Palm Springs, More Than Just Dinah and the White Party

by Siue O’Connell & Rebecca Kearney

Bay Windows

Thursday April 26, 2012

The first thing you hear when an East Coaster says "I'm going to Palm Springs," is "I love Miami." The second thing is a story about the Dinah Shore extravaganza for women or the White Party for men.

Note: Palm Springs is in CALIFORNIA (Palm BEACH is the one in Florida). And while trips to The Dinah and White Party are mandatory for full gay-club membership, the truth is Palm Springs is so much more than a party destination.

It's impossible to overstate how gay this California town is. Between vacationing gays and retiring gays, a Friday night downtown seems like a polo-shirted Castro. Adding to the mix is the vibe of Republicans. These aren't the variety of Republicans we hear frothing on talk radio-these are the old fashioned Republicans (read: real) who want fiscal responsibility and don't want the government in our, or their, bedroom.

This harmonious mix of left and right makes sense considering the birth of Palm Springs as a resort destination is rooted in a contract clause. Early movie studios insisted that in, during production, actors had to be no further than two hours away from Hollywood. Drive two hours south from Los Angles and bingo-you land smack dab in Palm Springs.

There is no shortage of nightlife in Palm Springs. And, dare I say it, the caliber of entertainer is some of the best around. Many of the drag queens and lounge singers are on their way up, on their way down, or just happy where they are in the Hollywood universe. On one street, Arenas Road, you can find a variety of nightclubs and bars for every taste: Hunters, Streetbar, Score, Spurline, and the Rainbow Bar and Grill. Over on Palm Canyon Drive you'll find that Azul's Tapas is the place for dinner and a show (drag).

But, if you've done the Dinah or the White Party, you know all that. Next trip to the west coast dig a little deeper and you'll find a robust experience for all of your senses.

Art Museum may not have been on your "must do during the White Party" list, so add it for next time. The Palm Springs Art Museum has Warhol's Brillo Box Dress, 1964-an amazing piece of rare three-dimensional Warhol art. The Museum hosts an exceptional array of eclectic contemporary art pieces from masters ranging from Roy Lichtenstein and Helen Frankenthaler to Anish Kapoor and Dale Chihuly, strewn throughout its upper and lower galleries.

Just outside Palm Springs in Rancho Mirage is Sunylands, Walter and Leonore Annenberg's Mid-Century Modern Estate. It's adorned with modern masters, ancient Asian motifs, and a palpable history air that permeates the visitor's psyche. The Annenbergs were REAL Republicans, believing that the 1% should give back to society by supporting the arts. Sunnylands is a testament to that value. From Eisenhower to Clinton, the Annenberg's were trusted advisors and ambassadors.You can feel the presence of history in this room and throughout the estate and timelessness transports you into their inner circle in world affairs. Tours are only open to groups of seven and tickets are limited and go quickly- so plan ahead. If you cannot get tickets, visitors can wander the estate gardens which are meticulously manicured with desert bloom.

It gets better. A visit to the Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs let's you try your hand at a hand of Black Jack, and allow you to experience the Taking of the Waters treatment. Rejuvenate before your night out with a sauna, steam and then a private tub filled with the famous therapeutic hot mineral waters. You'll be ready for your guided nature tour.

We East Coast folk were amazed by a day in the desert where you can actually see the fault lines!There are miles of hiking trails and an excellent tour servers-Desert Adventures Eco-Tours. Our guide took us to on a hike through Andreas Canyon on the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indian Reservation where he identified flowers, herbs, and plant species of the desert. Desert Adventures leads eco-tours not only on the reservation but also to the Joshua Tree National Forest and onto the San Andreas Fault.

You can view the entire area from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Leave the eighty degree temps of the desert and be transported to the top of Mount San Jacinto. Spend the day hiking, make a snowball, have lunch, then travel back to the pool.

There are many things to consider when choosing your accommodations, clothed or unclothed; quiet or fun; but the one constant is friendliness. There are nearly 30 gay resorts to choose from. Some cater to gay men, some to women, some to both, some to all; so be sure to do your research. Many also include on site spa services.

Foodies, don't worry. There are plenty of tremendous meals in your future. We had what may have been the best scallop dish ever at Trio Restaurant on North Palm Canyon Drive. Pinocchio's Restaurant had all you could ever want from a gay, casual dining experience.

So branch out a bit-add Palm Springs to your get away list. We East Coasters need to represent.

Copyright Bay Windows. For more articles from New England's largest GLBT newspaper, visit