Atlanta after Dark: Take in the City's Eclectic Nightlife Scene
By Kelly Skinner
Atlanta Local Expert
Atlanta’s nightlife scene is rife with options for those seeking entertainment, dancing, socializing and fun. From the dazzling night club filled with singles to the low-key singer-songwriter hangout chockablock with burgeoning musicians, the city caters to a diverse crowd after hours.
For those who prefer getting glammed up for a night of cocktails and dancing to a score of the city’s hottest DJs, enter Midtown dance clubs like Opera and Vanquish or Tongue & Groove and East Andrews (home to a range of restaurants, bars and dance floors) in Buckhead, all teeming with singles looking to hit the dance floor and swap digits. Pre-game at Tavern at Phipps for a ritzy start to a social evening.
The more laid-back lounge-style scene prevails at spots like the famed Laughing Skull Lounge (also in Midtown) where you can catch both local and nationally renowned comedy acts. Eddie’s Attic in Decatur is another low-key spot to gather with a group and catch a show over an order of beers—most acts tend to lean singer-songwriter or Americana.
An edgy, hipster scene can be found at locales like the bar Sister Louisa’s Church of the Ping Pong Emporium, the grungy (but fun!) dance club MJQ Concourse and the cult favorite, strip club The Clermont Lounge.
Enlist a designated driver, or take advantage of services like MARTA or Uber for a safe night of fun.
On any given night, you can count on Eddie's Attic to entertain you with bands you've likely never heard of before. Toting a range of Americana acts (think singer-songwriter, country, bluegrass and Southern rock), there's a daily rotation of new voices gracing the stage. The atmosphere is easy going, and lends itself to conversation, cold beer and viewing live shows. In temperate weather, the patio is an ideal place for a drink and a concert. A favorite for Decatur residents, and music aficionados from further away, Eddie's hosts national famed acts (Ani DiFranco, Ed Roland, John Mayer) alongside unknowns. Those wanting to take a break from the music can head across the hall to the pool room. (404-377-4976)
Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium
A tongue-in-cheek quality permeates the scene at Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium. Located in Edgewood, near Old Fourth Ward, Church, as it is referred to by locals, comes complete with a photo booth confessional, ping pong tables, and free-flowing drinks. A campy quality fills the space, which is packed with tacky religious paraphernalia and is regularly populated by a young, trendy crowd. For the young at heart, there are games like corn hole and ping pong. Karaoke is performed in choir robes. Spiritual Sangria ($8) is the bar's signature drink. The bar has also been known to draw various celebrities when they film in the city--Ben Stiller has come back on multiple occasions. ((404) 522-8275)
One of the longest running clubs in Atlanta, MJQ Concourse takes the word "underground" to an entirely new level. The club is actually entirely underground. There's no website and most find out about it through a friend. Unassuming to a passerby, you'd never know that the entrance was the gateway to one of the most popular dance clubs in the city. Open late at night, it is just as popular on weeknights as weekends. Patrons here come to enjoy themselves, dance and listen to talented DJs do their thing. Themed nights add to the appeal, and draw diverse crowds. Music includes everything from punk, indie and industrial rock to house and R&B. This is not the place to go if you're seeking Top 40 hits. (404-870-0575)
Laughing Skull Lounge
One of the most highly-acclaimed comedy clubs in Atlanta, Laughing Skull claims to be the world's tiniest stand-up venue, but the outstanding talent that regularly takes the stage is anything but. Within this hip 74-seat setting, the biggest names on both the national and local comedy scenes keep audience members doubled over with laughter. Located adjacent to famous burger spot, The Vortex, make your way between venues and fill up on burgers and beers. Not sure if this venue touts your brand of funny? Check out the lounge's podcast (http://laughingskulllounge.com/Podcast) for a good representation of the type of humor that hits this stage. (877-523-3288)
The Tavern at Phipps
Located at the ritzy Phipps Plaza shopping center in Buckhead, this watering hole attracts a more upscale clientele, and is a regular sipping spot for socialites, celebrities and the young and gorgeous. A beautiful mirrored bar area surrounded by dark-stained wood paneling and accents, exposed brick walls, and comfy furniture add to the restaurant's grandeur, but it's the expansive, ideally situated patio that truly make Tavern a popular place to congregate. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves up a smattering of contemporary global eats. The wine and cocktail menus are wide-ranging and offer various options for the adventurous drinker. (404-814-9640)
There's always a crowd waiting to get into Midtown nightclub, Opera, and with good reason. The place boasts an extensive space for dancing, drinking and debauchery. An enormous dance floor beneath a spectacular 100-foot domed ceiling is where revelers get down. Many of the tables here must be reserved and can get pricey. This trendy nightclub doesn't end the luxury there but also boasts a lavish outdoor pool and lounge area. Themed nights and regularly visiting DJs and ladies nights add extra incentive to visit. Avoid crazy long lines and sign up for the rsvp list online before heading out. (404-874-3006)
Tongue and Groove
Open for close to two decades, this sophisticated nightspot draws Atlanta's beautiful people looking for a place to tear up the dance floor. The 8,600-square-foot space is located in Buckhead's Lindbergh Center and offers plenty of options for parking. There are two large rooms, one with a balcony overlooking a large dance floor. The good thing about the two separate rooms is the different music: Top 40 in one and house / hip hop in the other. There are also enclaves that can be reserved for ultra-VIP treatment. It is relatively easy to get a drink as there are numerous bars in the club. Take note of the website for various special events and drink specials. (404-261-2325)
East Andrews Neighborhood Bar
This longstanding Buckhead entertainment complex seems to be constantly adding new restaurants and bars to its line-up. Take in the arctic environs and dine on sushi at Czar Bar (where "ice" takes on a whole new cool), imbibe on old-school cocktails at the speakeasy-themed Prohibition, laugh at comedy hopefuls at the Improv Comedy Club, shake your groove thing at Andrews Upstairs and dine on craft burgers at Stillhouse. On top of regular weekend merriment, the complex regularly plays host to a range of special events. Latin Elegance Wednesdays (featuring free salsa lessons) are a weekly affair, and various sports and holiday-themed kick-off parties draw big crowds. Go with a group and make a night out of it. (404-869-1132)
This glitzy Midtown club attracts a beautiful clientele and has been known to bring in its fair share of celebrities. The chandeliers, fine paintings and other upscale furnishings (like crocodile leather booths) exude an over-the-top vibe that aids to Vanquish's posh, overall appeal. There are private booths as well as three bars and an ever-changing line-up of visiting DJs. Each night seems to attract a different crowd, and, given the spaciousness of the club, it's also a popular spot for corporations and businesses to throw private parties. Every week marks different special events and drink specials so keep tabs on the website. ((404) 898-1704)
The Clermont Lounge
In the realm of strip clubs, nothing comes close to The Clermont Lounge. A decidedly run-down scene, this spot has claimed its fame for its aging line-up of strippers (who are as friendly as they are natural), the most famous of which is Blondie, who crushes beer cans between her bosoms. The crowd that attends Atlanta's oldest strip club is shockingly wide ranging. Everyone comes here, at least once, for the novelty. At the bar, you'll see a 20-something sorority girl ordering a PBR beside a 30-something young professional and a bonafide celebrity (Bill Paxton, Morgan Freeman, Jon Hamm and Jennifer Lawrence have all been spotted here). Musicians often play shows, and Tuesdays are karaoke night. Note that while this club is welcoming to everyone, it is not kid or family friendly�this is an all-nude strip club. ((404) 874-4783)
About Kelly Skinner
Kelly Skinner comes to Atlanta by way of sunny coastal city, Pensacola, FL. A lover of all things food, music and travel, Skinner found her perfect match in Atlanta in the food-centric hub of Decatur. A full-time freelance writer and editor, Skinner's byline has appeared in a range of publications including Paste, The Atlantan, Jezebel, Redbook, South and Living Intown. When she's not writing, editing and exploring Atlanta for the best places to eat, drink and play, Skinner loves doing yoga, running with her dog in Piedmont Park and scouring book stores and record shops for hidden treasures.
Read more about Kelly Skinner here.