The best of Palm Springs nightlife often takes place in someone’s fabulously revivified mid-mod estate around the pool (think poolside settings shot by Slim Aarons at Kaufmann House; bonus points for classic cocktails and caftans). Most of these happenings occur during what’s considered to be Palm Springs’ high seasons—January through April—thanks to the area's seasonal event fixtures, such as Modernism Week (February), the Palm Springs Film Festival (January), and the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals (April).
But with more and more people moving here year-round, and a hotel scene that just won’t stop (even in the punishing summer months), you’ll find good options all year long. You just need to know where to look.
The best pool parties are, as you might expect, summer affairs. One of the best known is Splash House, a summer festival series that takes place every June and August on Friday and Saturday at The Saguaro, The Riviera, and The Renaissance. With pool decks as dance floors, great DJs, and lots of sweaty fun, parties start at noon and last 'til sundown. If you’re not looking for a festival, but do love a nice evening pool scene, here are some favorites:
- Ace Hotel & Swim Club: Pool parties, DJ-hosted dance parties, and plenty of beautiful people are what you’ll find at perennial favorite Ace. You can buy a one-time day pass; monthly pass; or year-round membership, which comes with access to the gym and steam room, discounts at the spa, and admission to poolside DJ events and pool parties. Too hot outside? Head inside to the Amigo Room for stand-up comedy, bingo, and karaoke.
- Hotel Zoso: Make a reservation for a cabana at Hotel Zoso for one of its 21+ pool parties (Sundays are for all ages). Then head inside at night to The Club, which hosts events like supper club parties, burlesque shows, and comedy. For those who love a good VIP booth with bottle service, The Club is a great option.
- High Bar at Rowan Palm Springs: Love a mellower pool scene? The High Bar at the Rowan sits adjacent to the rooftop pool, seven stories up, with gorgeous mountain views. Settle into one of the poolside lounge areas with some cocktails like the “Pool Hangs”—a refreshing drink made with vodka, St. Germaine, watermelon cordial, and fresh lime juice.
If you’re meeting up with someone in Palm Springs—for a conversation, a business meeting, a date—think cocktails, not coffee. There’s a huge variety of fantastic cocktail bars here, from old-school men’s club throwbacks to poolside lounges. Pick your scene, then pick your poison:
- Bootlegger Tiki: Happy Hour happens twice a day (4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 12 a.m. to 2 a.m.) at this kitschy and fun throwback bar. As authentic as tiki-era Americana gets, you’ll order rum-based favorites in the same space as the original Don the Beachcomber restaurant that opened here in 1953. Take your place under a tiki torch and order Mai Tais and daiquiris; happily, they’ve been updated to more sophisticated takes than the sugary originals, thanks to boutique rums and house-made Falernum.
- Seymour’s: Vintage photographs line the walls at this speakeasy-style cocktail lounge in a hidden room inside Mr. Lyons Steakhouse. With velvet booths, It’s all old-school clubby here, and the perfect place for a perfectly crafted Old Fashioned or Pimm's Cup.
- Purple Palm Restaurant & Bar: Arrive at “Sunset Hour” (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) for a little pre-dinner cocktail and snack in this gorgeous Mediterranean room near the Movie Colony district. The place was a members-only hideaway during Prohibition; along with lots of refreshingly light poolside cocktails, you’ll find some barrel-aged resurrections like the Camillo (mezcal, Campari, and Cocchi Torino).
Just because Palm Springs has such a strong cocktail culture doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of places to get down on a dance floor. Here are some of the most popular:
- Toucan’s Tiki Lounge: Drag Nights at Toucan’s are some of the most raucously hilarious nights around. The desert’s longest-running rag review is Tommi Rose & The Playgirls, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. On weekday nights, there’s no cover charge for popular shows like Rosemary’s Baby, starring Rosemary Galore. There are also nightly events like “Jungle Boogie” dance parties and the signature “Dirty Pop!” Saturday night dance party with DJs, go-go dancers, and dancing queens. It’s one of the city’s most popular gay clubs, and everyone is welcome.
- Hunters Nightclub: With a super-busy central bar, friendly bartenders, and major traction for its year-round events and dancing, Hunters has been one of the area’s favorite gay bars for 20 years. Great happy hour specials and a kitchen turning out solid American faves make it a great hangout.
- Village Pub: One of those great all-in-one places, the Village Pub has live music every night (no cover), plus a full menu and an outdoor fire pit where you can unwind until 1:30 a.m. Four dance floors; three DJs spinning Latin, R&B, dance, and house; and bottle service make it one of the best places to mingle and dance.
Nothing says "Palm Springs" like settling in for a supper club performance with Susan Anton at Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, where the Rat Pack hung out in the 60s. From lounge lizardy magic to surprise country guests during Stagecoach, Palm Springs knows how to do live music.
- Shanghai Reds: Would you expect a fantastic oyster bar and fresh seafood plus live music and dancing in Palm Springs? Neither would we. But Shanghai Reds has both: legit cioppino, Baja fish tacos, campechana, and live music out on the patio. A few beers and tacos in, and you’ll be ready to strike out on the dance floor, too.
- Neil’s Lounge: You might not think of Palm Springs as old-timey Western, but Neil’s Lounge is all this and offers a perpetual $5 bar menu to boot. The karaoke stage gets crowded at the dive bar (it starts at 8 p.m.), and on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s standing room only. Come during Stagecoach and you might be surprised at who shows up for a round of karaoke. For those who aren’t in it for the karaoke, hang out at the pool tables in the back room.
- The Copa Nightclub: With its upholstered booths and elevated performance stage and U-shaped bar, the Copa is a throwback to the nightclubs of a certain era in Palm Springs. But its live music weekdays give way to colored lasers and lights on weekends when it turns into a full-fledged dance party.
Tips for Going out in Palm Springs
- While Palm Springs’ high season is January through April, the most overlooked times to visit are late September and the month of October. Temperatures are still lovely—usually in the 80s—and hotel prices can be as low as half the price of seasonal highs.
- The Palm Springs area is spread out—as are the hotels, bars, and restaurants. If you’re planning on drinking, consider staying put for the evening (as in, start at the hotel bar before making your way to the pool party; that way you can stumble back to your room with a minimum of transportation drama at the end of the night).
- That said, Uber and Lyft are two great options in the Palm Springs area. Use them.
- Palm Springs’ late night is earlier than, say, Vegas. Strict city codes restrict music and noise after 10 p.m. in residential and commercial areas. Until Senate Bill 58, which seeks a last call of 4 a.m., passes, the last call time across California is 2 a.m.
- Sorry, no drinking on the street in Palm Springs.