The big, bad daddy of them all, San Francisco Badlands has a state-of-the-art sound system and several monitors for a full-fledged club experience. The way to enjoy the Castro nightlife is, of course, to hop from club to club. Badlands is a "must hop." Sitting in their front lounge, an infamous spot to either see or be seen is a staple of the Castro experience. There's so much hectic energy here that you should be sure to pace yourself: the real troopers at the Badlands are the ones who can last all night long. And once that enormous, rotating mirror ball over the dance floor gets going, you won't want to stop.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: San Francisco Badlands is all about fun, fun and more fun. Bring your best friends and the right attitude for a uniquely San Francisco experience.
Tom's expert tip: The 2 for 1 cocktails everyday until 9 pm make every day a Badlands day.
The Tonga Room offers drinks, dancing, great Asian cuisine, and a festive atmosphere, including a simulated tropical rainstorm that shakes things up every twenty minutes. Expansive windows provide views of the bustling streetscape and live music and dancing take place nightly. The popular restaurant and bar also host a well-attended happy hour with its own special buffet. Order up a tropical cocktail, see what tasty treats are available, and relax after a long day. Leave time to explore the historic Fairmont Hotel, which houses the Tonga Room. This hotel is like a museum for San Francisco history, so the Fairmont alone is worth the trip.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Tonga Room is on the higher-end of bars, so be sure to dress up for the occasion.
Tom's expert tip: Order a Mai Tai during Happy Hour (5-7 pm, W-F), the famous cocktail first concocted in the Bay Area but made famous in Hawaii.
A top-notch sound system sets the tempo at Space 550 and easily contributes to pumped-up volume and abundant energy. Club-goers generally groove to the sounds of funk, salsa, house, and hip-hop, although other musical styles crop up as well. The club, although a bit out of the way, is worth the experience, not only for the tunes but for the people-watching experience. The facility features three dance floors on two levels. Trendy dress. Space 550 has a lot of space, but it's almost always filled with a lot of people ready to party, so bring earplugs if you have any need for a quiet night.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Space 550 is an excellent option to the many downtown dancing options.
Tom's expert tip: World-class music and some great eye candy are just outside the city center with Space 550.
If you're looking for something of an upscale dance spot â" with a social scene that keeps introductions and greetings flowing â" head to this hip hangout. Clubgoers are attired in their stylish best, eager to be part of the lively scene. Plenty of dance space in two separate areas grants patrons the opportunity to groove to house, hip-hop, salsa, and club tunes. At times, live bands regale folks as well. Three bars make scoring a drink pretty easy, and a multi-level lounge leads into a number of VIP rooms and private cabanas. If you're in the Financial District of San Francisco and feel the need to get your groove on, head to Club 525.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Club 525 is one of the more stylish dance clubs in San Francisco.
Tom's expert tip: Good proximity to North Beach and other fine dining options.
26 Mix lives up to its name, functioning as a social spot for professional 20-somethings (and 30-somethings who look the part). DJs mix it up too, spinning tunes of all genres â" house, techno, downtempo, jazz, and reggae. Drink specials and happy hours please attending crowds, and non-dancing patrons slough off non-participatory shame by trying their hand at vintage video games. This club has a somewhat gritty feel, definitely more for a younger crowd due to its small space pumped full of loud, amplified music. But if you're in the mood for some hot salsa and don't mind being packed in with people, 26 Mix is the place for you.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: 26 Mix is of the "old-school" tradition of dance clubs and is popular with locals.
Tom's expert tip: 26 Mix is small, so be prepared to rub elbows.
Looking for a happening spot to decompress after a hard day pushing papers? Head to Minna Gallery, and order a signature, happy hour cocktail. Art in a variety of media adorns the walls, and lively DJs keep tunes and atmosphere at a wide-open pace. You'll find it hard to resist the beat as you head to the dance floor for a little body movement. Great for groups or for first dates â" especially if your date loves to dance! You can't beat the central spot of 11 Minna, right downtown off of Market, so late night bite options abound. This eclectic space doesn't always offer dancing, so be sure to check their website ahead of time.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: 111 Minna brings a creative, edgy approach to dancing in San Francisco.
Tom's expert tip: 111 Minna is a mixed-use space that includes live music performances, literary readings and art exhibits, so check their schedule on their website.
This late-night spot draws all types to its large space, which includes two dance floors where DJs really know how to pump it up. Hip-hop, funk, house, techno and rock can all be heard on different days, and theme nights expand the options, as you'll find if you stumble across '80s retro night or a fetish event. Generally, the tamer music can be found in the front room and the more experimental stuff in the back. A large bar also makes getting a drink fairly painless. Cat Club is beloved by locals, so check it out if you want your dance night to have a San Francisco feel.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Cat Club is a dance club with a sexy San Francisco appeal.
Tom's expert tip: Want to sing your heart out? Check out the Tuesday night karaoke for a howling good time.
A penchant for the dramatic colors this entire enterprise, which is simultaneously a restaurant, bar and (downstairs) dance club. An Asian theme is served by shoji screens, bamboo accents and a recurring dragon motif. Perhaps, though, the most intriguing aspect of Asia SF is that servers are also female impersonators (or "gender illusionists," as they're called here). While watching them perform, take advantage of fantastic California-Asian cuisine, along with desserts, signature cocktails and an award-winning wine list. Required dinner reservations guarantee your table for an hour and 45 minutes.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Founded in 1998, this iconic club is not just a place to boogie down but will also "educate and enlighten people about the transgender experience and human diversity."
Tom's expert tip: Glamour reigns at this romantic spot where jazz and swing hold court.
If you want to dance but don't feel like taking two hours to deck yourself out in the latest trends, head to The Make-Out Room. They understand the simple trifecta for a successful dance club: loud music, stiff drinks, and plenty of space to jump around. The Make-Out Room can be the crowning moment of a full-day in the always popular Mission neighborhood. After you've enjoyed a sunshiney day in the Mission (almost always less fog than the rest of San Francisco), you can enjoy one of the many world-class restaurants in this food-crazed district before hitting the Make-Out Room's popular happy hour. After that, dance the night away!
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: The Make-Out Room is a well-established dance spot in the always hip Mission neighborhood.
Tom's expert tip: Hard to beat this Happy Hour in the expensive Mission: Monday thru Thursday, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, $3 Well, $3/$4 Micro Pints, $2 Pabst Pints.
This dance club generally entertains a packed house. Live bands perform on weekends, salsa's the rage on Sunday, a global dance party wins applause on Friday, rock 'n' roll takes the stage on Saturdays, and Wednesdays are punk and rock nights. You may also find Arabic music, world music, dancehall and hip-hop, outdoor film festivals and cabaret performances as well as benefits for local community organizations. If that's not enough, there are shuffleboard, ping-pong, pool and weekly BBQs. The popular outdoor patio, bedecked with lights, is often filled with a very diverse crowd. Even if you're not in the mood to dance, El Rio is a great spot to check out.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: El Rio is not just a great dance hall, but an all-around great bar.
Tom's expert tip: Catch the $1 Tecate Monday special, if you can.