Pride Journey: Palm Springs

With stellar nightlife, an aerial tramway and great food, this gay mecca lives up to expectations.

Palm Springs, California, is one of those destinations that I never get tired of. I’m not sure whether it’s the landscape or the abundance of over-the-top gayness that makes the city truly magical. I attended Palm Springs Pride 2019 on my most recent visit to this gay mecca in the desert, and it was the largest Pride celebration in the city’s history. For 2020, the event will be Nov. 6-8.

Downtown Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs

I had forgotten how easy the Palm Springs airport is to navigate, but it does make a good first impression. Within minutes after walking off the plane, visitors can be lying poolside at their hotel or shopping in the boutiques and art galleries of Palm Canyon Drive.

I was visiting with my friend and fellow journalist Josh Rimer, who was named Mr. Gay Canada 2019. He and I met on a media trip in Arizona, and we have traveled to Columbus, Ohio, together as well. Visiting a destination like Palm Springs is more fun if you travel with someone, unless you are an extreme extrovert, and neither of us fits that description. We’ve traveled together in the past, which helped make this visit fun.

After checking in at the Alcazar Palm Springs hotel, we headed straight for the Opening Night Pride Party at Trina Turk clothing boutique, which was hosted by celebrity hairstylist Brandon Liberati and his husband, fitness trainer Craig Ramsay. The party drew a who’s who of Palm Springs glitterati. Every year, Trina Turk donates a portion of proceeds from items sold during the event back to the Pride organization.

Before heading out on the town, we grabbed dinner at Trio, a staple in Palm Springs since 2009. (In fact, the first time I visited the city almost a decade ago, I dined at Trio.) Josh and I decided to share a few starters, including the Coachella Valley Dates and Ahi Tuna Tower. We were both hesitant to order the dates because they are filled with blue cheese and neither one of us is a big fan, but they turned out to be delicious. The blue cheese complemented the sweetness of the dates, which simply melt in your mouth. Trio also hosts one of the best parade-viewing parties in town, so if you come to Pride in 2020, be sure to make a reservation.
Palm Springs nightlife is truly one of the best experiences in the country. There’s a bar or club for every type of person. Whether you are L, G, B, T or Q, you will fit in. Arenas Road has emerged as the epicenter of nightlife in the city, with venues including Hunters, Chill Bar, Quadz, Stacy’s, The Eagle and BlackBook within a two-block radius. Other nightlife venues are scattered throughout the city and in neighboring Cathedral City.

After a night of partying, head back to the Alcazar for a restful night’s sleep before heading out to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get a bird’s eye view of the city. I’ll admit that I don’t like heights or roller coasters, so the tram made me nervous. The 10-minute journey to the top aboard a slowly rotating car is quite the experience. There are five towers along the way, and as the car passes each tower, it swings back and forth – sometimes slightly and other times, it’s enough to make you a bit queasy. A little side note: the temperature is at least 20 degrees cooler on top of the mountain, so dress accordingly. Josh and I wore our traditional tank tops and were a bit chilly, to say the least.

Desert view with Mountains in Palm Springs
Desert view with Mountains in Palm Springs

Located adjacent to Arenas Road is Johannes, a lovely restaurant with modern décor that is owned by chef Johannes Bacher. The menu includes an assortment of house specialty schnitzel. Bacher, who hails from Austria, brought his favorite dish to Palm Springs, and it quickly became a favorite among the locals. We had to try some, and I can tell you, it does live up to the hype. I don’t remember the last time I saw schnitzel of any kind on a menu, outside of a German restaurant, which I learned uses a different type of preparation. Another one of my favorites at Johannes was the Grilled Marinated Peaches & Burrata. If you are looking for a lighter option, give that a try.

Music lovers should take note that Palm Springs is the gateway to Coachella and Stagecoach Festival, two of the largest outdoor music festivals in the country. Stagecoach has grown into the premier country music festival in the United States since its inception in 2007. The three-day event will take place April 24-26 and feature headliners Eric Church, Carrie Underwood and Alan Jackson. Coachella will be April 10-12 and 17-19.

Palm Springs is a destination that always lives up to my expectations. Whether you are looking to party until dawn, relax by one of the dozens of pools around town, or go hiking in nearby Joshua Tree National Park, the destination really does offer something for everyone.

Enjoy the Journey!

Joey Amato is the publisher of Pride Journeys, a website dedicated to LGBTQ travel. He has spent over a decade in LGBTQ media and public relations and currently resides in Indianapolis. He can be reached at [email protected]