Getting Away to Palm Springs Warmth and Beauty Await

With winter ringing in the new year, we’re enduring 40-below wind chills, heaping piles of snow, and ice-laden roads. Wait…what? With the holidays out of the way, and no more presents to preoccupy the mind, the only thing left is to stare off into the distance, trying to remember what it felt like not to bundle up in seven layers, rush out to the car (hoping the ice doesn’t win yet another battle with your obviously no-grip shoes), and jump on the frozen front seat—only to realize the window is so frosted, you aren’t going anywhere but back outside.

Most Minnesotans claim we’re the toughest of the tough. The Facebook group “I survive Minnesota winters, so don’t f**k with me” now boasts more than 140,000 members, who probably all question why they failed yet again to move to a warmer climate before another winter.

Now is probably a good time to start planning that winter vacation, AKA getting out of Minnesota for a few days to thaw out. With so many options, it’s hard to choose the best from year to year. But one in particular calls to the GLBT community like no other in the United States: Palm Springs.

Photos Courtesy of Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Known for hosting one of the most fabulous White Parties annually, it has been featured in the movie Circuit, as well as on the television shows The L Word and The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency.

Clearly, it’s a party worth checking out, but why wait until April to familiarize yourself with Palm Springs? Why hold off until the sun comes back out, the temperatures begin rising past that magical number of 32, and the hint of why we all live here in the first place is beginning to show, when you can get out of Dodge while the frost is still an inch thick on your car window, and you can laugh at all your friends who decided to “tough it out.”

The 14th-largest metro in the country, Palm Springs is one of the most gay-friendly places to vacation. It has not only GLBT members on the city council, but also a gay mayor. With such a gay-supportive government, it’s not surprising that Palm Springs caters to the GLBT crowd in other ways.

According to Hillary Angel, Public Relations Manager of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, “Palm Springs has been a destination for the gay traveler for over 20 years. There are nearly 30 gay-specific resorts, and several of its businesses are gay-owned, including those on Arenas Road. The LGBT community is well represented at all levels of city government, and is actively supported by the entire community.”

Speaking of gay-specific resorts, nothing says “Welcome to Palm Springs” better than checking in to La Dolce Vita Resort & Spa. Despite an unassuming facade, it offers something you just won’t find here in Minneapolis: a clothing optional stay. Yes, you read that right. Catering to men only, the resort lets you walk around with as much—or as little—as you wish.

Ken Stabins of La Dolce Vita hopes it “creates a relaxing attitude with a free and friendly environment where gay men can meet and network. Guests can bond mentally, spiritually, and maybe even sensually. Or, our guests can just relax by the pool, and gaze upon the magnificent mountains we have in our desert.”

To take it a step further, this resort not only lets you strip down, but also pampers your every need with a newly updated spa that provides comforts created just for men.

Stabins points out, “We have the only full-service spa designed specifically for guys where all our therapists are men. This spa uses only professional, licensed individuals. It can become a very spiritually and healthy experience to have a man touch a man. We also believe in taking care of our guests as if they were family.”

With this all-gay environment, Stabins believes a stay at his establishment can be very empowering: “Guests can fully express their gayness, without the straight community making value judgments. They can meet other guys who have many things in common with them. They can share stories about ‘coming out,’ getting a boyfriend, the gay environment in their own communities, and much more. A place like La Dolce Vita encourages ‘brotherhood’ and networking, and is much more than a place where guys can express themselves sexually.”

Just make sure to express your desire to stay at La Dolce Vita three to four months in advance anticipate visiting during busy times, such as Pride or the famous White Party.

Though relaxing by the pool, having a few drinks, and getting a massage seems like the perfect vacation right about now, Palm Springs has much more outside the walls of La Dolce Vita.

Perhaps the most breath-taking aspect of Palm Springs is the Aerial Tram. Highly recommend by Angel, it takes passengers up to 8,516 feet above sea level, with one of the most beautiful sights in the area. But plan to dress like you’re back in Minnesota. Depending on the time of year, the temperatures on top of the mountain can reach below freezing during the winter months, or into the low 70s during the summer, while back on the ground, temperatures will be 30-plus degrees warmer. Of course, at present, 32 degrees sounds downright like shorts weather.

If traveling up a couple thousand feet into the air in a metal box doesn’t sound the most appealing, a few things a little closer to the ground to enjoy are the famous Joshua Tree Reserve, along with Indian Canyons, which not only boasts great tour guides who can tell you just about everything about the tribal history of Palm Springs, but also has palm trees surrounded by rocks that offer a striking contrast. Given the vast amount of space occupied by both these places, plan to spend a good chunk of your day walking around, taking in all their beauty.

Don’t worry: If sightseeing isn’t your thing, either, you’ll find plenty of shopping with lots of local boutiques. Villegfest, as Angel suggests, is “a free community event every Thursday evening” that allows you to “shop local vendors, and taste local food.”

One local treasure that just can’t be missed, regardless of your personal itinerary, is Pinocchio in the Desert. With outdoor seating, this gem features not only cheap food with large portions, but also the cheapest mimosas and champagne around at only $2.95! How can you not start the day like that? Just remember to arrive early, or you’ll stand in line watching others drink those mimosas.

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