Palm Springs, California is my happy place. The city and the surrounding area provide me with the perfect mix of relaxation and entertainment. Having been to Palm Springs numerous times prior to this visit, I wanted to partake in things that I have never tried before, most notably a full-body massage at El Morocco Inn & Spa — but we will get to that later.
After checking in to Triangle Inn, a lovely mid-century modern gay guesthouse located just one mile from the Arenas Road district, I decided to unwind from my flight and take it easy by the pool. I struck up a wonderful conversation with another guest from Los Angeles who was in town for the weekend. Apparently, Palm Springs is his happy place as well. Everyone I encountered at the clothing-optional resort was very friendly and eager to give advice on the hottest spots to visit during my stay.
I decided to head to Cathedral City for happy hour. Before Palm Springs became the gay mecca of today, Cathedral City was the epicenter of LGBTQ+ culture in the desert. The area is home to an array of nightlife establishments including The Barracks, AMP Sports Lounge and One Eleven Bar, a beautifully decorated space which on the evening of my visit was celebrating female voices of the '80s. I sipped a delicious Espresso Rum-tini while grooving to music from Whitney, Madonna, and Tina.
The time change was hitting me hard, so I decided to retire early to my room at Triangle Inn and when I say room, I mean something closer to a one-bedroom apartment. The suite contained a full living room, dining room, and kitchen, in addition to a king size bed and large walk-in shower.
Triangle Inn usually offers a continental breakfast to guests but current restrictions didn’t allow them to provide that during my stay, so I grabbed breakfast the next morning at a cute LGBTQ-owned restaurant called Sunshine Café. I don’t normally eat a heavy breakfast but when I saw the Banana Nut Pancakes on the menu, I knew I had to at least give them a try. The extra calories were definitely worth it.
Today was my Zen day in the desert and I heard about this wonderful shop creating organic skin care products called The Body Deli. The business uses raw and organic superfoods to create their products which range from facial moisturizers and scrubs to hair shampoo and conditioner. I sampled a few products while there and you can actually smell the freshness of the foods they use to create the products. The store offers a variety of travel-size skincare kits that are perfect for those out-of-towners looking to bring home some product.
My next destination was El Morocco Inn & Spa, located in the town of Desert Hot Springs, known for the mineral properties in its water. I decided to indulge myself with a two-hour Moroccan Mystical Ritual, which begins with dry brushing to stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory system and provide exfoliation. My body was then covered in organic Rhassoul clay from the Atlas Mountains. As I lay on the massage table, the clay began to harden, and I felt like I was wrapped in a cocoon. At times it was a bit uncomfortable, but I knew the end result would be wonderful. I was then asked to jump in the shower to rinse the clay off my body before the Moroccan Rain massage began. This is a process of using a raindrop technique to apply seven different essential oils along the spine, which all aid in detoxification.
Feeling refreshed, I was ready to enjoy a night on the town. I met up with my friend Brad Fuhr who publishes the Gay Desert Guide, a one-stop-spot for everything you need to know about LGBTQ+ culture and nightlife in the Palm Springs area. We enjoyed dinner at Trio, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I began my meal with the Roasted Beat Salad and then ordered the fish special, while Brad went for the Pesto Crusted King Salmon served over squash and angel hair pasta. Consistency is key and you can never go wrong with a meal at Trio.
No visit to Palm Springs would be complete without partying on Arenas Road, the LGBTQ+ cultural and nightlife hub of the city. Coincidentally, the owner of Hunter’s was in town (there is also a Hunter’s in Wilton Manors, Florida). Mark Hunter and I had met briefly in Florida many years ago and spent the evening reconnecting. We had such a good time chatting that before I knew it, midnight had rolled around, and it was time for bed. I know what you’re thinking, midnight is early, but I was still suffering from jet lag and had a full schedule of activities to get to the following day.
I woke up early to visit multiple public art exhibitions around the downtown area. The days were really starting to heat up and it topped 100 degrees the day prior, so I wanted to get to the art before the heat became unbearable. There are many art displays and murals around the Palm Springs Art Museum that are worth checking out.
If you happen to be in town on a Sunday evening, there is no better place to be than Oscar’s for their world-famous T-Dance. The iconic party takes place every Sunday from 4-8pm and recently began again after almost a year-long hiatus. I was told people from around the world visit Palm Springs specifically to attend T-Dance at Oscar’s.
Of course, dancing will make you hungry, so for your final meal in the desert, head to Roly China Fusion, a multi-level space which also hosts a weekly Drag Brunch on Sunday. While there, you must try the Lobster Dumplings, which are served in a delicious truffle butter broth with shitake mushrooms and napa cabbage. It was one of the best dishes I’ve had in Palm Springs.
Palm Springs Pride Festival is scheduled to take place this year on November 6-7. After a year off, I’m sure it will be a very festive occasion. Start making plans early as reservations at Palm Springs’ numerous guest houses tend to sell out during this time. If you have never been to Palm Springs, I’m sure you’ll find it to be your happy place too. To learn more, go to visitgreaterpalmsprings.com and to book your Palm Springs gaycation, visit Orbitz.com/pride.
Enjoy the journey!
Joey Amato runs PrideJourneys.com and writes the syndicated column of the same name.