Best Nightlife in Seattle

Seattle's Nightlife Scene Showcases Live Theatre, Rocking Concerts and Happenin' Pubs

The Seattle nightlife scene stretches far beyond beer and bands. As a cultural outpost in the northwest corner of the country, Seattle is often a desired destination for top musical acts on national tours, Broadway shows, modern dance troupes, hot comics, even avant-garde theatre groups. The city boasts homegrown talent in all of those areas, too, not to mention the arts scene to support them.

Big shows hit Key Arena, the Seattle Center Opera House and the Paramount and Fifth Avenue theaters, to name a few. More intimate music venues such as the Showbox and Neumos host a rotating slate of national performers that span all genres. Multiple bars and clubs also showcase live local talent, notably the renowned Crocodile and the Sunset, Comet and Tractor taverns.

A vast selection of watering holes–from dive bars and brewpubs to chic lounges and clubs–can be found in ultra-funky Capitol Hill, historic and hip Pioneer Square and the University District (near the University of Washington campus). On the Boards, a local theater group, produces edgy local and regional theater, while film collective Northwest Film Forum spotlights interesting and out-there art films and documentaries. Alternative rock bars still hold their place, but beat-driven dance clubs are alive and well, as are venues geared toward blues and jazz, most distinctively Demitriou’s Jazz Alley, which hosts prominent players from around the globe.



Located in the historic Odd Fellows building, Century Ballroom's vintage locale perfectly suites its mission, to keep ballroom and social dancing a thriving part of the Seattle nightlife scene. If the venue's popularity is any indicator, the mission is succeeding. The elaborately renovated ballroom space – with a 2,000-square-foot dance floor – is the place in the city to revive the grand days of formal evenings on the town. Dance nights, often with live music, set the perfect tone with dining, drinks and dancing under the same roof. Meals and a full bar are available right across the hallway at Tin Table. Whether you enjoy salsa, swing, tango, tap or burlesque, Century Ballroom or the adjacent East Hall offers all that and more. And for those who need instruction or just a chance to brush up on their rug-cutting skills, Century Ballroom hosts fun and friendly classes and lessons.

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Paramount Theatre
Photo courtesy of Hip Hop Nutcracker by Tim Norris

Dating to the late 19th century, this venue has been restored to the glory it knew as a movie theater in the 1920s. These days, you can catch acts as diverse as Boyz II Men and The Head and the Heart to Sturgill Simpson and The Beach Boys, and there's even the odd speaking engagement, too (think beloved figures from Dr. Maya Angelou to Anthony Bourdain). Enjoy the sumptuous, gilt-edged surroundings as you take in a show. The ambience is decadent; for example, three million crystal beads adorn 218 chandeliers and light fixtures. If dancing is called for, the seating area quickly converts to a stunning hardwood ballroom floor. The "wow" factor here is definitely worth the trip!

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Enjoy live performances--including some of today's hottest musical acts--in the elegant, historic space at Paramount Theatre.

Corinne's expert tip: Paramount Theatre tours (90 minutes) are offered the first Saturday of every month. Visitors meet by 10 a.m. in front of the main entrance of the theater, on the corner of 9th and Pine.

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If alluring ambience is your thing, be sure to duck into this Parisian-style cafe where patrons feel they've been whisked away to another era. Attentive service, awesome drinks, a sexy and sophisticated indoor vibe and an appealing outdoor patio draw visitors to this intimate cocktail bar tucked away below Pike Place Market. Serving a late-night menu of salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, house pies and seafood until 1 a.m., this venue proves a popular place to hang out with an eclectic crowd of locals and visitors alike. Located near Pike Place Market on the Pike Street Hill Climb, find the venue just down the stairs from Kasala Furniture on Western Avenue and just up the stairs across the street from the Seattle Aquarium.

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The Triple Door
Photo courtesy of The Triple Door

Located in Seattle's historic Mann Building in the heart of downtown, this intimate and sophisticated, award-winning music and dinner theatre occupies the renovated space that formerly housed the Embassy Theater (originally a 1920s vaudeville house). The Mainstage, downstairs on the lower level, is an intimate candlelit spot with state-of-the-art sound and booths that offer clear sight lines to the stage. An Asian-fusion menu is provided by adjacent Wild Ginger restaurant, and the same cuisine can be enjoyed upstairs in the Musicquarium Lounge. In this upstairs lounge-like space, live music, DJ sets and a stellar happy hour menu have become legendary around town.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Enjoy intimate performances at downtown's Triple Door--an award-winning music and dinner theater that features Asian-fusion fare from Wild Ginger.

Corinne's expert tip: If you like sitting during a show and enjoying a good view, be sure to purchase a ticket that guarantees a seat. Standing-room-only clientele are routinely relegated to the fringes of the room.

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You're in the beer-happy Pacific Northwest, where microbreweries sprout like mushrooms after a rainstorm. If you're interested in sampling creations from a wide variety of those breweries, Brouwer's Café in Fremont is pure beervana. Obviously run by hop heads and beer geeks, Brouwer's staff is amazingly knowledgeable about lagers and ales.This casual and understated pub offers no fewer than 64 rotating draft selections, along with more than 300 bottled brews and 60-something types of Scotch. And to help soak up some of that beer in your belly, the café features a Eurocentric menu of exceptional eats. (Check out their happy hour deals, too.)

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Beer lovers must check out the hoppy scene at Fremont's Brouwer's Cafe, where Belgian fare and endless brews reign.

Corinne's expert tip: This place really knows beer, and they are happy to share their brew smarts. Special tastings, festivals and educational beer events are held on a regular basis.

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This beloved Ballard nightspot features a smorgasbord of impressive music on a weekly basis, and performances range from zydeco, bluegrass and country to rock, folk, jazz and beyond. In addition to great live music, the Tractor also offers a friendly, neighborhood vibe as well as local beers on tap (including cans of Seattle Cider). Completing the distinctly American scene are walls decorated with old tractor parts and farming implements, and cowboy boots dangle from the ceiling rafters. Square dancing often happens on Monday evenings, accompanied by the music of the Tallboys, who often busk down by the Pike Place Starbucks.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This Ballard music venue brings talents from near and far to a welcoming space, offering a down-home vibe and cowboy boots dangling from the rafters.

Corinne's expert tip: Why not make a night of it? Grab dinner or drinks in bustling Ballard before heading to the show.

Read more about Tractor Tavern →

Pioneer Square
Good Bar
Photo courtesy of Suzi Pratt

This inviting Pioneer Square oasis welcomes visitors and locals to its soaring space, located on the corner of 2nd Avenue S and Main. Inside the recently renovated Pacific Commercial Building (originally built in 1900), find a neighborhood hangout that opened "with the intention of establishing a new gathering place for good food, good drink and good company that feels like it has always been there." The concept of Josh Kelly and his wife Nancy, this venue features classic cocktails, an extensive beer list, a thoughtful wine program and friendly, detailed service. The food proves straightforward, delicious and high-quality. Delight in dishes like the sloppy joe, mushroom tart, Waldorf salad and roasted mussels.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This inviting Pioneer Square oasis welcomes visitors and locals to its soaring space, located on the corner of 2nd Avenue S and Main.

Corinne's expert tip: Enjoy a lengthy happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.

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Rock Box
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Benschneider/Rock Box

When it comes to karaoke in Seattle, Rock Box is the obvious choice. The rocking Capitol Hill hangout, a Japanese-style club, follows the private room (or "karaoke box" model) popular in Japan and throughout Asia. The venue boasts a full bar plus a menu of charcuterie and cheese available through neighboring restaurant Cure. Inspired by Japanese craft and Tokyo lights, the 12 boxes range in size from 2 to 14 seats, and there's a larger "party room" that can accommodate 35-plus. Songbirds show up to peruse a songbook that's been two decades in the making; it contains nearly 30,000 English and 67,000 Japanese songs (with strong Chinese and Spanish libraries, too). Happy singing!

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Rock Box, a happening Capitol Hill hangout, is a Japanese-style club following the private room (or "karaoke box") model, popular in Japan and throughout Asia.

Corinne's expert tip: Check out weekly specials online for renting private rooms; karaoke in the bar is always free.

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Photo courtesy of Mbar

Looking for a hot new venue from which to take in some of Seattle's most breathtaking views? mbar, a socially-driven bar and restaurant, wows guests with its dazzling location, providing an elevated oasis above all the South Lake Union action. Guests choose between Intimate indoor spaces and incredible rooftop dining options that provide sweeping views that simply can't be beat. Chef Jason Stratton and hist talented team send out dishes that range from skirt steak with capers and grilled ribeye to grilled trout with avocado, sumac, labneh and fenugreek. Fresh vegetables like roasted Whidbey Island broccoli and roasted young carrots with medjool dates accompany main dishes, while delightfully creative cocktails enhance every meal. Reservations are highly recommended. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. every day on the open-air patio, weather permitting.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: There's no arguing that mbar offers some of the city's hottest views; enjoy a cocktail while taking in Lake Union in all its sparkling glory.

Corinne's expert tip: When the weather cooperates, this is the prime spot for a patio happy hour (from 4 to 6 p.m.). Note that the restaurant is closed on Mondays.

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Seattle's premier jazz club for nearly three decades, Dimitriou's Jazz Alley is a sure West Coast stop for top jazz artists on tour. Jazz Alley has hosted luminaries such as Peter White, Randy Brecker, Dr. John and Tower of Power. Oh, and just a few other important names, stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, Brandford Marsalis, Diane Schuur, Oscar Peterson, Betty Carter and Bill Evans, have graced the club's marquee over the years. A local jazz institution, the elegant club setting and name acts attract folks dressed for the occasion. Many choose to dine in the club's fine restaurant before the show. This being a jazz club, it goes without saying that a full-service bar keeps libations flowing during the show.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Dimitriou's Jazz Alley proves a sure West Coast stop for top jazz artists on tour; enjoy fine fare and craft cocktails here, too.

Corinne's expert tip: On any given night, a jazz great may appear here onstage. For decades, Jazz Alley has been a draw for top acts from the region and around the globe.

Read more about Dimitriou's Jazz Alley →


Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne