One of the biggest nights for dress-up in the desert, the star-studded Palm Springs International Film Festival attracts not just big players in the entertainment industry every January, but also more than 135,000 enthusiastic filmgoers to Greater Palm Springs. Sure, many of the attendees may want to catch a glimpse of George Clooney, but they are mostly here for the movies—an outstanding 11-day lineup of more than 200 independent films and documentaries, many making their U.S. premieres. There are also a hefty number of international films from more than 60 countries—the largest number of foreign film contenders vying for that year’s Oscars in any festival.
The array of movie screenings may be the biggest draw, but the glitziest evening each year is undoubtedly the Film Awards. The black-tie event, which hands out 11 awards that recognize such distinctions as Breakthrough Performance, Rising Star, Career Achievement, and Director of the Year, attracts dozens of A-list celebrities—recent attending honorees have included Rami Malek, Glenn Close, Spike Lee, and Bradley Cooper—to kick off the year’s awards season. The event is open to the public, but seats and tables sell out quickly, so plan ahead.
For those who would like to experience more than just a few screenings but can’t attend the pricey Film Awards ceremony, consider getting one of the five-day screening passes, which are reasonably priced and include access to special presentations.
Insider tip: Can’t make it in January? In June, Palm Springs ShortFest shows off some of the best short films of the year, in the largest festival of its kind in North America. Whichever festival you attend, be sure to make time for the area’s other great features, like the world-famous golf courses, mid-century modern architecture, the luxurious resorts, and the al fresco dining scene.