

August 4: Eve Holmes puts on a great show featuring standards, jazz, Latin, dance, country, and Broadway.

August 5: Gennine Francis performing R&B, pop, soul, jazz, standards, and more.

August 11 and 25: Hotwyre provides danceable rock.

August 24 and 31: Mark and Tony Show — no cover, live taping of the TV show every Wednesday.

Saturdays: Bitchiest Brunch, Mimosa Men, and Oscar’s Cabaret

Cascade Lounge (inside Agua Caliente Casino in downtown Palm Springs)

Mondays: Mimosas, Martinis & Music with Don Wardell

Wednesdays: Desert Blues Revival

Fridays: Caliente Comedy

Thursdays: Jazzville

Sundays: Latin Nights

On Arenas Road:

Hunter’s is open daily, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

August 4: National IPA Day

August 16: National Rum Day

August 18: National Pinot Noir Day

August 28: National Red Wine Day

Where’s the love for an old vine Zinfandel?

Streetbar — the oldest gay bar in Palm Springs (that’s years open, not the required age of patrons). There’s karaoke, a smoking patio, extended Happy Hour, daily top shelf specials. Streetbar is a desert tradition since 1991.

Chill Bar

August 6: Dirty Disco Takeover with Matt Consola

August 6: Varsity – Boy’s Night Out

Small businesses suffered during the pandemic, and I’m sorry to report Dead or Alive, one of my favorite little beer and wine spots, as well as Desert Rose Playhouse, one of my favorite theaters, have closed. Dead or Alive is permanently deceased, but we’re holding out hope someone will resurrect Desert Rose. It was the only LGBTQ+ theater in the Coachella Valley.

So please stay and shop local, hydrate more than you think is necessary and then drink some more, wear sunscreen, and don’t be surprised if someone says hello to you on the street. That would be a local. We’re friendly like that.

I’ll be back in September — hope you will, too!

If you’re looking to plan the ultimate boys gaycation weekend with your besties, there’s no doubt that Palm Springs, California, is on your short list of places to go. It’s one of the few LGBTQ+ safe havens in the country that caters to the queer community year-round — and it’s a mid-century modern desert oasis of fun in the sun. In fact, the entire Coachella Valley is one of the most welcoming places for you and your boys to stay, play, and slay (yaaass, queen).

Ready to start making an itinerary? Here are a few of my suggestions for Palm Springs boutique hotels, restaurants, and activities:

Stay

Santiago Resort

The intimate and luxurious Santiago Resort is a paradise for men if you and your boys want to let down your guard – and your swimwear. If you haven’t yet experienced a saltwater (saline) pool, you’re in for a genuine treat at this ever-popular clothing-optional resort. If they happen to be all booked up, check out their brother resort Descanso for a similarly sophisticated experience. From their complimentary poolside lunch to the new friends you’ll meet poolside, you won’t want to stay anywhere that isn’t clothing-optional again after this.

The Santiago Resort at dusk. Photo courtesy of the Santiago Resort

INNdulge Palm Springs

INNdulge is a popular men’s resort in the Warm Sands district of Palm Springs, with a 24-hour heated saltwater pool and 12-man jacuzzi. It’s a more economical option as well if you and the boys are on a budget (or holding out for more of the fun stuff). They have 25 years of experience assisting men with their first time at a clothing-optional resort, but you can also watch the alluring videos on their website in advance if you’re curious.

The INNdulge grounds. Photo courtesy of INNdulge

Desert Paradise Resort Hotel

The Desert Paradise Resort Hotel is an intimate 12-room boutique hotel that strives to go above and beyond for their guests from check in to check out. Also conveniently located in the Warm Sands district, Desert Paradise is a beautiful, relaxing option for an attitude-free atmosphere with spectacular views.

The Desert Paradise’s pool and spa area. Photo courtesy of Desert Paradise

Eat

Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge

From its chic, colorful interior to fantastic music playlist, Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge is a must for any first-timer’s boys weekend. Their New American cuisine is as contemporary as their Pop Art atmosphere, and it’s a great option for brunch, lunch, happy hour, and/or dinner. It even has Miley Cyrus’ seal of approval, so need I say more?

Grab a drink at Eight4Nine. Photo courtesy of Eight4Nine

AsiaSF Palm Springs

Now with their second location right here in Palm Springs, AsiaSF is a cabaret dinner show that has been dazzling audiences for 23 years in San Francisco. Think of this as an elevated drag show, with the exception that all AsiaSF performers are transgender women, bringing the house down each night with legendary lip syncs, light shows, and choreography. Their Asian-fusion three-course meals are as memorable as their performers as well, so it’s truly a feast for the senses!

Blackbook Bar & Kitchen

Blackbook is located in the heart of the Arenas district and has a reputation among locals for having the best bar food in Palm Springs. It’s a great place to meet new friends during happy hour — and a great place to sober up if you’re bar-hopping throughout Arenas’ many gay watering holes. Try the cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy burger (or the Juicy Lucifer if you want to add some heat).

Experience

Drag shows

What would a boys weekend be without drag shows, hunty? Luckily, there are drag shows all throughout the greater Palm Springs area. Drag brunch is a must, so check out the Mile High Boozy Brunch at PS Air Bar & Lounge, a playful airline-themed speakeasy inside the Bouschet wine store. Then check out Vanity’s Doll Haus every Friday night at One Eleven Bar in Cathedral City. You might even catch a Drag Race Ru Gurl there now and again. Here’s a complete list of drag shows from Gay Desert Guide for more ideas. Shantay, you stay!

MOGO Silent Disco

MOGO Silent Disco is Palm Springs’ latest event where you and the boys can turn up the volume on your headsets and dance your a**es off on a private parade through downtown. Kaftans, sequins, and stunning outfits are always encouraged!

Sunday Funday

Everything gay happens here in Palm Springs on Sunday, which is why the locals call it “Sunday Funday.” Start the day with drag brunch, naturally. Then lounge by the hotel pool or crash a pool party until it’s time for Oscar’s legendary tea dance. After you’ve had enough disco, strap on some leather gear and head on over to the Barracks for their legendary Beer Bust.

Explore

Mid-century modern tours

If you’re as big of a fan of mid-century modern as I am, consider Palm Springs Mod Squad Tours or Mid-Century Modern Tours. If a self-guided tour is more your jam, you and the boys can caravan around some iconic mid-century modern neighborhoods with The Palm Springs Guys’ MCM Architecture Self-Guided Tour Guide (Google Maps GPS-ready!). As a bonus, there are always open houses worth checking out here on the weekends that will have you feeling like you’re at Modernism Week.

The mid-century modern Visitors Center. Photo by Arthur Coleman Photography

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

If you’re looking to cool down, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway climbs up two-and-a-half-miles of Chino Canyon cliffs to the top of Mt. San Jacinto State Park — an elevation of 8,516 feet and temperature drop of nearly 20 degrees. This is the self-described “world’s largest rotating tram car” and riders enjoy spectacular views of the panoramic valleys below. There are 50+ miles of trails — after a hike through the butterscotch-scented Jeffrey pines, take to the observation decks for happy hour before a nice dinner at Peaks Restaurant.

Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum has an incredible collection of 12,000 works of modern and contemporary art, architecture, and design, and is always inspiring to see. So are the installations surrounding the property, like Palm Springs Babies and the 26-foot sculpture of Marilyn Monroe located directly in front of the museum.

When your ultimate boys weekend in Palm Springs comes to an end, you’ll leave with plenty of memories and photos to post on the Gram — be sure to tag them with #gaycation and #ilovegaypalmsprings.

Marilyn Monroe in all of her glory. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs