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Best Palm Springs Nightlife

AOL PICK from our Editors

The halcyon days of the lounge acts, when piano-bar singers tickled the ivories to the delight of the cocktail-sipping crowd, still pretty much define Palm Springs’ nightclubs and bars. A few clubs feature shows and live entertainment, and many cater to the gay crowd. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge in Palm Springs is one of the largest gay spots, with live shows and flamboyant South Pacific décor. You’ll always find something live on stage at the Indian-owned casinos. The Spa Hotel Casino in Palm Springs features live bands and singers. The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage offers lounge entertainment and headliners from Jay Leno to Ringo Starr in its new state-of-the-art concert theater. If you’re looking for jazz, you’ll find it at the rooftop lounge of the Fantasy Springs Resort Hotel & Casino in La Quinta, which books name acts in its showroom.  

Zelda’s Night Club

Neighborhood: Downtown

Girls and guys looking for late-night action have made Zelda’s Night Club a top spot for more than 30 years. Locals say the vibe is hotter than ever, now that Zelda’s has new owners and a new location (an easy-to-find strip mall). DJs spin top-40s to old-school and Latin, as the primarily 21 to mid-30s crowd jumps on the dance floor or joins the go-go dancers on raised platforms. The vast bar area offers space for chatting. Luxury sky boxes, VIP booths, bottle service and scheduled live entertainment add a Vegas tone to the new two-story digs and make it a great spot for parties.

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Zelda’s Night Club  

Melvyn's Restaurant

Neighborhood: Downtown

Want to experience the sophisticated, mellow mood of Palm Springs’ Rat Pack days? This is the place. Since the 1970s, when the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Liberace and Cher really did drop in for drinks, Melvyn’s—as it’s locally known—is the must-visit piano bar. The long, dark-wood bar fills up fast, but if you’re gonna dance, you’ll want a table in the large back room, anyway. The piano is between the two, so the keyboard-playing singer is easy to see and hear throughout. Huge portraits of Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe and photos of stars that have dropped by grace the walls. And mirrors—most of the walls are covered in floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which can make it painfully embarrassing for first-timers searching for the restrooms in the dim light. Sinatra, Cole Porter, Michael Jackson, the Beatles—the keyboardist sings them all. Everybody knows everybody, so if a Broadway or film star is in the room, they’ll usually jump in for a few numbers.

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Dink’s Restaurant & Ultra Lounge

Neighborhood: Uptown

Dink’s is short for “double income no kids” and the space, a huge arena-like room with deep red walls and white-leather ottomans, was created to attract a fun-loving, sophisticated crowd. It’s worked. Dink’s has been jammed since opening in 2008. The shows are relentlessly eclectic, from vocalists like Irene Soderberg to 15-piece big band orchestras, Elvis tribute singers, live radio broadcasts with local DJs, and drag-queen productions. If there’s a big sports event, the gigantic flat screens over the bar pack the house. A retractable ceiling and glass walls let the stars shine in on balmy nights, and the outside bar and private cocktail cabanas (for up to six people) offer a cozy retreat for chatting or smoking (smoking outside is still legal in California). This is a great place if you want dinner and live entertainment—some tables face the stage—but if not, sit at the huge rectangular bar or at the cocktail tables and chairs fronting the stage. Some shows require reservations.

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Dink’s Restaurant & Ultra Lounge  

Village Pub

Neighborhood: Downtown

The name says it all. Flip flops and tank tops are the rule, not the exception, for the college-age patrons, who dance and drink to the loud, live bands belting out everything from reggae to pop at this funky Palm Springs nightclub. Huge glass windows are the only separation between the sidewalk and the band, so you can see and hear the fun before you even step inside. There’s a second bar in the courtyard in back, and a third bar upstairs, with dartboards and pool tables. This is where bikers hang out when they’re in town. The kitchen stays open until 1:30AM, so if time slipped away and you’re looking for dinner after the dinner hour, the Village Pub is still going strong when the rest of downtown is slumbering.

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Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Lounge

Neighborhood: Rancho Mirage

This is a new take on an old concept and offers a nice way to while away an evening. Bing’s (the locals shorten everything) is a loving homage to Bing Crosby. You can view his golf clubs and pipe collection, but it’s the classic publicity photo of Crosby, Grace Kelley and Frank Sinatra in the 1956 movie “High Society” that grabs your attention and makes you want to relive the glamour. The piano bar is in the center of the restaurant, with nightly live entertainment. Wally’s Desert Turtle is across the street, so if you’ve had dinner there, Bing’s is perfect for a nightcap. If not, Bing’s cuisine is Five-Diamond rated.   

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Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Lounge  

The Saloon at Jackalope Restaurant

Neighborhood: Indio

It’s about a 40-minute schlep along Highway 111 to the Saloon Lounge, so it’s worth it only if you have a car. The Saloon’s décor is as entertaining as the throngs of lounge lizards who come from throughout the desert. That’s as it should be, since it’s in a restaurant named after an imaginary animal that’s the butt of jokes. Two huge, whimsical bronze pigs greet you at the restaurant entrance. The Saloon takes up a fair amount of the space in this 21,000-square-foot restaurant that’s outfitted in Southwest splendor, with two massive bars crafted from Mexican mission-style wooden doors imbedded with metal studs and topped with thick glass, cowhide upholstered bar chairs, and a seating area for six carved from a single granite boulder. Miniatures of the giant bronze pigs decorate the table lamps and wall sconces. The live music is good, and if you’ve been in town a few days, you might recognize the band members from Shanghai Reds in Palm Springs. Order the “Jackalope Spotter,” a mix of vodka, Midori, Malibu, fresh pineapple and cranberry juice.

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The Saloon at Jackalope Restaurant  
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