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Joshua Tree National Park

Photography by Kwin Mosby

When most people think of a warm winter getaway, they think about Florida or the Caribbean as prime destinations to soak up sunrays. California can be an iffy destination if you’re looking for hot weather, but bargains abound if you’re willing to don a jacket for a quick weekend getaway.

I was looking for a somewhat inexpensive vacation spot during the holidays and found out that Palm Springs, CA, is not only a popular gay travel destination, but the resort town is also a short driving distance to Mount San Jacinto State Park and a 1-hour drive from Joshua Tree National Park. So it was a no-brainer because I needed a trip that would provide me with the possible option to commune with nature for a couple hours or even a day.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway/Mount San Jacinto State Park
When visiting Palm Springs, rent a car and explore outside the city limits. And if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, I recommend spending about $20 (per adult) to hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway — just a 10- to 15-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs. The tramway (the largest of its kind in the world) offers amazing views of Mount San Jacinto, the highest peak in Palm Springs. Once you reach the top, there are several different self-guided trails as well as the Desert View trail if you want an awe-inspiring view of Palm Springs. And if there’s snow on top of the mountain, it’s a great spot to take the kids sledding.

My advice is to dress warmly and go early, otherwise expect to wait in line for an hour or more. Tourists can grab a bite to eat or warm up with spirits served at the Pines Cafe, located on the third floor of the Mountain Station. Food, alcoholic- and non-alcoholic beverages are also served at the Valley Station’s Cascade Cafe.

Joshua Tree National Park
If you have some time to kill, a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park is a must. The $15 entrance fee is a mere pittance when considering the abundance of natural beauty you’ll be able to explore. Head to Keys View to see — at a distance — Mount San Jacinto, the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs and yep, even the famous San Andreas Fault. And if the weather is clear you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the Mexico border.

I was on the road at 10 in the morning and back in my hotel room by 4 p.m., after visiting Keys View, Barker Dam, Skull Rock and eating my packed lunch at Hidden Valley while I watched experienced rock climbers scale the side of Intersection Rock. Campers can pitch their tent at 8 different campsites located throughout the park.

And if you need to make a pit stop during your road trip, bathrooms are located along the way.  As for food and water, that’s a different story. Neither is found in the park. Park rangers suggest packing ample food and water before entering the park. A small cafe next to the Joshua Tree Visitors Center, located on Park Boulevard, sells a reasonably priced packed lunch if you forget to plan ahead.

Food from Lulu Restaurant in Palm Springs

Photography by Kwin Mosby

Downtown Palm Springs
If outdoor exploring isn’t your thing, then the city of Palm Springs offers other fun activities. Explore the city’s downtown area for shopping, sightseeing and more. One of the biggest tourist attractions is the 26-foot-tall Forever Marilyn Monroe statue, located on the corner of North Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Drive.  Each day, dozens of tourists stop by for a photo op with the replica of the famous star, created by American artist Seward Johnson and taken from the movie The Seven Year Itch.

Stroll down Palm Canyon Drive to see the Walk of Stars dedicated to entertainers such as Phyllis Diller, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Kathy Griffin. Go bike riding on well-marked paths through the city’s historic neighborhoods or see local crafts, arts and entertainment at the Palm Springs Villagefest every Thursday night.

There’s no shortage of good food and restaurants in downtown Palm Springs. Grab lunch at the local and tourist favorite, Sherman’s Deli & Bakery. The spread of 3-layer cakes and desserts on display is a great reason to stop by. My favorite restaurant while visiting was the always-crowded, but chic Lulu California Bistro at 200 N. Palm Canyon Drive. I recommend the filet mignon or the turkey burger with the side salad.

Gay-Friendly Hotels and Nightlife
In addition to tasty food, Palm Springs has accommodations for everyone, at various price points. After a little research when planning my trip, I found several hotels and resorts that offered off-season rates — some as low as $100 per night. For gay travelers looking for au naturel sun and fun, check out clothing-optional resorts located in Palm Springs’ Warm Sands neighborhood, including INNdulge, Warm Sands Villas and Triangle Inn. Rates during Christmas and New Year’s can be pricey; so plan to stay before or after the holidays when rates are a little cheaper.

Some resorts provide great amenities, including free drinks during happy hour, a multipurpose spa, fitness center, heated pool or a Jacuzzi, which is great way to relax your weary bones after a long day of hiking. If you’re looking for a more luxurious place to stay, try the boutique hotels like The Saguaro, Ace Hotel or the East Canyon Hotel and Spa.

The gay nightlife scene is small with respect to the number of bars and clubs, but each place has a genuinely warm and welcoming crowd. Head to Arenas Road, where you’ll find diverse crowds, including an intergenerational mix of gay men at Toucans Tiki Lounge and Hunters Palm Springs. The latter venue has 2 bars, dart boards, pool tables, an adjoining dance floor and outdoor patio. If you enjoy crooning to Broadway show tunes, then Thursday nights at Spurline is right up your alley.  Across the road, Streetbar is usually a hangout for the mature gay man.

So warm up your winter! Plan a trip to the desert to explore the hidden treasures in and around Palm Springs.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that the Eastern Seaboard of the US is still reeling from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. Powerful wind gusts, up to 80 mph, have left more than 7 million people without power. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of evacuees have been rushed to emergency shelters; to help with disaster relief, consider a donation to the American Red Cross.

And unfortunately travelers haven’t been able to escape Sandy’s stormy grip. Airports in NYC and Philadelphia remain closed, and more than 13,000 flights were cancelled at airports in some states near the Great Lakes, where heavy snow is expected. And according to The New York Times, flooding in some areas has forced subways from Boston to Washington, DC, to shut down.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we’ve put together a few helpful tips just in case you’re stranded or you need to reschedule your travel plans. Cut through the clutter and get your travels back on track with our hurricane safety tips — what travelers should do before, during and after stormy weather strikes.

Looking for more travel tips and warm weather getaways?

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By Scott Sherwood


Photography by Scott Sherwood

Travelers returning from the exotically-diverse nation of Colombia typically face questions about whether it is a safe destination. Let it be known that – yes – many areas of Colombia are safe for travel … with a big but. Practical safety considerations are essential in order to enjoy all the wonders that Colombia offers. READ MORE

Tonight’s Trip Flip episode at 9|8c brings us to Nashville where 2 vacationers partake in some unconventional, yet characteristically country, activities including mud bogging and globe riding. They also clean themselves up just in time to attend this year’s CMA awards.

Nashville is known for its legendary music scene, where artists such as Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton first got their start. Thousands of fans flocked to the birthplace of country music in June for the CMA’s Country Music Festival. The industry’s biggest stars such as Faith Hill, Dierks Bentley and Carrie Underwood graced the LP Stage in downtown Nashville for a record-breaking audience of over 71,000 fans. If you have an “achy-breaky heart” because you missed this country music party, then enter our sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to next year’s CMA music festival!

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In the neighborhood for the US Open?

The US Open attracts thousands of tennis fans to NYC every year. This year, the tournament started on Aug. 27, but the competition continues through Sept. 9, giving spectators a chance to see their favorite pros in action, including Serena Williams and Andy Murray, both recently back from the Olympics.

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Layover App

Counting down the days until the final season of No Reservations begins? Well, to tide you over, the price of our Layover app has been reduced to 99 cents! So scoot on over to iTunes and download the app that’ll show you how to travel like Tony. Explore his favorite places to eat, drink and stay in 10 major cities- Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York, Rome, San Francisco and Singapore.

But hurry – the sale ends Monday, Sept. 3, just in time for that night’s premiere at 9|8c of No Reservations when Tony begins his final tour in Austin, TX.

While you’re waiting for the app to download, check out Tony’s Journal from his Austin trip and see our Travel Guide of his restaurant and hotel picks in the city that likes to keep things “weird.”

And don’t forget, you can watch full episodes of No Reservations on our website!

A Hindu Temple in Bali

Today is the most important day of the year for the Balinese. They believe that each family’s ancestral spirits will return to their home for a 10-day celebration of good over evil. Called “Galungan,” meaning “when the Dharma (good) is winning,” the festival is held every 210 days. During the festival, it’s believed that the Balinese gods visit their living descendants on Earth, so the occasion is marked with ceremonies that involve offerings, food and dance.

The residents of Jimbaran village dress to the nines in white Balinese attire, make huge, colorful offers of fruit and build penjor —  tall, decorated bamboo poles. The markets fill with activity as everyone prepares for elaborate feasts.

The AYANA Resort and Spa’s staff follows the tradition, making this a particularly special time to visit Bali. With a name that means “place of refuge” in Sanskrit, the AYANA resort offers just that to weary travelers. Perched on limestone cliffs above the Indian Ocean near Jimbaran Bay on Bali’s southwestern peninsula, the resort is a luxurious place to visit, whether you come during Galungan or not.

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Photography by inazakira, flickr

The aftermath of Hurricane Isaac may leave Tampa, Florida, with a spotty weather forecast this week. So if you’re in town for the Republican National Convention or any other event, you may have to rethink your list of outdoor activities. But fear not: In a city with a history that stretches back 500 years, there’s no shortage of culture to entertain you. Check out our list of things to do in the Tampa Bay area this week, whether the sun peaks through the clouds or not. READ MORE

Having to prepare for a hurricane, endure losing your luggage or drive through a snow storm are just a few examples of potential emergencies that may throw a proverbial wrench in your travel plans. Luckily, Travel Channel’s new web series, Travel 911, is here to offer precautionary advice to travelers. Our travel expert, Rob Pralgo, offers suggestions on how to handle many of the travel emergencies that we hope you never have to experience, including what to do if you have a painful jellyfish sting, how to choose the best sun screen and how to avoid a shark attack.

In addition to practical advice, Travel 911’s camping webisode has helpful tips on what you should pack on your next camping trip, and what you should do if you have a face-to-face encounter with a bear. It’s advice that’s relevant in light of a recent string of bear attacks.

In Fairbanks, AK, a bear dragged 21-year-old Julia Strafford 20 feet before letting her go, according to the Seattle Times. She survived, but 49-year-old Richard White wasn’t as lucky. The photographer was mauled and killed by a grizzly bear in Denali National Park, according to Fox News.

We hope this web series will help travelers plan ahead and take better precautions when traveling. Oh, and what about preparing for Hurricane Isaac? READ MORE

Roughly 50,000 people are expected to make their way to Tampa, FL, next week for the Republican National Convention, so we asked the meteorologists at weathertrends360 for a rundown of what GOP-ers can expect when they arrive in the Sunshine State.

As you may have heard, it isn’t going to be very sunny. From the looks of the forecast, we’ve got just one, simple packing tip: Bring your rain gear. READ MORE

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