Palm Springs is not a bashful town when it comes to gay hedonism. Most of the gay hotels advertise as clothing optional and the gay scene in this city is centred around the hotel swimming pool, each of them supporting gay ecosystems where the fauna lie around on banana lounges doing very little but tan, eat, drink and cruise.

Palm Springs lies in the Colorado Desert, about two hours’ drive from Los Angeles, and with its own international airport. It’s famed for its warm and dry winter weather and its plethora of gay hotels attracting men from around the globe.

Whilst most of the North Americans who come to Palm Springs seem content to laze around the pool, there are some fantastic hiking and outdoor opportunities available. Joshua Tree National Park is less than an hour’s drive away and offers over 400,000 hectares of unspoilt desert landscape to explore.

Closer to town are the Indian Canyons, tribal lands of the Agua Caliente, which contain North America’s largest natural palm oases. Visitors can enjoy a guided walk with an Native American park ranger through the Palm Canyon, providing a fascinating insight into Native American history and desert remedies.

The big tourist attraction for Palm Springs is its revolving aerial tramway which takes you from the desert floor up to the top of Mt San Jacinto. Options at the top include hiking, cross-country skiing, camping or just eating and drinking at the restaurant while enjoying the view.

The Palm Springs Desert Museum houses an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary art and natural science exhibits which are well worth a look, but the true American cultural experience is to be found at the Palm Springs Follies. This Las Vegas style showgirl extravaganza is staged by a group of long-legged lovelies whose average age is 75, and these showgirls (and a few showboys) are still kicking those legs and singing with the best of them. The Palm Springs Follies, disturbing as it sounds, are a tribute to each performer’s talent and, possibly, to the surgeon’s knife. The girls’ bodies certainly put a lot of the boys back at the pool to shame.

The White Party, held in Palm Springs over the Easter weekend, attracts thousands of gay boys to the city, while the Dinah Shore Golf Championship, held in March, is the largest lesbian-friendly event of its kind in North America. Girls intending to visit Palm Springs should book Casitas Laquita, an exclusive resort for women, built in the Spanish Mission style on 1.2 acres of private grounds.

Palm Springs provides a variety of dining options. For fine dining, try Johannes Cosmopolitan Cuisine on S. Palm Canyon Dr. For a full-on gay dining experience you can’t go past Blame It On Midnight, on Tahquitz Canyon Way. After-dinner options include dance bars such as Hunters, on E. Arenas Rd, and Headhunters at S. Palm Canyon Dr. The Tool Shed is the favoured bar of the leather and Levi’s crowd.

Gay hotels are spread all over the city, with the largest concentration in the Warm Sands area, an entirely gay neighbourhood. I stayed at INNdulge, operated by a laid-back southerner called John and his partner, the vivacious Jean-Guy. The boys are the perfect hosts and the hotel is comfortable and friendly. Other hotel options include the Hacienda at Warm Sands, a very up-market operation with a pillow menu, and the Vista Grande Resort, which is actually three hotels combined to create a huge gay compound.

It was the Vista Grande which provided an iconic Palm Springs experience. While being shown around the resort by Bob, the owner, we passed the infamous 18-man jacuzzi, where at least six very attractive men were getting to know each other. I asked Bob if this was a spontaneous liaison, or something he had organised for our benefit. He replied with his knowing grin -¦ that jacuzzi has some stories to tell!

USEFUL CONTACTS

INNdulge
601 Grenfall Rd, Palm Springs
+1 800 833 5675
www.inndulge.com

Vista Grande
574 Warm Sands Dr, Palm Springs
+1 800 669 1069
www.mirage4men.com

Hacienda at Warm Sands
586 Warm Sands Dr, Palm Springs
+1 800 359 2007
www.thehacienda.com

Casitas Laquita
450 East Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs
+1 760 416 9999
www.casitaslaquita.com

Disclosure: The writer travelled with assistance from the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism. Story courtesy of Gay America Guide.

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