Orlando's Eclectic Nightspots: DJs, Drag Shows, Dress Codes, Dive Bars & More



Orlando is not New York or Las Vegas or Miami. We're okay with that. And for the most part, the City Beautiful doesn't try to be something its not when it comes to nightclubs. For locals who pine for sleek, see-and-be-seen spaces, sophisticated venues such as the One80 Skytop Lounge atop the Amway Center and downtown's posh, glittery Eve prove that you don't need a beach, a casino or dueling pro-baseball teams to enjoy bottle service. Meanwhile, an active music scene brings national and regional acts a-plenty to venues like The Social and Soundbar while helping to cultivate a vibrant local scene, as well. (We're looking at you, Will's Pub!) And for the rest of us? Those for whom the word "nightclub" takes on a magical, shape-shifting quality? We've got dive bar/dance hall hybrids like the come-as-you-are Independent Bar and gay nightlife that exudes a bit of local, inclusive flavor in Southern Nights. For more intimate digs with an electronic pulse and pointed beats, you might want to give the warm and welcoming, but decidedly fashionable, Attic a whirl. This city's energetic and eclectic offerings say we like who we are. Check us out. You might like us, too.



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South Orlando


 

Dance club don't just mean house music, y'all. Cowboys Orlando has been bringing country music to town for a good, long while, open Thursday through Saturday and featuring everything from live local and national music acts to state-of-the-art sound and lighting and more than 30 TVs on which to get your NASCAR (among other things) on. Oh, and one other thing: it's huge, a C&W entertainment complex comprised of rought 20,000 square feet. All the better for line dancing! And if your Boot Scoot's not what it should be, fear not: this nightclub offers free lessons every night for cowboys and cowgirls aged 18 and up.


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Sitting atop Orlando's Amway Arena, One80 Grey Goose Lounge overlooks the city with sweeping views (hence the name) in a space many place side-by-side with South Beach's top venues. Lounge inside on sleek, white leather or sip that high-end vodka under the Spire Tower outside while DJs spin and the see-and-be-seen crowd mixes and mingles. One80 is a go-to hotspot post Magic game and generally fills up as the arena lets out, but Elev8 Mondays (the club's industry-night party) is gaining in local popularity, not just for the guest DJs, but its $5 Grey Goose cocktails from 10 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., a killer deal at an establishment that leans hard in the direction of pricey.


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Want to see what determination in the gym can accomplish? Show up for Southern Nights' Flex Nights featuring the some of the hottest hardbodies north of Miami Beach to Girl Saturdays where sultry live burlesque shows reign supreme (if you've never checked out the moves of Orlando's reigning queen Blue Star, you can do it here). Southern Nights is a tour de force for LGBT nightlife in town, welcoming revelers 18+ for friendly, all-inclusive fun, whether DJ- or drag diva-hosted dance party or casual BBQ-infused happy hours. Multiple bars and indoor/outdoor options make this venue versatile; guests can find their most comfortable space.


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Downtown


 

Few downtown Orlando venues take advantage of Central Florida's stellar weather like Aero, a striking and recently renovated rooftop lounge with cozy cabanas and twinkly lights all immersed in the cosmopolitan surrounds of the city skyline. Nightly soirees feature DJs spinning house, electronic and more but Sunday Fundays bring with them not only old-school, reggae and Top 40 for your dancing feet, but a more casual daylight vibe, as well. Come dressed to impress or come as you are (within reason, of course). Extremely wallet-friendly drink specials vary from night to night, but the music and views are consistently intoxicating.


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Downtown


 

Fans of Backbooth, rejoice. From the longtime Orlando nightspot's ashes rises Soundbar, offering up the same club/live music mix of events but with some fresh new art and renovations that have opened up the space quite a bit. Whether you're visiting for a dance party or live band, Soundbar's atmosphere is clubby, but comfortable. Hip hop to metal, comedy to karaoke, poetry, art and more is on tap here. Taco Bell Tuesdays are devoted to laughs, for example, Saturday night's DJ will favor hip hop, and Sundays are for fans of dubstep. Check them out on Facebook for updated show information.


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Downtown


 

Like EDM? The Attic's been serving electronic beats up in one of downtown's best parties since 2010 â€" and in an altogether more intimate setting that your usual sprawling, anonymous club. Dare we say warm? We do! With a popular local DJ in residence, the Attic boasts more than a few regulars. Visitors tout staffers who are friendlier than average in this oft-haughty industry and bartenders who really know what they're doing. LIke your clubs sparsely populated? Don't come here on a Saturday. On this popular night, the music pumps and the dance floor jumps. It's a good time. Check it out.


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Downtown
Eve


 

Eve is a posh, elegant space with a design that incorporates elements both warm and sleek, pairing exposed brick with glittery chandeliers and walls and sumptuous lighting that comes together quite beautifully. Several distinct atmospheres â€" a lounge, nightclub area and spacious balcony overlooking Orange Avenue â€" mean guests can move around to suit their mood. With a 5,000-square-foot main level, there's plenty of room to groove to the beats, whether you're out on the floor, grabbing a cocktail at one of three bars or velvet rope'ing it in one of several VIP areas. Multi-tiered seating adds to the perception of spaciousness as the bodies move on the floor.


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Downtown
The Social


 

Consistently voted a favorite live-music venue by critics and locals alike, the Social's laid-back vibe, efficient barkeeps and relatively intimate space draws an eclectic crowd of music lovers, be it blues, folk, rock, metal, reggae.... Really, anything goes. With quality sound and an unpretentious atmosphere, the Social hosts big-name acts along with local and regional favorites, making it the ideal venue not only to catch your favorite acts but discover new ones on the nights your live music craving won't go unsated. The Social also features regular and semi-regular genre-driven nights. Salsa Sundays, for example, feature DJ Frankie spinning salsa, merengue and bachata with an open premium bar for a flat cover. Salud!


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Mills 50


 

Serving up drinks and live music to Orlando locals thirsty for both for 15-plus years, Will's is something of a petri dish for indie music, a come-as-you-are joint if ever there was that has played host to burgeoning acts of all stripes. Recent improvements to the joint have only bolstered its ability to musically baptize all comers. Bands love playing here. People love seeing them. And if you're looking for reasons to come by before showtime, how do pool, drink specials, 16 taps flowing with microbrews and free WiFi sound? Important to note: Will's Pub isn't just about touring acts; they also host open-mics, hip-hop nights, poetry slams and more.


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Vintage rock to top 40, indie to 80s new wave, the Independent Bar hits that sweet spot between dance club and dive bar, a place where patrons are welcome to dress to impress or roll in in Chucks and ripped jeans. Seriously man, no one's looking, so relax. Multiple bars make getting drinks a non-issue and a friendly atmosphere makes for a relaxing, no-stress night of dancing and people-watching; patrons might be yuppies or rockers, goths or indie hipsters, it really is that eclectic. In fact, it's even 18+. Special nights like Wednesday night "Mac & Cheese" (DJ Mac spins the cheesiest music mix) are ever-evolving, but always indicative of the venue's convivial vibe. Well specials and cheap beer are essentially a given.


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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