Cake NightclubEXPAND
Cake Nightclub
Benjamin Leatherman

The 26 Best Places to Party in Metro Phoenix

The 2016 Best of Phoenix edition has hit the stands. Here, we'll look at the very best of what Phoenix has to offer in terms of nightlife, music venues, dive bars — everything that makes a night out worth it. 

Best NightclubCake Nightclub
Gleaming with style and panache, Cake embraces Scottsdale's penchant for hedonism and excess with gusto. Boasting the vibe of a French chateau circa 1700 with its leatherette booths, gilded fixtures, and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the club is filled with a libertine atmosphere where drinking and decadence is the order of the day. There's also dancing, which is aided by the beats coming from the top-shelf Funktion-One sound system, widely considered one of the best in the world.

Maya Day & NightclubEXPAND
Maya Day & Nightclub
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Dance FloorMaya Day & Nightclub
It's simple. If you want to see and be seen after dark in Scottsdale, you typically head to Maya Day & Nightclub, one of the entertainment district's more prominent and well-trafficked spots. And when you want to be seen inside Maya, you head for its expansive dance floor. Glowing LED rings and banks of colored spotlights flash overhead, dancing light across all the bodies in motion as Maya's largely female clientele (and the dudes who admire 'em) get down, get their mojo working, or engage in other nighttime social rites.

Valley BarEXPAND
Valley Bar
Melissa Fossum

Best Rock ClubValley Bar
It's not just cool because it's literally underground; Valley Bar books artists like Thundercat and Foy Vance — not household names, but hot acts among those in the know. And the speakeasy-vibe has inspired some of Phoenix's finest cultural explorations, hosting comedian Anwar Newton's Literally the Worst Show Ever showcase, New Wave dance night The Factory, and our favorite, New Times' Bar Flies (you know it).

A typical night at TT Roadhouse, which is putting on a major party this weekend.
A typical night at TT Roadhouse, which is putting on a major party this weekend.
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Punk BarTT Roadhouse
Clad in Union Jack flags and welcoming bikers, punks, and various other counterculture-leaning drinkers, TT Roadhouse on 68th Street is about as unpretentious as it gets. Boasting cheap beers, craft brews, and signature Blue Ribbon medchiladas (with a jalapeño floating atop the beer and tomato juice) the joint wears its British pub roots proudly, and embraces the U.K. side of punk with a jukebox stocked with punk and ska.

Wild times transpire at the Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe.
Wild times transpire at the Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe.
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Dive BarPalo Verde Lounge
Covered in stickers and a thin layer of grime, the Palo Verde Lounge isn't a nice bar pretending to be a dive; it's a legitimate, bona fide dingy watering hole. And if you've got no qualms with that, you're in for a good time. Sometimes bands host shows there, though there's no stage and they end taking up most of the real estate that isn't occupied by pool tables, but that's all part of the fun. You get in, belly up, and go for whatever ride the "Dirty Verde" is going to offer.

Bikini Lounge has both attitude and bamboo.EXPAND
Bikini Lounge has both attitude and bamboo.
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Tiki BarBikini Lounge
The Bikini Lounge on Grand Avenue isn't just the oldest tiki bar in Phoenix — having first opened its doors in 1947, it's one of the oldest bars in town, period. The key to its longevity is its strict adherence to core values: cheap beer, good tunes, and low lighting. With all the changes going on along Grand Avenue, we hope the Bikini remains the anchor of unpretentiousness we love.

Last Exit Live
Last Exit Live
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Rockabilly BarLast Exit Live
Found in the historic warehouse district just south of downtown Phoenix, Last Exit Live has been around since 2013 (though it originated in 2003 as the Last Exit Bar & Grill in Tempe). Last Exit Live features a sizable stage in its 200-plus capacity venue for the local and national musicians on the bill, and has welcomed touring acts like the Koffin Kats, and Phoenix-based pompadour and pinup-style bands like The Limit Club, Whiskey Kiss, and Manual Sex Drive.

The 26 Best Places to Party in Metro PhoenixEXPAND
Phoenix New Times

Best Country BarSan Tan Flat
Queen Creek saloon/steakhouse San Tan Flat promises "all the fun of camping ... without having to sleep on the ground" on its website, but we'd argue it's actually got more going for it than that. When was the last time you dragged a real-life country band like Band Wagon out camping or packed up a deep fryer to make fried pickles in the back country?

Nicolas Paredes, organizer of Clandestino
Nicolas Paredes, organizer of Clandestino
David Accomazzo

Best Latin Dance NightClandestino
Clandestino was founded by Nicolas Paredes as a monthly alternative Latino dance night at Crescent Ballroom, but Paredes and crew quickly realized that switching locations and schedules up made more sense than hosting a monthly event. Now, Clandestino acts as a pop-up night, stopping at venues like the Rhythm Room and the Heard Museum.

Zipps Sports Grill
Zipps Sports Grill
Jackie Mercandetti

Best Sports BarZipps Sports Grill
There's nothing fussy about Zipps, no complicated menu system, concepts, or experimental "takes" on classics, just the basics done well: cold beer, burgers, wings, fried snacks, and games on HD flat screens positioned all throughout their dining rooms on exposed brick walls, at the bar, and outside on patios. The extra touches, like shuffleboard, pool tables, and darts, are nice accents, but the core of the place is as unpretentious and uncluttered as every sports bar ought to be.

The late Louisiana Red plays at the Rhythm Room in 1999.EXPAND
The late Louisiana Red plays at the Rhythm Room in 1999.
Drew Verbis

Best Blues ClubRhythm Room
Founded in 1991 by harmonica man and blues DJ Bob Corritore, host of KJZZ's long-running blues showcase Those Lowdown Blues, the Rhythm Room has welcomed blues legends like Robert Lockwood Jr., R.L. Burnside, and Jimmy Smith, remaining Phoenix's No. 1 spot for blues, Americana, and jazz.

Karamba Nightclub
Karamba Nightclub
New Times File Photo

Best Gay Dance ClubKaramba Nightclub
Neighboring the Coronado Historic District, Karamba Nightclub is a boisterous Latin nightclub and gay bar — though they welcome all kinds. Featuring two large indoor areas and an expansive patio area, you can easily spread out on the dance floor or find a place to post up and drink. High-energy DJs like Jesus Vega and Stixx are there to entertain while you work it out, or you can come for karaoke, drag shows with your favorite local queens, and more risqué performances always on the calendar.

Cash Inn Country.EXPAND
Cash Inn Country.
Melissa Fossum

Best Lesbian BarCash Inn Country
With a giant dance floor, full bar, plenty of space to mingle, and killer happy hour discounts, there's a reason the Cash Inn Country bar is a favorite hangout spot for the local gay and lesbian community. The vibe is laid-back, the decor is cowboy-western, and the staff and customers are friendly and welcoming.

Barbra Seville
Barbra Seville
New Times File Photo

Best Drag ShowThe Girlie Show at The Rock
An Arizona drag icon, Barbra Seville has been around for a while — but we won't say how long. She's hosted a number of shows in town, mainly in The Rock's showroom in central Phoenix. The weekly Girlie Show — Fridays at 10 p.m. — is a treasure among them, as Seville will cap off your week with raucous lip-sync performances, fantastic comedic timing, and of course, some light-to-hysterical ribbing of the audience.

These Shady Park patrons are all smiles.EXPAND
These Shady Park patrons are all smiles.
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Outdoor Party SpotShady Park
Part old-school lounge, part sports bar, part patio hangout, and part outdoor music venue, Shady Park has become a go-to spot for Tempe locals and those seeking some fun on Mill Avenue toward the end of the week. Shady Park's dog-friendly, tree-laden back patio includes a full bar, plenty of seating, a weatherproof sound system, and a small stage backed with a large projector screen.

Patrons at Pattie's First Avenue Lounge
Patrons at Pattie's First Avenue Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman

Best Ping-Pong TablePattie’s First Avenue Lounge
Pattie's First Avenue Lounge is a dive to some and a gem to others, but there's one thing everyone can agree on: It has a killer ping-pong table. Paddles and balls are provided, and the bartender is all of 10 feet away. The ping-pong table at Pattie's is set up in the covered patio area, so though you feel like you're indoors, smoking is allowed, and so are dogs. So light up, grab a sweaty cocktail, and get ready to serve.

Best Pool HallQ & Brew
Were one inspired, it would be perfectly easy to spend an entire evening just hanging around the Danelle Plaza on the corner of Southern and Mill avenues. Start off the night browsing records at the Double Nickels collective, grab a coffee at 51 West, take down a couple of craft whiskeys at Yucca Tap Room, and then cross the parking lot over to Q & Brew, the pool hall that has proudly stood for 27 years. There are snacks and pinball, but the main draw is the plentiful pool tables and a (usually packed) smoking table.

Best KaraokeMonkey Pants Bar & Grill
You're out for karaoke, it's finally your turn, and you're not sure whether you should stay seated when handed the microphone or stand awkwardly next to your table and friends — you know, for your diaphragm's sake. Not the case at Monkey Pants Bar & Grill, found in the Huntington Square Shopping Center at Southern and Mill avenues in Tempe. They have a stage — complete with a cozy living room backdrop and two microphones with stands — and you're to get up there when your name is called.

You think you can be a jukebox hero? The jukebox at Shady's can make you feel like one.
You think you can be a jukebox hero? The jukebox at Shady's can make you feel like one.
Jason P. Woodbury

Best JukeboxShady’s
The mix at Shady's, featuring weirdo blues, pub rock, two-tone ska, and off-kilter indie rock, is one-of-a-kind, a selection curated especially by the staff, and the CDs stocked there (that's right, it's a real jukebox, not one of those digital ones) reflects uniquely on the place.

Best Metal JukeboxThe Beast at Cornish Pasty Co.
Next time you're at the Tempe location of Cornish Pasty on Hardy and University drives, look — or listen — for the glowing red room emitting sinister-sounding music, and sometimes, characters. That would be the Beast, and in there you'll find a full bar, pool tables, dartboards, band-sticker-laden booths and high tops, the occasional dance party, and one fantastic jukebox. Slide off your bar stool for a quick trip to that radiant piece of machinery over by the pool tables, and you'll find a contraption teeming with speed metal, thrash, some hardcore punk, and some dark classics.

The 26 Best Places to Party in Metro Phoenix
Jeremiah Toller

Best Music Venue for Local ActsCrescent Ballroom
Is there a more enjoyable live music experience than the Crescent Ballroom? Located at the site of a former auto mechanic garage, the venue is a model of good business practice for the rest of the city, offering not just a live music hall but a great restaurant as well. The ballroom itself is a sight to behold, with perfect sight lines, crystal-clear sound, reasonably priced beers, and attentive service.

The Orpheum TheaterEXPAND
The Orpheum Theater
Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Convention Center & Venues

Best Music Venue for National ActsOrpheum Theater
In all of the Valley of the Sun, there's no place quite like the Orpheum Theater. Majestic columns, a fantastic chandelier, and Spanish baroque-style murals, all underneath a ceiling of painted clouds against a blue sky, combine to make the Orpheum a fairly spectacular place to see a concert.

A scene from Yucca Tap Room
A scene from Yucca Tap Room
Melissa Fossum

Best Tiny Music VenueYucca Tap Room
Yucca Tap Room is the longest-running rock bar in Tempe for a reason. It's a comfortable yet badass place to see a show. Feel like getting close and dancing? There's plenty of room up front. Feel like grabbing a stool, nursing a beer, and enjoying from a distance? You can do that, too.

Muse performed at Gila River Arena in Glendale on Saturday, December 5, 2015.EXPAND
Muse performed at Gila River Arena in Glendale on Saturday, December 5, 2015.
Melissa Fossum

Best Extra-Large Music VenueGila River Arena
There might be only a few places to catch arena headliners like Aerosmith, Madonna, and Justin Bieber in Phoenix, but if we had our choice, they'd all come through Gila River Arena, the most music-friendly extra-large venue in town. Somehow, the sound manages to reach all corners of Gila River, and the structure of the seats around the arena means that the stage is always easy to see. 

Best Latin ClubAntro Nightclub
Since launching in February, Antro Nightclub has remained true to its promise of bringing the pachanga to the people. Whether they're spinning hip-hop, Top 40, EDM, or Latino music, it's always a puro pinche pari at the west-side dance venue. Their Latin nights feature the sultry rhythms of bachata, cumbia, reggaeton, and salsa, as well as provocative dancers decked out in outrageous LED suits or skimpy lingerie.

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