It's a scorcher.
Palm Springs is the desert destination of mid-century modern architecture and queer culture. A favorite place of escape amongst Hollywood stars since the 1930s, Palm Springs has also developed a huge LGBTQIA+ following. From November 4-6, 2022, Palm Springs will celebrate its 36th annual Pride culminating with a parade. If you are headed to this sunny destination, below is a list of queer-friendly places you can’t miss.
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Amongst the most talked about restaurants in all of Palm Springs is Bar Cecil. The restaurant is named after Cecil Beaton, a queer artist, a renaissance man, and someone with an acute sense of style, Beaton’s whimsical nature and joie de vivre can be seen throughout the restaurant. Not only in the interior design but the exquisite food.
Reservations can be difficult to obtain, so make sure you book a table in advance. If you can’t score a reservation, you can try your hand at a walk-in or a bar seat. It’s a gamble but worth a shot. Their signature $50 martini comes with a deviled egg and caviar. Trust me, it’s worth it. Also, I would highly advise ordering the caramelized onion tart, grilled artichoke, pork chop, halibut, fries, and the panna cotta.
The restaurant features both indoor and outdoor seating. We opted for the owner’s booth next to the kitchen because it’s good to be close to all the action. Bar Cecil is for those who celebrate diversity and march to the beat of their own drum, so come hungry and thirsty.
INSIDER TIPBar Cecil is open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the kitchen closing at 9 p.m.
Azure Sky Hotel
Opened in June 2022, this brand-new boutique queer-friendly hotel has an inviting vibe. Relax in its charming lobby or bask in the sun by the inviting pool. The hotel was originally built in 1959, and the designers in charge of this new iteration wanted to keep its mid-century modern roots mixed with modern-day desert luxury. From the tiled walk-in showers, the built-in beds, and the tiled stone floors, no expense was spared to bring this place back to its original glory. The property also offers stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains. The lawn off the lobby is the perfect place for a sunset cocktail or glass of wine. The hotel has just 14 rooms equipped with a kitchenette, private patio, and hammock. There is a daily continental breakfast, and you can even borrow one of their bikes to explore the area. The Azure Sky Hotel is the perfect place to chill out, unwind and celebrate your pride.
Villa Royale Hotel and Del Rey Restaurant
Built in the late 1940s, this sprawling queer-friendly boutique property is one of the chicest hotels in all of Palm Springs. The hotel comprises two spaces: the main complex, which houses 30 of Villa Royale’s 37 villa rooms. Across the road sits Villa Rosa, with seven California ranch-style villas around a pool that mirror the design cues of Villa Royale. I opted for room 35 in the Villa Royale. My room featured a huge private wooden bar with enough seating to host a small gathering, and it was right off the pool in case you’d like to take a late-night dip. Wandering around the property, you will find fountains, art, lush foliage, and this overall sense of tranquility. It really does feel like a home away from home.
Dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Del Rey, is very special. Once you open the door, you are transported into a dark and sexy space with a beautiful 12-seat oak and marble bar, intimate booths, and a fireplace. This is the ultimate date spot in the Coachella Valley. The cuisine is Spanish and Mediterranean and is served small plate style. We started with the Albondigas (meatballs), then moved on to the short rib empanadas, lamb chops, and octopus. For dessert, we tried the Spanish cheesecake, bread pudding, and crème brulee. Everything was delicious, and since I was staying on property, my bed was not far away.
Look no further than Lulu’s if you’re looking for a fun brunch spot during Palm Springs Pride. Lulu’s is located a stone’s throw from all the Pride action and serves great food and strong cocktails. What more could you want? A full brunch menu is available, but please do yourself a favor and make sure to order the ahi poke nachos as a starter; they are incredible! The restaurant has a fun ambiance and features huge portraits of show-biz legends like Lucille Ball and Elizabeth Taylor. It also includes a lively bar and a huge outdoor patio to watch people stroll along Palm Canyon Drive.
PS Air Bar
To say PS Air Bar is an experience would be an understatement. So much so that even former First Lady Michelle Obama has experienced it. PS Air Bar is a restaurant/bar/drag show all within the confines of an “airplane.” Upon entering, you are sat at your airplane seat, and yes, folks, it’s an actual airplane seat with the seatbelt and everything. Then your assigned “flight attendant” comes over with a round of mimosas and a dose of comedic flair as only a drag queen can do. There are three menu options, and I opted for the fried chicken breast and waffle with bacon and salted caramel pecans.
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Everything is served on an airline tray to give you even more of the inflight experience. In between your food and drinks, the gals perform lip sync numbers while sauntering up and down the aisle. From Tina Turner to Diana Ross to Bette Midler, these girls work the room into a gyrating frenzy.
INSIDER TIPMake sure to bring some cash to tip the drag queens, so their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.
No queer weekend in Palm Springs would be complete without dinner at The Tropicale. It’s a great place to start your weekend because everyone there is having a blast, including the friendly staff. The bright colors and tropical interior are all conducive to a night of fun. Start at the bar with one of their famous martinis, then request one of the signature large booths inside or sit outside on the huge back patio if weather permits. We started with the pupu appetizer platter and some very large margaritas. My personal favorite dish is the miso-glazed steelhead loch salmon and black rice bowl. The restaurant’s location is central to all the action going on in downtown Palm Springs.
Not only is Boozehounds queer-friendly, but it’s dog-friendly (hence the name). If you are in Palm Springs with your pooch and are getting parched, head to this vibey bar and restaurant. The 7,000-square-foot space features indoor and outdoor seating, all with dogs in mind. They even do happy hour, seven days a week, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The menu combines Southern California fare with Japanese influences. If you happen to be in town on November 6th for Pride, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Latrice Royale will be holding court. Take in her 90-minute show while enjoying a lavish three-course dinner. Tickets can be purchased on the Boozehounds’ website.
Workshop Kitchen and Bar
This Palm Springs staple has dazzled the desert for the past ten years, and it still does not disappoint. Start with a cocktail and charcuterie at the bar next door, Truss and Twine. Then when it’s time for dinner, request a booth inside Workshop Kitchen or, if you’re looking to be more social, at the large communal table that runs the length of the room. The dining room is very modern and considered a temple of modernist concrete. We started with the shaved brussels salad and the goat cheese pierogi, which were both mouthwatering. Then it was time for the melon and burrata and the duck fried rice. For mains, we had the pork chop and fresh market fish, then for dessert, we had it in the form of two very lovely Manhattans.
The Mod Squad
Desert icon Kurt Cyr knows his architecture and his martinis. So much so that he leads a tour around them via The Mod Squad, an architecture tour. The martini and mid-century modern architecture tour takes 90 minutes and is an exterior tour of some of the most famous Rat Pack homes, from Frank Sinatra to Dean Martin to Queer icon Marilyn Monroe. The tour takes you right into the middle of what 1960s Palm Springs looked like. After seeing homes from the outside, you’ll step inside with Kurt to have a martini. What better way to wrap up an afternoon of mid-century modern masterpieces only to discover why martinis are shaken and not stirred. The tour is available Wednesday-Saturday at 4 p.m.
Chill Bar is located on Arenas Road (the street with all the gay bars) and features the largest dance floor in Palm Springs. The lights, the cocktails, and the huge bar all conspire to make for a night filled with queer fun. Just be careful, the vodka sodas are strong, but hey, you can dance them off.
When looking for the ultimate gay video bar, look no further than Quadz. Pull a seat up at the bar if you need your fix of vintage Broadway and new videos to sing along with. Then order a drink and sing your freakin’ heart out in this unique Palm Springs staple. Quadz’s specialty is curating more deep cuts highlighting queer culture. Think more Judy and less Beyonce.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a must-do for everyone. You can have a fun day visiting guesthouses and inns and politely asking to see their facilities. You'll likely have interesting conversations and will get ideas for a return visit.