Palm Springs, California is quite simply one of the gayest places on earth. The desert city less than two hours east of Los Angeles attracts locals and tourists eager to socialize over cocktails at gay bars, party at the annual pride festival, and soak in the sun poolside at one of the many men’s resorts in town.
The glamorous history of Palm Springs – this is where the Rat Pack and other Hollywood stars of the ’60 came to escape – adds to its appeal. Many celebs still live in Palm Springs, and you can even take bus tours to check out their homes.
The current Palm Springs population is around 48,000, and it’s estimated that as much as half of that number could be LGBT. The five-person city council is entirely LGBT, marking the first time that has occurred in an American city.
The city gets quite busy on the weekends as folks from LA and other nearby cities head to Palm Springs for a big gay weekend getaway. Weekdays are less chaotic in town but can still be a lot of fun. The airport is located very close to the city, so it’s a quick and easy ride into town.
What’s the best time to visit Palm Springs? That depends what you’re looking for. From June through September, the average high temperatures exceed 100 degrees F (it can be much hotter at times!), so those months are considered the offseason. But you can still have a lot of fun in the summer if you keep a cold drink in your hand, don’t stray too far from the pool during the afternoon, and go out to party at night. The winter months have more comfortable temperatures, and the city gets a lot busier during that time.
For a Palm Springs map focused on gay businesses, check out the image below. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. The map lists points of interest, bars and clubs, and retail and dining options.
Keep reading for the most complete gay Palm Springs information, with reviews and descriptions of the gay bars, resorts, businesses, organizations, and annual events in town!
Gay Palm Springs: Table of Contents
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Gay Resorts in Palm Springs
Here’s a list of some of my top recommendations for places to stay in town. The majority of these resorts are swimsuit-optional and cater to adult gay men only. I visited a handful of men’s resorts in town and noticed that more than half of the guests took advantage of the clothing-optional policy while swimming or lying in the southern California sun, but many did not. It’s not a big deal either way. Do whatever make you comfortable!
Some resorts are totally laid-back places to chill and chat with new friends, while others have more of a cruisy vibe. So do your research and read reviews on places like Yelp if you’re seeking a specific atmosphere. Some also offer day passes for non-guests to use the facilities.
There are plenty of non-gay hotels in Palm Springs, and you can find private B&Bs and guest houses as well. But that would defeat the purpose of vacationing in Palm Springs, wouldn’t it? Trust me, if you’re visiting the LGBT desert paradise, you’ll find it much more enjoyable to stay with other gay men to make new friends and enjoy the sun in the nude at a private resort.
This is just a partial listing of the gay Palm Springs resorts; see the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels page for additional options, such as the All Worlds Resort and Desert Paradise Resort Hotel. For more info, visit the websites linked at the end of each blurb.
Santiago is generally regarded as one of the best clothing-optional gay resorts in Palm Springs, and after staying here for a few days, I emphatically agree with that assessment. The amenities are great, including a hot tub and a large, heated pool – the biggest at any gay resort in Palm Springs. The grounds feature beautiful landscaping, and the place feels luxurious and intimate at the same time.
Santiago goes the extra mile to take care of its guests, offering free bicycle rentals, two-person hammocks under the palm trees, and not just free breakfast but free catered lunches and all-day snacks as well. The personal touches on the part of staff and ownership to make guests as comfortable as possible are part of what separates Santiago from many of the other resorts and hotels in Palm Springs.
Some gay resorts only get busy during the weekends, but I visited Santiago mid-week during the off-peak months and was pleased to see a large number of guests at breakfast and around the pool each day. So if you’re looking to connect with other gay travelers while in Palm Springs, Santiago Resort is a great choice. Website
Hacienda at Warm Sands
The Hacienda bills itself as one of the most luxurious gay hotels in the world. Its prices reflect this added level of comfort, which includes two swimming pools, personalized extras for anniversaries or birthdays, and a remarkable 1 to 1 guest to staff ratio. This is not typically thought of as a party resort – the Hacienda at Warm Sands operates with the slogan “Luxe, Exclusive, Quiet, Secluded, Professional.” The Hacienda consists of only 10 suites, and like Santiago, it provides catered lunches. Website
INNdulge Palm Springs
INNdulge is among the most popular gay clothing-optional resorts in Palm Springs thanks to its large jacuzzi and saltwater pool, as well as its long history. Located in the Warm Sands part of town that is home to numerous men’s resorts, the INNdulge property was built in 1958 and remodeled in the ‘90s, when it transformed into a swimsuit-optional men’s resort. Website
La Dolce Vita Resort & Spa
La Dolce Vita is another solid option for travelers seeking a luxury experience. Included among the 18 guest rooms are some large suites with full kitchens. A big draw here is the men’s spa, which offers an extensive list of services, including various types of massages and body scrubs. Non-guests who book spa treatments and have access to the resort’s two pools and steam room until 6 pm. Website
Vista Grande Resort
The recently-renovated grounds at Vista Grande are among the most lushly-adorned in Palm Springs, with a lagoon, waterfalls, palm trees, and lots of other gorgeous desert plants. Vista Grande is one of a handful of PS gay properties with a steam room, and its location in the Warm Sands District makes it a popular choice for vacationers. Website
El Mirasol Villas
El Mirasol is one of the most storied Palm Springs resorts with a fascinating history. Howard Hughes built the compound in the ‘40s, Bob Hope reportedly owned it in the ‘50s, and it has been gay-owned and operated since the mid ‘70s. Today El Mirasol features two clothing-optional pools, a spa, and a steam room, as well as bungalows and studios that really give off a “desert” vibe in terms of their décor and furnishings. Website
Another 1950s property, Escape features a clean, white look to its buildings and poolside chairs. Escape has one of the larger hot tubs in the desert, and a handful of its deluxe king rooms feature enclosed outdoor patios, which is an awesome amenity that not every resort can offer. The resort has a laid-back vibe and also hosts a weekend social hour that’s prefect for meeting other travelers. Website
I really enjoyed the cozy and close-knit vibe of the Triangle Inn, which has eight suites ranging from studios to a two-bedroom with a fully equipped kitchen. The Triangle Inn opened in 1958 as the Impala Lodge and still carries that mid-century modern feel. The amenities here (pool, jacuzzi) are similar to some of the larger Palm Springs gay resorts, and the prices are competitive as well. Website
Owned by a pair of British transplants, Chaps Inn merits a mention because it’s the only gay Palm Springs resort specifically catering to the bear and leather communities. A certain segment of travelers will appreciate the fact that, in addition to the basic amenities, all 10 guest rooms have ceiling hooks, and slings are available for rent. Chaps is off the beaten path from most of the men’s resorts. Located slightly north of downtown, it’s still close to everything. Website
Palm Springs Pride
While most American cities hold their gay pride events in June, that time of year is just too hot in Palm Springs for drag queens and circuit party guys to go marching through the streets. So the desert city holds its pride festival every November. It’s the longest-running LGBT festival in the Coachella Valley, having taken place for more than 30 years.
The 2018 Palm Springs Pride event was held from November 1-4 with the theme “Youth Power for Change.” The weekend featured a Stonewall Equality Concert, a candlelight vigil and march in memory of hate crimes victims, a pride festival including a block party on Arenas Road, and a Sunday morning pride parade. All events were free, and sponsors included Alaska Airlines, Lyft, Jetblue, Bud Light, and Desert AIDS Project.
Expect the 2019 pride event to held from November 1-3. Obviously, if you plan on visiting for pride, you’ll want to book your lodging as early as possible, because the city gets overloaded with tourists!
Gay Bars in Palm Springs
Gay nightlife in Palm Springs ranges from sports bars to divey leather bars to casual, trendy establishments. Many, but not all, of the Palm Springs gay bars are clustered on E. Arenas Road, which is where you’ll want to go if you’re looking to do some bar hopping.
In my experience, the patrons at these places were reasonably friendly if somewhat cliquey, which is pretty standard for gay bars across the country. Expect to see a higher percentage of 45+ aged men here than in gay bars in other cities, simply due to Palm Springs demographics.
These are the gay bars in Palm Springs proper as of December 2018. If you’re willing to venture over to nearby Cathedral City, you can find a few more (Trunks, Barracks, Roost, Studio One 11, Score.)
Streetbar was fun. It’s slightly more upscale than some of the others on this list but still carries a pretty laid-back vibe. The bar seems a bit more modern and trendy than the other spots, with a really nice patio. When I visited, much of the crowd tended to dress in kind of a “smart casual” style.
Streetbar seemed to be the most popular gay bar in town, at least during the weekdays I was in the city, and it was probably my favorite spot. Definitely put this Palm Springs gay bar on your list for an evening of bar hopping. Take note that (surprisingly) it’s a cash-only bar.
This place also has karaoke Sunday through Wednesday nights! It’s not a traditional karaoke bar – probably 80% of the patrons completely ignored the singing and just focused on their friends. But you can still have a good time at Streetbar standing on their elevated stage and performing.
Where can you see a drag show in Palm Springs? RetroRoom may be your best bet. Weekly events here include drag shows, Drag Queen Bingo, and Drag Queen Karaoke. Notice the theme?
Regular non-drag karaoke happens several nights a week as well, so it’s a great place to belt out a Culture Club or Pet Shop Boys ‘80s gem at the top of your lungs. RetroRoom has some awesomely-named mixed drinks, like the Luv Shack, Karma Karmel Chameleon, It’s Reigning Men, and Spyce Up Your Life.
Hunters Nightclub has been one of the top gay Palm Springs clubs for some time now. They also have go-go boys and drag shows on occasion.
In recent months, visitors have said that the crowd at Hunters is becoming more diverse, meaning more straight. Straight women, especially, have been showing up more often for bachelorette parties or just to have a fun night of dancing. So whether you’d enjoy Hunters may depend on just how gay you want your dance club to be.
When I visited Chill Bar, I couldn’t quite get a read on the vibe of this place or its patrons. Some of the video screens were playing music videos by cool groups like Galantis and the Ting Tings, while others were showing sports. The crowd seemed to be equally across-the-spectrum, not fitting into any one particular demographic group.
Having a diverse crowd that doesn’t conform to a particular stereotype can be a good thing. It does live up to its name as a place to just chill out. This place seemed better for grabbing a casual drink with acquaintances, rather than having a crazy wild party night.
Interestingly, Chill Bar has more positive Yelp reviews than Street Bar, so perhaps the weekends are better at Chill Bar. They apparently have dancers on Friday nights. I was only somewhat feeling this place, but I’ll give it another shot if I return on a weekend.
If piano bars are your thing, check out Stacy’s, one of the newest gay bars in Palm Springs. This place offers quite a different vibe from the other bars. Piano bars obviously have a more lively and fun vibe than a regular dive bar.
Stacy’s opened in October 2017 and visitors have praised its laid-back atmosphere and strong cocktails. Find Stacy’s right on Arenas Road in the heart of the gay district.
There are no Palm Springs bath houses, but those in a frisky mood may want to head to Tool Shed, particularly on its busy Thursday underwear night, where you’re likely to meet someone who’s interested in more than just conversation. Tool Shed has more of a dive bar feel, which is good for folks seeking something less fancy than a martini bar. Expect a decent amount of leather and bears among the crowd here.
Tool Shed is slightly away from the center of Palm Springs gay nightlife, located roughly a mile south of Arenas Road. On the plus side, that makes it only about a 10-minute walk from the clusters of gay resorts around Warm Sands Drive and East San Lorenzo Road.
Quadz (formerly known as SpurLine) is known for its showtunes nights, which take place weekly on Monday, Friday, and Saturday, as of this writing. “Karaoke cabaret” holds down Thursday and Sunday, while Wednesday is “cowboy country.”
Quadz has mixed reviews, with some gushing over the place and others hating on it. Unfortunately, its owner sometimes leaves snarky, mean responses to bad Yelp reviews. So consider that before deciding if this is a gay business you want to patronize.
Toucans Tiki Lounge
Located two miles north of the Arenas District, Toucans is worth visiting for its weekly themed events. Monday is Latin Fever, with drag shows and dancing. Tuesday and Saturday have dancing and gogo boys.
Sunday is a big day at Toucans, with big-time drag shows every week. The weekly Tommi Rose & the Playgirls drag revue takes place twice every Sunday night (8 and 10 pm) and offers tickets in advance for those who want to guarantee themselves a seat.
Gay Shops and Businesses
Get your cute underwear, tanks, and short shorts at Gay Mart, which sits right in the middle of the gay bars on Arenas Road. This surprisingly large store has tons of clothing and even some gifts, all of which cater to the LGBT crowd. It’s also open late on weekends. I’ve never seen a bigger selection in terms of colors and sizes and styles when it comes to underwear!
Just Fabulous is one of the coolest independent shops in Palm Springs. This trendy store sells a large selection of gifts, such as greeting cards, coffee table books, candles, music, calendars, and home décor items. The store has a quirky vibe and you can often find celebrity book signings taking place.
For more than 15 years, Palm Springs bears have visited Bear Wear for gay-oriented clothes including swimwear and tshirts. They have an online store where you can see their current selection of clothing. Many of the shirts feature bear-inspired logos or drawings, while others are designed to make political statements.
The name of Gear Leather says it all. Similar to Rough Trade, this place sells high-quality leather wear. Find it on E. Sunny Dunes Road near Tool Shed.
Right near Gear Leather is Q Trading, which specializes in books, videos, and gifts targeted for a queer audience. Q Trading boasts of its large book selection, including biographies, novels, new releases and classics.
Rough Trade Gear
Like Gay Mart and Bear Wear, Rough Trade is right on Arenas Road in the heart of everything. The store sells fetish wear, toys, underwear, and other related gear.
Destination PSP is a great place to find Palm Springs-branded souvenirs, including glassware, tote bags, and pins. Though this is not strictly a gay store, they sell lots of queer-themed merch. Recent items highlighted on their Instagram page include a “Make America Gay Again” hat and a “United Against Hate” rainbow tshirt.
Gay-Friendly Palm Springs Restaurants
Most every Palm Springs restaurant could be considered gay-friendly, but here are a handful that may hold some extra appeal to the LGBT community due to their location, ambience, clientele, or events (drag brunch!)
The bar/restaurant Blackbook is sometimes classified as a gay bar because of its location on Arenas Road, but it doesn’t specifically claim to be a gay bar. It’s just a place that serves really excellent food.
A lot of the menu could be considered “elevated comfort food” – dishes like New York Steak Sliders, Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich, and Disco Superfries. Blackbook’s cocktails, such as the lemon vodka concoction Hello Kitty Kitty, are thoughtful and fancy, and the prices reflect that.
The Purple Room
The Purple Room has been around forever. Elvis performed here. So did Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, and other Old Hollywood luminaries.
Today, it remains a popular jazz and cabaret club. It’s a great place for tourists to catch a performance and soak in some history while they’re in town, while enjoying a fine dining menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients. Reservations are encouraged since the cozy room can get crowded.
Wang’s in the Desert
Wang’s is a very popular spot for Pan Asian cuisine not far from the heart of gay Palm Springs. The restaurant does a lot of merchandising, and as you can imagine, tshirts and hats with “WANGS” across the front sell pretty well in this city.
Like Blackbook, Wang’s is not officially a “gay restaurant,” but it caters to its crowd with occasional weekend drag brunches and a Boys Night Out happy hour on the patio from 3 to 8 pm on Fridays. Weeknights feature performances from live musicians.
Lulu California Bistro
Open from early morning until late night, Lulu is a place all Palm Springs visitors should check out. The whimsical interior, affordable prices, and sizable patio perfect for people-watching are all part of Lulu’s appeal.
The food covers a wide range of cuisine types, from Mexican chilaquiles to baby back ribs to seafood chowder. The only drawback is you may have a difficult time deciding what to eat. There’s just such a huge number of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and pasta dishes on the menu!
Oscar’s Café and Bar
If Oscar’s is still in business when you read this, head over there on a Sunday, when it becomes the gayest restaurant in town. The fun starts with “Bitchiest Brunch” shows at 11 am and 1230 pm. Then comes its famous Tea Dance (or gay disco) at 4 pm, when the courtyard gets packed with folks dancing and socializing.
Here’s your spot for a romantic, upscale dinner. Swanky and chic are the words that best describe Eight4Nine, which has been serving up inventive food in Palm Springs for three years now (try the Beef Tenderloin or Pear Salad!)
Those who are interested in art and architecture will enjoy taking a minute to check out Eight4Nine’s many side rooms. The ornately-decorated dining areas will make you question whether this building really was once just a post office.
Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill
You can never have too many drag brunches, can you? Rio Azul serves up Mexican fare and drag performances at its Sunday Desert Divas Drag Brunch. Enjoy Vanity Halston and other female impersonators putting on the moves while you down your bottomless mimosas or azul margaritas. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
The menu includes familiar dishes like fajitas and enchiladas, and authentic entrees such as Cochinita Pibil and Camarones Rellenos. Muy delicioso!
Palm Springs Gay Events and Organizations
In addition to Palm Springs Pride, these are some of the prominent annual LGBT events and groups in the city.
Cinema Diverse LGBTQ Film Festival
September is the time to check out short films and feature movies at Cinema Diverse. Offerings at the four-day film festival run the gamut from documentaries to love stories to personal narratives to historical dramas, highlighting every part of the LGBTQ community.
Palm Springs Leather Pride
A week before the formal pride weekend in Palm Springs, Leather Pride takes over with pool parties at the clothing-optional men’s resorts, and tons of leather-themed events at bars and facilities across the city. Your only challenge will be choosing which of the many events to attend during the late October festival.
International Bear Convergence
In February, bears and their admirers arrive in town for the International Bear Convergence. The IBC has dances, parties, and all the events you’d expect during any pride event, except these parties are specifically aimed at the bear audience.
Cathedral City LGBT Days
In late March, nearby Cathedral City hosts its LGBT Days event, featuring cabaret and drag performances, festival exhibitors, appearance by the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, a Pride Dance Party and a Fetish Ball. Events take place at many of the Cathedral City gay bars such as Barracks and Trunks.
Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend
The Dinah bills itself as “the largest lesbian event and music festival in the world.” It’s hard to verify such a claim, but it’s definitely a huge event and a great social and party opportunity for women in a town often dominated by gay men. Lasting almost a week, the Dinah features dance parties, pool parties, and much more. The fest takes place every April.
White Party Weekend
The infamous White Party takes Palm Springs by storm in late April, bringing an estimated 30,000 dudes to town for one of the largest gay parties on the planet. The dance music festival isn’t cheap, but those willing to splurge for tickets are sure to have a memorable weekend.
Palm Springs Hot Rodeo
It’s a big old gay rodeo! The annual Palm Springs Hot Rodeo in May is not a typical rodeo. Sure, there are the standard competitive rodeo events at the equestrian park. But then there are the gay dance parties, cowboy pool parties, and live music performances that fill out the rest of the weekend.
The LGBT Community Center of the Desert
In a city with a gay population as high as that of Palm Springs, the LGBT Center is going to be a busy place. Located on North Palm Canyon, the center offers the typical range of services, including mental health programs, support groups, Palm Springs gay events, and social gatherings in the Coachella Valley.
Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus
Established in 1999 with a group of just 24 men, the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus has grown dramatically over the years. The chorus stages concerts and performances throughout the year.
Lesbian Events and Groups
Bars and organizations specifically for lesbians in Palm Springs are less numerous than those for gay men. Some bars hold lesbian nights, such as the regular female party Velvet-PS. The LGBT Center is a good resource for social events like mixers and hikes. Annual events include the previously-mentioned Dinah Shore Weekend, the Left Coast Lesbian Literary Conference and the sexually-charged Desire event. For many more options, see Palm Springs Tourism’s blog post on lesbian happenings in the city.
Tourist Attractions in Palm Springs
If you’re looking for some non-gay stuff to fill your days, check out some of these Palm Springs attractions.
Palm Springs Art Museum
Sprinkle some culture into your visit by hitting up the art museum. The clean, modern facility has an impressive range of objects on display, including contemporary art, glass sculptures, and Native American paintings. Don’t forget to visit the outdoor sculpture gardens!
The tramway is a can’t-miss activity in Palm Springs. Opened in 1963, the rotating tram car takes visitors from 2643 feet elevation in the Coachella Valley up to an elevation of 8516 feet in the San Jacinto Mountains. The views are incredible, and so is the hiking. Bring a jacket!
Elvis Presley House
Elvis and Priscilla Presley spent their honeymoon here, and it remains a hot tourist attraction. Drive to the house to take a guided tour by appointment, or join a celebrity house tour to see it along with the former and current homes of celebs like Barbra Streisand, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Dean Martin.
The Palm Springs Walk of Stars
You’ll notice the stars on the sidewalk throughout downtown PS. For more than 25 years, the Walk of Stars has recognized famous folks who once lived in the area. Honorees include Presidents Reagan, Ford, and Eisenhower, and legendary celebs such as Rock Hudson, Merv Griffin, Liberace, and Marilyn Monroe.
Joshua Tree National Park
Who’s up for a day trip?! One of my favorite national parks sits less than an hour away from Palm Springs. Joshua Tree has those famous trees, plus interesting hikes, campgrounds, and some massive rock outcrops to climb on. Even if time is limited, you can see a big chunk of the park in a single day. Check out my one-day guide to Joshua Tree National Park.