Essential LGBTQ Bars and Dance Clubs to Visit in Palm Springs
The low-desert has long proven a welcoming haven for the LGBTQ community, with plenty of gay bars, drag shows, and other community spaces.
Palm Springs first rose as a high-end luxury escape in the 1930s, when silver screen actress Greta Garbo vacationed there with her rumored lover, writer Mercedes de Acosta. As the decades wore on, public figures like Rock Hudson, Liberace, and Cary Grant also sought solace in the desert to escape public scrutiny. There’s little doubt that the resort city’s evolution into a haven for LGBTQ nightlife was in direct response to some of these early entrants. Nowadays, there are hundreds of LGBTQ-owned businesses and almost half of the population identifies as a member of the community. The city even has the nation’s first all-LGBTQ City Council.
The majority of LGBTQ bars in Palm Springs are concentrated along Arenas Road, but that wasn’t always the case. The area’s original gay bars were founded in 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 be repeated in towns across the country. 50 years ago, gay bars found a tolerant Cathedral City was the place that business owners could serve their gay clientele.” Today, you can still visit spots like AMP Sports Lounge, one eleven bar, Rooster Bar, or Barracks Bar.
Founded by Mariah Hanson, Dinah Shore Weekend has been ongoing for 30 years and represents the largest lesbian/queer woman-led event in the world. Mark your calendar for September 21, which is The Dinah’s official opening party and kickoff to a night of debauchery. The weekend continues through September 25, with annual events like the Black & White Ball and The L Word pool party, all happening at Margaritaville Resort in Palm Springs.
Avoiding high, triple-digit temperatures, Palm Springs’ annual Pride celebration takes place in November. This year marks the city’s 37th annual Pride Celebration and will be held from November 4–6, with an anticipated crowd of up to 200,000 people. Until then, check out these LGBTQ bars and dance clubs which offer karaoke nights, drag brunches, live DJs, sexy go-go dancers, show tunes, and more.
Streetbar was the first gay bar to open on Arenas Road, and will be turning 31 this year. It holds the distinction of being the longest-operating LGBTQ bar in the Coachella Valley. Best known for its karaoke nights that run from Sunday to Wednesday, they are famous for their heavy pours and daily top shelf specials. Streetbar also has an extended happy hour, which runs from 10 am to 8 pm. Think of it as your friendly neighborhood bar, a laid-back place with a friendly vibe.
Hunters is the spot that caters to every kind of social inclination. If you’re feeling especially confident about your trivia knowledge, check out a doubleheader of Trivia Tuesdays at 5:30 pm followed by karaoke at 8 pm. 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 comfort food classics with a twist—such as the Hey Girl Hey Hot Wings.
If you haven’t yet been to Roly China Fusion’s rooftop Sunday Drag Brunch, it’s time to remedy that. And also decide whether you are a Diva, Mean Girl, or Basic Bitch—the three tiers of seating that also come with extras like a complimentary 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 vibrant and whimsical, making it a great spot for date night.
With locations in Palm Springs and San Francisco, AsiaSF is a great spot for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. The world-famous Ladies of AsiaSF will delight you with their lively cabaret brunch and dinner performances that include singing, dancing, and lip-syncing. AsiaSF has been a longtime supporter of the trans community and all of their performers are trans women who showcase their talents on a stage that sits in the middle of a fabulous dining room. Executive chef Jen Solomon accompanies the experience with her cutting-edge Cal Asian cuisine.
The friendly staff combined with strong cocktails have been Toucans a winner of accolades such as best dance club, best drag show, and the desert’s number one gay bar. It also hosts the city’s longest continually-running drag show 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 your fellow audience members, unable to shake the infectiousness of the music.
Chill Bar’s name is deceiving, because if you visit any night of the week it is anything but chill. A full calendar of events include Leche Libre Latin Night on Wednesdays, when a DJ spins Latin house, salsa, and cumbia. On Varsity Night Fridays an array of go-go dancers (aka the Varsity Boys) share their own take on varsity sports with music by Dawna Montell. The Sunday Drag Brunch is also legendary, often with guest appearances from stars like Naysha Lopez from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Inspired by the Nevada Gaming Commission’s “black book” of excluded persons, this bar intends to do just the opposite by making sure that everyone feels welcome. It’s certainly made good on that promise and has since been voted the best bar in Palm Springs, even taking home prizes in the best classic cocktails and best restaurant categories. So don’t hesitate 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.
Known as the original leather and Levi cruise bar in Palm Springs and a place where men who like men gather, Tool Shed is located in the Warm Sands district about four blocks down from Arenas. They have a packed calendar of events—from Massage Mondays to Underwear Night on Fridays—and are the home bar for Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert. There’s also 0-69 Bingo every Saturday afternoon, with happy hour prices and fun prizes. Things can get a bit salacious here, especially on a crowded dance floor with pulsating music, so be prepared.
If you’re hanging out in downtown Palm Springs and are looking for a hip spot with weekly and one-off events, then Oscar’s is your bar. Relax on the outdoor patio adorned with misters and umbrellas, or hang out inside. Don’t miss the Bitchiest Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 am and make sure you stay for the Mimosa Men on Saturdays at 1 pm—take note that brunch, beverages, and bottomless mimosas are sold separately. Oscar’s is within walking distance from the Palm Springs Art Museum, so you can pack in a bit of culture while you’re there as well.
If belting out show tunes is on the menu for the night, then be sure to visit Quadz, a sing-along bar with VJs and a mix of classic video clips. Both locals and tourists love this spot that 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 filmmaker’s gallery on Wednesdays, and karaoke on Thursdays, everyone has a chance to be a star here—or at least channel one for the night.