Gay Palm Springs · City Guide
First trip to Palm Springs? Then our gay Palm Springs city guide can help you get from A to Z.
Palm Springs is one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world and this sunny desert oasis is full of possibility for exploration, entertainment and relaxation.
Serving as the desert retreat for the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1950s and 60s the city is brimming with mid-century architecture, fascinating cultural locations and a vibrant and eclectic art scene. Set in an expansive and wild desert, Palm Springs is extremely connected to nature and there are numerous hiking trails and wilderness tours which promise gay travelers the ultimate desert vacation.
Palm Springs has an established reputation as a mecca for gay tourists. 40% of the city’s population identifies as LGBT+ and as such it truly is a haven for queer culture and community. With the city being home to a vast and concentrated amount of LGBT+ venues and events, there really is something for every gay traveler.
Gay Rights in Palm Springs
In 2018 Palm Springs welcomed the United State’s first local government entirely made up of LGBT+ individuals. The moment was a historic one and reflects the liberal attitudes of the residents of the city.
California is often thought of as the most liberal state in the USA and the rights and protections afforded to LGBT+ people here confirm this. Same-Sex marriage was legalised in 2013 and civil partnerships have been legal since 1999. The state was also one of the first to ban ‘gay panic’ as a defence for murder and violence, which was a commonly used legal defence that reduced murder charges if the perpetrator believed the victim was making homosexual advances.
LGBT+ people in California also enjoy a number of legislative bills that protect them from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Palm Springs is considered one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the USA and even the world, and unsurprisingly has an excellent array of gay nightclubs and bars. Bars are open throughout the day as day drinking is popular in the city, and tend to stay open until the early hours of the morning. There’s a range of options for nighttime entertainment here, ranging from large clubs playing pop anthems to casual cocktail bars.
Hunters is the main gay club in Palm Springs and draws large crowds with its great drink deals, impressive video screens and lively atmosphere. The club gets busy most nights and particularly on Saturdays. In addition to the world-class sound system and expansive dance floor, Hunters also boasts an outside area that often plays host to barbeque nights and themed events.
Combining a classic tiki bar atmosphere with some of the best drag queens in Palm Springs, Toucans Tiki Lounge is a popular spot on the city’s gay nightlife scene. The bar serves a range of speciality cocktails that guests can enjoy whilst soaking up the bar’s incredible drag shows.
Read More: A Gay Guide to Palm Springs
Palm Springs is a hub of laid back living and liberal attitudes in the desert, as such all hotels and accommodations in Palm Springs can be considered gay-friendly and there are a number which cater specifically for gay travelers and hold a variety of LGBT+ focused events. Colony Palms is a hidden gem tucked away off of the main streets of the city. This popular boutique hotel boasts individually furnished and decorated rooms set in luscious and tropical gardens. The hotel takes inspiration from Spanish and Morrocan design and the city’s downtown is just a short walk away.
The Triangle Inn is one of Palm Springs gay focused hotels and is unique in its clothing-optional policy. A small hotel, guests can enjoy an intimate stay in this private and well-maintained complex. The hotel features tropical gardens, an outside pool and stunning mountain views.
Gay travelers looking for a more luxurious and opulent stay should consider the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage. This 5-star mountain top hotel offers guests unparalleled panoramic views across Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
Getting to Palm Springs
Palm Springs enjoys a central location in the heart of inland Southern California. The city is located just two hours from both San Diego and Los Angeles. Conveniently located on the I-10, Palm Springs is reachable from almost anywhere in North America.
The Palm Springs International Airport welcomes flights from eighteen cities worldwide. The journey from the Airport to central Palm Springs should only take around 5 minutes by car and there are a number of shuttle buses and taxis that run from the airport to the city’s downtown area.
Buses can be caught from a number of cities in California to Palm Springs for an affordable price and this tends to be the best way to get to the city for those on a budget. The bus from LA to Palm Springs only takes two hours and is priced at $10.
Getting around Palm Springs
There are numerous ways of traveling around Palm Springs and whilst the public transport options are fantastic, the city is incredibly pedestrian-friendly, meaning most of the major landmarks and sights can be reached on foot. However, in the summer months, the high heat can take its toll on pedestrians.
Palm Springs is notoriously hot, and travelers wanting to make the most of the weather and take exploration into their own hands should consider renting a bike. Some companies, such as Bike Palm Springs Rentals allow customers to rent bikes for half days, full days or multiple days and come complete with a range of planned bike routes and helpful staff on hand.
The bus is the best way to travel around the city’s downtown area and is fast, efficient and generally not too busy. However, the bus routes in the city are limited, and only really exist around the city centre and downtown. There are a few companies that run shuttles to other locations of interest around Palm Springs.
The desert landscapes surrounding Palm Springs is brimming with nature waiting to be discovered, and the best way to do this is by renting a car and escaping the city’s borders. There are multiple car rental companies in Palm Springs that offer a range of vehicles. Renting a vehicle is great for travelers who want more control over their trip.
Things to do in Palm Springs
Palm Springs is teeming with modern architecture, cultural institutions and natural wonders, some of the best things to do include:
- Feed the animals at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
- Explore aviation at the Palm Springs Air Museum
- Soak up culture at the Palm Springs Art Museum
- Discover a hidden oasis at Tahquitz Canyon
- Wander the grounds of Sunnyland Estate
Those living outside the United States will require a temporary travel visa, and these can be applied for through the official US Embassy website or in your local US embassy.
When to visit
January to April is generally the best time to visit palm springs. In the early months of the year, the tourism season will be slowly dying down meaning venues and events are less busy whilst still maintaining a lively and bustling atmosphere.
These months also tend to have the best weather, with temperatures warm but not boiling as is typical of Palm Springs in Summer.
However, travelers looking for the cheapest prices on flights and hotels should consider visiting between October and November, when the weather is great and everything is cheaper, especially on weekends.
There are plenty of ATM machines around Palm Springs, and the majority of establishments will accept credit and debit cards. However, some ATM machines and card readers may add an additional fee for transactions attempted with overseas cards.
The generally accepted and expected rates of tipping in Palm Springs are 15-20% for good service.
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