LGBT Places Reviewed: Palm Springs, CA

By Emelina Minero

Queer people are everywhere, but queer communities and scenes aren’t always evident everywhere you go. If you’re planning on traveling somewhere for a gay ‘ol time, read our column “LGBT Places Reviewed” to check out our queer reviews of places we’ve traveled to. Here is my queer review of Palm Springs, CA.

Palm Springs, CA

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Convention Center Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Convention Center Facebook Page

Palm Springs is known for old rich people and old gay people, largely gay men. Those are Palm Springs’ largest demographics, but with retro hotels and new locales opening up, more young people are moving to Palm Springs, and there are queer events year-round that bring in people of all ages.

Palm Springs is one of the gayest cities in the world. Somewhere between 48 to 55 percent of Palm Springs’ population is gay. Due to the high gay population, many of the businesses are gay-owned: from boutiques to restaurants to bars. Palm Springs also has over 20 LGBT resorts, and all of their mainstream hotels are extremely gay-friendly. Also, many council members on the Palm Springs City Council are gay or lesbian, including Palm Springs’ former mayor.

Outside of being extremely gay, Palm Springs is extremely friendly, open and great for outdoor lovers. The San Jacinto Mountain Range is Palm Springs’ backyard. If you like the outdoors and being active, and if you could only do one thing while in Palm Springs, I highly recommend Desert Adventure’s Jeep Tours.

The San Andreas Fault Jeep Eco-Tour and the Indian Canyons Jeep & Hiking Eco-Tour are the two most popular. I’ve been on the Indian Canyons Jeep & Hiking Eco-Tour, and I loved it. It was an extraordinarily windy day during my jeep tour, but despite the wind I had a fantastic time. I loved the views, the photos I took, the information about the land that my guide shared, the company I was with (other queer female writers) and I absolutely loved the hiking. Everything was gorgeous. I recommend any of the hiking jeep tours.

Palm Springs Queer Press Trip Jeep Tour

Myself and other queer writers in a cave on the Indian Canyons jeep tour.

They even have gay jeep tours, which are basically the same jeep tours, but with a gay guide and gay tour group, with the exception of the Historical Perspective on Gay Palm Springs jeep tour, also known as the Gay Icons Tour. That jeep tour is filled with gay history relating to Palm Springs and Hollywood. It’s fascinating, and being among a group of exclusively queer people is freeing, although non-queer identifying people can also go on the gay jeep tours.

Gay Icon's Tour: Marilyn Monroe's former home

Desert Adventure’s Gay Icon’s Tour. Marilyn Monroe’s former home.

Palm Springs has a lot going on. It looks like a quaint tourist town with a cute and hopping downtown district that is great for shopping, leisure strolls and eating out, but Palm Springs has a lot more going on than leisure strolls downtown.

Villagefest in dowtown Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Palm Springs Convention Center Facebook Page.

Villagefest in dowtown Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Palm Springs Convention Center Facebook Page.

There’s the tourist attractions, such as Desert Adventure’s Jeep Tours, Palm Springs’ Aerial Tram, which has the world’s largest rotating tramcars, the Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Joshua Tree National Park and the Craft Beer Tasting Tour in the greater Palm Springs area.

Palm Springs and the greater Coachella Valley are also widely known for their music festivals, like the Coachella Music Festival, and their golfing tournaments, like the Dinah Shore. The Dinah Shore is also the name for the largest queer female party and music festival in the world, which is hosted in Palm Springs.

Golfing in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Palm Springs Convention Center Facebook Page.

Golfing in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Palm Springs Convention Center Facebook Page.

Palm Springs is the master of hosting huge queer parties and festivals. I recommend going to one of Palm Springs’ queer festivals at least once in your life. I went to the Dinah Shore for the first time this past April, and it was amazing.

Me hugging Buddha in Downtown Palm Springs.

Me hugging Buddha in Downtown Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Lianna Carrera

The Dinah Shore, as well as Jeffrey Sanker’s Palm Springs White Party, are characterized by debauchery, drinking and a lot of sex. If you want that to be your experience, it can be. If you want to relax by the pool and read, have lunch with a stranger-turned-friend or have your own smaller parties offsite from the main parties, you can.

Your experience at any of these festivals will be what you make it. One person told me that each of her Dinah experiences were spiritual and nurtured personal growth. I’ve heard about and witnessed some more wild, debauched Dinah experiences. Some people split up with their girlfriends at the Dinah, others met their girlfriends or soon-to-be wives at the Dinah. I had a pretty chill, but active Dinah experience. I went to almost all of the events, met a lot of new people, danced everywhere and made some great networking connections, as well as new friends.

Me high-fiving Mary Lambert at the Dinah Shore Hilton Pool Party.

Me high-fiving Mary Lambert at the Dinah Shore Pool Party. Photo Credit: JD Disalvatore

Each queer festival in Palm Springs is different and targeted to specific communities within the queer spectrum, but each experience will be what you make it.

Queer Festivals and Great Events in Palm Springs

Splash House, June 13-15 – Splash House is a party built upon the Hotel pools of Palm Springs. By connecting them together, they become the stages within one music festival giving you the best of both a pool party and music festival in one weekend. This music festival/pool party isn’t queer exclusive, but Palm Springs is super gay and super gay-friendly that you’ll surely find other queer people, feel safe and have a great time.

The Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, September 18-21, 2014 – The Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is a queer film festival hosted by Cinema Diverse, and they’re accepting film submissions.

Palm Springs Leather Pride, October 30-November 2, 2014 – Palm Springs Leather Pride is put on by the nonprofit Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert. They’re dedicated to providing a safe atmosphere for growth and support of the Leather Lifestyle while nourishing a sense of sister/brotherhood and camaraderie within the organization and the community.

Palm Springs Pride, November 8-9, 2014 – Filled with a parade, festival events and entertainment, this year’s Pride celebration theme is: “I am Pride: Stonewall 45.”

The Palm Springs International Film Festival, January 2-12, 2015 – The Palm Springs International Film Festival hosts The Gay! La Hers and The Gay! La His, two different film viewings, as well as a queer dance after party. I saw Margarita at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It was a great film, and there was a Q&A afterwards with the filmmakers and actresses. A lot of A-list celebrities come down for this film festival, like Brad Pitt.

International Bear Convergence (IBC), February 12-15, 2015 – IBC is the first winter event capable of hosting 4,000+ bears, muscle bears, cubs, chasers, chubs and admirers in Palm Springs.

Big Men’s Weekend, October, 2015 & Big Bash, March, 2015 – Big Guy Events host both weekend-long parties in celebration of big men, bears, and the men who love them.

Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, April 1-5, 2015 – The Dinah Shore is the largest queer female party and music festival in the world.

Jeffrey Sanker’s Palm Springs White Party (PSWP), April 24-27, 2015 – PSWP is the largest queer male party and music festival in the world.

Lucy and Gail present Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival, October 8-11, 2015 – The Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival is a jazz festival for queer women of color.

There’s a lot going on in Palm Springs, for more information on what to do during your visit, check out Visit Gay Palm Springs and our Palm Springs City Guide.

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