Ah, to dance is to be free, yes? Few pursuits tap into the primal pleasures of nightlife and release that built up tension more than moving your body to the rhythm. Ready to release, are you? Then by all means, peruse our selection of Orlando’s finest. And since tastes vary, we’ve submitted a range of establishments for your consideration. Parliament House caters to the gay community (though everyone is welcome, to be sure); it’s a veritable historic landmark in gay tourism – and a hell of a place to dance. Body//Talk is an whole new kind of dance club, one that's rooted in creativity, social connectivity, IRL interaction. Blue Martini’s well known happy hour gives way to a sophisticated dance party as the night comes on while Aero boasts a rooftop space, as well, with pretty cabanas to match and folks looking to don their hats and boots – and maybe take in a little NASCAR or live music – will find the ample space at Cowboys to their liking. As always, old favorites like the Independent Bar welcome just about anyone who’s feeling the beat.
Dance club don't just mean house music, y'all. Cowboys Orlando has been bringing country music to town for a good, long while, open Thursday through Saturday and featuring everything from live local and national music acts to state-of-the-art sound and lighting and more than 30 TVs on which to get your NASCAR (among other things) on. Oh, and one other thing: it's huge, a C&W entertainment complex comprised of rought 20,000 square feet. All the better for line dancing! And if your Boot Scoot's not what it should be, fear not: this nightclub offers free lessons every night for cowboys and cowgirls aged 18 and up. (407-422-7115)
Blue Martini Orlando
Well known for its daily, half-price Happy Hour from 4-8 p.m., Blue Martini is one part upscale lounge and dining establishment with a vibe that morphs into club after sunset. Monday's Industry Night and Wednesday's Ladies' Night are both particularly popular, the latter featuring deep bar discounts for members of the fairer sex. Entertainment here comes in the form of either live bands or DJs -- some nights showcase both (the records usually start spinning around 10). Blue Martini's demographic is impressively diverse; on a packed night you might see multiple generations burning up the dance floor and sipping generously poured cocktails. There are Blue Martini locations throughout Florida and a few others in Washington, Texas, Arizona and Las Vegas, so it's a hot spot with which you may already be familiar. ((407) 447-2583)
With a darkish, pub-like atmosphere, popular Saturday "Midnight Mass" dance party (the DJ spins indie, Motown, pop and more) and a stage that hosts national and regional live acts from roots to metal, Irish to hip-hop, blues to surf rock and beyond, Backbooth remains an eclectic player in Orlando's downtown club scene without the "sceney" atmosphere, a reason many of its proponents say the place rocks. Fancy it is not: a plus for music lovers who like to jam out and/or dance in their favorite thrift-store tee. The flip side? Those with a penchant for exceptionally clean bathrooms or an expensive-shoe habit may find themselves disappointed. Or out a pair of Louboutins on an exceptionally crowded night. (407-999-2570)
Pulse is an apt name for a club that keeps its finger on the rhythm of what Orlando club-goers want, whether that means sleek decor, hot-bodied bar dancers, drag divas or the simple joys of similarly minded potential dance partners you might want to crush up against. Pulse's scene is largely gay, but all comers are welcome. Check the schedule before heading out if you're picky about what's spinning or who's coming; some nights lean hip-hip or house, R&B or Top 40, some nights are 21+, others 18 and over. Also on tap here, regular drink specials (these include $3 martinis, $1 shots, $2 Long Islands and even blocks of freebies), regular drag shows and even karaoke. ((407) 649-3888)
No one, whether tourist or local, would deny that the look of the Parliament House complex has seen better days (after all this groundbreaking gay resort had its inaugural in the 1970s) but when they call the place "dirty" and "trashy," they're saying it with love. Usually. Whether they're hosting celebs like Chaka Khan, the Miss Gay Orlando pageant or the Lady Gaga concert after party, the atmosphere is always festive. There is on-site lodging, but you don't have to stay the night. Come for dancing, drag or an afternoon by the pool. (407-425-7571)
Few downtown Orlando venues take advantage of Central Florida's stellar weather like Aero, a striking and recently renovated rooftop lounge with cozy cabanas and twinkly lights all immersed in the cosmopolitan surrounds of the city skyline. Nightly soirees feature DJs spinning house, electronic and more but Sunday Fundays bring with them not only old-school, reggae and Top 40 for your dancing feet, but a more casual daylight vibe, as well. Come dressed to impress or come as you are (within reason, of course). Extremely wallet-friendly drink specials vary from night to night, but the music and views are consistently intoxicating. (407-274-8452)
Vyce's posh interior evokes the lush life in an intimate downtown location. It bills itself as a "boutique nightclub," one that in some eyes may skew more lounge than dance club but the beats from its formidable sound system has patrons feeling more than energized to move. Its VIP experience is upscale and attentive -- curtains afford those who secure a table the option of a public or private velvet rope experience -- but those who opt for a less opulent evening out won't be disappointed just hanging at the well stocked bar, particularly if they are fond of champagne. (407-649-0000)
Eve is a posh, elegant space with a design that incorporates elements both warm and sleek, pairing exposed brick with glittery chandeliers and walls and sumptuous lighting that comes together quite beautifully. Several distinct atmospheres -- a lounge, nightclub area and spacious balcony overlooking Orange Avenue -- mean guests can move around to suit their mood. With a 5,000-square-foot main level, there's plenty of room to groove to the beats, whether you're out on the floor, grabbing a cocktail at one of three bars or velvet rope'ing it in one of several VIP areas. Multi-tiered seating adds to the perception of spaciousness as the bodies move on the floor. ((407) 602-7462)
This is not your mother's dance party. It may not even be your older brother's. Body//Talk is a living, breathing dance club, one rooted in musical transcendence, social connectivity, community and of course -- fun. A regular thing down in the hipster haven of the Milk District, Body//Talk makes its home inside Space Bar. Music runs the gamut but the free expression is ever-present and highly encouraged. Let your hair down. Be who you are. And above all, come for real connections -- because in our tightly digitally connected world it's easy to forget how to bring all that interaction IRL. Body//Talk makes it easy -- and a total pleasure.
Vintage rock to top 40, indie to 80s new wave, the Independent Bar hits that sweet spot between dance club and dive bar, a place where patrons are welcome to dress to impress or roll in in Chucks and ripped jeans. Seriously man, no one's looking, so relax. Multiple bars make getting drinks a non-issue and a friendly atmosphere makes for a relaxing, no-stress night of dancing and people-watching; patrons might be yuppies or rockers, goths or indie hipsters, it really is that eclectic. In fact, it's even 18+. Special nights like "Mac & Cheese" (DJ Mac spins the cheesiest music mix) are ever-evolving, but always indicative of the venue's convivial vibe. Well specials and cheap beer are essentially a given. (407-839-0457)
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.
A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city.
Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
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