Where are the best nightlife spots in Phoenix? Although most of the city’s thumping dance floors are heavily concentrated in the Scottsdale and Tempe areas, there are plenty of places to enjoy the nightlife in Phoenix.
Downtown scenesters and hipsters congregate at Bar Smith. If you’re looking for great live music, music aficionados gather nightly at the Crescent Ballroom, where free live music in the lounge, and national touring acts inside the ballroom, make this a good spot to mingle and discover new sounds. The kitchen at Crescent Ballroom features Southwestern and Mexican dishes, perfect for noshing in between acts.
Valley Bar, the sister club to Crescent Ballroom, combines the speakeasy appeal of a classic basement bar with the ambiance of an indie club and bar. There’s live music inside the ballroom, a colorful lounge, and a small game area where you can play skee-ball and other vintage games with friends.
The Van Buren is a 20,000-square-foot, 1,800 capacity concert venue located in downtown Phoenix. The Van Buren, along with its sister venue Crescent Ballroom, is helping to bring an increasingly diverse roster of nationally touring artists to downtown. The venue is located in the former home of the Phoenix Motor Company dealership, and much of the building’s vintage 1930s-era charm has been left intact. A large stage and mezzanine offers good vantage points from many points throughout the venue. Glittering chandeliers, exposed brick and a striking design work from Tucson-based artist and designer Gary Patch (who designed the venue’s signature Sonoran Desert-themed murals) makes The Van Buren one of the most attractive live music venues in Arizona.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Van Buren is quickly becoming an indispensable live music venue in downtown Phoenix.
Patricia’s expert tip: Hungry? The Van Buren has a snack bar.
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The Nash is Phoenix’s only live music venue dedicated exclusively to jazz. Named after legendary Phoenix jazz drummer Lewis Nash, this intimate performance space hosts regular evening performances. On given night, you might hear everything from swing to experimental avant-garde jazz performances. The venue is owned and run by Jazz in AZ, a nonprofit organization with a mission to raise the profile of jazz music in Arizona. It looks like their mission is working, too, judging from the crowds of toe-tappers at this new and exciting new music venue. The Nash also hosts regular community events and educational programs. The venue has a BYOB policy, so you can bring your favorite wine and beer too.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Nash is a relaxed yet lively jazz club in the heart of Phoenix’s arts district. Plus, you can bring your own wine.
Patricia’s expert tip: Stop by on the first Friday of the month for special jazz events.
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Begin with a cozy, no-frills venue, add in top blues and jazz acts from the area and around the country, and toss in fans of great tunes and lively performances, and you’ve got one of Phoenix’s best-loved music venues. The Rhythm Room draws crowds regularly, and the place can get smoky at times, but for raw-edged, top-notch blues and more, the place can’t be beat. In fact, if you’re not hitting the dance floor before long, or at least tapping your toes, folks may begin to look warily at you. Just give yourself over. This is the Valley’s top destination for live blues.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Rhythm Room is a midtown mainstay, bring great live blues, jazz and rockabilly acts to a diverse crowd of music lovers.
Patricia’s expert tip: Hungry? Barbecue is served out back on most nights.
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Char’s (pronounced with an “sh,” not a “ch”) promises an unpretentious evening of good music in cozy environs. Most of the audience isn’t more than a few steps from the stage, so the immediacy of the blues is right there in front of you. A varied audience checks out the tunes nightly, and many times, they hit the dance floor as the music moves them. Some basic food is available for munching, and a pool table offers a between-sets option. One of the city’s best live-music venues. There is live music every single night of the week, making this one of the city’s most active live music venues.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Char’s is one of the oldest blues clubs in town, known for its intimate live shows, cozy dance floor and great drink specials.
Patricia’s expert tip: No cover charge Monday through Wednesday!
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Valley Bar is rarity in Phoenix: a hip downtown bar that just happens to be located in a basement. Basements are uncommon in the southwest, so it’s a treat to escape to the cool surroundings of a well-finished basement space – especially in the heat of summer. The bar is located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, just off Monroe and Central Avenue, and features lots of original woodwork and clean, hip decor. There is a game area with two Skeeball machines, vintage arcade video games, board games, along with a performance space, and separate lounge, The Rose Room. Come here for great hand-crafted cocktails, live music and game nights with friends.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Valley Bar has become a go-to downtown nightlife destination for the young and hip in Phoenix.
Patricia’s expert tip: Expect large crowds on the weekends – come on a Sunday or Monday night for a more mellow experience.
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Photo courtesy of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Bitter & Twisted is a welcome addition to the downtown Phoenix scene. This cocktail parlour, tucked away in the historic Luhrs building, promises to deliver hand-crafted cocktails made from scratch using the finest house-infused spirits. Stop in for globally inspired bar bites, live music and, of course, an extensive cocktail selection featuring locally grown fruits and produce. Not sure what to order? Check out the handy bar guide on the menu, which will guide you to the perfect sweet, savory or tangy drink. The stylish venue offers an intimate place to enjoy a nightcap with friends.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: With fun and exciting drinks and great food. You will have an experience when coming in.
Patricia’s expert tip: Come hungry –” Bitter & Twisted offers a fun, late-night food menu.
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Downtown Phoenix scenesters crowd the small but busy dance floor at Bar Smith, a hip downtown bar, lounge and club located steps away from major attractions such as the US Airways Center and Chase Field. Swanky couches let you take a break from dancing, while providing an excellent perch for people-watching. A friendly bar staff and diverse crowd make this sleek club a nice break from the college student crowds found in Tempe and Scottsdale. Enjoy one of the best city views on the rooftop bar, which can be a fist-pumping spectacle or laid-back urban sanctuary, depending on the night of the week.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Bar Smith in downtown Phoenix remains one of the hippest dance clubs in the city.
Patricia’s expert tip: This bilevel nightlife spot has one of the best dance floors in downtown Phoenix.
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If vintage arcade games, craft beers and cleverly-named cocktails sound like a great combination to you, plan a visit to Cobra Arcade Bar. As its name implies, this is a hybrid arcade and bar situated in the Roosevelt Arts District in downtown Phoenix. Not only will you find dozens of vintage arcade games, including popular games like The Simpsons, Donkey Kong and Double Dragon, you’ll also find a bar serving up stiff cocktails with names like Crazy Kong and Game Over. Although the bar does not serve up food, you can reboot with the gourmet food truck parked in front of the bar.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Cobra offers a great lineup of vintage coin operated games, plus a fully stocked bar.
Patricia’s expert tip: Enjoy a live DJ every Friday night.
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Part concert venue, bar, and gourmet kitchen, the Crescent Ballroom is one of downtown Phoenix’s newest hot spots. The Crescent Lounge hosts free nightly music, while the ballroom sees some of the country’s top touring acts perform on the intimate stage. This renovated warehouse-turned-music venue features hardwood floors, exposed brick and vaulted ceilings, all adding to the character of this unique nightlife destination. The Ballroom has become one of downtown Phoenix’s most exciting music venues, drawing acclaimed national touring artists and providing a stage for local up-and-comers. Aside from the great food and music, the lounge at Crescent Ballroom is an excellent place to mingle with the downtown crowd.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix plays host to great touring and local bands and features a lounge and kitchen.
Patricia’s expert tip: Grab a snack from The Kitchen, which features a gourmet Southwestern menu.
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For a hot-weather town, the Phoenix bar scene doesn’t really have a whole lot of tiki bar action going on. UnderTow is helping to change that, though. The nautically themed tiki bar is situated under Sip Coffee & Beer Garage, and the design alone is worth a visit. The bar was designed to resemble the hold of a clipper ship, and the vibe is more sophisticated and otherworldly than kitschy. The cocktail menu focuses on revamped versions of classics like mai tais, as well as nouveau drinks including Arizona-inspired concoctions like the Dutchman’s Demise. Refined bar snacks help round out the UnderTow experience.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Award winning drink and cocktails. Descend into the bar for an out of desert experience.
Local Expert tip: UnderTow is closed Mondays and open Sundays through Tuesdays. From 4pm – Midnight
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