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If you’re looking for a one-stop cultural shop for film festivals, a farmers’ market, live performances, arts programs, theater productions, lectures, food, libations, and more, look no further than the Palm Springs Cultural Center. 

Since its grand opening in 2019, the Palm Springs Cultural Center has been dedicated to offering diverse programming, and is certainly catching its stride this year with an impressive 2023 lineup and experiences. The center truly feels like the cultural heartbeat of our community here in the Coachella Valley.

The Camelot Theatre. Photo courtesy of the Palm Springs Cultural Center

The Palm Springs Cultural Center was founded in 2007 by Palm Springs philanthropists Ric and Rozene Supple. In 1999, the Supples bought and refurbished the historic Camelot Theatres building, and operated it as a three-screen complex with a full bar and restaurant. They introduced a list of prestigious events to the community, including Cinema Diverse and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. When the Supples gifted the Camelot Theatres building to the Palm Springs Cultural Center in 2017, they instilled their legacy and lifelong dedication to culture and the arts here in Palm Springs.

Ric and Rozene Supple. Photo courtesy of the Palm Springs Cultural Center

The newly-minted Palm Springs Cultural Center opened its doors in January 2019, and the PSCC team set out to “incubate, produce, and encourage arts and cultural programs in order to leverage the unique power of creativity to open minds, bridge what divides us, and discover what connects us.” Its diverse programming aimed to inspire learning and deepen the relationships with the local community, and recognized the interconnection between the cultural arts and food culture. After introducing its first theater company and producing its first show, COVID took the world by storm, and like so many others, the Palm Springs Cultural Center had to close its doors. 

Welcome to the Palm Springs Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of the Palm Springs Cultural Center

However, the Farmers Market continued to operate throughout the pandemic, being deemed a necessary business. A little over a year later, the Palm Springs Cultural Center re-opened, reignited its theater program, and brought live music to the mix. After speaking with Palm Springs Cultural Center Executive Director Michael Green, Nunzio Sisto entered the picture as music program director, introducing classical music and further diversifying both the music and theater programs.

Gregory Douglass performs at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Gregory Douglass

The PSCC team’s ongoing mission for the Farmers’ Market is to serve the community as the only one in the Coachella Valley that matches dollar-for-dollar (up to $15 per person) for those who are in need of food and part of low-income and/or senior food programs. For instance, a family of four may be entitled to $60 worth of matching funds every week. This program echoes the Palm Springs Cultural Center’s dedication to making its programming as accessible as possible for all income levels.

What’s more, the PSCC team also aspires to remain a good community partner, offering its space to organizations in need of a place to gather for meetings or rehearsals, like the Sunrise Park Neighborhood Association, The L-Fund, and the Youth Training Orchestra.

The radical shift to home box office streaming content has changed the game for movie theater-goers over the years. Even major theater chains have suffered, but the Palm Springs Cultural Center has pivoted its focus to revival films and special event screenings, making for more integrated, memorable experiences. A recent Valentine’s Day screening of Moulin Rouge featured curated grazing boxes of special love-themed treats to enjoy throughout the film. In addition, local gay organization Among Friends presents ongoing gay cult classic films that are as immersive as they are entertaining.

The “Moulin Rouge” snack boxes. Photo courtesy of the Palm Springs Cultural Center

If you’re curious about all that lies ahead, check out the Palm Springs Cultural Center’s 2023 lineup. Highlights include the Glenn Miller Orchestra in music (March 13), Martin Sherman’s GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM in theater (through March 4), Jimmy Dore Live in comedy (March 25), the American Documentary Film Festival in film (March 30 – April 3), and the Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market (each Saturday). There’s also weekly live music upstairs in the lounge, featuring local musicians like Keisha D, Mon Petit Salon with Jeremie Levi, and Leanna & the Jazz Collective.

Leanna & The Jazz Collective. Photo courtesy of the Palm Springs Cultural Center

Of course, all this diverse programming costs money. The Palm Springs Cultural Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which means that it relies on the ongoing support of the very community it serves. You can help PSCC by becoming a sustaining member in exchange for enjoying complimentary screenings, member-only discounts, and pre-sale opportunities. You can also make a tax-deductible donation, sign up for the PSCC’s newsletter, and even ​purchase a seat (or several) for yourself and to honor someone else in the community.

The Modern Men’s Gay Chorus performs on stage. Photo courtesy of the Palm Springs Cultural Center

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

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

Ah, Palm Springs, where the palm trees bask in the sun and the mountains amplify every sunset. For the LGBTQ+ community, our little desert haven isn’t just another travel destination; it’s an emblem of liberation and self-discovery. And for the solo traveler, Palm Springs promises an unforgettable blend of adventure and introspection, making it a welcoming hotspot for LGBTQ+ wanderers craving those unforgettable experiences.

Embrace new adventures

With its plethora of gay-owned establishments, exhilarating LGBTQ+ activities, and welcoming accommodations for all, your itinerary will be brimming with adventurous options. Enter into the vibrant allure of Trixie Mattel’s (of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame) Trixie Motel, a radiant pink sanctuary with seven meticulously designed rooms – each fit for a Barbie or a Ken (wink wink). Are you a gourmet food enthusiast or someone who prefers a quick nibble before dancing the night away? Your solo adventure here ensures you’re in control, savoring the eclectic culinary delights of Palm Springs at your own pace.

A plate of food and a cocktail on a white table

Solo diners can order whatever they want on the menu at Eight4Nine. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

Unlock new connections

Venturing alone might seem like a solitary journey, but it’s often in these adventures that deeper bonds are formed. Without the familiarity of a companion, you’ll likely find yourself immersed in spontaneous conversations, shared moments, and stories that intertwine. Palm Springs is home to exclusive resorts for men only, like Descanso, The Hacienda, and Vista Grande Resort, where solo travelers converge and memories are made. And let’s not forget Talavera and Alcazar, which are hotspots for the lesbian community. So don’t be shy when it comes to meeting like-minded LGBTQ+ locals and travelers — join the local scene. Together, these experiences might unlock a profound sense of community and belonging.

Vista Grade’s 18-man spa. Photo courtesy of Vista Grande Resort

Build confidence

Solo travel in Palm Springs is a personal empowerment journey. It offers the luxury of decision-making based solely on your whims and priorities. Whether you desire an adventurous hike in the Tahquitz Canyon, an afternoon at the Palm Springs Art Museum, or a relaxing time by the pool, solo travel offers the freedom of choice. Venturing into unknown territories — like the karaoke stage — might be daunting initially, but every hurdle crossed amplifies your confidence and every new step you take and conversation you have only adds another layer to your character, shaping a bolder and more resilient you.

You could spend hours walking around the Palm Springs Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

Liberate yourself

Traveling solo is synonymous with rejuvenation. Palm Springs, with its vibrant LGBTQ+ scene, promises thrilling escapades and even new potential romances. From day passes at exclusive resorts like CCBC to happy hours galore in the Arenas district, you may reveal facets of yourself you never knew existed, making the unpredictability of each day a thrilling chapter in your travel tales. You might also consider apps like Grindr or Tinder as an initial compass for friends and fun.

Discover yourself

Solo travel isn’t just about external exploration; it’s an internal voyage of self-reflection and understanding. Successfully navigating through new cultures, ticking off challenges, or simply welcoming unfamiliar experiences in Palm Springs can offer an immense feeling of accomplishment. It’s a transformative experience, where every adventure, every new connection, pushes you towards a deeper understanding of yourself.

Palm Springs welcomes every solo traveler with open arms, offering experiences that are memorable and often life-changing. Whether you’re on a path of self-discovery, seeking thrilling adventures, or looking to forge deep connections, this city promises a holistic LGBTQ+ experience that you’ll cherish forever.

Solo travel in Palm Springs is a love song to oneself, and the boutique hotels of Palm Springs will help ensure a cozy, intimate retreat to unwind. Independently-owned and brimming with personality, these gems only magnify the city’s charm and allure. Your Palm Springs solo travel awaits you!

A woman floats on a pool raft shaped like a pineapple

Solo travelers can spend all day floating if they feel like it. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

By Linda Milks

Palm Springs is home to one of the largest Pride parades in the country where the entire community—queer and straight—celebrates diversity, authenticity, and civil liberties. It’s also just a great time!

For 39 years, Palm Springs, CA, has celebrated Palm Springs Pride with uncommon style and swagger. Each year promises to be bigger and better. Palm Springs Pride 2019 will take place from November 1-3 and is themed “Millions of Moments of Pride.”

Photo: John Warden

And this year, Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels’ committee chair, Michael Green, is the Community Grand Marshal. He’s also the executive Director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center, chair of the Desert Gay Tourism Guild, and owns the iconic Triangle Inn Palm Springs with his husband, Stephen.

Media Grand Marshal is Alexander Rodriquez.

November 3 will be a great time at the Block Party on Arenas Rd. The event is loaded with DJs, music stages, food vendors, entertainers, and a glorious parade. New for this year is the Pride Stage located at Hermosa and N. Palm Canyon Dr. You will find local royalty to emcee the parade from the reviewing stand, including Dottie DuBois, Maude Chapeau, and Mannie, the Movie Guy. All the action in this area starts at 9 am.

To start things off in brilliant colors, on October 31 attend the Rainbow Flag Unfurling from 10 am – 10:30 am at 1140 N. Indian Canyon Rd. This giant flag will be unfurled from the top of the Stergios Tower at Desert Regional Medical Center.

The Equality Kickoff is November 1 from 6 pm – 11 pm to celebrate strength, equality and self-determination of the LGBTQ community.  This is guaranteed to be a massive downtown street party with three stages for entertainment, the Arenas Stage, the Pride Stage, and the KGAY Dance stage. There will be performances by Kristine W (queen of 90’s dance music), That 80’s Band, and DJ Autumn Leilani.

One of the main acts during Pride will be LA-based electronic music artist Madame Ghandi and also UK-based, multi-platinum artist and songwriter DYSON. Other entertainers to look for are TLC, Heather Small, BETTY, and Ada Vox.

Photo: John Warden

The Palm Springs Art Museum will display The Art of Pride, Make an Exhibition of Yourself, and is a brand new official Pride event to be held on all three levels of the museum from 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm on November 1.

An exciting Pop Up event in Downtown and Uptown Palm Springs will be part of the weekend with food, art, music, fashion, and prizes. Businesses in Downtown and Uptown will be creating their own pop-up events. There will be a passport to fill out as you visit these businesses so that you are entered for a prize. The pop-up event will be from 3pm – 8 pm on November 1. The final deadline for businesses to sign up is October 25 at www.PopUpPalmSprings.com

Then, on November 2, take part in the Pride Festival happening from 11 am – 10 pm in Downtown Palm Springs and check out the Arenas District Block party from 6 pm – 11:30 pm.

November 3 is  the date of the big Pride Parade from 10 am – noon which steps off at Tachevah and Palm Canyon Dr.

To find out exactly where everything is happening, go to: www.pspride.org.

Don’t forget to grab your favorite adult beverage because for the first time ever you can stroll down Arenas Rd. and sip while being fearlessly authentic.

Speaking of staying authentic, stay at one of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels  gay resorts where you will be beautifully enveloped by community and relaxation and pride is always in style.

Photo: Linda Milks

How to Travel Safely by Car

Not since the days of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez’ road trip to California and when the Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe traveled to Palm Springs have road trips been so popular. This is the time to nostalgically take a road trip and reflect on those bygone days.

Pack your car and head to Palm Springs to enjoy one of the elegantly restored boutique mid-century hotels in the group known as the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels. With almost 80 hotels from which to choose, you can be revitalized a poolside environment and snuggle in a cozy bungalow.

Before you head out, though, there are some safety precautions you should know during these times of Covid-19.

What to Bring in the Car

Even if you are traveling a short distance, bring all your travel documents—your auto insurance card, your driver’s license, auto registration, and your health insurance card.

Try to bring as much as possible of what you may need to be self-sufficient and cut down on trips to stores once you arrive. Bring water, snacks, lunch (to eat on the way or once you reach your destination), disinfectant wipes, masks, gloves, phone chargers, medications, and Ziploc bags. If you want to have some wine and spirits, pack those bottles under the car seat so you don’t have to journey to a liquor store.

Stopping for Gas and a Restroom

Like it or not, that gas stop and restroom is sometimes necessary. When you are pumping gas, disposable gloves are a great idea. Once you have finished pumping, use sanitizing wipes on anything you have touched– door handle, steering wheel, knobs for air conditioning or the radio, and your credit card.

As far as public toilets at gas stations, prepare for the worst. Bring toilet paper and soap. Make sure you really scrub your hands for at least those 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing. Grab a clean paper towel to grab that door handle.

Staying at a Hotel

Here comes the beauty of staying at a Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotel. With all hotels being less than 50 rooms, your room will be on the ground level or one flight upstairs. There will be no elevator rides or long hallways to negotiate. That’s because most of the small hotels were designed to face open-air courtyards.

While all of the Palm Springs Preferred Hotels have undergone deep cleaning and as a group have in place a set of baseline of safety sanitation standards, it is still a good idea to practice safety cleaning of your room. Once you are inside, use sanitary wipes to clean areas where people touch like door knobs, tables, faucets, toilets, sinks, light switches, phones, remotes, and curtain handles. Wipe down anywhere you will rest your belongings.

Eating and Drinking During Your Stay

Palm Springs is currently not open to indoor dining. But the wonderful part about visiting Palm Springs is that the weather is conducive to dining outdoors, a much safer option. Many of the finer restaurants provide food and cocktail delivery so that you can just sit back and dine comfortably in your room or by the pool. A list of some of those options are: The Tropicale, Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, El Mirasol Restaurant, Jakes’ Palm Springs, and 533 Viet Fusion.

Note that the City of Palm Springs mandates the use of face masks in public, whether you are indoors or out.

So, grab your swimsuit and a slice of nostalgia on a well-deserved road trip to Palm Springs where unsurpassed blissfulness, hospitality, and tranquility await.

We could all use some sunshine and an escape from sheltering in place right now, and there is no better destination to soak up that healthy Vitamin D than Palm Springs. 

Several of our Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels — a collection of more than 70 boutique hotels — are welcoming guests back with special Summer Offers, just in time for the summer road trip season. If you live in Southern California, Arizona, or the San Francisco Bay Area, Palm Springs promises a safe and welcome change of scenery.

“Summertime is great in Palm Springs,” Mark Hunter, co-owner of the Desert Paradise, said. “The city is designed with misters and pools and everything to make everyone as comfortable as possible. It’s one of my favorite times of year.”

Over the last three months, Monkey Tree Hotel owners Kathy and Gary Friedle have been hard at work finishing projects that they didn’t have the time to do before the shelter-in-place order. “From extra landscaping to painting every inch to setting up a new touch-less check-in experience, we spent what was typically our busiest season, the spring, reimagining our reopening this summer,” Kathy Friedle said. “We can’t wait to have guests back here to share all of this with them!”

Whether you’re looking for a free night, reduced rates, or special gifts, the right Palm Springs boutique hotel deal is here:

Adara Hotel: Receive 15 percent off regular rates, July 1 through Sept. 30. Use promo code “Small Hotels.”

Alcazar Hotel: Book three consecutive nights (Sunday through Thursday) and get the third night free. Use promo code “123.”

BelleVue Oasis: From June 19 to Aug. 31, book two nights and receive 50 percent off a third night, or book three nights and get a fourth night free. Valid Sunday through Thursday.

Desert Riviera: Book three or more consecutive nights June 1 to Aug. 31 and receive a $100 gift certificate. Use promo code “SummerNights.”

Desert Paradise: Book two nights and receive 50 percent off a third night, through Sept. 30. This clothing-optional resort caters to gay men.

Inn at Palm Springs: Through Aug. 31, book direct and resort fees are waived.

INNdulge: Sunday through Thursday, book a non-pool view Superior Room for just $119 per night. Not valid on holidays. Offer good through Sept. 15. This clothing-optional resort caters to gay men.

La Maison: Stay two or more nights and receive 50 percent off a third night, from July 6 to Sept. 30.

Los Arboles: From June 29 to Aug. 27, Los Arboles is offering special packages and discounted rates for guests. 

The Monkey Tree Hotel: Stay two or three nights from June 19 through Sept. 30 and receive 15 percent off. Book directly on the hotel’s website, using promo code “SUMMER.”

Tortuga del Sol: Through Sept. 30, stay at least two nights and receive rates starting at $99 per night. Not valid on holiday weekends. This clothing-optional resort caters to gay men.

Triangle Inn: Stay three nights, get the fourth night free, or book for five nights and receive your sixth and seventh nights free. Through Sept. 15. Not valid on holidays. This clothing-optional resort caters to gay men.

To take advantage of these deals and for more details, visit the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels website.

Comfort and Safety Prioritized

Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels are legendary for their style, safety, and comfort–all of which continue to be a priority. Over the past few weeks, the owners and general managers of Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels have collaboratively created a baseline of safety sanitation standards.

Most Palm Springs boutique hotels have fewer than 30 rooms, making them easier to thoroughly clean and keep sanitized. Common areas are typically outside, and a majority of rooms have their own private entrances and air conditioning units.

Each hotel will provide its own safety guidelines in addition to the requirements set forth by the City of Palm Springs and the ones they collectively developed. This information will be shared with guests when they receive their reservation confirmation. 

Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels is a consortium of independently owned boutique hotels, which are an essential part of this desert resort town’s uncommon 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, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. Please visit Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels Summer Recovery Specials page for details.

Beyond its scenic mountain views, mid-century modernist appeal, and boutique hotel poolside sanctuaries, Palm Springs is also a vibrant hub for live theater. For those seeking to infuse their vacation oasis with a splash of drama, Palm Springs and its neighboring cities in the Coachella Valley offer a year-round theatrical journey like no other.

I recently had the opportunity to experience the local theater scene myself, and am thrilled to be spotlighting five theater companies that are raising the bar here in the low desert.

The Bent

A man with a white wig and black mustache stands with his arms out during a performance of "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde" performed at The Bent in Palm Springs, California

“Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” is part of The Bent’s first full season. Photo: Jim Cox

About: The Bent is a nonprofit theater that has served the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley LGBTQ+ community since Dec. 13, 2022. As a relatively new theater company in town, The Bent’s mission is to keep LGBTQ+ theater alive here in the Valley. 

The local community and other organizations came together to support The Bent in their inaugural year, as they launched their first full season and gained their sea legs. The Bent’s first three shows were all nominated for either Best Comedy or Best Drama of the Year by the Desert Theater League, and had a total of 14 nominations.

My experience: I had the opportunity to attend Gross Indecency: The Three Trials Of Oscar Wilde, by Moises Kaufman. Based entirely on facts, the show was a blueprint for the price Oscar Wilde paid for his status as a gay icon. The performance I saw was masterful in its writing as well as its acting. The show starred Brent Anderson, Melanie Blue, Tony Bradford, Kai Brothers, Stan Jenson, Barbara Kerr, Jason Mannino, Willie Mullins, Alex Price and Koby Queenen. Every detail was well executed, from the beautiful set to the dynamic, versatile cast. I’m looking forward to seeing more from The Bent.

The Bent, The Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Rd., Palm Springs

Coachella Valley Repertory

Eric Phelps and Jack Mastrianni on stage at the Coachella Valley Repretory

“The Fantasticks: A Love Story Reimagined” had its West Coast debut at the Coachella Valley Repertory. Photo: David A. Lee

About: Coachella Valley Repertory’s new Executive Artistic Director Adam Karsten is committed to bringing Broadway-caliber talent to the desert for a true theater experience in an intimate setting at affordable prices. During a recent conversation I had with Karsten, he mentioned the phenomenon that “heartbeats can actually synchronize throughout a show when it’s this intimate.” 

With the Coachella Valley Repertory now in its 16th season, Karsten’s vision is to continue building upon a storied history while introducing fresh initiatives, like their new works program Origins, a page-to-stage development program. The first show, Summer Session with The Bones Brigade, is premiering this month.

My experience: I was invited to the West Coast premiere of The Fantasticks: A Love Story Reimagined. I was very impressed with the aesthetics and caliber of operations within the theater itself before the show even began. While I can’t say The Fantasticks has even been one of my favorite shows, it was refreshing to see a new, very LGBTQ-inclusive spin on the play. It was a heartwarming Romeo-and-Juliet love story between two boys (in this reimagined version) with their mothers at the helm. The real highlights for me were the characters Henry and Mortimer, who both provided comic relief and masterful acting throughout. As a musician myself, I also felt it was an intriguing choice to have the orchestra consist of only a pianist and a harpist. I can’t wait to check out a new works production in the near future.

Coachella Valley Repertory, 68510 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Cathedral City

Dezart Performs

A white woman stands next to a white man holding a book while a smiling white woman sits down in a chair

“The Thanksgiving Play” is a snarky comedy. Photo: David A. Lee

About: Running strong for 16 years now, Dezart Performs has consistently produced innovative, contemporary plays that audiences in the Coachella Valley would otherwise only see while visiting a larger city like Los Angeles or San Francisco. That was one of their founding principles, and the Valley has welcomed the kind of bold, thought-provoking work that Dezart Performs presents. And as an Equity-sanctioned professional theater, Dezart Performs draws upon the rich talent pool both locally and from across Southern California, casting gifted amateurs alongside experienced pros.

My experience: I attended Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play, a snarky comedy about four well-intentioned but terminally “woke” theater artists at an elementary school attempting to create a pageant that will somehow celebrate both Turkey Day and honor Native American Heritage Month. FastHorse is the first Native American playwright to have a show produced on Broadway, which is important to know in order to really appreciate a show this brash. That said, I was particularly fond of the writing and the flavor of comedy screaming through the storyline. While the jokes weren’t always delivered as I believe they were intended to be, it was a strong, committed cast throughout. It will be interesting to see what Dezart Performs does next.

Dezart Performs, Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Rd., Palm Springs

Desert Ensemble Theatre

A woman in a black top and red skirt sings while on a dark stage

“Collective Rage: A Play In 5 Betties” is an outrageously fun production. Photo courtesy of Desert Ensemble Theatre

About: Desert Ensemble Theatre is committed to producing innovative plays that underscore the complexity of human interaction. DET offers theater internships to high school students, giving them on-the-job experience in professional productions and even awarding scholarships to graduating seniors who plan on continuing their higher education in theater arts. DET was named Best Repertory Company in the Desert Sun’s 2018 Best of the Valley Awards, and has since been honored with 28 Desert Theatre League Awards in all major categories.

My experience: I had the joy of sitting front-row center for a performance of Collective Rage: A Play In 5 Betties, an outrageously fun, queer, and female-focused show by Jen Silverman. It’s a story about when the lives of five women named Betty collide, and it’s a hard one to explain without seeing it for yourself. This was a strong cast of Betties, and there was one particular Betty who made me laugh until I cried towards the end of the performance; it was a glorious way to close out a show. It’s always a treat to see a Desert Ensemble Theatre production.

Desert Ensemble Theatre, The Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Rd., Palm Springs

Palm Canyon Theater

Six "RENT" cast members hold their fists up while on stage a the Palm Canyon Theater in Palm Springs, California

“RENT” is part of the Palm Canyon Theater’s 27th season lineup. Photo: Carlos Mendoza

About: Palm Canyon Theater is proud to be the Coachella Valley’s longest-running theater company. They opened their doors in September 1997 after Dr. William “Bill” Layne and his family submitted the winning proposal to the City of Palm Springs for how to repurpose the historic Frances S. Stevens School with a cultural nonprofit organization. Now in their 27th season, the Palm Canyon Theatre has since grown into a huge family taking on all sorts of ambitious and widely-loved shows in their lineup.

My experience: I had the opportunity to attend Palm Canyon Theatre’s production of RENT, however… I missed the performance entirely because I had the date wrong on my calendar (doh!). As embarrassed as I was to admit that to the kind people who comped me two press passes, I am still thrilled to include them in this article. 

I caught one number from PCP’s cast of RENT in a live concert performance at the Arenas Halloween Block Party main stage, and I was very impressed. That said, I can’t wait to see a future PCP show myself. I’m particularly fond of the music from The Light in the Piazza, so I’m looking forward to being in the audience for that one.

Palm Canyon Theater, 538 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs

A rich cultural fabric

These theater companies exemplify the thriving artistic spirit here in Palm Springs and its surroundings. Each venue offers a unique glimpse into the world of live performance, reflecting the diverse and rich cultural fabric of the area. From the intimate, reflective shows at The Bent to the grand, Broadway-like productions of the Coachella Valley Repertory, there’s a performance here for every theater enthusiast.

Just as these theaters bring stories to life, our small boutique hotels craft a similarly unique and personal experience. Each hotel, with its distinctive style and intimate setting, offers a gateway to the local culture and the vibrant heart of Palm Springs. There’s truly nowhere else quite like it for a vacation filled with fun, culture, and bottomless hospitality.

The Vista Grande Resort isn’t just a men’s clothing-optional boutique hotel in the heart of Warm Sands. It’s a philosophy and an opportunity for gay men from all over the world to gather and simply be who they are. “The Art of Being” is their adage, and it’s embedded in the guest experience as much as it is embedded in their logo.

Established in 1984, Vista Grande was the first gay clothing-optional hotel in Palm Springs. It’s also the longest running, and their mission remains steady: “To save the world one man at a time, providing discerning gay travelers with an unforgettable blend of comfort, fun, and pleasure in our secret garden sanctuary where we celebrate life, love, and personal freedom every day.”

The moment you arrive at Vista Grande, you enter a secret garden that feels like an endless oasis of pleasurable potential. The lush landscaping envelops the labyrinth-like property and is carefully curated by one of its founding fathers, Robert Fields. It almost feels like a tropical rainforest in the center of the low desert. With an ever-breathtaking view of the San Jacinto Mountains, Vista Grande invites you to explore your vigor for being alive. It also invites quite a few hummingbirds to the party as well!

The property’s gorgeous waterfall. Photo courtesy of Vista Grande Resort

What makes Vista Grande truly unique though is a commitment to their philosophy. You can feel a visceral surge of freedom in every aspect, from their inquisitive amenities to their communal sense of hospitality. The attentive staff’s comforting approach makes you feel more like family than the average resort as well. And since Vista Grande doesn’t “specify,” it makes for a popular, unpretentious mix of men of all types, ages, shapes, and sizes that seems to make everyone feel right at home.

The Avalon seating area. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Vista Grande is one of the only men’s clothing-optional resorts that offers extended stay opportunities. Their spacious garden apartments are fully equipped with all the comforts you would expect in a home, but with additional concierge hotel services, housekeeping, swimming pools, a spa, a steam room, waterfalls, and beautiful views of the gardens (and the neighbors)! What’s more, an extended stay at Vista Grande grants anyone the liberty to experience a prolonged sense of freedom rather than just a weekend of delight.

My husband Glen and I spent a pleasurable evening in one of their four Mirage Waterfall Suites, located in the beautiful enclave just steps from the steam room, 18-man spa, blue lagoon, and waterfall. It’s the perfect fairy tale setting for just about anything, and Mirage suites are elevated by concierge services like VIP parking, welcome gifts, and breakfast trays delivered to your room daily. We even had special burgundy towels specific to the Mirage suites experience to wear like badges of honor throughout the evening. At the end of our stay, the staff proudly proclaimed to us, “You are Mirage Men now!”

Breakfast in bed. Photo courtesy of Vista Grande Resort

Get cozy on the couch in one of the Mirage suites. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Another unique aspect of Vista Grande is the layout of amenities throughout the property. There are two swimming pools on the grounds, each equipped with a floating canopy covering about a third of the pool for shade. The Vista Grande Villa art deco-style pool serves as a quieter, non-smoking and no-music pool with a vintage Palm Springs vibe. The Avalon pool is a more expansive “party” area that is ripe for male adventure.

During our stay, I had the opportunity to connect with Robert Fields himself, and it didn’t take long for me to realize how deeply invested he is in the essence of Vista Grande. He compared his sprawling garden creations throughout the property as a “canvas to paint upon.” He also hinted at the magical relationship he had with his late husband Bob, and how together they created Vista Grande to serve as an extension of their mutual celebratory spirit for all others who visit the resort to benefit from. Robert is still very much the heart and soul of the place, and it’s apparent how much his employees appreciate him and his philosophy too — most have been working there for years.

After just 24 hours, I left the Vista Grande Resort feeling inspired, rejuvenated, and much freer than I had felt before checking in. I can only imagine what a longer stay would have revealed in “The Art of Being.”

All men are welcome at Vista Grande Resort. 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.