Back in the ’20s, Palm Springs was known as Hollywood’s playground, where stars came to let down their hair, get a little crazy, and escape the press, studio bosses, and autograph hounds. These days, they hide out in high-privacy, ultra-luxury resorts and estates — except for those two weeks in January when the Palm Springs International Film Festival brings them into town to strut the red carpet, hang out with industry friends, and join everyone else in the city’s casual restaurants and bars.
With this star power, the desert’s reputation as an early-to-bed place gets a real kick of adrenaline. The last screenings of the day usually start at 9 p.m., and that leaves a big chunk of time free to play — and rub elbows with Hollywood types — before it begins all over again the next day.
Here’s where to maximize your chances of seeing stars or directors, hear the latest industry gossip, and get a fine dinner or cocktail.
The after-party at The Parker Palm Springs is the hottest ticket in town, and open only to those who have upper-level tickets to the black-tie Awards Gala. Still, The Parker is a glamour scene all through the festival. Stake out a chair in the glitzy little mini bar for a view of the lobby, get a spicy quesadilla at Norma’s, and take a nonchalant lap around the outdoor lounge and fire pit. 4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-770-5000; www.theparkerpalmsprings.com
The Saguaro and Ace Hotel & Swim Club attract a young, hip, L.A.-oriented crowd. Tuck into the Ace’s hefty, juicy meatloaf at the King’s Highway restaurant and wash it down with artisanal cocktails or one of more than 20 different beers at the Amigo Room. Stroll across the street to The Saguaro for tapas at Tinto and top-shelf tequilas at El Jefe. Ace, 701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings. The Saguaro, 1800 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-323-1711; www.thesaguaro.com
The Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel, Viceroy Palm Springs, and Hard Rock Hotel downtown are prime spots for industry guests. The Renaissance is the official host hotel — check out the Rocks lobby bar for familiar faces. The Viceroy is the epitome of Regency Hollywood glam, with poolside cabanas at Citron restaurant in high demand. The Hard Rock’s “rock ‘n’ roll oasis” lures guests with cushy lounges and an outdoor fire pit. Renaissance, 888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 760-322-6000; www.renaissancehotelpalmsprings.com
Nearby, The Tropicale restaurant and lounge is a local favorite for appetizers and cocktails. Go for sushi on Sundays and an all-day happy hour on Wednesdays. Birba, next to the Alcazar Hotel in the Uptown Design District, serves up tasty pizzas and a bevy of signature cocktails in their outdoor patio. Another spot with a high cool quotient is the Asian-fusion spot Jiao, just across the street from Birba. Order a salted caramel homemade ice cream and a Vietnamese coffee to gear up for star-spotting at the ultra-chic Riviera Palm Springs and its Tiki-inspired Chiki Bar, at the north end of town, close to the Uptown Design District.
Tropicale, 330 E. Amado Rd., Palm Springs. 760-866-1952; www.thetropicale.com
Birba, 622 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-327-5678; www.birbaps.com
Jiao, 515 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-321-1424; jiaops.com
Riviera, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-327-8311; psriviera.com