Palm Springs, one of three destinations to choose from if you win the Gays With Kids "Who Needs a Vacation?" contest, is, if nothing else, a place of contrasts. Majestic mountains, some 10,000 feet high, shoot up from the flat valley floor. Tanned young muscular men relax poolside while 60-something golfers wander the course in the distance beyond. Green expanses of lawns and water fountains give way to a wildly beautiful dusty desert landscape at every turn. Modern resort hotels sit alongside quirky motels, awash in American charm.
The Palm Springs area, located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, is several communities strung together, including Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City. The region has long been a draw for both Hollywood celebrities and gay men, and it is said to now have the fifth highest concentration of same-sex households in the United States.
Opportunities for entertainment abound in Palm Springs, whether you are looking for wild, mild, or somewhere in between. Here’s a look at just a sampling of what you can do.
Become one with nature
If you’ve never tried hot-air ballooning, Palm Springs is an incredible place to experience it for the first time. There are numerous operators in the valley, and the flights afford amazing views of both the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountain ranges. The feeling is completely different from an airplane flight or helicopter ride, because of the balloon's relaxing motion and total silence (aside from the occasional “whooshes” of the gas flame). Most tours occur in the early morning hours or just before sunset, when the winds are light and the light is gorgeous. You can choose between normally scheduled tours or arrange private tours with some operators.
One of the most popular area activities is taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (it even rotates!) to the top, a height of 8,516 feet above sea level. Stunning vistas await visitors at the Mountain Station, a full 2 miles diagonally from where you boarded! The top also boasts a gift shop and a natural history museum.
If you still haven’t gotten enough of the great outdoors, you can also participate in open-air bus tours, horseback riding, or jeep tours to learn more, and get different vantage points of the area.
Sport it up!
The Coachella Valley has myriad options to get active and burn off some of those cocktails that you’re planning on consuming in the evening. Golf is huge in this part of California, with more courses here than any other part of the state—more than 100 in all! Hiking is another popular activity for visitors here, with nearby trails in Indian Canyon, on Mt. San Jacinto, the Coachella Valley Preserve, or even through Palm Canyon, which claims to feature the world’s largest palm fan oasis. A variety of terrain levels can be found for everyone from the casual walker to the dedicated hiker and even you rock climbers.
With Palm Springs’ year-round warm weather and nearly cloudless skies, it’s also a great place to get out and play tennis or go for a swim. Several area outfitters even rent ATVs for those adventurous enough to go for a spin on the sand dunes located 30 minutes east in the Mecca Hills area.
Your trip to this desert oasis doesn’t have to mean work — the area is a popular place to indulge in spa treatments, and plenty of local businesses, both stand-alone spas and those set within the larger resorts, are ready and willing to massage your cares away. Spend a day focusing on serene surroundings and get a manicure, pedicure, shave or haircut — or all of the above! After all, you deserve it, right?
Poolside lounging, swimming and sunbathing are all popular pastimes in this part of California, and there’s an abundance of eye candy to be enjoyed in between reading chapters of your book. The renowned warm, dry climate features more than 300 sunny days per year and a scant 5 inches of rain —about what Seattle sees in a mere three weeks in an average November!
The Palm Springs area has a thriving restaurant scene, and you’ll find a little bit of everything — Italian, Mexican, French, and traditional American fare. There is also a nice mix of brunch spots, seafood restaurants and cafés. If you’re more adventurous, you can also try Greek, Salvadoran, Japanese, Cuban, Hawaiian and Asian fusion places.
Get your gay on
Let’s not forget that Palm Springs is a huge draw for the LGBT community. You can easily immerse yourself in gayness here, from a night out to see the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus to a great music or theater performance at the Annenberg Theater downtown. The area has quite a few clothing optional gay men’s resorts, as well. If you have other accommodations, you can still go check them out: some of the resorts offer day passes. There are drag shows year round and a bevy of gay clubs — a half dozen or more, depending on how you count — that cater to young and old, from twink to bear.
All in all, the Palm Springs has a huge selection of vacation choices for even the most discriminating gay dad. If you’re in need of a short weekend or an entire week away, it’s a great choice for a change of pace. The perfect gay oasis in the desert, whether you win the Gays With Kids contest or not!
NOTE: Photos Courtesy of Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism.