House music was born in Chicago when a new club called The Warehouse gave it its name. The Warehouse is no longer but the beats continue at a number of dance clubs around town. Chicago’s nightlife is hot ~ if you know where to go and sometimes it’s in the basement.
Smart Bar in Wrigleyville has been a destination for dance-partiers since 1982 and still holds its own with its rocking DJs while Lakeview’s Berlin harkens back to Belmont Ave’s longtime punk scene and simultaneously connects to the future. You may encounter drag queens, exotic dancers, and other controversial icons on the dance floor at this gay (super) friendly club (hint: don’t show up before midnight!).
River North’s Sound-Bar is made for dancing. Check out the upper areas for some of the best hip hop in the city. The Underground is one of Chicago’s favorite places to see and be seen. Be sure to dress to the nines at this exclusive club in River North where you’ll dance to beats dropped by a roster of internationally-known DJ’s. The Hangge-Uppe is a favorite casual late night spot in the Gold Coast where oldies tunes are played on the lower level.
The ultra-hip, ultra-modern Sound-Bar is certainly the place to go for a wild night out. A star-studded list of resident DJs produce fresh bass lines throughout the sprawling, mulit-level 20,000 sq ft club and the scantily clad dancers keep things going all night long. Laser lights, projectors and flat-screen monitors complement the eight bars, two dance floors and upscale lounges to complete Sound-Bar's impressive repertoire. There usually is a cover but if you arrive early (before 11 p.m.), sometimes the cover is waived. Be forewarned: if you're coming here, don't expect to leave before morning! Luckily it's located in an area where a cab won't be hard to grab. (312-787-4480)
A longtime fixture in the Rush and Division area, and a popular spot for bachelorette parties, Hangge-Uppe (pronounced hang ups) is a popular dive bar where you can dance to Top 40 hits or oldies music. Buy a beer from one of the open beer tubs, or do a colorful shot from a test tube, and then prepare to singalong to the well-known songs and dance until 4 a.m. The younger crowd stays upstairs dancing to current hits, while an older crowd meanders downstairs to dance to songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Just beware of the super small bathrooms, which always have long lines. ((312) 337-0561)
Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
Trendy folks and jazz aficionados regularly flock to this cool joint. Once a hangout of Al Capone, Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson, the place has tons of character. It was also a speakeasy during Prohibition, meaning that Green Mill retains a past-days air of the Roaring '20s. Swing music is offered Tuesday and Thursday, Wednesday night is their gypsy jazz band although jazz crops up almost nightly, and Sunday features poetry slams. Cocktails are inexpensive but if you want to enjoy them from a table, get there early and definitely before the bands go on otherwise you'll be out of luck because this place gets packed. (773-878-5552)
Located in an historical landmark building, Castle is surprisingly huge for a dance venue. It boasts four different spaces spanning five levels and 60,000 square feet. In addition to dance floors galore, it's one of the few Chicago spots that offers a full kitchen until 3 a.m. on Fridays and 4 a.m. on Saturdays. Located in the heart of Chicago's River North district (you can't miss the place, it's looks like a caste and it's huge), it attracts a younger crowd and a fair amount of out-of-town visitors. From Swedish progressive trance to local pride DJs, almost anything goes at Castle. (312-266-1944)
Bring your dancing shoes! The sexy, salsa dance crowd packs this restaurant on weekend nights to dance to salsa, bachata, meringue and other Latin music by beloved DJ-X. The dressed-up, international dancing crowd doesn't show up until late at night - dancing is from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays, and from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturdays. There's typically a cover charge - $20 for men and $10 for women. National 27, whose name refers to the 27 recognized Latin American countries, is also a popular restaurant, offering a menu with items like empanadas, ceviche and garlic-roasted chicken Cubano. (312-664-2727)
Rolling Stone magazine once named it "Best Dance Club" in Chicago for good reason. This intimate joint has two bars, a small dance floor with a tiny stage and bass cabinets that double as platforms for drag queens, exotic dancers, or fetish shows that perform on occasion. Video screens run "out there" reels that are put together by DJs. Music varies from new wave to house and the last Wednesday of the month is disco night. Not for the closed-minded as a mixed crowd prevails, of mostly gays and goths. Berlin is located just around the corner from Halsted Street and Chicago's Boystown neighborhood. (773-348-4975)
This combo salon-dance club is a great place for a manicure, a martini, and a fun dance party. The kitchy 60s decor includes sparkly glitter paint on the walls and 1960s styled salon furniture. Between 7 p.m. and midnight, you can have your nails painted (or not), and then dance the night away to live DJs or fun theme parties (Wednesday night disco, anyone?). Their drink menu includes martinis with salon names (like the Bedhead, which is sauza blue silver tequila shaken with pineapple and lime juice). Beauty Bar also has locations in cities like New York, Denver, San Fransisco and Las Vegas. ((312) 226-8828)
Some of the best DJs in Chicago play electronic dance music on this second-floor nightclub, above the French restaurant, Paris Club. The room's retractable glass roof is opened on nice weather nights, converting the space into an open-air dance club. The upscale crowd includes people from the fashion and entertainment business, and there is a roving photographer who snaps black-and-white photos of the scene. Studio Paris has hosted some of the biggest names in EDM, including Tiesto, DeadMau5, Avicii, Kaskade, and Calvin Harris, and there have been performances by stars like Jason Derulo and Rita Ora. Tables can be secured only with bottle-service reservations. ((312) 377-9944)
A basement dance club with less posh, more punk. If you want a place that gets you dancing, look no further. The DJ spins a mix of techno, rave, funk, house and well, anything you can dance to. Expect an alternative mix of clientele. Located in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood (also home of Wrigley Field), it's the kind of spot where designer jeans aren't necessary. Since developing a relationship with popular concert venue The Metro (conveniently located upstairs), Smart Bar hosts rock and dance fans alike allowing for award-winning co-mingling, co-rocking, and co-getting down. Just come ready to dance the night away. (773-549-0203)
The Underground Chicago
Recently renovated, Underground has sleek decor, updated tech elements and an elevated food and beverage program. The hot club owned by Chicago bar guru Billy Dec attracts a rotating guest list of who's who of Chicago notables, celebrities, international DJs and celebrity live acts. Among those who have performed over the years are Katy Perry, John Mayer and Kanye West. Underground has two unique spaces to entertain: The Club offers a higher-energy, more modern club vibe while The Lounge has an old-school, upscale lounge vibe feel complete with plush seating with funky patterns, rich woods, swanky music and a one-of-a-kind groundbreaking mixology bar. (312.943.7600)
About Jamie Bartosch
Jamie Bartosch is a lifelong Chicagoan who thinks her hometown is the greatest city in the world. She is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a freelance travel writer, and the mother of two great kids.
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