Dance, Drink and Be Merry in Downtown Ventura

Ventura County has never been known to have a great number of dance clubs or late night venues, however in recent years downtown Ventura has made a significant effort to create nightlife attractions that vary from lounges to wine bars.

Some bars take advantage of ocean views and proximity, while others create just the right atmosphere to create for dancing, drinking and socializing. Brew pubs such as Barrelhouse 101 or Dargan's are the perfect locations to grab a beer with friends and catch a sporting event on television, while spots such as The Tavern or Bombay Bar & Grill are places that bring people together with live music, DJs and dance floors.

Its not surprising to see people in shorts, tank tops and flip flops at any of these venues. Even catching a show at The Majestic Ventura Theater will not require dressy attire, although you won't stand out if you do decide to get a little dressed up. In the mood for a laugh? Head to the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club to see acts big and small. You can even take comedy workshop.

Most clubs and bars close by 2 a.m., but that shouldn't be a problem. In Ventura, it's easy to have a fulfilling night of fun!


Dargan's Irish Pub
Photo courtesy of Tori Bodin

Dargan's Irish Pub and Restaurant has a location in Ventura as well as Santa Barbara. While they are the obvious choice for a Saint Patrick's Day celebration, the pub is also a solid choice for pub food and drinks year round. Their full bar offers quick service and a famous sign that states their motto, "Alcohol is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." With a number of tables as well as bar seating, it's also popular for those looking to mingle and enjoy a night on the town. The drinks can be strong! Dargan's is a favorite spot for sport enthusiasts to enjoy a drink during the game. Free parking is available just behind the pub, and The Majestic Ventura Theater is across the street.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: Dargan's has quick service and a central, downtown location. The pub is the perfect place to grab a pint and watch the game.

Tori's expert tip: Dargan's stays true to its Irish roots and serves perfectly poured Black & Tans.

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Hip and boisterous, this bar and dance club isn't intended for those who might want a relaxing evening. Only if you're ready to break it down and party should you head over. Once there, take in the mix of music (reggae, dance, pop, rock and jazz) and wedge yourself in among the booty-shakers. Tunes are loud, folks are wired, and the place rocks with the energy of live performers and even karaoke at times. Food is also available, should you need something to help soak up the alcohol. In fact, in the middle of the night tacos are available for $1. Be ready to dance.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: Bombay Bar & Grill has been around for years, bringing in anyone looking for a place to dance.

Tori's expert tip: Stay late for $1.00 tacos. They are a perfect snack after a night of dancing.

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The Tavern Ventura
Photo courtesy of Tori Bodin

The Tavern is one of Ventura's most popular bars. As a house transformed into lounge, there are separated areas for almost every type of nightlife enthusiast. Downstairs offers big booths, a full bar and often a live band. Walk farther into The Tavern, and you will find another bar, complete with a dance floor and another live band or DJ. The back patio has yet another bar as well as cabanas, booths and plenty of deck space for guests to mingle and dance. The Tavern actually also functions as a restaurant during the day, which is the best time to enjoy their classic and rustic decor, complete with vintage books and blackboards. While its location is bit separated from downtown's main drag, its worth the short walk.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: The Tavern is one of the most popular places to dance in Ventura. Their often have live music and always have a great patio.

Tori's expert tip: Don't miss happy hour for $2 off beers and amazing deals on food.

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The Wine Rack
Photo courtesy of Tori Bodin

The Wine Rack is just off Ventura's main downtown street, offering wines by the glass or bottle and appetizer platters. The staff is friendly and helpful, giving recommendations for those who are new to wine tasting and advanced knowledge for those who are looking to experience new wines. They also offer speciality cheese platters and a large selection of wine-related gifts for the aficionado. The Wine Rack even includes live music sets in their nightly hours, making a perfect stop for those looking for a before or after dinner drink. It's also a great place to enjoy as a destination, indulging in good wine, company and music. Their wine shop selection is greater than you will find elsewhere in town, so its a favorite among those planning a special occasion.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: The Wine Rack is a specialty stop in downtown Ventura. Their wine selection is competitive even among local restaurants.

Tori's expert tip: Happy hour takes place from 4 - 7 p.m. daily. Enjoy delicious reds, whites and roses at a discount.

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Social Tap
Photo courtesy of Tori Bodin

Social Tap is located just steps from the beach. This restaurant and brew pub brings people together while they drink and enjoy the coastal environment. Live bands often play at the venue, creating a fun hangout for all ages and bringing in local musicians from the surrounding area. Draft and seasonal beers are popular among guests, as is bottled beer, local wine and signature spirits. This quintessential California pub even offers fresh and locally-sourced food, including street tacos and burgers. If you like to drink in the morning too, their Bloody Mary bar is excellent. Get ready to load up on pickled garnishes!

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: Social Tap offers indoor and outdoor areas that are always packed with beach-goers and social butterflies.

Tori's expert tip: Their truffle fries and filet mignon tacos pair perfectly with craft beer.

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Taking on double duty as a well-attended restaurant and busy bar, Winchester's always attracts a crowd. The old western decor takes you back to the days of the saloon, but the food and drink menu is a little more modern. Its Main Street location ensures a good measure of foot traffic, and its welcoming ambience keeps folks around, laughing and socializing. Dozens of draft beers and a full liquor bar guarantee tasty libations, and the kitchen offers steaks, burgers, seafood, chicken and a few more exotic alternatives. An outdoor patio and special drink promotions heighten the appeal. With areas that can fit large numbers, it's easy to designate Winchester's as the social hotspot. A perennial favorite.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: A fun and comfortable Ventura food and drink stop for decades, with Western-themed decor to boot! (See what we did there?)

Tori's expert tip: It's easy to start at Winchester's and work your way down Main Street. Their happy hour starts again at 10pm!

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Nightlife isn't always about going out dancing! Sometimes you just want a good laugh (and a drink won't hurt either). When you're in the mood for a chuckle, head to the water and hit the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club. This famous club brings in some great headliners of all sizes and levels of notoriety. They also serve up casual food and drinks, so you can really make yourself at home during your stay. You can book a space and even a comedian for your private events. The Ventura Harbor Comedy Club also offers a six-week comedy workshop that will help you tap into your gut busting potential.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: The Ventura Harbor Comedy Club is a place you can see comedy legends perform and practice your own stand-up chops, too.

Geneva's expert tip: Got an awkward date coming up? Really seal the deal by going to a comedy club. You're welcome!

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Barrelhouse 101
Photo courtesy of Tori Bodin

Barrelhouse is a great bar with oodles of beer, hard liquor and great food. The "101" stands for the number of beers they offer, so its no surprise the restaurant is a popular stop for beer enthusiasts. While they also have a full menu offering appetizers and entrees, most patrons are quick to order a cold pint. The venue also hosts special tastings and events by breweries, offering seasonal brews and samplers. Most craft beers come from California, but there are also labels from Oregon, Washington and Utah, to name a few. Locals usually stop by Barrelhouse 101 for a beer before heading downtown, taking advantage of the bar and outdoor patio for a fun start to the night.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: Barrelhouse 101 has a full bar and a stellar range of beers on tap (101 of them, in fact). Get ready for some loud fun!

Tori's expert tip: Go for the beer, stay for the food! Barrelhouse patrons love their burgers, mac n cheese and chicharron nachos.

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And now for something completely different... to be transported in both time and place head directly to VenTiki, Ventura's only tiki bar. Here the drinks are positively tropical, the decorations are certainly magical ,and the service is just delightful. Enjoy all the classics like Mai Tais, Zombies, Singapore Slings and more, all served in appropriate tiki glassware. They also have food... so you can keep drinking of course. Sit at the bar and watch classic movies play on the TV or enjoy your drink in the sunshine on the patio. One tip: if you've got a great Hawaiian shirt, this is the place to wear it.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: Um, hello? Tiki bar! This is the best place to get beach appropriate cocktails in a beach town. Prepare to be delighted.

Geneva's expert tip: Check their Facebook page for specials, like Magnum Mondays (wear a mustache and get drink specials!).

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Majestic Ventura Theater
Photo courtesy of Tori Bodin

More performance venue than club, this one-time movie house (opened in 1928) boasts elaborate details to complement its mission-style architecture. These days, the restored place is one of the area's most desirable concert halls, showcasing such talents as Johnny Lang, Counting Crows, Phish, Arctic Monkeys, Tori Amos and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Boozy drinks are available, along with some foods. Other kinds of acts are occasionally booked as well. Floor space is for standing only. There is seating on the top floor, with 21 and over standing space in between the two areas. With its central location in downtown Ventura, it's a popular venue to catch a show. The place has a capacity of 1150.

Recommended for Ventura's Best Nightlife because: The Majestic Ventura Theater is a fun venue to see bands of any size. It books some of the best shows in the tri-county area!

Tori's expert tip: If you are over 21 (imbibing or not), watch the show from the bar area for a better view.

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Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva