Check out this alphabetical list of the best bars and nightclubs in Palm Springs for gay travelers. This favorite gay vacation getaway in Southern California's Mojave Desert has a great variety of gay bars, piano lounges, dance clubs, and cruising grounds to go with its abundance of gay resorts. There's a reason this is the West Coast's leading resort getaway among the GLBT set, especially from fall through spring, when temperatures here are mild and inviting.
Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel
The old Denny's on East Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs is now a hip, gay-popular restaurant and lounge called King's Highway and The Amigo Room - that's just part of the good vibe that resulted when the retro-hip Ace Hotel opened in this desert playground. The restaurant here, off of which the hotel lobby is located, serves tasty mod interpretations of classic American comfort chow, and in the Amigo Room, you can sip colorful cocktails, like the King's Margarita with fresh lime and house-made triple sec, or the Kiwi Caipirinha. Amigo Room is a natural fit with guests of the Ace, but it and the adjoining restaurant also pull in plenty of locals - gay and straight.
The definitive hangout, from 2 pm until 2 am, for guys into leather, uniforms, fetish, bears, boots, pierced and tattooed dudes, muscle worship, military gear, water sports, hard-core cruising, and other good-clean-dirty fun, the Barracks is in a secluded locale in Cathedral City, just a 10- to 15-minute drive from Palm Springs. You can always count on good stiff drinks here, to go with a good stiff time. It's a little tricky to find - look for the Arco gas station at El Dorado and Canyon Plaza, on East Palm Canyon Drive.
The largest and gas of the gay bars along the East Arenas Road strip in downtown Palm Springs, Hunters Nightclub is a spacious, well-decorated, upscale-looking gay video and cruise bar that's a mainstay of the region's clubbing scene. Popular as much for watching videos and dancing as for watching hot go-go boys dancing, Hunters fills to the rafters on weekends in high seasons and draws pretty good crowds year-round. Note that in Chicago's Elk Grove Village, you can party at the sister Hunters Nightclub.
Melvyn's Restaurant and Lounge
A legendary spot for fine dining and cocktails inside the historic Ingleside Inn, Melvyn's (200 W. Ramon Rd.) is a great choice for a romantic dinner, enjoying martinis and other classic cocktails, and people-watching - it's not uncommon to see celebs mingling here. On Sunday afternoons, there's a jam session, at which locals musicians appear - some of them quite famous. This event is a Palm Springs tradition.
A low-keyed and friendly neighborhood bar that's part of the Arenas Road gay-bar strip, Score is a good spot for grabbing a drink before venturing out to some of the bigger and bolder spots in the area, such as Hunter's and SpurLine.
The laid-back Streetbar is a mostly guys-oriented gay neighborhood hangout, drawing generally a 40-and-over crowd. It's a popular stop on the Arenas Road gay bar circuit and is known for karaoke, cheap happy hours, and dishy drag shows.
Studio One 11
StudioOne11 is in the same Cathedral City shopping center that's housed the now-defunct Sidewinders and Elevation gay bars. This is a laid-back, attractive, and friendly piano bar and lounge with live jazz and cabaret as well as open-mic and karaoke nights - a very relaxing and fun alternative to the louder clubs and bars in the region. Hardwood floors, comfy armchairs, and an airy patio with rattan furnishings give the place a sophisticated vibe.
One of the hotspots in the Palm Springs East Arenas Road gay nightlife district, QUADZ is a friendly guys' bar drawing a mostly 30-and-up crowd of guys into karaoke, videos, drag shows, and dancing. The crowd varies a bit depending on the night, with sometimes a bit more of a younger crowd, and other times a mix of women and men. It's a fun place on weekends.
Since the mid-1990s, the rough-and-ready Tool Shed has been the premier leather-and-Levi's bar in Palm Springs - it's on a side street on the south side of downtown, on the edge of the Warm Sands gay resort district. Open from morning until 2 am, the Tool Shed doles out cheap and potent drinks, hosts an Erotic Art Expo each February, and awards a Mr. Tool Shed Leather prize each year.
Toucans Tiki Lounge
Toucans is the first gay bar in Palm Springs you'll come to if approaching the city from the north (which most visitors do, via the I-10 freeway to Hwy. 111), so it's the perfect spot in which to warm up and get your bearings. But this loosely tropics-themed bar and dance club, officially called Toucans Tiki Lounge, is also one of the top gay hangouts in the desert region, catering to a primarily male (but female-welcoming), all-ages crowd. It's across the street from the trendy bar-restaurant Dink's, and it's known for such engaging theme nights as Sunday night drag revues with Tommi Rose & The Playgirls, two-for-one drinks on Tuesdays, '80s flashback dancing on Wednesdays, and Jungle Boogie (with go-go dancers) on Fridays and Saturdays.
Wang's in the Desert
The definitive gay happy hour scene (from 5 to 7:30 most nights - it begins a bit earlier on weekends), Wang's in the Desert. is also one of Palm Springs's hot spots for contemporary Pan-Asian food. The restaurant is stylish and festive, and the sidebar, which hosts the happy hour celebrations, is a fun venue for colorful cocktails and mingling with locals and tourists - it keeps pretty busy well into the evening. Wang's is just around the corner from the gay bars along Arenas Road.