Desert Nights:10 Best Nightlife Spots in Tucson

The Tucson nightlife scene is a diverse array of hipster hot spots, college hang-outs, and dive bar glory. Whether it's your aim to dress up or dress down, see or be seen, rest assured that the Old Pueblo offers something for every mood.

For a night of great hipster people-watching around downtown, head to the venerable Club Congress, where the music is always loud and the Tap Room is (almost) always open.

For one of the best people-watching spots in downtown, try Playground Bar and Lounge, a stylish hot spot serving chic cocktails and gourmet bar grub. Catch a show at the Rialto Theatre, and then stroll over to Fourth Avenue for a nightcap at Plush.

For urban cowboys of all stripes, enjoy a rollicking night of beer and two-stepping at the Maverick, "King of Clubs," the east side's venerable country western nightlife club. This east side bar and club has been keeping the heart and soul of country music burning strong in the Old Pueblo for more than 50 years. 

If craft brews on tap are your thing, head to Tap & Bottle, a central Tucson magnet for beer connoisseurs. Come for the delicious array of high-quality local, regional and international beers, and stay for the army of gourmet food trucks that regularly make an appearance at this beloved watering hole. 


Located in the spot that used to be the Sapphire Lounge, The Aquadec is Tucson's hip outdoor rooftop lounge and bar. The space features three floors of space that includes an outdoor water fountains, along with a giant salt water aquarium, water walls, and great panoramic views of Tucson. There are also several comfy sofas and lounge areas for a more intimate experience. This is a great place to enjoy a drink while taking in one of Tucson's famously golden sunsets. The night club frequently hosts events and festivals around the year, and you'll find $3 happy hour specials on the bar menu.

Maverick, King of Clubs

Country and Western music is extremely popular in Tucson, and this honky-tonk is a classic example of where locals meet up for conversation, drinks, and a few spins on the dance floor. The simple, country-style interior is always full of regulars in their best Western gear. Live music sometimes featured. Great drink specials and a friendly, laid-back vibe. This is a great destination if you've ever wanted to learn how to two-step like an authentic Tucson cowboy. The dance floor is packed on the weekends, and the venue regularly hosts dance lessons. The kitchen opens at 5 pm daily, so it makes a good dinner spot too.

Tap & Bottle

Tap & Bottle is a beer-lover's paradise. The intimate tap room at this beloved Tucson bar is home to one of the city's best-curated selections of craft brews. Tap & Bottle celebrates home-grown Southern Arizona beer, as well as many of the best regional and international brews currently being made. The brew pub atmosphere is lively and friendly, making this a great place to rub elbows with locals and fellow beer connoisseurs. Tap & Bottle even hosts its own monthly curated "Beer Club" dedicated to pleasing the palate of even the most ardent beer snob. There's no food menu at the bar, but the city's best food trucks regularly feed the hungry masses at Tap & Bottle.

Scott & Co.

Established in 2010, Scott & Co was founded by the same folks that brought 47 Scott to Tucson, downtown's popular destination for modern American comfort food in an intimate bistro-style space. Scott & Co. is an intimate speakeasy style bar with a seasonal menu of hand-crafted cocktails. Head bartender Ciaran Wiese and the team of mixologists at Scott & Co. display a genuine passion for developing new and delicious infusions. Although the atmosphere at Scott & Co. is great, this is the kind of place you go to for truly exceptional mixed drinks. You won't be disappointed by house-crafted creations like The Lionheart, made with Blanco tequila, green chartreuse, bitter orange amber, rich allspice dram, and agave nectar.

The Shelter

A lot of folks will tell you that this bar used to be a fallout shelter, but the truth is it was actually built as a bar back in 1961. The round, windowless structure is packed to the rafters with 60s era kitsch, from JFK memorabilia to black velvet paintings and groovy lamps. The retro vibe is augmented with a continual showing of 60s B movies and plenty of period music, occasionally provided by DJs fond of deep cuts and rare grooves. Bartenders mix up all the retro cocktails you can handle, but don't fret if your personal favorite is something invented last year--they can make those too. And if you're in the market for some new bad jokes to share with your friends, a visit to the restrooms here should be high on your list of things to do.

"Cafe by day, solar powered astronomy bar by night." That's the Sky Bar, in a nutshell. This unique Tucson cafe and bar is 100 percent solar-powered and is outfitted with powerful telescopes so you can observe the cosmos after dark. The bar regularly hosts open mic nights and live music. Plus, there are even DSLR photography nights where you can bring a camera and snap amazing pictures of the night skies. At midnight, there is a special 15-minute happy hour where you can order $1 well drinks seven nights a week. Every Wednesday there is a popular open mic night, where local and traveling musicians come together for music under the stars.


One of the best ways to get to know a city well is to take part in its nightlife, and if you like live music that steers well away from Top 40, Plush is where to go. Performers are scheduled nearly every night, and might be a local fave like Calexico, or a national or international act like Brian Jonestown Massacre, Shonen Knife, Sufjan Stevens, Michelle Shocked, Mike Doughty's Band and Okkervil River. Since this is one hip bar, artsy and dimly lit, there are plenty of couches and comfy chairs for lounging and socializing. The bar staff are expert mixologists, equally adept at pulling a draft Bud and putting together the trendiest cocktail.

This venue, located in the heart of downtown, had a fascinating past as a vaudeville theater. Now the refurbished facility is a great place to catch a touring band. Many styles of music, from blues to salsa to alternative, are represented, and big names often perform. Located across the street from the Hotel Congress, the Rialto Theatre is a hub of activity on any given night. Bar concessions are available during most shows. Recently, the management at the Rialto have started to paint temporary murals on the side of the venue to advertise upcoming shows. The venue has stand-up general admission for most shows, although chairs are set up for some performances.

Playground Bar & Grill

If you're looking for a sleek, modern bar and lounge in downtown Tucson, look no further than Playground. The hybrid bar and lounge manages to be both hip and inviting, marrying traditional southwestern hospitality with the stylishness of a modern bar and lounge. Keep moving on the dance floor, enjoy a cleverly-named cocktail at the bar, or enjoy a bit of people-watching on the patio. The bar hosts a popular Sunday brunch where you can enjoy a Bloody Mary made to order. If drinking and dancing make you hungry, check out the taste bud-pleasing food menu, featuring gourmet burgers, salads, and appetizers.

Club Congress

This upbeat dance club offers a wide range of popular theme nights, with some of the best DJs in the area spinning nostalgic tracks or the best alternative music of today. Club Congress is also a popular live music venue for touring national acts. Mondays are 80s nights, Friday is live music, and Saturday night DJs spin music for Tucson's hippest crowds. Club Congress is located inside the historic Hotel Congress, which offers plenty of atmosphere for a night out in downtown Tucson. Club Congress has also been named one of the country's best rock clubs by numerous publications over the years.


Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.