July 25, 2018 at 10:47 am PDT | by Ed Walsh
Palm Springs is getting a facelift and its star is rising

Joshua Tree is not only a much cooler gay destination near Palm Springs, but August is also when meteors swarm the night sky from all directions leaving glowing trails in their wake. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

I escaped the Palm Springs midday desert heat in a UFO. Okay, not a real UFO, but in the dome-shaped quirky desert landmark known as the Integratron. While it kind of looks like a 1950s sci-fi spaceship, the 38-foot tall white cupola was constructed by ufologist George Van Tassel in 1959 to attract extraterrestrials and was funded in part by billionaire Howard Hughes.

While ET never paid a visit to the Integratron, desert tourists regularly pay to take a “sound bath” in the wooden building that is billed as an acoustically perfect structure. For $30, participants lie on cushions on the floor of the upper level of the building and listen to a concert of sorts by someone playing a series of huge round glass bowls, using a wand around the inside of the glass to put out a series of tones.

The Integratron is in the high desert, near Joshua Tree National Park, which stays about 10 degrees cooler than Palm Springs. The building itself has AC, making it comfortable no matter how hot it gets outside. The high desert, including Joshua Tree, is still doable in the summer, but hike before 11 a.m., bring plenty of water and avoid any long or strenuous walks. The summer nights in Joshua Tree are popular for stargazing. August is the best month for viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower.

If you don’t want to drive the 45 minutes to get to the high desert, perfect summer hiking can be found around the summit of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Summer temperatures shed about 30 degrees in the 10-minute ride to the top in the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Greater Palm Springs is seeing more summer visitors than ever before and businesses are not taking that for granted. Hotels, spas and restaurants are offering deals to entice you to head to the desert in the summer.

LGBT businesses have banded together again this year to offer a “Summer Splash” program showcasing hotel and restaurant deals. The sitepalmspringssummersplash.com spells out the offers. An example of some of the bargains include the fabulous InnDulge, which offers $99 rooms for weekday stays. InnDulge deservedly stays very busy throughout the summer. La Dolce Vita throws in free spa treatments with room stays. Escape Palm Springs and the Bearfoot Inn have $99 rooms and if you pay for two nights, you get the third free.

Of the Greater Palm Springs’ 16 gay resorts, all are for men and clothing optional. All but Cathedral City Boys Club (CCBC) are in Palm Springs proper. Sadly, the city’s formerly lesbian resorts Casitas Laquita, Queen of Hearts and its sister property Desert Hearts Inn, have been sold and have gone mainstream. Century Palm Springs also, unfortunately, is no more. The Warm Sands resort shut down after being sold recently.

If you have been to CCBC recently, you would have noticed room renovations and redone play spaces. But the resort’s big change will be unveiled later this summer when a brand-new restaurant and bar called Runway will open. The bar will aptly feature a runway that will showcase drag shows and other live entertainment. The resort plans to offer all-inclusive options that will include all meals and beverages. Plans are in the works to add 20 condo-style units in a five-story building on the back of the property where the waterfall is now. If the final plans are approved, that could be up and running in a couple of years. The hip new building will be lit up in Pride rainbow colors at night.

If a summer visit to the desert isn’t in the cards, fall is a busy time for Palm Springs. Things start to cool down but activities heat up in late September with Cinema Diverse, the Palm Springs LGBT film festival on Sept 20-23. Desert AIDS Walk is Oct 20. Palm Springs Leather Pride runs October 25-28. Halloween is big with a street party on Arenas Road and Palm Springs Pride week runs November 1-4.

Nightlife

Old timers will remember that gay nightlife in the desert was centered just south of Palm Springs in Cathedral City. But that began to change in the early 1990s when Streetbar, Palm Springs’ oldest gay bar, opened on Arenas Road. There are still three gay bars in Cathedral City and soon to be four with the addition of CCBC’s Runway. Cat City’s other bars include the piano lounge bar, Studio One 11, the leather/bear bar Barracks, and Trunks, formerly Digs and with the same ownership as the WeHo institution by the same name.

Almost all of Palm Springs’ nightlife is on Arenas Road. The newest bar is Stacy’s, with the same owner of the popular Stacy’s in Phoenix. It’s next to Bongo Johnny’s which is still closed after its kitchen was destroyed in a fire in March. Another newer Arenas Road addition is the video bar QUADZ, formerly Spurline, a newly remodeled streetbar. Beloved owner Dick Haskamp passed away in March but Haskamp left the business to a couple of employees who continue to run the bar in the same way that has made it a Palm Springs mainstay. The other popular bars on the block include Chill, Hunters, Score and around the corner on Indian Canyon, Tryst. Since the closing of Delilah’s years ago, there are no lesbian bars in Palm Springs, but all the Arenas nightspots are lesbian-friendly.

The leather/bear bar Tool Shed is on the edge of Warm Sands on E Sunny Dunes Road, next to the cool LGBT-themed store Q Trading and nearby Gear leather shop and Townie Bagels.

Toucan Tiki Lounge continues to be very popular on N Palm Canyon Drive, on the north end of town. It regularly hosts a lesbian party known as Velvet. For information on the next Velvet search on Velvet-PS on Facebook. By the way, Toucans is next to the fabulously gay WorkOUT Gym. The facility is small but has all the equipment you need and has reasonably priced day, week and weekend passes, If you are staying at the Vista Grande, Bearfoot Inn, or InnDulge, you can work out there for free.

For more information, check out the official Greater Palm Springs visitor’s site,visitgreaterpalmsprings.com, The city’s official tourism site includes a comprehensive LGBT section, visitpalmsprings.com.

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