Where to Party in Palm Springs, Southern California’s Desert Playground
For the devil in the desert in just about everyone, there is Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
Here’s the party situation in and around Palm Springs. In other words, where to do it the desert.
Wet in the Desert – The Pool Parties
The pool reaches its peak during holidays like Labor Day weekend.
Palm Springs’ best nightlife isn’t actually at night and its not even in Palm Springs. For anyone looking to “pool” their party resources, it’s the weekend pool parties at the Palm Desert Marriott. These are not planned events, mind you.
They just happen because people come here to get wet and wild for a couple of days. Often, there’s a bachelor or bachelorette group staying at the hotel and they spend their daylight hours in and around the large pool.
It reaches its zenith on 3-day holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day when it’s so crowded only hotel and condo guests area allowed to enter. It takes a daily wristband to get past the gate. Other weekends are less frenzied and in fact some prefer it that way. It’s not as if they don’t like a mosh pit party in the pool, it’s just that they find it easier to mingle in a more manageable environment.
Palm Springs has also been rediscovered as a Spring Break mecca. With the dangers (perceived or otherwise) in Mexico, this desert oasis has been reborn for college party students, and the city is welcoming the business.
Yet the Marriott doesn’t have a stranglehold on the local aquatic adventures. In downtwon Palm Springs (Highway 111), the pool party at the Wyndham is tops in town, followed by the Viceroy and Hotel Zoso.
Palm Springs Bars
We Want YOU! To party in downtown Palm Springs..
Hot. Really hot.
No, not just the weather – the nightlife!
Okay, just to set the record straight, Palm Springs isn’t exactly Mykonos. And it’s a small town. A very small town. A few hours out in the downtown bars and the places may change but not necessarily the faces.
And quite frankly, that’s not a bad thing.
PubClub.com will approach this as if it’s a pub crawl. And it’s focused in Palm Springs. Granted, there are other places placed throughout the Valley – the sushi bar at the Palm Desert Marriott and for sports the Yard House in “The River” in Rancho Mirage, for example, but Palm Springs has a great stretch of bars all within 5-6 blocks along its main drag (oops, maybe we shouldn’t call it that here!), Palm Canyon Drive.
The dress code is shorts and sandals for visitors. Locals wear jeans and long shirts (guys) or casual skirts and blouses (gals). Everything is walking distance. No drinks in the streets.
We’ll start our tour with Sonny Bono’s hangout when he was in town. The Hair of the Dog is a small English pub that, well, still has the lingering smell of all those years of cigarette smoke. Let’s say it’s 4 or 5 on any afternoon (the day of the week is inconsequential) and you’re looking for a drink. Well, join the hard-core locals here. It may not look like much on the surface, but this is culture, folks! One can’t help but wonder how many meetings were held and decisions were made over cold pints here when Sonny was mayor.
Sure it’s hot, but here is a cool spot for Happy Hour.
Next up is Los Casuelas. It’s a beautiful Mexican restaurant four blocks south with an cool-decored outdoor cantina, live band and lively margaritas (IF you know how to order them).
Now don’t be tempted to eat here. This is a cocktail place. If you are looking for Mexican, or any good eats for that matter, go directly to our Palm Springs restaurant guide. This is Palm Springs’ #1 Happy Hour (though they don’t really have a Happy Hour), the place to meet locals and tourists, the plant-the-seeds bar where straight romances can be struck with the stroke of a tequila shot. And when it comes to margaritas, forget the house ones; have one of the bartenders make them “fresh.”
Finding fun at the pub is easy
From there, it’s up to one’s desired age-hanging group. A block to the south is the Village Pub, a cool indoor-ourdoor bar and pub that’s the casual hangout for anyone 20 to 40. And that’s just what it is – a causal hangout. There’s a band – and air conditioning! – inside. For those who explore it, the place is like a plate of spaghetti in that it keeps growing and growing.
There’s an upstairs that overlooks the band and small dance floor. Turn to the rear and it’s a room of pool tables, another VIP-looking place with couches and plasmas (great for sports!) and yet another outside area. Quite often, there’s no need to go anyplace else in Palm Springs.
But there ARE other places. To keep from losing the night altogether too early, the Blue Coyote (455 N. Palm Canyon) makes the Best and Most Potent Margaritas in Palm Springs. A couple of them can somewhat obscure the atmosphere of the very cool restaurant/bar, so be sure to take it all in, like spending a moment to smell a nice bouquet of roses. There are several dining rooms in a Southwestern Mexican theme.
From the BC, the next logical cocktail location is the outdoor patio at the Hyatt. The Blue Bar, as it’s officially known though locals call it Cafe 285, is a quiet outdoor place where locals sometimes wade through the fountain. This is the kind of place where it’s always worthwhile to stop in and have one. As any bar veteran can attest, that “one” can suddenly turn into many. Here, there’s just no telling.
God’s Waiting Room, as some locals call it, is a sleek, old-fashioned piano bar called Melvyn’s. A Frank Sinatra clone – how appropriate here – makes those ivory keys tingle to just about any song people can request.
More live entertainment can be found at Shanghai Red’s, directly behind Los Casuelas. The blues band is not quite as sensational as the food but it’s a great place for beers on a patio. When there’s no band, it’s a good place to watch sports with locals.
Palm Springs/Palm Desert Clubs
The pub life may be in Palm Springs but clubbers go to Palm Desert.
Some place have their legends. The Green Bay Packers have Brett Fvare. Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke… The Lakers have Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kareem… The Dodgers have Robinson, Kofax, Cey & Garvey… The Clippers have, well, you get the point.
In Palm Springs, “the legend” of nightlife is Costas. The bar at the Palm Desert Marriott is where to find the party in the desert. It’s not a fancy place by any means but that’s part of its allure. Okay let’s be real – the real allure is the people who were drinking at the pool earlier. Still, Costa’s is full of good music and fun people slamming drinks like they are on a major holiday (which they are, though they only live two hours away), who are dancing and enjoying life.
People live large in the Legend of the desert.
If only every club were as freewheeling as Costas, then life would be a bowl full of fun.
Tip: Get there by 9:30 to avoid the lines; on holiday weekends go straight from the pool! (Not quite, but you get the idea.)
Before Costas, there was Zeldez and Zeldez is still here, right on Indian Canyon in the heart of Palm Springs (169 N Indian Canyon). Unlike wine, whiskey or cheese, however, this place has not improved with age. It’s not a mingle-friendly crowd and a couple of drinks hit the wallet to the tune of $20 with the tip. That’s on top of the $10 cover. In other words, don’t rush out of the Village Pub or other bar to see what it’s all about.
Palm Springs/ Gay Bars
Sure, one can have a “gay ol’ time” in Palm Springs. Local figures go anywhere from 20-40% when talking about gays who spend time in Palm Springs.
Leave those numbers to the statisticians. If you’re gay, go to these places. If you’re not, don’t sweat it.
Get hunted down at The Hunter, the nightclub along Areans St. In fact, all one has to do is cruise the long block on Areans between Palm Canyon and La Plaza to find the gay bars. Scores, the Rainbow and others are lined up like danceless dudes at the prom.
Yet there’s more. Every Wednesday, the lobby bar in the swanky Hotel Zoso (La Plaza and Indian Canyon) hosts a drag queen show. It’s extremely popular and there’s Happy Hour food and drink special until 8, which is about the time the show starts.
For the “half and half,” Touca’s in north Palm Springs provides the perfect mix of, well, a mix.