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  WINDY CITY TIMES

TRAVEL Gay getaway to Palm Springs
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2015-12-15

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With cold weather approaching in Chicago now is the time to take a trip to the desert paradise of Palm Springs, California. The name is said to come from Spanish explorers who described it as being the palm of God's hand. As a tourist there is a lot to grab onto.

American Airlines has direct flights to this balmy destination from Chicago. Just walking through the open ceiling airport warms the soul as the dry heat and palm trees are in stark contrast to the Windy City.

There are peak times to visit Palm Springs throughout the year to center around events. For example there is an International Film Festival in January that grows bigger every year. The White Party for gays and the Dinah Shore Weekend for lesbians are both held in April with huge numbers of people. Although Pride is practically every day in this town it officially arrives the first weekend in November with a festival paired with it to celebrate.

While over a dozen new hotels have opened in the past two years, the private resorts are the place to be and be seen. Choosing the right resort can make or break a trip to Palm Springs. There is a variety to suit almost every taste like one specifically for the Bear community or couples who travel together.

For lesbian tourists there is only one option in Casitas Laquitas. This award winning resort keeps their market private and the interiors have a down home feel with unique decor. Along with a standard kitchen one space has a private backyard with a spa with enough room to have a gathering of friends.

The upscale Hacienda at Warm Sands has villa styled rooms that were spacious and private. Happy hour was lively and teeming with activity during the time I visited.

My favorite resort was the Santiago. The masculine style and privacy that still was a little cruisy at the same time earned a place in my heart. There are many owners that have moved to Palm Springs to start a new life while renovating a property such as the case with Santiago.

I stayed at POSH Palm Springs Inn that was basically a bed and breakfast. POSH caters to straight visitors but is gay owned. It is not clothing optional and a little off the beaten path to the gay bars although there was one in walking distance with Toucans Tiki Lounge. The vibe of the lounge is definitely worth checking out. It has a dance floor and an outdoor area. You might catch a go-go boy or a drag show depending on the night you go.

The Arenas Road area is comparable but smaller than our Boystown. It included a variety of bars and stores. At GayMartUSA located there one can find a tank top in every color imaginable.

Buy some leather gear to wear at the Tool Shed or The Barracks if that is your thing. Leather Pride overlaps with Halloween and makes things even busier. The Arena area is blocked off for the holiday while supporting a massive costume contest.

Hunters closed shop in Elk Grove locally but it is alive and well in Palm Springs with the owner running this one as well as the Fort Lauderdale location. This Hunters has drag shows, music videos, and a nice lesbian following.

In Downtown Palm Canyon Drive the shopping district can be overwhelming and with the new construction there is only more on the way. A Walk of Stars cover the sidewalks along the streets on this heavily trafficked area so look out below. If walking is not your cup of tea, one option to get around the city is to hop on the Buzz trolley. It is free and runs every 15 minutes at designated stops.

There are some top notch restaurants that must be sampled while in town. Patios are crucial to business when things cool off in the evenings. The hot spot eatery Tropicale was no exception with a bustling outdoor area and energetic servers. The southern fried chicken marinated in buttermilk is a must try and the specialty drinks had a lot variety on their menu.

Wake up to Cafe Europa's hearty egg sandwich with maple honey ham. Ernest Coffee breaks the coffee chain, providing pastry and coffee to morning diners. Maybe munch on some brunch at EIGHT4NINE Restaurant & Lounge where everything is white and clean focusing on the beverages and food. Their signature drink is made with Crater Lake Vodka and muddled strawberries.

LULU California Bistro was my absolute favorite. The mostly Latin staff were friendly and festive. The food was high quality and well made, including the sweet mojitos. Another spot with a Mexican flair was Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill. Chef Ernesto Gastelum mixes styles with his ingredients giving some offerings that are not standard for this kind of cuisine. The margaritas and carne asada were delicious. Don't forget the drag brunch for entertainment there on Sundays.

Right across the street from LULU lies Kaiser Grille. It has a circular shape to the space to match their round pizza pies. The wait staff were on top of their game.

For a historical excursion during the day, hop in an open air jeep booked at www.Red-Jeep.com to brush up on gay icons and see where Cher and Liberace, among others, lived. Many celebrities choose to get away from Hollywood by purchasing property in Palm Springs and can be spotted around town.

More active tourists may prefer a hearty hike up the Indian Canyons with over 100 miles of trails to see. An aerial tramway gives a bird's eye view that rotates while journeying up Chino Canyon climbing over 8,000 feet in 10 minutes.

The Palm Springs Art Museum is the largest cultural institution in the Coachella Valley with 28 galleries and brings in some excellent temporary exhibits such as a high heels project that was recently featured.

Speaking of heels, the supper club at the Purple Room had a Judy Garland impersonator that was hilarious and talented the night I went. This is the place to sip on a martini and remember days gone by.

Palm Springs gives the LGBT traveler a place to feel safe with excellent dining and resort options. It may be the gayest place on earth in terms of population and activities. Visit www.visitpalmsprings.com to start off your pink vacation and find out today.


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