Best Cocktails in a Courtyard 2023 | Teddy's Preserve | Nightlife | Phoenix
Teddy's Preserve

Teddy's Preserve was inspired by Teddy Roosevelt and aims for a "national park vibe," but don't wear your REI zip-off pants and Keens here. This sprawling tree-lined oasis behind the towering Ten-O-One building at Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street is the place for stylish downtown denizens who want expert cocktails, late-night bites and a chill vibe without being cooped up after dark inside a bar or club. You order indoors, where a chic, modern ambiance with custom-tiled walls and oval-backed barstools beckon to those who want to stay in. But it's better to wander out to the courtyard, where you can relax and sip under the string lights and stars. The inventive drinks list harks back to the 1970s rather than the turn of the 20th century with names like Foxy Mama and Boogie Down, and true to Teddy's legacy, the business is serious about conservation. It composts, uses no plastic, and turns its bottles into glassware. A food truck churns out comforting plates of corn dogs, turkey legs, quesadillas and more until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and midnight on weekends.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

We like to take new acquaintances to Palo Verde Lounge if they've never been there before. If they're horrified, they're probably not our kind of people. If they immediately settle in for a pickle shot, a game of pool or a smoke on the back patio? Friends for life. The Dirty Verde, as it's known, has all the necessary criteria of a quality dive bar: zero windows, a truly impressive amount of graffiti (even on the ceiling), bags of chips in lieu of a kitchen, an outdoor area populated by random pieces of patio furniture, plenty of eccentric regulars and a cash-only policy. We sometimes go there for events like DJ nights and concerts, but mostly Palo is our last stop during a wild evening out, when we're not quite ready to head home and we want to commune with night owls like ourselves.

Darkstar has been part of local nightlife for less than two years but has already eclipsed other clubs in the Valley with its emphasis on electronic dance music and wild weekends of beat-filled bliss. Operated by EDM fans, for EDM fans, the two-story drinking and dancing emporium along Mill Avenue is outfitted with stellar amenities — an elite PK Sound setup, state-of-the-art production, gigantic HD screens and multiple bars — with plenty of space to rage on both its dance floor and mezzanine level. The DJs behind the mixers are also out of this world, owing to local promoter Relentless Beats bringing in premier artists and producers like trance duo Gabriel & Dresden, house music guru Mark Farina and synth-pop siren Elohim. Suffice it to say, if you're into EDM ragers, you'll wind up in Darkstar's orbit before too long.

When Super Bowl week rolled into the Valley in February, party monsters jammed into this new downtown Phoenix nightspot and lounge to sample its swanky thrills. Eight months later, Phoenicia Music Lounge is still serving up dancing and drinks every weekend to big crowds. Perched on the second level of CityScape, its stylish vibes and posh digs rival Scottsdale's best clubs. There's a hive of activity every night in each of the areas making up Phoenicia: The club side offers breathtaking views of skyscrapers and opportunities to people-watch while DJs keep the dance floor hot with R&B and hip-hop cuts. Over in the lounge, there's hookah and bottle service, posh seating and a 360-degree photo booth. In between is an island bar where patrons engage in social rites and bartenders pour signature cocktails like the Diamondback Strike and Mercury Riser. Whether you're a sports fan seeking a post-game drink or a clubgoer eager to debauch, check out Phoenicia, the go-to destination for downtown.

All Phoenix strip clubs are not created equal. Depending on your priorities, you may be looking for a club with the most beautiful ladies, the best drink specials or the coolest clientele. Our pick when it's time to go a little wild is Le Girls in Phoenix near the Tempe border. First, you've got your pick of the fully nude side (which doesn't serve alcohol but lets in everyone 18 and older) or the topless showroom (full bar, ages 21 and up). Whichever part of the club you find yourself in, a few things will be the same: Reasonable prices on drinks and dances. Performers who are friendly without being pushy. An upbeat atmosphere. Put all together, they're the reason Le Girls is our go-to strip club.

Matt Hennie

Off the beaten LGBTQ+ path sits Bar1, an upscale spot with a casual neighborhood feel. Whether you're in the mood for weeknight drink specials or a lively Sunday Funday, Bar1 offers a fun atmosphere and diverse crowd. Husbands Todd Colin and Todd Christensen run the pet-friendly place, which opened in 2008. You'll be greeted by pool tables at the front with darts off to one corner, a bar that runs nearly the entire length of one wall, and a lounge with plush furniture in another corner. Thanks to swamp coolers and well-placed vegetation, the spacious patio is a comfortable escape nearly year-round — and a good spot for smoke breaks. Two windows provide access to bartenders so you're never far from the cocktails. Bar1 is a quick drive from the strip of LGBTQ+ bars in Melrose, yet feels like it's a world away.

Benjamin Leatherman

You know the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover"? Boycott Bar is the personification of it. Situated between an auto shop and an antique store, the bar's seemingly random location hides the truth — this bar is a ton of fun. From hosting the "Gay Olympics" featuring local sporting teams, to Jell-O shot parties, Boycott's special event game is on point. But even normal Friday and Saturday nights at the bar are magical. As millennials, nothing gets us going like 2000s reggaeton and hip-hop records being spun while go-go dancers shake their groove thing on top of the bar. Of course, Boycott's affordably priced pizza and strong drinks aren't too shabby either.

Lauren Cusimano

Right-wing lawmakers at the Arizona State Capitol spent much of their 2023 session attacking drag queens. Thankfully, Phoenix's vibrant drag scene didn't miss a beat, entertaining us despite the truckload of hate dumped on them. That perseverance to perform is best seen on Fridays at 10 p.m. with 4Some Revue and its cast of queens Gia, Joey, Toothpick, Salem and Mynx. Kobalt, which opened in 2006, is popular for its karaoke. But the show lineup stretches across four nights and 4Some Revue is the highlight. Special guests often join the local performers to spice up the weekly show. The patio offers open seating, but snag a reservation online for seats inside near the stage. It's the perfect way to start your weekend.

Benjamin Leatherman

The oldest gay bar in Phoenix (est. 1971) has the kind of decor that makes it look like a hybrid pop culture curio shop and an antique store. There are old gas pumps and vintage signs, a chandelier made of plastic penises and dripping with naked Ken dolls, stuffed animals, various lights and sirens, an old Coke machine and much more — way more than a few sweeps through this dark and lively bar could ever reveal. We recommend stopping by for a cocktail from the full bar or a game of pool, but make sure to look around when you do. You're bound to stumble upon something you haven't seen before.

Benjamin Leatherman

What Last Exit Live may lack in size, it more than makes up for in reputation. Brannon Kleinlein's South Phoenix venue is known around town for being a great place for musicians and fans. A peek at the calendar shows an eclectic lineup of local, regional and national acts most nights of the week. The audio engineers make sure the acts onstage always sound great and the friendly bartenders keep the drinks flowing. Last Exit Live's impact doesn't stop at the parking lot, either. It's one of the organizers of this fall's inaugural Luna Del Lago Festival, a three-day event happening at Pleasant Harbor at Lake Pleasant. If it's as good as everything else Last Exit does, it'll be a must-see.

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