The Definitive Night Owl's Guide to Big D

Photo courtesy of Windmill Lounge Facebook
Photo courtesy of The Balcony Club Facebook
Photo courtesy of Station 4 Facebook
Photo courtesy of Sons of Hermann Hall
Photo courtesy of The Nines Facebook
Photo courtesy of Sandaga 813
Photo courtesy of Parliament Facebook
Photo courtesy of Midnight Rambler
By Ilene Jacobs, Dallas Local Expert

Dallas may be a hive of activity during business hours, but the hustle-and-bustle doesn’t end when the sun goes down. If anything, it's when the city really starts to come to life with a dazzling array of nighttime diversions to entertain every kind of night owl.

In the mood to hit the dance floor? Then you'll want to check out The Nines, a multi-level hot spot providing everything from burlesque shows and aerial acts to quality programming by some of the city's best DJs.

For smooth jazz, head to Sandaga 813 and the Balcony Club. Or for live country music, Adair's offers up the cream of the crop (for free) every night of the week.   

On the hunt for a cozy drinking den serving up mind-blowing cocktails? Then you've got options. Some of the finest cocktails in all of Dallas can be found at Parliament, a lively Uptown haunt with a loose prohibition theme. But, good luck on deciding what to order–the menu features over 100 different libations to choose from.


More jaw-dropping drinks and an equally stunning setting to match can be found at Midnight Rambler, a buzzy subterranean hideout in downtown's swish Joule hotel. And for those who fancy a chilled-out bar scene, be sure to stop off at the Windmill Lounge, a low-key dive with a lively local crowd and seriously solid cocktails to boot.

Speaking of dives, you can't find a seedier, nor more popular place to chug cheap beer and potent punches than at Double Wide, a trailer park-themed watering hole located in Deep Ellum.

Whether you’re looking for a terrific cocktail, live music or the best place for dancing and partying the night away, we've rounded up the ten quintessential Dallas hot spots worth exploring during your next night out.

10. Double Wide Bar
Photo courtesy of Double Wide Bar

This venerable watering hole pays homage to the trailer park culture with its kitsch-adorned decor and surprisingly tasty low-brow cocktails. As the name indicates, the bar is set up in a double wide trailer--replete with wood paneling, taxidermy animals, mismatched old furniture and white-trash memorabilia as far as the eyes can see. The theme continues out on the AstroTurf covered patio, where bar patrons relax on seats made from old toilets and chug Boone's Farm martinis. Aside from all its tackiness, Double Wide is one of Deep Ellum's top music venues-- showcasing everything from rock, bluegrass and Americana to electronica.

9. Windmill Lounge
Photo courtesy of Windmill Lounge Facebook

While some places strive to be a dive, this quirky booze filled oasis, hidden down a sketchy stretch of Maple Avenue-- is the epitome of one. And as such, it's one of the most beloved cocktail havens in town, and perhaps, even in the country. But don't take our word for it, take Esquire magazine's-- which ranked it among the Best Bars in America in 2013. Sporting a neon windmill on the roof and a decidedly no-frills decor, complete with the requisite jukebox banging out Iggy Pop and Sinatra, the Windmill Lounge is a veritable outpost of cool. It's also the kind of place where everyone is friends, the drinks are sensational and the bartenders are having as good a time as the guests. Another reason to head here? The place puts on the best karaoke nights (held on Thursdays) in town.

8. The Balcony Club
Photo courtesy of The Balcony Club Facebook

As the saying goes, sometimes the best things come in small packages– which is undoubtedly the case with this pint-sized, 1,400 square foot– jewel of a jazz joint. And what this laid-back watering hole lacks in square footage, it more than makes up for in ambiance– and most importantly– live music– which is served up seven nights a week. The club's repertoire features both local and national jazz artists, including the likes of Lucky Peterson, Dave Zoller, Linny Nance and even the phenomenal Filter Kings. And it's not only jazz on tap here, the musical genres cover everything from R&B and soul to funk, classic rock and occasionally country. Not-to-be-missed are special events like the open blues jam and jazz master series.

7. Station 4
Photo courtesy of Station 4 Facebook

Easily one of the city's best and biggest gay dance clubs, Station 4 (or S4 as locals call it), boasts late-night house and hip hop madness Thursday through Sunday, plus awesome drag shows and pageants in the Rose Room upstairs. Spread across 24,000 square feet, this cavernous, multilevel nightspot offers numerous bars, a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting powered by the dancers on a motion-sensing, stainless steel dance floor. After hitting the dance floor, you can chill out in a VIP Lounge overlooking the dance floor or take in fresh air on a lofty two-story balcony. Cutting-edge DJs and a host of regular events, from gay bingo to costume contests– make this an especially hot spot for a mostly gay (and young) crowd, but it's just as welcoming to anyone who's looking for a good time

6. Sons of Hermann Hall
Photo courtesy of Sons of Hermann Hall

Dallas has plenty of honky-tonks, but few are as authentic as this century old Deep Ellum mainstay. Originally built to house several lodges for a fraternity of German immigrants, the hall now serves as a live music venue showcasing a variety of genres from folk, country and blues to alternative pop and reggae. Along with live bands, there's also a DJ to get the party going with everything from blues to swing and two-step, all you have to provide is the dancing. Want to learn some new moves? Then drop by on Wednesday nights for a free lesson. If dancing doesn't do it for you, head downstairs to the bar where a jukebox, pool table and shuffleboard provide a nice diversion. Just be sure to keep an eye out for ghosts-- legend has it that this place is haunted.

5. The Nines
Photo courtesy of The Nines Facebook

Formally the Red Light Lounge, this 3000 sq. ft., multi-level dance palace is one of the only places in the Deep Ellum neighborhood where you can get your fix of electro-house, EDM and other hands-in-the-air sounds supplied by some of the city's biggest DJs around. Super offbeat entertainment is also the order of the day here, where on any given night you'll find everything from costume parties to burlesque, aerial performances and fetish shows. When you feel like coming up for air, take the back stairway to the 3,000 sq. ft. roof top terrace where you can enjoy more music, more libations, snazzy finger foods and spectacular views of downtown Dallas. If you're looking for something weird and wonderful, this is the place to go.

4. Sandaga 813
Photo courtesy of Sandaga 813

Lovers of smooth jazz 'n blues can't do much better than at this Exposition Park live music venue, which has a reputation for bringing in top-shelf talent from around the globe. Even musical heavy weights like Wynton Marsailis and Erykah Badu have played gigs here in the past. And Sandaga's regular roster of performers reads like a list of who's who on the local music scene as well, where regulars include Grammy Award nominated artists– Shelly Carroll and Brad Leali. If jazz isn't your thing, no worries– the club also brings in DJs that spin everything from hip-hop and house to R&B and reggae. Plus, in addition to putting on one of the best jazz jams in the city every Tuesday night, Sandaga offers up a variety of live soul and R&B on Saturday nights and hosts the eclectic hip hop band, RC and The Gritz (also known as Erykah Badu's band)– every Sunday. Not to mention, there's barbecue, hookahs and private cabanas too.

3. Parliament
Photo courtesy of Parliament Facebook

This slick spot for savvy drinkers is not exactly easy to find. It's stashed behind a black tarp-covered patio in the State and Allen neighborhood of Uptown and it boasts almost no signage. Though, even with all the obscurity, you most likely will still find yourself waiting for a seat. And there is a good reason for it: Parliament is a great bar, one of the best in the city. It's a gorgeous, moodily-lit space with a speakeasy-esque ambience (think crimson brocade wallpaper, velveteen banquettes, tinned ceilings and sparkling chandeliers)–and a long, playful cocktail list (more than 100 libations) offering everything from prohibition-style classics to some rather innovative concoctions. They even have a whiskey-based drink with deer antler elixir in it. Oh, and did we mention you can score many of these drinks for around $7 during happy hour? So try to swing by on a Monday or between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

2. Adair's Saloon
Photo courtesy of Adair's Saloon

Sure, the drinks are cheap and the burgers are legendary, but what lassos most folks into this Deep Ellum dive is its undeniably unpretentious vibe and weekly roundup of live music. But it's not just any live music– Adair's brings in the cream of the country music crop when it comes to up-and-coming indie bands and singer-songwriter acts. Did we mention that all the shows are free? Even heavy hitters like Jack Ingram, the Dixie Chicks and Miranda Lambert have taken to Adair's tiny stage at one time or another. And an old jukebox filled with the likes of Bob Wills and Hank Williams, plus floor-to-ceiling graffiti and enough Christmas lights to last a lifetime only add to the place's old school charm. It's no wonder that this spot has been able to maintain its staying power for over fifty years.

1. Midnight Rambler
Photo courtesy of Midnight Rambler

Prohibition chic meets twenty-first-century cool at this intimate subterranean hideout in the Joule Hotel. Equally dazzling are the neo-classical craft cocktails, which have been conceived by two of the country's top mixologists, Chad Solomon and Christy Pope, owners of New York's famed beverage consulting company, Cuffs & Buttons. The beverage menu runs the gamut from re-imagined classics to modernist inventions (think wheat vodka, sherry, lime juice and beef broth infused with roasted ginger, anise and cardamom), punches, housemade sodas and everything in-between. They also serve a tempting selection of bar food (courtesy of CBD Provisions upstairs) should you find yourself in need of something substantial to soak up the booze. And on Thursdays and Sundays, a DJ drops in to spin '60s and '70s hits from the lounge's expansive vinyl collection. Be warned that it can be hard to find a space here (especially on weekends), and they don't take reservations. But it's worth it.