(Editor's note: This is our Palm Springs, California travel blog for Sunday through Tuesday, April 12-14. The Day 1 blog on Sunday can be read HERE. The Day 2 blog on Monday can be read HERE. The Day 3 blog on Tuesday could not be published late that afternoon because the hotel's WiFi was spotty. You can also follow KenWilliamsSanDiego on Facebook, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, and #kensd on Instagram.)
There’s more to Palm Springs than sunbathing in the nude at a Warm Sands gay men’s resort or dining out in downtown. If you like the great outdoors, the mountains and desert nearby offer hiking, off-roading and much more.
Tuesday proved to be our day for being outdoors. What a cardio workout I got, collecting my targeted 10,000 daily steps with no problem!
Our party of four visited the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which attracts half-a-million visitors per year. The two tram cars hold up to 80 visitors each, whisking them up Chino Canyon from an elevation of 2,643 feet to 8,516 feet above sea level … in a breathtaking 10 minutes while the gently rotating cars provide a panoramic view of the Coachella Valley all the way down to the Salton Sea. Be prepared for the temperature and wind shock: It was about 90 degrees in the city, but about 54 degrees and windy at the top of San Jacinto Mountain. I was ready with a fleece vest, but our friend from Madrid, Spain was freezing in a tank top. Our guide from the Palm Springs Visitors Bureau kindly bought him a sweatshirt.
Make sure to wear proper shoes, too. Gym shoes or hiking boots are recommended. One mother slipped on the slippery sand and rocks, and I grabbed her by the arms and prevented her from taking a nasty fall. Her family showed their gratitude by asking me to take their family portrait from atop the mountain. LOL!
We hiked the Desert View Trail through Long Valley, considered perfect for novice hikers. At the end of the 1.5 mile trail is a fabulous view of the Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea. Beautiful trees and rock formations lend themselves to many photo opportunities. The only sound you will likely hear is the wind whistling through the pines, or a bird chirping happily in the woods.
The hike only becomes a bit of a challenge coming back, when you have to steeply climb for a while. I admit that I was huffing and puffing onward and upward, but I made it without having to stop to catch my breath. But we took a breather at the Mountain Station.
Dune Buggy Tours
Our afternoon was spent on an off-road guided tour by Dune Buggy Tours. The six-seater was driven by a real character, whose mission in life appeared to be to drive as fast as possible off the road and to scare the bejeebers out of his passengers. He did a great job of that, but it was a lot of fun.
We bounced around real good in the dune buggy as the driver spun through sand and rocks, were slung around when he took corners cavalierly, and laughed the whole way. He took us out to the fence that keeps unwanted visitors out of a large wind farm, so we could get a close view of the turbines. His history of the wind farm rambled far too long, and he needed to recognize that his guests wanted the Readers Digest version of the story. He also seemed unaware that he was escorting gay and lesbian travel bloggers, and made a serious faux pas in assuming that his Spanish male passenger was married to a woman.
As a result, the 90-minute dune buggy tour seemed longer.
Where we went to eat
We had breakfast at Pinocchio’s in the Desert, a landmark bistro where a statue of Marilyn Monroe draped in a rainbow flag welcomes diners. The plates were huge, the food was hearty, and the Happy Hour lasts all day!
Lunch was at Jake’s in the Uptown Design District. We sat outside on the patio, and a huge umbrella kept the sun at bay. It has a reputation as a hip, casual American bistro with an eclectic menu and delicious dishes to tempt the pickiest diners. Make sure to look at the desserts. One huge slice of orange cake satisfied all four of us.
Dinner was at Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club, a hot new spot serving regional Mexican classics. With three stunning bars, a spectacular hall where they present DJs and musical talent, this place is happening. The pool area is spacious with a spectacular view of the mountains, and the cabanas can be rented at a reasonable price. On another visit, I definitely would check out the pool on weekend, which is free to visitors and residents alike.
All and all, we got only a glimpse of what Palm Springs has to offer. We didn't even step foot in any of the gay bars along Arenas Road. Maybe next time!
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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.