As a progressive and culturally open city, Seattle was early to the club culture phenomenon. When disco waned and electronic beats took over nightclubs across the land, the Emerald City was right on the forefront of that trend with clubs like Neighbours, one of the city’s original GLBT nightspots. Opened in 1983, the innovative club is still in action, but it now has plenty of competition in its own Capitol Hill neighborhood, as well as in Belltown. Those two nightlife hotspots are home to the city’s largest concentration of underground clubs and swank Euro-style, ultra-lounge spaces, which share the nightlife landscape with chic hotel lounges and live music venues.
Of course, there are dozens of rock dives with dance floors, but in terms of electronic dance music, the Showbox at the Market manages to bring in top current touring acts from the genre. Still, those shows are more about seeing the performer live than dancing into blissed-out oblivion until the wee hours. For that type of nocturnal activity, there is no shortage of valid venues, and each specializes in subgenres of dance-club culture.
As practical as it is forward thinking, the Seattle club scene features chameleons like the Alibi Room, which could pass for a frontier bar in daylight but turns out churning beats after dark. For sheer glitz and pretty people, there are spots including Trinity Nightclub, Noc Noc and Re-Bar.
Located in the historic Odd Fellows building, Century Ballroom's vintage locale perfectly suites its mission, to keep ballroom and social dancing a thriving part of the Seattle nightlife scene. If the venue's popularity is any indicator, the mission is succeeding. The elaborately renovated ballroom space – with a 2,000-square-foot dance floor – is the place in the city to revive the grand days of formal evenings on the town. Dance nights, often with live music, set the perfect tone with dining, drinks, and dancing under the same roof. Meals and a full bar are available right across the hallway at the Tin Table. Whether you enjoy salsa, swing, tango, tap, or burlesque, Century Ballroom or the adjacent East Hall offers all that and more. And for those who need instruction or just a chance to brush-up on their rug-cutting skills, Century Ballroom hosts fun and friendly classes and lessons. (206-324-7263)
Last Supper Club
Although it enjoys a substantial reputation for its cuisine, Last Supper Club is known for its nightlife scene as well. On weekends especially, DJs spin the latest house music upstairs, while the lounge downstairs has more of a chill-out atmosphere. Patrons dance to the rhythms, finding a release for work-week tensions. Throughout it all, you'll find plenty of liquid refreshment. If you're not in the mood to boogie, hang out at the bar and mingle with other singles. You may not find Mr. or Ms. Right, but at least you'll have had fun at one of the area's coolest bars. Bands occasionally play. (206-748-9975)
Elegance and style characterize this hip bar, which pulls in its share of attractive young professionals. Dark furnishings, candles, and a fireplace all add a note of intimacy, and ceiling-mounted stars twinkle in the dimness. Depending on when you're there, you'll find vocalists, jazz bands, or DJs spinning a variety of tunes as patrons boogie on the dance floor. If you get hungry, there's a variety of foods to satiate, and of course, drinks of all sorts are widely available. Given its popularity, Baltic can get somewhat crowded, but its fantastic ambience and great entertainment more than compensate. It's also an ideal destination if you want to impress a date with a romantic evening. (206-625-4444)
Dim and atmospheric, this venue presents entertainment in a variety of guises. Most frequently, the popular venue serves as a vibrant dance club, spinning hip-hop and disco from its repertoire of musical genres. On the other hand, at times, Re-bar hosts theater performances; notable productions try to expand cultural ground, and some put a contemporary – and often gay – spin on classic works. From time to time, you'll also find live bands playing. The crowd is a diverse mix of gay, straight, lesbian,and artistic types who are certain to provide a fresh atmosphere and a cool combination of fun. (206-233-9873)
In previous years, this Capitol Hill club was one of Seattle's best venues for dancing, and although the competition has increased, Neighbours still offers a good time. Many of its patrons are gay, but many are also straight, now that the place has mellowed and expanded its reach. Thanks to a large dance floor, clubbers show off their moves with abandon, shaking and gyrating to everything from techno and disco to R&B and even the pop tunes that everyone disavows but loves nonetheless. Everyone's welcome, and you're certain to see a wide variety of patrons. After all, fun has no boundaries. (206-324-5358, 959-603-6035)
This welcome addition to Pioneer Square offers a hip twist on the usual club scene. Works by local artists provide upscale decor, and food offerings like fried calamari rings with tzatziki are a step above typical club fare. Dancing is taken seriously; hip-hop, funk, industrial, and trance boom over the intimate dance floor, and the club stays open until the wee hours on weekends to accommodate hardcore partiers. Live jazz is not unheard of in the earlier evening hours, and occasionally, DJs take requests. Nightly club events showcase "the best sound system downtown," and guests can get on the guest list for free (visit the venue's website). (206-447-7704)
Showbox at the Market
Although it's experienced a variety of incarnations, the Showbox today is a must-visit place to catch touring bands. Amid Art Deco columns, young and hip crowds clamor to hear and see their favorite groups. There's even a dance floor for them to show off their moves if the spirit strikes. Plus, several bars accommodate patrons with a good menu of libations. If hunger strikes, check out the Green Room for some Mexican-inspired pub grub. To be one of the first in the door, head to the Green Door (if you're 21 or older) before the show to enjoy food and drinks--and to get an earlier entrance. DJs spin tunes (and rock the space when bands aren't booked. (206-628-3151, 800-325-7328)
Little Red Hen
Although a very different kind of dance club, Seattleites who like to move it flock to this happening Green Lake venue that's known for its live country music scene. Seattle's not just about grunge anymore, and Little Red Hen is a perfect example of why. Here, you can dance, you can sing, and you can listen to live tunes every day of the week. There are free country dance lessons, and for nights when a band isn't booked, you can always show off your chops by stepping on stage for karaoke. (206-522-1168)
A popular restaurant by day, the Alibi Room really comes alive at night. Owned by a group of filmmakers, the club works to support independent films and their creators, by fostering an artistic dialogue among patrons and making scripts available for public perusal. If that's a bit heavy for you, just come and dance to the mixed rhythms of rotating DJs or enjoy one of their specialty vodka drinks. You'll also find live music from time to time, along with a great wine list and tasty appetizers. A real local favorite, Alibi plays host to everyone from the eccentric to the street smart. (206-623-3180, 206-625-9647)
Three nightlife experiences in one, Trinity caters to those clubgoers always looking for something new. The most action can be found in the Main Room, which features a spacious dance floor, state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and a DJ booth constructed from a pulpit. Relax with a cocktail and tasty dim sum or sushi in the elegant, scarlet-hued Card Room, and then surrender yourself to the beat in the ultra-trendy, futuristically-lit Blue Room. The club attracts top talent from across the country and beyond, who spin a fresh mix of Top 40, hip-hop, house and more. So go ahead and get your dance on. (206-447-4140)
About Corinne Whiting
Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China.
Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.
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