Palm Springs has been a magnet for gay travellers for many years. It may seem like an unlikely gay mecca. Palm Springs is a small desert city in the Coachella Valley. The permanent population of Palm Springs is no more than 44,000. At least half of its residents are LGBT+. In purely numerical terms, Palm Springs is America’s gayest city.
How did Palm Springs become so popular with gay travellers? It takes just under two hours to drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs. Back in the days of Golden Age Hollywood, Palm Springs became the stomping ground of Tinseltown’s elite. The big contract players were required to stay close to the film studios of LA. Palm Springs became the logical place for them to unwind and party, far from the flashbulbs of the tabloids.
Naturally, there’s no shortage of gay actors in Hollywood. Back in Hollywood’s Golden Age, homosexuality was illegal. In Ryan Murphy’s Netflix drama about post-war Hollywood, gay screen idol Rock Hudson shows up at the Oscar’s, hand in hand with his boyfriend. It would have been nice if that happened in real life. If it had, his career would have been over. Rock Hudson was one of many gay celebrities who partied in Palm Springs. It was remote and private – you could have your kicks and not get caught.
Other major gay icons like Liberace, Greta Garbo and Tab Hunter spent time in Palm Springs. It was also a big draw for straight celebrities, most notably Frank Sinatra. Back then, gay meant something else. Being outed would have spelt career suicide. Liberace even sued a British tabloid for implying that he was into men. Despite being one of the campest people who ever lived, Liberace masqueraded as straight. Gay life took place in the shadows, and Palm Springs was the perfect refuge.
Palm Springs has been a go-to destination for gay travellers since Garbo and Rock Hudson were regular visitors. It still maintains the spirit of that period: much of the finest architecture in Palm Springs is mid-century.
Stacy’s is one of our favourite gay bars in Palm Springs. It’s art deco themed. Stacy’s is open seven days a week. It’s a great place to have a drink and a chat. It’s one of those bars where you can actually have a conversation.
Toucans Tiki Lounge is one of the most popular gay bars in Palm Springs. Tiki bars are based on a romanticised version of Polynesian culture. This bar is especially popular with tourists. The drag shows are well worth checking out, especially the Sunday Revue.
Chill Bar is located on Arenas. It’s a laid back bar with a spacious outdoor area. It gets busy in the evenings. A good place to meet some locals and maybe even pull.
Palm Springs has many gay, clothing-optional resorts. Only Key West rivals Palm Springs when it comes to gay resorts.
Triangle Inn is a “romantic and frisky” resort. The hosts live on the resort themselves and they run a tight ship. It’s a walled compound so you can let it all hang out. Triangle Inn is located on Palm Canyon Drive, right in the heart of the action.
La Dolce Vita Resort is another clothing-optional resort with 18 rooms, a men’s spa, a pool and a steam room.
Palm Springs Pride is one of the last gay Pride events on the calendar. It takes place in November. This is the desert so it’ll still be hot. Get another dose of Pride spirit before Christmas. Palm Springs Pride is always a big party.
Coachella is the biggest music festival in America. It takes place in the Coachella Valley to the east of Palm Springs. It attracts the biggest names in music.
The Dinah Shore Weekend is the biggest lesbian festival in America – and in the whole world, come to think of it. It takes place over five days. An unmissable event for the ladies.
by Alex | More: Gay Palm Springs