Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Four More Spa Adventures: P.S. Isn't the Only Gay-Friendly Desert Destination Blooming with Earthly Delights This Spring

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Four More Spa Adventures: P.S. Isn't the Only Gay-Friendly Desert Destination Blooming with Earthly Delights This Spring

Article excerpt

PALM SPRINGS

THE ADVENTURE Joshua Tree is a world-class rock-climbing destination. The National Park Service offers information, maps, and free guides (760-367-5500). Uprising offers classes, private guides, and half-day climbs (888-CLIMB-ON). Backcountry Found, a gay-owned tour operator, leads rock-climbing and backpacking trips (415-626-6240). If climbing rocks seems too hard-core for you, climb into a snazzy red Jeep for a guided ecotour with Desert Adventures (888-440-5337).

THE SPA Grassy lawns with swaying palms, topiary, citrus trees, gazebos, white roses, fountain courtyards, multiple swimming pools, and curtained cabanas surround Estrella Spa at the 74-room Viceroy (866-891-0948, rooms from $109). Opened in the 1930s, the hotel was a back-in-the-heyday hideaway for the glitterati. It retains its retro-chic Hollywood Regency ambience with shiny black lacquer furniture, bold black-and-white wallpaper, crystal chandeliers, and mirrored walls and tables. After dark, the hotel's Citron restaurant, which offers one of the finest dining experiences in town, is pure white, candlelit, and gorgeous-especially its alluring poolside lounge area.

THE TREATMENT Hot enough? Chill at the Ice Haus, which offers an erotic way to play with clay. Step inside an igloo-like, enclosed outdoor patio and refresh under a rain shower. Then paint yourself and your partner with rosemary-mint scented clay. Bake in the sun, then come clean with exfoliating gloves and crushed ice. After another rain-shower rinse, massage lemongrass-sage-lavender lotion into your skin and spritz spearmint mist all over (60 minutes for $85, $125 for two).

GET YOUR GAY ON In a town that's estimated to be around 35% gay, pretty much every bar can be considered a gay bar. But kitschy tiki-themed Toucans is the place to really party (760-416-7584), and you may even catch out mayor Ron Oden letting his hair down there. Low-key but very local, the new sports bar Scores (760-327-0753) just opened along the gay party block of Arenas Road. Don't miss The Dinah, the legendary annual lesbian party, now in its 17th year, March 28-April 1. The following weekend over 20,000 boys show up for the enormous White Party, April 6-9. The pool parties always make a splash.

LAS VEGAS

A mere 17 miles from naughty Las Vegas nightlife, gondolas drift along a two-mile-long lake ringed by sandy beaches, golf courses, and palm trees. Lake Las Vegas-a three-year-old resort made up of luxury residences, condominium-hotels, an upscale village, and two flagship hotels-is a low-key alternative to the Strip. At sunset, take in jazz concerts on the shore or movies under the stars.

THE ADVENTURE Paddle Lake Mead--just a 15-minute drive away--to explore hidden coves, rain caves, secret islands, and the stunning Black Canyon, with walls rising 2,000 feet high. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at Willow Beach Marina (928-767-4747). For guided kayaking trips, contact Kayak Lake Mead (928-767-3061), Boulder City Outfitters (702-293-1190), or Desert Adventures (702-510-4746).

THE SPA If you've visited Florence, the 349-room Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas (702-567-4700, rooms from $159) will elicit deja vu. Its Ponte Vecchio-style bridge straddles the take, with built-in rooms offering views of clear blue water, rugged gray mountains, and harsh but beautiful desertscapes. The resort has the feeling of a Tuscan villa, with arched doorways, interior courtyards, statuary, trompe l'oeil artwork, vine-covered trellises, shaded loggias-and from your balcony, a moon that hits your eye like a big pizza pie. Its spa emphasizes mind and body remedies that include private meditation gardens and music therapy.

THE TREATMENT After swimming, kayaking, and hiking, your muscles may be screaming. The "Muscle Repair Treatment" soothes the aches with arnica, fir, and rosemary extracts.

Then, while you're wrapped in cool linens, lie back for a heavenly scalp massage (50 minutes for $125). …

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