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  • Writer's pictureS. Parris

The Best US Cities To Visit If You Enjoy A Lively Nightlife Scene




There are so many great places in the U.S. to visit if you are looking for a plethora of evening entertainment options, no matter your definition of nightlife. However, the best scenes offer it all — dancing, drinks, cuisine, theater productions, concerts, festivals, casinos, art exhibits, people-watching, good old-fashioned partying, and more. So, if it is a night out on the town you seek, you will be glad to know that the possibilities are practically endless and there is undoubtedly something for everyone.


Often, major cities are the common go-tos for good time-seeking travelers. But, no two destinations are alike, and the collective social scene in the U.S. is ever-evolving, which sometimes makes narrowing down one's options slightly difficult. So to help you find the perfect spot on the map for a fun-filled getaway that is everything you could imagine and then some, here are the best U.S. cities to visit if you enjoy a lively nightlife scene.


Las Vegas


Sin City is known for its exciting nightlife scene and is the place to be if you want to celebrate any occasion to the fullest. In particular, Las Vegas clubs, cocktail bars, and lounges are next level. Plus, with many nightclubs staying open as late as 4 a.m., the party never actually stops in this destination. And party spots like Zouk Nightclub, XS Las Vegas, Tao Nightclub, and Drai's After Hours are definitely worth a visit if you love pulsating dance halls, renowned DJs, sparklers, and VIP booths.


Alternatively, for travelers who prefer a more relaxed experience with well-crafted cocktails and ambiance, then the Skyfall Panoramic Bar & Lounge, Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge, The Laundry Room, The Dorsey Cocktail Bar, Velveteen Rabbit, and Oak & Ivy are great bars to check out while in town. Of course, The Strip itself needs no introduction and is brimming with fun, excitement, and casinos. With the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, MGM Grand Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, Bellagio Casino, and many more, Las Vegas visitors can easily have a blast on their Sin City getaway. There are also star-studded events and live entertainment like Cirque Du Soleil shows, boxing matches, magic shows, concerts, and theatrical productions happening all the time in this adult playground.


New Orleans


Yet another U.S. city that knows how to keep the party going is none other than New Orleans. Home to Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street, this lively destination knows how to have a good time. In the Big Easy, visitors will find countless music and jazz clubs, Frenchmen Street, sports bars, night tours, gay bars, late-night restaurants, dance halls, casinos, and so much more.


In many respects, New Orleans is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of destination. So regardless of whether you want to enjoy a nice dinner, art, and an evening of jazz in the Arts/Warehouse District, after-hours fun in the Uptown Garden District, the funky nighttime vibe of Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge, or late-night eats, dancing, and music clubs in the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, you definitely will not tire of this nightlife scene. The Big Easy also has an electrifying burlesque arena and quite a compelling theater scene for visitors craving a thrilling and even more performative night on the town.


Los Angeles


Wanderlusters ready to revel in a world-class nightlife scene should absolutely head to the City of Angels. From live entertainment, dance clubs with international DJs, chill night spots, and speakeasies to comedy clubs, stylish lounges, supper clubs, and sports bars, Los Angeles is the perfect destination for nightlife lovers. In fact, Los Angeles should be at the top of your list, especially if you want to rub elbows with celebrities, try chef-created meals, indulge in handcrafted cocktails, or simply enjoy the latest party trends, preferably on a downtown rooftop lounge.


But that's not all — performance art fans are in for a real treat when it comes to theater productions. For Broadway-level shows, musicals, plays, and the classics, visitors can head over to the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Sacred Fools Theater Company, and the Geffen Playhouse — just to name a few. There are also more than a few guided tours, experiences, and nighttime activities to get into here, including the Los Angeles Club Crawl, sightseeing at night tours, ghost tours, piano bars like Boardner's and the Folic Room, and unique spots such as the World of Illusions and the Hollywood Wax Museum.


New York


Of course, the Big Apple is another contender when it comes to legendary nightlife. With so many boroughs, panoramic bars, pubs, trendy lounges, music venues, nightclubs, and then some, visitors will definitely have a riveting time when in New York City. In fact, with so much ground to cover, figuring out what you prefer to do ahead of time is a must, especially in "the city that never sleeps."


That said, visitors can cross more than a few exciting activities off their to-do list while visiting nightlife gems such as ART NoMad (Arlo Rooftop at NoMad), Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge, 230 Fifth, Darling, Refinery Rooftop, and Berry Park. Here, nightlife lovers can immerse themselves in New York City's overall culture and vibe while enjoying music, cocktails, people-watching, incredible city views, dancing, sightseeing, delicious apps, and more. And after delighting in the many bars/lounges/rooftops in the Big Apple, you can absolutely switch it up a bit by indulging in New York City's famous restaurant scene, checking out the countless events (award shows, art exhibitions, celebratory happenings, and premieres) or catching an awe-inspiring production on Broadway, perhaps.


Miami


The party never stops in this area of the Sunshine State, so nightlife lovers who have yet to revel in this popular travel destination know where to head next. Not only is Greater Miami brimming with evening fun, but famed places like Miami Beach, South Beach, and Little Havana are also top-tier for exciting nightlife and entertainment. So whether you are looking for live Jazz clubs, dance clubs, themed dive bars, Latin vibes, rooftop parties with famous DJs, or premier nightclubs with celebrity pop-ups like LIV and the Basement, you will find it all here.


There is also a wealth of live music venues, including the renowned Ball & Chain. In the past few years, "Clubstaurants" (clubs + restaurants) have become extremely popular and thus are Miami nightlife staples as well. So if you want to delight in dinner, live music, and dancing without missing a beat, Bâoli Miami, Villa Azur, and Bagatelle are ideal spots. Besides this, Magic City's nightlife is no stranger to spectacular cabaret shows, speakeasies, dining well past 11 p.m., stargazing, after-dark LED paddleboarding, haunted tours, art walks, outdoor movies, Off-Broadway shows, and so much more.


Chicago


Yet another major city that does not disappoint is Chicago. With a robust comedy scene, nightclubs, concerts, breweries, patio bars, cocktail lounges, festivals, the Navy Pier, and more, the Windy City definitely delivers. So, if your ideal getaway involves embarking on a different adventure every night that you are in town, then Chicago is the place for you.


Comedy fans, of course, should spend an evening at The Second City for laughs, standup, and improv sketches. Drunk Shakespeare is also another great venue for light-hearted theater performances. For travelers who are all about a city's arts, beats, and eats, spots like Andy's Jazz Club, the House of Blues Chicago, and Chicago Magic Lounge are all excellent choices. For the nightclub crowd, on the other hand, high-energy go-to's here include the Debonair Social Club, 439 Nightclub, Le Nocturne Chicago, Spybar Chicago, and the Smartbar — all of which are totally worth staying out till 4 a.m. Chitown visitors can also enjoy a night at the theater, check out late-night museum exhibitions, and, weather permitting, enjoy a beautiful sunset cruise.


Nashville


Nashville is the place to be for travelers looking to enjoy one of the best music scenes, some good old-fashioned whiskey, and maybe get in some line dancing. Of course, Music City, U.S.A., has a lot more going on than just that. With pop-ups, the famous Printers Alley, hidden bars, wine and cocktail lounges, late-night dining,  all kinds of tours, hiking at Radnor Lake State Park, and downtown trolley rides — there is definitely more than one way to savor Nashville's nightlife scene.


That said, you cannot fully experience this city without going to the Grand Ole Opry. This live entertainment venue, theater stage, and legendary country music forum are beyond iconic — so make sure you add this one to your bucket list if it is not on it already. Besides this, Nashville has ample sporting events, breweries, popular movie showings at the historic Belcourt Theatre, must-see stand-up comedy shows at Zanies Comedy Club, and stylish rooftop bars like L27 Rooftop Lounge, Denim, Rare Bird Rooftop Bar, L.A. Jackson, and even an arcade bar — UP-Down. This Music City also has a rave-worthy theater, art, and food scene.


Austin


The city of Austin is so many things to so many people — an artsy college town, a live music mecca, and a hipster haven. But no matter what Austin is to you, one thing is for sure, this energetic place is brimming with fun and eclectic things to do in the evening. For Austin visitors who are interested in checking out this all-encompassing music scene, there is truly no shortage of venues, festivals, events, genres, concerts, or live entertainment here.If you prefer, however, to branch out and see what else makes this city's nightlife so special, ample opportunities await. 


From night kayaking, bat-watching, and ghost tours to wonderful performances at the acclaimed Paramount Theatre Austin and line dancing at the Broken Spoke, there is always something thrilling to do after dark in this haven for hippies. For instance, visitors can take advantage of all that the famous Rainey Street offers in the way of late-night eats, arts, and pub crawls. Likewise, travelers who have come to party can head to Sixth Street for almost every kind of nightclub you can imagine. And while on Sixth, do not forget to check out Alamo Drafthouse for films and drinks, The Velveeta Room for comedy, and The Dizzy Rooster for dancing. 


San Francisco


With every neighborhood in San Francisco having its own nightlife scene, visitors may not know where to begin. Well, a few popular districts that always have something going on late at night include the Marina, Mission District, North Beach, Chinatown, and Castro, so you can definitely start there. Regardless of where you decide to party, just know you are in for a good time here.


Bar hopping and clubbing, in particular, are musts while in town. Lively cocktail spots such as the Comstock Saloon, Hi-Lo Club, Last Call Bar, The Chapel SF, White Rabbit, The View Lounge, and the Palm House should absolutely be on the itinerary. The Cat Club, F8, and The Battery are also excellent options when it comes to dancing the night away. In addition to the cornucopia of bars, lounges, and dance halls, this city has a diverse and wildly entertaining theater scene, which typically showcases Broadway productions. Plus, several of the museums in San Francisco offer museum nights for art, drinks, and live music after dark.


Portland


Likewise, Portland, Oregon, is another wonderful destination for bar-goers, music lovers, comedy enthusiasts, and of course, nightlife connoisseurs. Known as a place that comes alive after dark, Portland visitors have an abundance of activities, evening events, and live entertainment, plus incredible spots for cocktails, late-night bites, dancing, and more all at their disposal here. Portland also has a delightful bar scene filled with themed pubs, unique speakeasies, patio lounges, swanky hotel bars, and more than a few Irish and sports pubs. 


For travelers interested in savoring them all, countless pub crawl tours are available and cover everything from history and Portland's haunted past to the city sights. There are also numerous party spots, including the Doug Fir Lounge, the Holocene, the White Owl Social Club, The Goodfoot, and The Fixin' To. What's more, Portland's Entertainment District is legendary and worth visiting if you opt to join in on all the fun here. The City of Roses also has robust theater, karaoke, art, and adult arcade scenes — so don't be shy, spend some quality time in Portland — it's not likely that you'll regret it. 


Key West


For travelers who prefer palm trees, sand, sun, and a nearby collection of idyllic islands combined with a fabulous nightlife scene, Key West can definitely accommodate. With a festive night-time culture unique to the Southernmost point of the U.S., the fun has only just begun once the sun goes down on this island paradise. So whether you are craving high-energy lounges and clubs, pub crawls, live music, cabaret, or casual bars, Key West is a must for nightlife lovers.


A few notable places to check out in Key West include the Green Parrot for live entertainment, Vinos on Duval for wine sipping, Rick's Bar for eight bars in one, and LeTeDa Cabaret Bar for cabaret shows and performances that are out of this world. General Horseplay, Irish Kevin's, Hog's Breath Saloon, and Schooner Wharf Bar are also lively venues pulsating with great music and delicious cocktails. Plus, Key West has rave-worthy restaurants, attractions, and historic haunts like Captain Tony's Saloon for more of a relaxed vibe on your night on the town.


Seattle


Seattle also has a unique and lively nightlife scene. With ample entertainment venues, night sightseeing tours, and late-night outdoorsy activities like skating, biking, and then some, travelers cannot go wrong here either. From dinner cruises, the theater, and nightly museum happenings to partying till the sun comes up, the Emerald City's night scene is action-packed.


Popular pubs and nightclubs here include the Bathtub Gin & Co., The Cuff Complex, Kremwerk Timbre Room + Cherry Complex, Neighbors Nightclub, and Q Nightclub. Also known for its sophisticated bars and alluring lounges, Seattle is the last place you want to call it an early night at. In the Ballard neighborhood alone, visitors will find an array of options, including The Tractor Tavern and Sabine Café. Likewise, districts such as Capitol Hill, Belltown, and Denny Triangle are infused with trendy spots for cocktails, tapas, music, and so much more.


Denver


Yet another prime nightlife scene in the U.S. to consider for your next getaway is none other than Denver. Chocked full of lounges, music halls, an impressive amphitheater, dance clubs, patios, and perfect date night spots, the Mile High City is definitely worth a visit if you like painting the town red. Denver's drinking parlors are also legendary. In fact, joints such as BEZEL Denver, The Cruise Room, the L Denver, Asbury Provisions, Welton Room, and The Wild Denver, all promise patrons a fantastic night out, and each offer something unique.


Before grabbing drinks, Denver visitors should also check out the culinary scene here with its diverse and delicious restaurants. Afterward, party venues like the Grizzly Rose, Ophelia's Electric Soap Box, Club Vinyl, and Howl at the Moon are guaranteed to delight. Denver also has quite the up-and-coming theater scene, an abundance of comedy clubs, and fascinating art culture. So if this sounds like your overall nightlife scene, don't delay — head to the Mile High City for an incredible time.


San Diego


Last but definitely not least, San Diego's nightlife takes the cake. With over 16 walkable blocks of high-spirited downtown fun, also known as the Gaslamp Quarter, visitors will have the time of their lives in America's Finest City. From nightclubs, pubs, lounges, and rooftop bars to late-night dining, comedy clubs, and adult arcades, this city has all the makings of a getaway to remember.


That said, there are many ways to experience this laid-back scene. But, it is highly recommended that you go big here by starting early with an evening activity of your choosing, followed by a few drinks, fine dining, a savory San Diego lounge experience, moonlit relaxation via a rooftop bar, then top it all off with some dancing. And once the music stops, countless late-night eats are waiting with open arms. Ultimately, no matter where you decide to vacation next in the U.S., San Diego or any of the cities mentioned above all have lively nightlife scenes worth experiencing.

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