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Who says you have to sacrifice luxury to have a true outdoor adventure? Join us on five spring getaways set in the deserts of North America--from zooming in a mini convertible across Baja California to trekking through the high desert of New Mexico with your own personal llama. We bookend each trip with lavish spa treatments and gay happy hours, making for the perfect yin-and-yang vacation of sweat and serenity. Our adventure begins, of course, in the gayest spot of all--Palm Springs.
Palm Springs is said to have a gay population seven times the national average (a higher concentration than that of San Francisco). Palm Springs boasts 28 gay resorts, with another three in neighboring Cathedral City. In the 21st century, under the leadership of gay African-American mayor Ron Oden, this desert retreat continues to play its role as a refuge from the real world. "There has always been an air of illusion about the place. Palm Springs is a mirage," states out author and resident Ray Mungo in his dirt-dishing Palm Springs Babylon. And be it out-of-this-world nature or luxurious escapism, the mirage still delivers in spades. Click here for a comprehensive list of gay guesthouses in Palm Springs.
THE ADVENTURE Joshua Tree is a world-class rock-climbing destination. The National Park Service offers information, maps, and free guides (760-367-5500). Uprising offers classes, private guides, and half-day climbs (888-CLIMB-ON). Backcountry Found, a gay-owned tour operator, leads rock-climbing and backpacking trips (415-626-6240). If climbing rocks seems too hard-core for you, climb into a snazzy red Jeep for a guided ecotour with Desert Adventures (888-440-5337).
THE SPA Grassy lawns with swaying palms, topiary, citrus trees, gazebos, white roses, fountain courtyards, multiple swimming pools, and curtained cabanas surround Estrella Spa at the 74-room Viceroy (866-891-0948, rooms from $109). Opened in the 1930s, the hotel was a back-in-the-heyday hideaway for the glitterati. It retains its retro-chic Hollywood Regency ambience with shiny black lacquer furniture, bold black-and-white wallpaper, crystal chandeliers, and mirrored walls and tables. After dark, the hotel's Citron restaurant, which offers one of the finest dining experiences in town, is pure white, candlelit, and gorgeous--especially its alluring poolside lounge area.
THE TREATMENT Hot enough? Chill at the Ice Haus, which offers an erotic way to play with clay. Step inside an igloo-like, enclosed outdoor patio and refresh under a rain shower. Then paint yourself and your partner with rosemary-mint scented clay. Bake in the sun, then come clean with exfoliating gloves and crushed ice. After another rain-shower rinse, massage lemongrass-sage-lavender lotion into your skin and spritz spearmint mist all over (60 minutes for $85, $125 for two).
GET YOUR GAY ON In a town that's estimated to be around 35% gay, pretty much every bar can be considered a gay bar. But kitschy tiki-themed Toucans is the place to really party (760-416-7584), and you may even catch out mayor Ron Oden letting his hair down there. Low-key but very local, the new sports bar Scores (760-327-0753) just opened along the gay party block of Arenas Road. Don't miss The Dinah, the legendary annual lesbian party, now in its 17th year, March 28–April 1. The following weekend over 20,000 boys show up for the enormous White Party, April 6–9. The pool parties always make a splash.