Cities with the best nightlife have a few things in common. First of all, they’re home to a huge selection of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, music venues, and other entertainment options. But more importantly, these cities provide an abundance of opportunities for excitement, socialization, and self-expression. While there are tried-and-true favorites that make most lists, there are also some surprises.
Two words describe New York’s nightlife: multi-layered and legendary. There are endless activities to seek out once the sun goes down, like karaoke bars, comedy shows, cabarets, and broadway shows, but there’s so much more. NYC is all about exploring. Experience iconic jazz in Harlem or check out an upscale lounge in the East Village. Believe it or not, there was a 1926 dancing ban in place in NYC until its repeal in 2017. Take advantage of it, and seek out the high-energy, party-until-morning venues in Bushwick, an industrial warehouse borough in the northern part of the city.
LA has a glitzy, glamorous image to uphold, and its nightlife is proof of that. Starting in the late spring, catch a live musical performance under a starlit sky at the Hollywood Bowl. Afterward, head to the amped-up downtown area where you’ll discover rooftop bars and a wide array of music venues, ritzy nightspots, and gritty dance clubs with a unique underground ambiance. Take in the full experience of West Hollywood along Santa Monica Boulevard and find nightspots with everything from karaoke to go-go dancers, drag shows, and award-winning restaurants.
A 2020 survey found that the nation’s capital is the wildest city in America, outranking some of the usual top contenders. There are around 240 after-dark venues for every 100,000 people across the city. One of the wealthier areas of town, Dupont Circle, is home to dozens of cafes, restaurants, and trendsetting bars. If free-flowing drinks, rooftop bars, speakeasies, live music, and dancing venues are more your style, head to historic, eclectic U Street in the northwest part of the city.
Every neighborhood in Miami has a diverse and unique nighttime identity. From the decadent, world-famous South Beach dance clubs that don’t close until 5 a.m. to the hipster-friendly, cultural hangouts in the Wynwood neighborhood, this city truly has something for everyone. For those who prefer a bohemian atmosphere, the Coconut Grove neighborhood, just blocks away from the University of Miami, is a haven for college students and travelers alike. Start an evening out in Downtown Miami, where you’ll find tons of happy hour options and friendly, comfortable neighborhood watering holes.
Some residents of this northwestern metropolis don’t view it as a top nightlife city. But those who hang out at its many live music venues, speakeasies, and nightclubs disagree. Seattle is a hub for rock and independent music, yet it also has amazing jazz, blues, funk, experimental, and world music clubs. The downtown area, on the city’s west side, is pure energy with a vast selection of live venues and an inspired collection of cuisine options. Capitol Hill is the center of the city’s LGBTQ community, a tree-shaded neighborhood with historic mansions, 1920s era bars, swanky dance clubs, and big, enthusiastic crowds.
The Neon Capital of the World has been one of the best nightlife cities in the U.S. for decades. It’s not just the gambling, or the live shows, or the pool parties, or the free-flowing amounts of alcohol. This city’s identity is tied to its early beginnings, back when it was a handful of illegal speakeasies and casinos. Today, Vegas still surrounds its visitors with an atmosphere of frolic and frivolity. Multi-level nightclubs host big-name headliners and infamous DJs. High-tech effects, dancing, and energy add to the nightlife splendor that creates a true Vegas experience.
It may be the city of world-renowned universities and a high-brow arts scene, but Boston also rates at the top of the party scale. This city takes its nightlife to a new level with a plethora of innovative venues. Enjoy a night out as you mingle with jet-setters, glam it up at an upscale hotel bar, or make new friends at local hangouts. Breweries are synonymous with Boston, so beer lovers will have no problem finding the perfect brew. Historic taverns dot the neighborhoods, and the cuisine options are as diverse and fascinating as the people who live here.
People unfamiliar with the Mile High City may not realize it’s also a top hot spot for nightlife. But after a day on the slopes or exploring the outdoors, you’ll find the perfect nightspot to top off the day with a favorite brew or designer cocktail. According to local legend, Colfax Avenue in Denver’s historic east-west main street was dubbed by Hugh Hefner the “longest, wickedest street in America.” If you’re seeking a true Americana experience, plan a pub crawl and explore the mixed bag of down-to-earth bars and taverns along this famous thoroughfare.
Texas is a state of extremes, from its weather to its landscapes, to its people. When it comes to nightlife, Houston is a city of cultural extremes and rich history. Sure, there are honkytonks where you can deck out in head-to-toe cowboy attire, ride a mechanical bull, and two-step all night long, but this city also has a sophisticated side with elegant whiskey bars and members-only speakeasies.
Visitors to Atlanta will find a city with outstanding culinary options, lots of entertainment, and an amazing mix of people and cultures. Atlanta is the hip-hop music capital of the South, so chances are, you can catch well-known and up-and-coming performers at one of the hot spots around the city. Whether you’re into dancing the night away to EDM tracks or playing vintage arcade games while enjoying a cold beer, Atlanta is the perfect place to create a memorable nightlife experience.