“You’re all a vision in white!” intoned an on-fire Lady Gaga before a throbbing sea of gay humanity at Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party in Palm Springs. And right she was: the town that set the stage for the young, uber-talented lady’s meteoric rise to fame seemed momentarily transformed this April into a temple whose delirious card-carrying pagans were decked out in their brightest whites to fete the hottest gay icon since…Madonna?
If the White Party represents the apotheosis (fancy Greek word, I know, but, ahem, I’m still working the temple motif) of gay-friendly Palm Springs — and it does — then it's worth planning well in advance, for you can find a relaxed rainbow vibe in this desert town any time of the year. Of course, when it’s winter everywhere else, it feels like paradise in the Cali desert, but as temps rise from May to October, hotel deals abound. Here you can always count on time slowing down, with life centering around the swimming pool and Lady Gaga, I mean, sun worship. Let’s not be pokerfaced about it: Palm Springs is mountains, blissful breezes, palm trees, and powering down.
The newest Palm Springs hotel to make a splash is the Ace, brought to you by the folks behind the Ace hotel in Portland and Seattle. The shabby-as-chic aesthetic may not appeal to everyone, but the room rates are attractive and the “swim club” pool scene is hopping (expect your cocktail to be brought to you by a guy on a skateboard). The Riviera is an older hotel on the north side of town where that goofy ‘60s classic Palm Springs Weekend was filmed. It recently got a hip makeover, with lots of luscious mod orange in the lobby and high-octane resto done up in ballroom glam red. But to really sink into the P.S. vibe, I love gay friendly Korakia, a little slice of Marrakesh in the desert, or any of the little gay resorts in the Warm Sands area.
Palm Springs is famous for its wealth of mid-century modern architecture, and you’ll get that groovy vibe at The Tropicale, a hopping 21st century supperhouse across the street from the post office. You don’t have to eat to enjoy the huge bar area, which spills out onto a big patio in the back. Then there’s Dink’s, whose moniker is a cheeky nod to the “double income no children” crowd that defines so much of this desert community. Yes they’ve got a great martini menu, and yes there is a fabulous terrace with private cabanas, but, OMG, they have homemade potato chips that are to die for. We’re talking thick-cut spud slices dusted with parmesan cheese.
The baskets of chips I devoured at Dink’s didn’t leave me with enough room to actually dine there, but I will say that for truly phenomenal fare you should check out Cheeky’s, which is also on North Palm Canyon Drive (no. 622). It is currently the hippest place for breakfast or breezy brunch in town. Service is slow and it’s only open Wednesdays through Sundays. But who cares when we’re talking Tillamook cheddar and applewood bacon stuffed waffles with maple crunchies on top…a Spanish-style tuna sandwich made with poached Tuna Conserva, caper remoulade, sliced organic eggs and arugula…a ‘Devils on Horseback’ Sandwich with Indio dates, prosciutto, sweet gorgonzola and watercress…graze at leisure on the sunny terrace over a fresh lemonade, and fuel up for a stroll around the mid-century modern design shops in the vicinity. Later on, you can waltz into one of the gay watering holes on Arenas Road and just dance.
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Anthony Grant created the first travel blog for TV station France 24 in Paris and is former Senior Editor at Forbes Traveler (where he now contributes features) in New York. Check out http://voyagiste.wordpress.com/.