10 Best Nightlife in Phoenix: Where to Go When the Sun Goes Down
By Patricia Escarcega
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert
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 can be found crowding the dance floor at Bar Smith, where the views from the rooftop bar are enough reason to make a stop at this popular nightlife spot. When you're ready for live music, comedy and craft beer, head over to Copper Blues at CityScape, where the crowds gather all seven nights of the week. Ready to try something different? Pay a visit to FilmBar in the city's artsy Roosevelt Row district. This arthouse cinema lounge has brought independent cinema to downtown, as well as becoming one of downtown's favorite new bars. 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 the perfect spot to mingle and discover new sounds. The kitchen at Crescent Ballroom features gourmet versions of Southwestern classics, perfect for noshing between acts. When you're feet are tired from dancing all night, head on over to the darkly sophisticated MercBar, where the uptown ambiance is far removed from the lights and music of the club scene.
10 Merc Bar
Boxy leather furniture and wooden accent walls set the scene at this moody bar for Phoenix's beautiful people. Unmistakably chic, it's a place to see and be seen, whether you're a celebrity or an upscale professional. (Have your self-esteem in place if you plan to attend.) The exterior isn't marked, so you may have to scout out the location. Once inside, though, you can sample one of their famous martinis and take in the sophisticated ambiance, all with the benefit of no cover charge. Merc Bar is also highly regarded for its bar chef menu, featuring gourmet import meats and cheeses. (602-508-9449)
It's a movie theatre, it's a bar--it's FilmBar. This appealing venue is a beer/wine bar dedicated to screening hard-to-find cult classics, local independent films as well as new releases. FilmBar is described as a "microcinema," meaning that there are only about 70 seats on the house. On any given night, you'll find the latest independent hit, nostalgia cult classic, or little-known foreign flick being screened. Behind the bar, you'll find over 25 different craft beers, 12 different wines, and popcorn, of course. FilmBar is the brainchild of Kelly Aubey, who conceived of the film-bar concept to bring independent movies to downtown Phoenix in a fun and totally unique venue. ((602) 595-9187)
8 The Nash
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. ((602) 795-0464)
7 Rhythm Room
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. (602-265-4842)
6 Char's Has the Blues
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. (602-230-0205)
Downtown Phoenix's hip cocktail lounge features over 45 different types of beers, more than 40 wines and a menu of enticing hand-crafted cocktails. SideBar is known for impeccable ingredients and high-quality drinks. The bar squeezes its own fresh juices daily, and even has its own house recipe for simple syrup and Sweet and Sour, so you know "hand-crafted" truly means hand-crafted. Hardwood floors, exposed brick and plush seating make this a favorite destination for high-class barflies, downtown hipsters and post-happy hour office workers. Located near downtown clubs, SideBar is the perfect place to stop for a nightcap, or a short cool-down between clubs. (602.254.1646)
4 Crescent Ballroom
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. ((602) 716-2222)
3 Bar Smith
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. (602-229-1265)
2 Copper Blues
Location is everything, they say, and it couldn't be any truer for Copper Blues, located downtown at the towering CityScape entertainment and shopping complex. Copper Blues is part bar, part club, and part restaurant, drawing a steady dose of downtown clientele and the popular comedy club next door, Stand Up Live. Copper Blues features a stage bar, a full bar with a whopping 60 beers on tap, and a patio bar overlooking CityScape and the lights of downtown. Whether you're looking to catch lunch downtown or mingle with the scenesters late into the night, Copper Blues is open late for your night out on the town. ((480) 719-5005)
This sprawling nightclub features over 10,000 square feet of space to roam, drink, meet and be merry. Drinks are served at a three-sided island bar surrounded by plush lounge sofa sectionals, perfect for sipping on your hand-crafted specialty cocktail. The neon-lit dance floor features nothing less than confetti canons, C02 blasts and hazer machines. A raised stage is surrounded by a DJ booth, state of the art and scrimmed cut-outs featuring the silhouettes of the club's live go go dancers. GypsyBar's also features a game lounge featuring 40 arcade games in an adult-oriented environment. Young, hip and an eyeful every night. ((602) 732-5490)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.