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Exclusive | Palm Springs: Where to Stay

Exclusive | Palm Springs: Where to Stay

We continue to visit Palm Springs regularly to provide you with the most up-to-date ratings on more than 30 guesthouses in this desert community.

We continue to visit Palm Springs regularly to provide you with the most up-to-date ratings on more than 30 guesthouses in this desert community. The best news about Palm Springs guesthouses is that there are more of them and they continue to get better and better. Many guesthouse managers have adopted a cheerful and cooperative "more-the-merrier" attitude toward other guesthouses, helping to reduce competitive anxiety from much of the scene.

Change seems to be inherent in the warm desert air; many guesthouses have expanded into adjacent properties, are renovating their existing buildings or are under new management -- often with an eye to restoring them back to their mid-century design, since Palm Springs is becoming a world hot spot for the appreciation of '50s and '60s architecture. New ownership, unfortunately, doesn't always mean better ownership.

Most guesthouses are far more intimate than hotels, and they closely reflect the personalities of their owners and managers (especially if the proprietors live on site, as many do). This is a critical point, as it makes finding a guesthouse that matches your personality and interests crucial to enjoying your visit. For example, some may find the amateurish oil painting of Joan Crawford leering at them from over their bed at night a bit unsettling; if you think that would be divine, we know just the place for you. The same is true for the sexual temperature at guesthouses. Some are so sexually charged that you may be propositioned all day, every day, regardless of how you conduct yourself.

One interesting trend has been the change in meal service. The local government, though generally receptive to gay establishments, has a rather Byzantine set of regulations regarding outdoor food and liquor service. Clothing-optional establishments are prohibited from making liquor service a function of renting a room (though they can give drinks away, especially if management lives on site). They cannot, therefore, advertise a happy hour or cocktail service, though it may be a daily occurrence. Additionally, hot food such as omelets cannot be prepared outside, forcing guesthouses without dedicated kitchen facilities to serve a simpler Continental breakfast or a catered lunch prepared off-site. Enforcement has been as irregular as compliance, so chances are you'll get decent food and liquor service wherever you stay.

The landscape of accommodations in Palm Springs is ever-changing. With so many guesthouses in the area, innkeepers are constantly preening and upgrading their properties to make them more covetable and to differentiate themselves. That said, the quality of accommodations in Palm Springs runs on a bell curve, with the majority hovering on the border between three- and four-palm quality, and inns within each of those categories are extremely diverse.

The gay accommodations still range from elegant to dumpy, from small, four-room houses to nearly 50-room compounds, from prudish retreats to iniquitous playgrounds. Your choice of accommodations is more crucial here than at most destinations, and our ratings and comments are geared to helping make sure you end up at the resort right for you.

While our "sexual temperature" category should help guide you to a comfortable and suitable environment, remember that the atmosphere at any given resort is a function of the guests there at any particular time. Nearly all gay guesthouses have stopped issuing day passes to non-residents, so choose the more infamously frisky establishments if sexual temperature is important to you, since you won't be able to hang out at the others.

A large number of the guesthouses have a reputation for being sexually charged, but there are options at all ends of the scale. If you're going for Dinah Shore or Easter Weekend White Party (see PLAY), you'll find it much more convenient to stay at the events' host hotels, which in the past have included the Marquis, the Riviera and the Wyndham. Although many attendees stay elsewhere and just hang out by those pools, if you're going for the action you might as well stay in the middle of it. One more note about temperature: Outdoor misting is essential for summer sunbathing. Virtually all resorts have it -- those that don't are noted. Also, many guesthouses now feature wireless Internet access for workaholics or other computer junkies.

If an all-gay stay isn't your thing, scroll down past the Palm-rated guesthouses to our top mainstream property picks.

All rooms have televisions, phones and VCRs unless noted specifically. Meals: B = breakfast; CB = continental breakfast; ECB= expanded continental breakfast; L= lunch; C= cocktail hour or hors d'oeuvres of some sort. All resorts are in Palm Springs, except those denoted CC in their addresses; these are in Cathedral City.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

Part Seven | Part Eight

Palm Springs: Introduction
Palm Springs: When and How to Go
Palm Springs: Where to Eat
Palm Springs: Where to Play/Meet
Palm Springs: What to See & Do
Palm Springs: Resources

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Joe Okonkwo