Gay hiking

Best Gay Bars and Clubs in Palm Springs

Palm Springs first emerged as an upscale luxury escape in the 1930s, when big-screen actress Greta Garbo vacationed there with her alleged lover, writer Mercedes de Acosta. Over the decades, public figures like Rock Hudson, Liberace and Cary Grant have also sought solace in the wilderness to escape public scrutiny. There’s no doubt that the resort’s evolution into an LGBTQ nightlife paradise was in direct response to some of these early entrants. There are hundreds of LGBTQ-owned businesses these days, and nearly half of the population identifies as a member of the community. The city even has the country’s first all-LGBTQ city council.

The majority of Palm Springs’ LGBTQ bars are concentrated along Arenas Road, but that hasn’t always been the case. The first gay bars in the area were founded in the still unincorporated Cathedral City, about fifteen minutes away. According to Ron deHarte, President and CEO of Palm Springs Pride, “It’s a story that can repeat itself in cities across the country. 50 years ago, gay bars discovered that a tolerant Cathedral City was where business owners could serve their gay clientele. Today you can still visit places like AMP Sports Lounge, One Eleven Bar, Rooster Bar or Barracks Bar.

Founded by Mariah Hanson, Dinah Shore Weekend has been running for 30 years and is the largest lesbian/queer women-led event in the world. Mark your calendar for September 21, which is Dinah’s official opening night and kicks off a night of debauchery. The weekend continues until September 25, with annual events like the Black & White Ball and The word I pool party, it’s all happening at the Margaritaville Resort in Palm Springs.

Avoiding triple-digit high temperatures, the annual Palm Springs Pride celebration takes place in November. This year marks the city’s 37th annual Pride celebration and will be held November 4-6, with an expected crowd of up to 200,000. Until then, check out these LGBTQ dance bars and clubs that feature karaoke nights, drag brunches, live DJs, sexy go-go dancers, show tunes, and more.

street bar
street bar

Streetbar was the first gay bar to open on Arenas Road and turns 31 this year. It has the distinction of being the oldest LGBTQ bar in the Coachella Valley. Best known for their karaoke nights which run from Sunday to Wednesday, they are famous for their heavy pours and upscale daily specials. Streetbar also offers an extended happy hour, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Think of it as your friendly neighborhood bar, a casual place with a friendly vibe.

Hunters is the place that caters to all types of social inclinations. If you’re feeling particularly confident about your quiz knowledge, check out a dual program of Quiz Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m., followed by karaoke at 8 p.m. On Sundays, the Risque Drag Revue is always a hit, as is the afternoon tea dance. The club is spacious, with indoor and outdoor spaces. The menu is filled with classic comfort food with a twist, like the Hey Girl Hey Hot Wings.

Roly China Fusion
Roly China Fusion

If you haven’t been to Roly China Fusion’s rooftop Sunday Drag Brunch yet, now is the time to fix it. And also decide if you’re a Diva, Mean Girl or Basic Bitch – the three levels of seating that also come with extras like a free bottle of champagne. Tickets start at $45 and all include a two-course brunch of Chinese fusion dishes like Sea Bass Satay, provided by chef and owner Chad Gardner. Named after Chad’s husband, Roly, the restaurant is lively and whimsical, making it a great place for a date.

AsiaSF
@officialasiasfps

With locations in Palm Springs and San Francisco, AsiaSF is a great place for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. The famous ladies of AsiaSF will delight you with their lively cabaret brunch and dinner parties that include singing, dancing and lip-syncing. AsiaSF has a long history of supporting the trans community and all of its performers are trans women who showcase their talents on a stage set in the middle of a fabulous dining room. Executive Chef Jen Solomon accompanies the experience with her cutting-edge Cal Asian cuisine.

Friendly staff combined with strong cocktails have earned Toucans accolades such as Best Dance Club, Best Drag Show and the number one gay bar in the desert. It also hosts the longest running drag show in town with Tommy Rose & The Playgirls on Sundays. On Monday nights, host Jesus Coria hosts a Latin Drag Revue, and you can channel jazzy vibes on Friday nights with Jazmyn “The People’s Queen” Simone. Before you know it, you’ll be smiling at other audience members, unable to shake off the music contagion.

Chill Bar Palm Springs
Chill Bar Palm Springs

The name Chill Bar is misleading because if you visit any night of the week, it’s anything but chill. A full calendar of events includes Leche Libre Latin Night on Wednesdays, when a DJ spins house Latin, salsa and cumbia. On college Friday nights, an array of go-go dancers (aka the Varsity Boys) share their own take on college sports with the music of Dawna Montell. The Sunday Drag Brunch is also legendary, often featuring guest appearances from stars like Naysha Lopez of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

black book
black book

Inspired by the Nevada Gaming Commission’s “black book” of outcasts, this bar aims to do the exact opposite by making sure everyone feels welcome. It certainly delivered on that promise and has since been voted the best bar in Palm Springs, even winning awards in top classic cocktails and top restaurant categories. So feel free to order food while you’re here – this isn’t your ordinary bar food. Think Nashville Hot Chicken, Pollo Asado Tacos and Disco Fries. We also love that they have the largest whiskey selection in the Coachella Valley.

Tool shed
Tool shed

Known as the original leather and Levi’s cruise bar in Palm Springs and a place where men into men congregate, Tool Shed is located in the Warm Sands neighborhood about four blocks from Arenas. They have a busy schedule of events — from massage Mondays to underwear night on Fridays — and are Palm Springs’ home bar Leather Order of the Desert. There’s also 0-69 Bingo every Saturday afternoon, with happy hour prizes and fun prizes. Things can get a little salacious here, especially on a crowded dance floor with pulsating music, so be prepared.

Oscar
@oscars_palmsprings

If you’re hanging out in downtown Palm Springs and looking for a hip spot with weekly and one-time events, then Oscar’s is your bar. Relax on the outdoor deck adorned with misters and umbrellas, or hang out indoors. Don’t miss the Bitchiest Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and be sure to stick around for the Mimosa Men on Saturdays at 1 p.m. Note that brunch, drinks and bottomless mimosas are sold separately. Oscar’s is within walking distance of the Palm Springs Museum of Art, so you can also get your fill of culture during your stay.

If singing show tunes is on the menu for the evening, be sure to visit Quadz, a bar with VJs and a medley of classic music videos. Locals and tourists alike love this place which celebrates some of the most iconic musical theater moments in history. With show tunes on the schedule three nights a week (Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays), a filmmakers gallery on Wednesdays and karaoke on Thursdays, everyone has the chance to be a star here – or at least channel one for the night.

Want more Thrillist? follow us on instagram, Twitter, pinterest, Youtube, ICT Tacand Snapchat.

Danielle Bauter is a Southern California-based freelance writer who focuses on travel, LGBTQ, and culinary topics. His writings have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, planet aloneand Fodor’s Journey. Follow her travels on Instagram and read more of her work at daniellebauter.com.