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The Grooviest Hotel Bars in the Desert, Baby

Posted by Morgan Miles Craft On 6:06 PM

From Sleek Motifs to Designer Aperitifs, the Desert’s Resort Lounge Scene Has Never Been More Spirited
By Morgan Craft

   Palm Springs hotels are distinctly not like Vegas, and we like it that way. The Coachella Valley resorts are more laid back and quietly sophisticated, but they still cater to the hipster LA crowd. Those of us who live here make it a habit to go to only the grooviest hotel bars in town, so here’s the best bets whether you’re a local or coming in for the weekend.
   Our Desert communities have been home to many legendary hotel bar haunts, and even through real estate turnovers and renovations they retained their spirit and allure. At the famous Racquet Club, four barstools still have “Reserved” plaques for Clark Gable, Charles Farrell, William Powell and Spencer Tracy. Numerous celebrities were known to have cooled off with a libation or several at the La Quinta Resort. And the recently reopened Colony Palms Hotel was once a private speakeasy and brothel owned by Purple Gang mobster Al Wertheimer. (Click to read on...)
La Quinta
La Quinta Resort & Club

A twilight margarita at the La Quinta Resort is a Desert must-do. This 1926-vintage property is a small rancho unto itself, and the clientele comes for its exclusive ambience, spectacular vistas and warm appeal. The Top of the Plaza bar, with its calming fountain and stream, looks out across the grounds and quaint courtyard shops—all set before a dramatic backdrop of magenta peaks. Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Katherine Hepburn, Eddie Cantor and Greta Garbo once luxuriated in this atmosphere. Weekends feature live music, and there’s always a full menu to enjoy.

Indian Wells
Miramonte Resort & Spa
Less visible and bustling than the neighboring resorts across Highway 111, the Miramonte offers a decidedly more discreet and chic environment. The bar here, called The Vineyard Lounge, is bright during the day and intimate at night. Wines by the glass are featured on the heavily California wine list, and gracious bartenders offer ready suggestions. Thursday nights draw the locals for tapas and flamenco guitar—and the flavor and fun really flows.

Palm Desert
Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa

A towering indoor oasis greets all who enter this sprawling resort. Descending into the bar area, one is treated to sweeping vistas of the grounds through four stories of glass. Parrots and macaws call, and gondolas glide lazily around a huge lake—departing from a dock inside the lobby. It is a refuge that beckons visitors and encourages travelers, golfers and conventioneers to commingle. The Lobby Bar staff is pleasant and knowledgeable, and a beautiful sushi bar graces the lounge’s south wall. There’s even a Starbucks onsite for that emergency frappuccino.
Rancho Mirage
Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa

Rancho Las Palmas underwent a major transformation in 2007, and wisely,  it redesigned and reincarnated its lobby lounge first. R Bar has lots of leather and rich wood, and it is surrounded by ultra-tall, South Beach-style white booths. While The River’s retail and entertainment charms shimmer across the road, R Bar retains its quiet class in a beautifully-reborn resort. Locals are finding their way in after a round of golf, and the 450  remodeled rooms attract a whole new crowd. There’s a savory appetizer list and great wines by the glass, presented by a staff that serves guests and walk-ins with equal enthusiasm.

Palm Springs
Colony Palms Hotel

This elegant Downtown gathering spot compliments its host property’s beautiful pool. With an indoor-outdoor layout that encourages conversation and conviviality, this is a true hotel bar—an easy place to slip into any night of the week—where one can encounter locals, LA escapees, businesspeople and travelers. Ask Ivan at the bar for his best margarita, then settle in and watch the well-heeled parade, or dine at the bar from the restaurant’s menu. Watching a desert sunset over the San Jacinto Mountains from here is perfection.

Palm Springs
Parker Palm Springs

Entering the Parker is an adventure in of itself. On the 13-acre former site of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch and Merv Griffin’s Givenchy Resort and Spa, the Jonathan Adler-designed hotel is fun, ’70s-era swank—and quite cozy. Just beyond the understated reception area is the tiny Mini-Bar, a six-seat mirrored retreat with a single bartender and a long list of home-grown libations. Locals also dip into the loungy Mr. Parker’s and snag a seat at the dark walnut bar to watch the weekend scene in the dining room. Or take your group and sit in the groovy lounge, with its circular fire pit and deep couches. On balmy nights, adjourn just outside to a settee under the stars (you may see one or two walk by as well).

Palm Springs
Viceroy Palm Springs

Owner-designer Kelly Wearstler imbued the Palm Springs outpost of her growing hotel empire with chic style. And the hotel’s Citron Bar—with its new lounge annex— adheres to the Viceroy model. Clean and bright, yet intimate, the bar and lounge are perfect for refreshing aperitifs, signature martinis and good conversation. Perching on a couch with a whimsically-named beverage in the lounge bungalow is like enjoying a private cabana. Expect to see stray LA hipsters (many of whom also hang out at Viceroy Santa Monica) and local scenesters dressed as if they’re hitting the Sunset Strip.

Palm Springs
Riviera Palm Springs

This small lounge just off the hotel’s Circa 59 steakhouse was designed for intimacy. There are dark nooks to hide in, and a single mixologist cooking up specialty cocktails and classics with groovy tunes. An outside deck overlooks the resort’s sexy pool, and at night, fire pits cast a sensuous glow around the grounds. There's a house DJ spinning loungy beats every weekend, and with the hotel's other drinking outposts, the Bikini and Starlite bars, you can bar-hop right on property.

Palm Springs

Ace Hotel Palm Springs
Probably the coolest bar in town, particularly for the hipster crowd. Deep booths and low light combine with dark walls for a cave-like feel. The bartenders use ingredients made from scratch, with a number of totally unique offerings. The pool has a great scene and the Ace often hosts musical and social events for tourists and locals alike. Weekends are often good for celebrity sighting – those that ever leave their rooms.

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