Best Nightlife in Seattle

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

The Seattle nightlife scene stretches far beyond beers 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 productions (and Kraken hockey games!) hit the Climate Pledge 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 (in a brand-new location) 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. 


Fremont Abbey Arts Center
Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

Fremont Abbey Arts Center remains one of the city's biggest champions of local talent. In their own words, "Abbey Arts focuses on local music, contemporary dance, visual art, spoken word and storytelling," and show formats include multi-arts collaborative performances like The Round, a monthly showcase during which three songwriters share the stage with other musicians, a slam poet and a live painter. Other performances that come to the Abbey's intimate space--a stunning 100-year-old brick church building, originally St Paul's Lutheran Church--include close-up concerts, new dance performances set to live music, community gatherings like The Moth storytelling event (a must-see in our opinion), dance classes, plus a variety of workshops and "artistic life celebrations."

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Fremont Abbey Arts Center remains one of the city's biggest champions of local talent, focusing on music, contemporary dance, visual art, spoken word and more.

Corinne's expert tip: Grab a meal before the show (or a drink after) at one of the neighborhoods many gems, like Uneeda (for casual burgers and beers) or RockCreek (seafood and spirits).

Read more about Fremont Abbey Arts Center →

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 tasty snacks. 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.

Read more about Rock Box →

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. 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: Check out the impressive lineups at all of STG's three venues –" Paramount, Moore and Neptune Theatres.

Read more about Paramount Theatre →


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.

Read more about Brouwer's Cafe →


Attentive service, awesome drinks, an uber-cozy indoor scene (ideal for chilly or gray days) and an outdoor patio draw visitors to this intimate cocktail bar tucked away below Pike Place Market. You may have to ask locals how to find it! Thanks to outstanding cocktails and an enticing menu by Chef Justin Pachmayr, with a background in French cuisine and a love for American comfort fare, it's a popular place to hang out with an eclectic crowd of all ages who enjoy good food, drinks and fun. Take advantage of a weekday happy hour that takes place from 5 to 6 p.m.

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: The kitchen stays open till 11:30 p.m. on days they're open (Tuesday through Saturday).

Read more about Zig Zag Cafe →

Showbox at the Market
Photo courtesy of Showbox

Although it's experienced a variety of incarnations, the historic Showbox, located directly across from Pike Place Market, is a must-visit site in which to catch touring bands. Amid Art Deco columns, young and hip crowds clamor to hear and see their favorite groups. There's even a dance floor for them to show off their moves if the spirit strikes. Plus, several bars accommodate patrons with a good menu of libations and stellar sightlines, a rarity for concert venue bars. If you're looking to buy tickets in person, box office hours at The Showbox are Monday though Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and at Showbox SoDo Wednesdays and Fridays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Although it's experienced a variety of incarnations, the historic Showbox is a must-visit venue in which to catch touring bands just across from Pike Place Market.

Corinne's expert tip: Also check out a stellar concert lineup taking place at sister site, Showbox SoDo.

Read more about Showbox at the Market →

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: Arrive with an appetite so you can enjoy Asian fare served by the venue's sister restaurant, Wild Ginger.

Read more about The Triple Door →

Seattle Kraken
Photo courtesy of Seattle Kraken

The Seattle Kraken is the still-new, Seattle-based professional ice hockey team that competes in the National Hockey League as a member of the Pacific Division in the Western Conference. Root them on during energy-filled home games at the groundbreaking Climate Pledge Arena, a dazzling, eco-friendly venue that aims to be "the most progressive, responsible and sustainable arena in the world." This multi-purpose live entertainment venue, built for NHL hockey, live music and events, WNBA and future NBA basketball games, can be found not far from the Space Needle on the 74-acre Seattle Center campus. With the mantra of "Release the Kraken" already reverberating around town, and tens of thousands of fans donning the hues of Kraken blue, it's already apparent that this city was ready for a new hockey team to support and celebrate.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Root on the Seattle Kraken, and attend other dazzling performances and concerts, at the still-new Climate Pledge Arena.

Corinne's expert tip: Check out the arena's lineup of upcoming performances and shows, featuring talents from Smashing Pumpkins and Arcade Fire to Carrie Underwood.

Read more about Seattle Kraken →

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. Free parking is included with the price of admission. Get parking validated between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. at the garage located in the Westin Building Garage (not The Westin Hotel Garage) at 2010 5th Avenue.

Read more about Dimitriou's Jazz Alley →

This beloved Ballard nightspot features a smorgasbord of impressive music on a regular 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. Completing the distinctly American scene are walls decorated with old tractor parts and farming implements, and cowboy boots dangle from the ceiling rafters. The venue is 21+ unless otherwise noted on the ticket page; pick up your tickets from will call the evening of the show. Check out special series like Ballard Night Out.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This beloved Ballard nightspot features a smorgasbord of impressive musical talents on a regular basis.

Corinne's expert tip: While the venue doesn't sell food, you're welcome to bring in fare from one of Ballard's many neighboring eateries.

Read more about Tractor Tavern →


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