So you think you can dance? San Francisco's Ten Best Dance Clubs.
By Tom Molanphy
San Francisco Local Expert
San Francisco is a city of many pleasures. Museums can stimulate the mind and offer fascinating knowledge to bring back home. There are more restaurants per capita in San Francisco than any other U.S. city, so eating out is almost a religion in this food-crazed town. And the temperate climate and natural beauty of the Bay Area offers year round hiking and exploring. Whether you prefer to be inside or out, there's no end to activities in San Francisco.
But few pursuits tap into all the senses like dancing. Giving yourself over to the rhythms, the lights, and the energy is a total release. When you want that feeling, we'll introduce you to the best dance clubs in San Francisco. Top DJs get things moving, and other patrons ensure that there's plenty to see along the way. To follow the crowds, head to Ruby Skye and see what lies in store; for a more subdued experience, give Apartment 24 a try.
So when you're trying to choose that one last activity that will top off your San Francisco vacation just right, consider dancing. Maybe you need to just let go after a long museum tour, or burn some calories after that big bowl of pasta in North Beach. Either way, 10Best will make sure you know the best places to dance in San Francisco.
10 Apartment 24
With a design theme predicated on pale, translucent curtains, sleek furnishings, and flickers of candlelight, Dolce pays tribute to its name and to the club's buzzwords: sweet, soft, smooth. The combination dance club-and-lounge also features a long, glass-topped bar where you can nurse a creative cocktail and catch up with friends. Local DJs keep the vibe relaxed with R&B, house, rock, and hip-hop. Weekends can be especially busy, and if you don't reserve a seat in advance, be prepared to mill about. Dress to impress, but it's located on a steep hill in North beach, so high heels will be challenging. (415-989-3434)
9 Club 525
If you're looking for something of an upscale dance spot -- with a social scene that keeps introductions and greetings flowing -- head to this hip hangout. Clubgoers are attired in their stylish best, eager to be part of the lively scene. Plenty of dance space in two separate areas grants patrons the opportunity to groove to house, hip-hop, salsa, and club tunes. At times, live bands regale folks as well. Three bars make scoring a drink pretty easy, and a multi-level lounge leads into a number of VIP rooms and private cabanas. If you're in the Financial District of San Francisco and feel the need to get your groove on, head to Club 525. (415-339-8686, 415-225-5689)
8 Space 550
A top-notch sound system sets the tempo at Space 550 and easily contributes to pumped-up volume and abundant energy. Club-goers generally groove to the sounds of funk, salsa, house, and hip-hop, although other musical styles crop up as well. The club, although a bit out of the way, is worth the experience, not only for the tunes but for the people-watching experience. The facility features three dance floors on two levels. Trendy dress. Space 550 has a lot of space, but it's almost always filled with a lot of people ready to party, so bring ear plugs if you have any need for a quiet night. (415-550-8286)
7 111 Minna Gallery
Looking for a happening spot to decompress after a hard day pushing papers? Head to Minna Gallery, and order a signature, happy hour cocktail. Art in a variety of media adorns the walls, and lively DJs keep tunes and atmosphere at a wide-open pace. You'll find it hard to resist the beat as you head to the dance floor for a little body movement. Great for groups or for first dates -- especially if your date loves to dance! You can't beat the central spot of 11 Minna, right downtown off of Market, so late night bite options abound. This eclectic space doesn't always offer dancing, so be sure to check their website ahead of time. (415-974-1719, 415-462-0505)
6 26 Mix
26 Mix lives up to its name, functioning as a social spot for professional 20-somethings (and 30-somethings who look the part). DJs mix it up too, spinning tunes of all genres -- house, techno, downtempo, jazz, and reggae. Drink specials and happy hours please attending crowds, and non-dancing patrons slough off non-participatory shame by trying their hand at vintage video games. This club has a somewhat gritty feel, definitely more for a younger crowd due to its small space pumped full of loud, amplified music. But if you're in the mood for some hot salsa and don't mind being packed in with people, 26 Mix is the place for you. (415-826-7378)
5 Tonga Room Hurricane Restaurant & Bar
The Tonga Room offers drinks, dancing, great Asian cuisine, and a festive atmosphere, including a simulated tropical rainstorm that shakes things up every twenty minutes. Expansive windows provide views of the bustling streetscape, and live music and dancing take place nightly. The popular restaurant and bar also host a well-attended happy hour with its own special buffet. Order up a tropical cocktail, see what tasty treats are available, and relax after a long day. Leave time to explore the historic Fairmont Hotel, which houses the Tonga Room. This hotel is like a museum for San Francisco history, so the Fairmont alone is worth the trip. (415-772-5000)
4 Ruby Skye
Formerly a theater (built in the 1890s), this late-night stop does a booming business courting young hipsters looking to show off their dance moves. The modern decor features high ceilings, large bars, and chic ambience. Live music and expert DJs keep the volume pumped up, much to the delight of eager club-goers. A cigar bar is available, and pool tables offer a break from the dance floor. Ruby Skye has been hosting raves and big-time, elaborate shows for years, so you shouldn't be disappointed with the production value or sound at this top notch entertainment center. They will go all out at Ruby Skye to ensure you have a fun night of dancing. (415-693-0777)
3 Cat Club
This late-night spot draws all types to its large space, which includes two dance floors where DJs really know how to pump it up. Hip-hop, funk, house, techno and rock can all be heard on different days, and theme nights expand the options, as you'll find if you stumble across '80s retro night or a fetish event. Generally, the tamer music can be found in the front room, and the more experimental stuff in the back. A large bar also makes getting a drink fairly painless. Cat Club is beloved by locals, so check it out if you want your dance night to have a San Francisco feel. (415-703-8965)
2 El Rio
This dance club generally entertains a packed house. Live bands perform on weekends, salsa's the rage on Sunday, a global dance party wins applause on Friday, rock 'n' roll takes the stage on Saturdays, and Wednesdays are punk and rock nights. You may also find Arabic music, world music, dancehall and hip-hop, outdoor film festivals and cabaret performances as well as benefits for local community organizations. If that's not enough, there are shuffleboard, ping-pong, pool and weekly BBQs. The popular outdoor patio, bedecked with lights, is often filled with a very diverse crowd. Even if you're not in the mood to dance, El Rio is a great spot to check out. (415-282-3325)
1 The Make-Out Room
If you want to dance but don't feel like taking two hours to deck yourself out in the latest trends, head to The Make-Out Room. They understand the simple trifecta for a successful dance club: loud music, stiff drinks, and plenty of space to jump around. The Make-Out Room can be the crowning moment of a full-day in the always popular Mission neighborhood. After you've enjoyed a sunshiney day in the Mission (almost always less fog than the rest of San Francisco), you can enjoy one of the many world-class restaurants in this food-crazed district before hitting the Make-Out Room's popular happy hour. After that, dance the night away! (415-6472888)
About Tom Molanphy
The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom! Tom has lived in the San Francisco Bay area since 2000. He teaches writing, journalism and literature at the Academy of Art University in downtown San Francisco. His latest book, Loud Memories Of A Quiet Life, is available through Outpost19.
Read more about Tom Molanphy here.