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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

“I need to disappear, escape for a little bit / Take a trip to Palm Springs if you’re into it.”Mistel Marie, “Palm Springs”

It’s hot and getting hotter in Palm Springs, and unless you’re a Bedouin, it’s a bit too too for outdoor adventures. How do desert rats even exist?

I’d love to tell you, thanks for asking.

We stay in and around the pool with snacks and (adult) beverages close at hand. We wear sun bonnets (we don’t) and sunscreen (we should). Our rosé is always chilled, beer mugs frosty, tequila iced, and our martinis are shaken, not stirred. The only thing missing is someone to do all the cooking, cleaning, and bartending.

And that’s where these resorts enter our three-part (!) story.

They all have gorgeous pools, and some have massage services, but they all have a restaurant or food options so you never have to leave. No cooking and cleaning for you, my friend. You are completely carefree to don swimwear all day, and work on your tan and alcohol intake in a place that is far, far away from the madding crowd, in the enchanting city called Palm Springs.

In this part, I’ll introduce you to the larger boutique resorts that have full restaurants.

Alcazar Palm Springs. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

Alcazar Palm Springs — Featured in Food & Wine, the Los Angeles Times, and Travel+Leisure, Alcazar has 34 suites and is located in the Uptown Design District. The rooms are modern and sleek, featuring Italian linens, flat screen televisions, fireplaces, and your choice of poolside or private patios. In addition to their immaculate attention to detail, Alcazar offers WiFi, coffee, espresso, tea, juice, daily fresh pastries, and Townie bikes for exploring the neighborhood.

It is also attached to two of the best restaurants in Palm Springs, Cheeky’s and Birba. Although they don’t do room service, there is a passageway from the resort to both restaurants so you can stay as cool as you are.

The Cole Hotel. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

The Cole Hotel — In the same neighborhood is one of the more affordable resorts in Palm Springs: The Cole. It’s a 30-room resort with three different floor plans — the Cole King, Cole Suite, and Pool Suite, plus the 600-square-foot Honeymoon Suite, complete with a private balcony. There’s also a nice, swimmable pool where they have 21+ pool parties. The Cole recently welcomed Freddie’s Kitchen, conceived by Chef Frederic, who has a long history in French cuisine in Southern California and was once chef de cuisine for Joël Robuchon — the chef and restaurateur named “Chef of the Century’ by the guide Gault Millau and awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France.

Alas, they do not serve breakfast, but they do open at noon and snacks and drinks are available poolside until 9 p.m. Dinner starts at 5 p.m.

The Ingleside Inn. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

The Ingleside Inn — Classic Palm Springs, old school vibe, and another very swimmable pool. The Ingleside Inn was built in the 1920s, and transformed into an invitation-only private club by Ruth Hardy (check out her park), where notables Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, and Marlon Brando stayed; Carole Lombard and Clark Gable honeymooned there.

Since then, the property has become open to the general public, but they’ve kept the Hollywood glam intact, including their restaurant, Melvyn’s, a favorite of Frank Sinatra. He was particularly fond of their Steak Diane.

This resort has 30 rooms and is situated on two acres of land, closer to the south end of Palm Springs on Belardo, and is still a home away from home for many celebrities. The Casablanca Lounge has a piano player nightly, and you never know who might sit in — anyone from Neil Sedaka (“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”) to James Marsden (Enchanted and Dead To Me) to local favorites.

Poolside at La Serena Villas. Photo credit: La Serena Villas

La Serena Villas — Here’s another resort that has it all. It’s located in downtown Palm Springs, but well off the beaten path. They have the Whispers Spa that is for guests staying at La Serena Villas, the Del Marcos, and The Three Fifty Hotel only, so you can be pretty certain you’ll get the services you want, when you want them.

Also, it has a terrific restaurant called Azucar that is open to the public, so you can invite your friends to join you for dinner then invite them back to your suite for a nightcap on your private patio, or take it to the big, gorgeous pool.

The entrance to Smoke Tree Ranch. Photo credit: Smoke Tree Ranch

Smoke Tree Ranch — I have a friend who grew up in Palm Springs, and this is one place she’s never been and really, really wants to go. It’s that exclusive.

Located at the base of the mountains, the views from each of the 49 cottages are stunning. Sunrises and sunsets are actual events you won’t want to miss when you’re staying here. Some of the amenities include: flatscreen televisions, wet bars, refrigerators, coffee makers, cozy down pillows, deluxe down comforters and blankets, luxurious bathrooms with separate tubs and showers, plantation shutters, telephones with voicemail (!), private patios, and WiFi. Most cottages also have carports and wood-burning fireplaces.

Activities? Swimming, soaking, horseback riding, spa services, horseshoes, pickleball, tennis, golf, volleyball, basketball, croquet. And they have babysitting services.

The restaurant is old school; it has a dress code, so that’s kinda fun. Dress in your best summer designer fashion, and enjoy the poshness of it all while dining on the best Chef Tony Marks can cook up, including lobster and the finest steaks he can procure.

And get this — cottages are traditionally sold with three full meals per day in the Ranch House Dining Room. The meal plan begins with dinner on the day of check in, followed by breakfast and lunch the following day, and includes all gratuities.

But wait, there’s more! Coming up next week: a guide to the restaurants and bars at Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels that have no more than 30 rooms.