(Editor's note: This is our Palm Springs, California travel blog for Sunday through Tuesday, April 12-14. The Day 1 blog on Sunday will be updated throughout the day and evening, whenever possible. You can also follow KenWilliamsSanDiego on Facebook, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, and #kensd on Instagram.)
Palm Springs, California is a world unto itself, a famous getaway for Hollywood celebrities and world leaders, and now the home to a thriving LGBT community.
Often hailed as California's ultimate desert playground, Palm Springs is famous around the globe for its annual White Party and The Dinah, two destination events in April that caters to the gay and lesbian communities. All year around, there is something fabulous to do in the desert, though tourism slows down during the dog days of summer when the heat hits three digits.
I've lived in San Diego since 2005, and yet I've only been to Palm Springs twice on business-related activities. So when the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) proposed to the change to get an introductory look at all that Palm Springs has to offer the LGBT traveler, I leaped at the opportunity.
A travel blogger from Spain and I arrived at the noon hour at our destination hotel, the INNdulge Palm Springs, a clothing-optional resort for gay men. Our rooms were not ready, but the helpful staff whisked our luggage away to storage as our host, Sarah Hahne of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism arrived to pick us up in a private vehicle. We were joined by a travel videographer for this particular tour.
First stop, Trio Restaurant
The Trio has a little slogan that this is "Where Palm Springs eats and drinks." Located in the Uptown Design District, the restaurant and bar was packed on Sunday with Coachella festival refugees seeking comfort food and unlimited Mimosas. With a mid-century vibe that fits into the neighborhood, the Trio has an extensive menu and bar service that is sure to please the picky person. The prices were modest, the service was attentive and the food was good. I tried the fish tacos to compare to the ones famously served in San Diego, and they were pretty darn good if a tad blander than in America's Finest City.
Browsing the Uptown Design District
What better way to follow up a meal than casually walking along North Palm Canyon Drive between Alejo Road and Vista Chino Drive to window shop in the Uptown Design District. If mid-century modern is your cup of tea, you are in heaven here. There are antique stores, resale shops, consignment stores, boutiques, retro galleries and even a fashion designer who calls Palms Springs home.
Be sure to dress casually and comfortably, since the weather is hot. It was in the mid-80s on Sunday with nary a cloud in the sky, and I'm grateful I was wearing walking shorts and Timberland Earthkeepers. Unfortunately I had a long-sleeved shirt on, and regretted that I didn't have a T-shirt like my fellow traveler from Spain.
Checking into our rooms at INNdulge
The staff has already delivered our luggage to our rooms, but the air conditioner was off and that became the first order of business. My room was spacious and faced the pool, which was filled with dozens of hot men working on their tans. Much to my surprise, most of the men wore swim trunks.
The resort has free WiFi for electronics. Complimentary sweet tea and lemonade are available at the outdoor bar, along with some delicious chocolate chip cookies. Guests provide alcohol and the staff creates free cocktails from the donations.
The room is very comfortable, with two mid-century chairs and a desk area with a chair. I'm nibbling on a little box of nuts that I found on the side table, along with some of that refreshing lemonade. I skipped the frozen margarita offered to me by the cutest pool boy with some nice tats.
You know you are not at the Hyatt when you spy the little gift bag from The Dock Clinic providing two condoms and lube ... and a gentle reminder to be safe, not sorry. No, Dorothy, this is not Kansas.
Two pool towels and a pair of flip flops are provided in the room.
I now have less than an hour left before the next tour begins!
Off to the Purple Room and "The Judy Show"
The same folks who own Trio also run the Purple Room, a throwback nightclub that evokes the glorious era of the Rat Pack with murals of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, and some of their favorite sayings.
There is a buzz in the room that starts early, before dinner service begins, so you get the hunch that the show that will follow will be one for the ages.
The background music pipes out the classics from the Rat Pack era, and Peggy Lee's classic "Fever" got my toes tapping. The crowd tends to be on the older side, and the room was packed. Reservations are encouraged if you want to sit near the stage, for example.
While there is a good selection of fine wines from around the world and craft beer made in the Coachella Valley, the emphasis is on the good ol' days when you ordered a high-class cocktail before and after dinner. Martinis are de rigueur, if you know what I mean.
The food menu offers all sorts of treats, and three of us in our party of four ordered the Chilean sea bass with fingerling potatoes and broccoli. To be totally honest, it was nothing to brag about. But who cares. The show was fabulous, and Michael Holmes sang live as Judy Garland, Carol Channing and Bette Davis. He was terrific, his jokes were bringing down the house, and his audience contest was too funny to describe. There's also an incredible moment when he rips off his Carol Channing wig and becomes Louie Armstrong singing "Hello, Dolly."
Our evening was capped by an inspirational rendition of Judy Garland's classic "Over The Rainbow," which hushed the crowd and brought tears to many eyes. It was a very nice way to say goodnight from Palm Springs.
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Ken Williams was invited by the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) to write a travel blog about Palm Springs, California. The Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism is the host agency, and the INNdulge is the host hotel.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.