I recently vacationed in Palm Springs with my husband, who was curious about the resort community. I had vacationed there several decades ago, enjoying the time spent with other gay men. What I most remembered was the exhausting, hot, humid weather of August, during the monsoon season, and the heat from sexual escapades with other gay men. Typically the weather is hot and dry, and so it was on our recent vacation. I have known many gay men, from San Francisco especially, who have retired to Palm Springs, and I wanted to know what attracted them to spend their time there. One definite attribute is the weather. A nearly year round climate of hot, dry days and comfortable, warm nights is to be expected; a big draw for anyone who enjoys a more stable weather pattern.
In talking to the men who reside there, I found them more laid back and relaxed than in the big cities. The men who retire there adapt easily to the heat, finding the dry, hot days and warm nights a better choice than hot, humid summers and cool, wet winters. When my husband and I were there the temperatures were in the eighties. The locals found it almost too cool in the mornings, where as we enjoyed the relief from the heat. They like the quiet atmosphere, and the lack of sirens and noise from construction and traffic. The affordability and the cost of living, like housing, is another plus. They also enjoy the ease of traffic and less congestion, unlike in overpopulated cities.
The off-season in Palm Springs begins in May and lasts through October, the hottest months of the year. In November the snowbirds arrive; retired folks who run to milder climates from places like Canada. Many annual vacation events take place in Palm Springs, like spring break when college kids from all over the world throw wild parties and have little inhibition. There is also the White Party, an annual event catering to the LGBTQ community, so named because party-goers are encouraged to dress in all white. On these occasions some locals either hibernate or leave town to vacation or return to visit friends in the cities they left behind. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival also brings tourists to Palm Springs. The downtown area is an array of upscale restaurants and shops. The trendy and friendly gay bars have modest prices and are laid back during the day. We were not there during a weekend to experience the nighttime crowd, but I am sure, much like Streetbar, they were packed with revelers. All of these attractions are within walking distance while in the midst of downtown. We saw regulars at Starbucks getting their morning coffee, and then again in the bars when we went in the afternoon. Uptown has a shopping district full of designer studios and boutiques. The town also has a plethora of golf courses, if the men are inclined.
There are plenty of swimming pools for getting a year round tan or just to cooling off, and Indian casinos offer gambling for those who are inclined. For those gay men who have fatter wallets, they can rub elbows with movie stars and the jet set by buying prime real estate in the area. The houses, for the most part, are single story compounds with hedges and rock or concrete retaining walls surrounding the property for privacy. Now what gay man wouldn’t be attracted to the glamorous lifestyles of people from the stage, film, music, and television, who have had houses here since Hollywood’s hay day? For those interested in the arts there is a museum, and a performing arts center is under construction. The surrounding desert is mostly inhabitable, so fishing, waterskiing, and swimming in a lake or river are not available. Residents say Palm Springs is a ghost town on weekdays during the prime season but swells to a crowded, gay mecca on weekends, bringing in men who travel for weekend getaways to lounge by the pool and enjoy the busy nightlife for cruising and partying.
I asked a friend why they retired to Palm Springs but then left after only a few years. He and his longtime partner thoroughly enjoyed vacations there, even buying a house in Palm Desert. They lived there for several years but found they were bored and limited in the activities they enjoyed. They liked entertaining, but it was too long of a drive for their guests, at least ten miles, who lived in Palm Springs. Most of their socializing revolved around cocktails, which rather excluded them since they are light social drinkers. They did not golf, and the summer heat found them staying inside, dealing with the sting of high electric bills from the constant use of air conditioning. It was also difficult to find affordable medical care, which as a retiree is most important. They found cultural stimulus lacking too. After deciding they needed more, they sold their house, bought a condo in Long Beach, a city they thoroughly enjoyed, with a comparable sized, per capita, gay community, and more of the amenities they needed from an urban culture.
It appears Palm Springs would be a nice place to retire for older gay men who are looking for predictable weather and would be content with what is offered. I readily enjoy the four seasons and love rain we have in our region. I also like a diverse community to interact with. I tolerate the congestion and rapid pace of the urban lifestyle. But when I need to escape, I visit places like Palm Springs to relax and enjoy the slower pace of life there. I can see, however, why gay men who live in the Northeast, the South, and the Midwest enjoy their retirement in Palm Springs.
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