Working with Timezones
UPDATE TO UPDATE: Bruce Momjian suggested replacing the dynamic set local sql with set_config. We've revised further to incorporate this suggestion. That got rid of our last pet peeve about this function. Thanks all.
Simon Bertrang proposed using set local which seems much nicer. We've updated our function using his revision.

One of PostgreSQL's nice features is its great support for temporal data. In fact it probably has the best support for temporal data than any other database. We'll see more of this power in PostgreSQL 9.2 with the introduction of date time range types. One of the features we've appreciated and leveraged quite a bit in our applications is its numerous time zone aware functions. In PostgreSQL timestamp with time zone data type always stores the time in UTC but default displays in the time zone of the server, session, user. Now one of the helper functions we've grown to depend on is to_char() which supports timestamp and timestamp with timezone among many other types and allows you to format the pieces of a timestamp any way you like. This function is great except for one small little problem, it doesn't allow you to designate the display of the output timezone and always defaults to the TimeZone value setting of the currently running session. This is normally just fine (since you can combine with AT TIMEZONE to get a timestamp only time that will return the right date parts, except for the case when you want your display to output the time zone -- e.g. EDT, EST, PST, PDT etc (timestamp without timezone is timezone unaware). In this article we'll demonstrate a quick hack to get around this issue. First let's take to_char for a spin.

Using to_char

--We're in Boston
SELECT to_char(CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, 'Day Mon dd, yyyy HH12:MI AM (TZ)');
-- outputs--
Sunday    Jul 08, 2012 11:07 AM (EDT)

set TimeZone='US/Central';
SELECT to_char(CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, 'Day Mon dd, yyyy HH12:MI AM (TZ)');

--output is --
Sunday    Jul 08, 2012 10:07 AM (CDT)

--if you convert note how the TZ is no longer present --
-- because its just a timestamp
SELECT to_char(CURRENT_TIMESTAMP AT TIME ZONE 'America/Los_Angeles', 'Day Mon dd, yyyy HH12:MI AM (TZ)');

--output is --
Sunday    Jul 08, 2012 08:07 AM ()

The function hack

We see we can change the time zone and have to_char register a date time for that time zone. One way which I admit is not that elegant is to wrap the set call in a function and then reset when done. It's not elegant mostly because it's not clear if there would be side issues resulting from this. In a parallel process there might be, but since PostgreSQL doesn't support parallel processing at this time, there shouldn't be.

UPDATE Simon Bertrang suggested using set local instead of local which is a much better solution since it only changes the local state. We've crossed out ours and replaced with his revision.
--Original function --
-- The function --
CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION date_display_tz(param_dt timestamp with time zone, param_tz text, param_format text)
DECLARE var_prev_tz text; var_result varchar;
-- store prior timezone so we can reset it back when we are done
SELECT setting INTO var_prev_tz FROM pg_settings WHERE name = 'TimeZone'; 
EXECUTE 'set timezone = ' || quote_literal(param_tz)  ;
var_result := to_char(param_dt, param_format);
--reset time zone back to what it was
EXECUTE 'set timezone = ' || quote_literal(var_prev_tz) ;
return var_result;
-- Simon Bertrang's version 
-- uses local to obviate the need to reset the timezone
-- further refined with Bruce Momjian's suggestion to use set_config
-- instead of dynamic sql
CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION date_display_tz(param_dt timestamp with time zone, param_tz text, param_format text) 
DECLARE var_result varchar;
EXECUTE 'set local timezone = ' || quote_literal(param_tz);
PERFORM set_config('timezone', param_tz, true);
var_result := to_char(param_dt, param_format);
RETURN var_result;
$$ language plpgsql VOLATILE; 

COMMENT ON FUNCTION date_display_tz(timestamp with time zone, text, text) IS 'input param_dt: time stamp with time zone
param_tz: desired output time zone
param_format: desired date output

This function will return the timestamp formatted using the time zone local time';

Now to take our new function for a test drive

-- we use the FM in front to get rid of the 9 char padding
SELECT tz_name, date_display_tz(CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, tz_name, 'FMDay Mon dd, yyyy HH12:MI AM (TZ)')
FROM (VALUES ('US/Eastern')
    , ('US/Central')
    , ('America/Los_Angeles') ) AS t(tz_name);
      tz_name       |          date_display_tz
US/Eastern          | Sunday Jul 08, 2012 08:05 PM (EDT)
US/Central          | Sunday Jul 08, 2012 07:05 PM (CDT)
America/Los_Angeles | Sunday Jul 08, 2012 05:05 PM (PDT)