Other than the cluster of gay resorts in the residential Warm Sands and San Lorenzo areas, most of the gay guesthouses are spread out through the area, and even the clustered ones are well-camouflaged, hidden behind nondescript facades and identified by small "private resort" signs on their walls. There is, however, a small gay-business district along East Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs. This concentration of rainbow flag-flying stores, restaurants and bars marks the beginning of a new and vibrant gay visibility in the city. The large number of gay retirees (with more than 1,000 members, Palm Springs has the largest Prime Timers chapter in the country) and second-home weekend regulars are more likely to socialize privately than in the nightclubs. The geographic sprawl and the lack of a gay neighborhood make encounters with these locals and their guests less likely than in more localized gay resort areas.
Many aspects of the area invite comparison to other gay resorts, but those comparisons form an incomplete picture of the Palm Springs experience. Palm Springs is a perfect long-weekend winter getaway for anyone whose primary interest is relaxing in the sun. It has a broader array of facilities than most gay resorts, and it's beginning to offer a comparable number of gay-specific options. It does not have Fort Lauderdale's nightlife, but it certainly rivals Key West or Provincetown for great dining and culture and it has enough high-quality, gay-oriented offerings to fashion a fun vacation.
If you stay at a gay resort, you can enjoy a very gay getaway of the laid-back and low-key variety. Jaded New Yorkers expecting hot, hot, hot will only find that in the weather (and often the bodies), but with a little attitude adjustment should still manage to have a good time here. Much of the Palm Springs gay experience is sexually oriented. Many of the guesthouses here are at the high end of the "sexual temperature" scale, and the trend is moving even further in that direction. That trend has fueled Palm Springs' popularity growth, but it has not limited the broad range of lodging options available.
Additionally, a number of hip mainstream inns and boutique resorts have opened in Palm Springs since 2000, and many of these properties cater strongly to the gay market. If you're a guy looking to get lucky, Palm Springs is well suited to help you achieve your goal. But the heavily advertised image of Palm Springs as a place for guys on the make is just one side of this multi-faceted destination. With a little something for everyone, Palm Springs is a vacation playground almost anyone can enjoy.
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