Hanging at Cobra Arcade Bar.EXPAND
Hanging at Cobra Arcade Bar.
Benjamin Leatherman

A 21-Year-Old's Guide to Partying in Downtown Phoenix

School is back in session, and for the 21-and-over set, there's no better way to balance out being a bookworm than a good, old-fashioned night on the town. Now that you've nabbed that horizontally oriented license, you've gained entrée to some of downtown Phoenix's best bars, venues, and hangouts. From one 21-year-old to another, here's your guide to the best spots for a good time downtown.

Cobra Arcade Bar
801 North Second Street, #100
Cobra Arcade Bar is the grown-up version of an arcade. This geek-friendly bar is filled with retro video games that is tons of fun on the weekend. During the week, the bar offers happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Be sure to take advantage of drink specials like the $5 mystery shot (it's blue, cheap, and very strong). And don't miss the collaborative Medusa mural by artists El Mac and David Choe.

Valley Bar
130 North Central Avenue
This dark, underground spot is part bar and part music venue. During the weekends, this joint is standing room only, and on weeknights it has a much more laid-back vibe. When it comes to the bar, you can choose anything from a PBR to a rose water cocktail named after Rose Mofford, the first woman who governed Arizona. Another fun fact for history buffs: A mobile hanging over the Rose Room's bar depicts the story of the infamous trunk murderess, Winnie Ruth Judd. P.S. Do not leave until you have found the hidden library.

Gracie’s Tax Bar
711 North Seventh Avenue
Although this bar is new to downtown, it's quickly established itself as a local fave. Gracie's offers a mix of nerdy board games, good drinks, and a jukebox filled with good music. It just works. They serve alcohol for cheap as well as a small menu of bar food. Pro tip: Order the fried pickles.

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Bar Smith
130 East Washington Street
This bi-level night club is located right across the street from Talking Stick Resort Arena, and it's the prefect spot if you are looking for a high energy dance club that blares top 40 club remixes. The prices for drinks and entry can be a bit steep ($20 cover fee), especially on the weekends.

Partying in and out of the pool at Lustre Rooftop Bar.EXPAND
Partying in and out of the pool at Lustre Rooftop Bar.
Benjamin Leatherman

Lustre Rooftop Bar
2 East Jefferson Street
Located atop downtown's Hotel Palomar, Lustre has a cool atmosphere. Typically, the bar features a DJ spinning a variety of music. Drink prices can be more on the expensive side, but the killer view's worth the extra cash. For the best experience, head to the rooftop when they throw one of their holiday pool parties.

If you go to Hanny's and don't find the dolls, you're doing it wrong.EXPAND
If you go to Hanny's and don't find the dolls, you're doing it wrong.
Paul Scharbach

40 North First Street
The super-cool bar is always a good choice. Hanny's has good food and a wide variety of cocktails. The only downside is that this bar is always packed during the weekend, and after 8 p.m. it's near impossible to find a table. Before you split, you've gotta check out the creepy doll installation downstairs. Better leave some coins so they don't follow you home.

Enjoy casual conversation and some of the rarest beers found in Arizona at Angel's Trumpet Ale House in Phoenix.EXPAND
Enjoy casual conversation and some of the rarest beers found in Arizona at Angel's Trumpet Ale House in Phoenix.
Angel's Trumpet Website

Angel’s Trumpet Ale House
810 North Second Street
For beer lovers, Angel's trumpet is, well, heavenly. With more than 30 beers on tap, there's no shortage of new brews to try out. The bar also has an expansive menu of food that is way better than bar food. Their version of poutine, The Mess, is perfect after a night of drinking.

Melinda’s Alley
50 East Adams Street
This basement speakeasy's only distinguishing feature from the outside is a red light tucked in an alleyway. Which is a big part of why Melinda's Alley is one of downtown's best-kept secrets. The red lighting really gives it an underground, secret feeling, and the four-drink menu changes weekly.

Bitter & Twisted serves mean cocktails and delicious late-night food in downtown Phoenix.
Bitter & Twisted serves mean cocktails and delicious late-night food in downtown Phoenix.
Evie Carpenter

Bitter and Twisted
One West Jefferson Street
This bar has an incredible variety of drink options, sorted by sweetness, fruitiness, and type of alcohol. And it's a little on the fancy side. So while a T-shirt and jeans will cut it, this bar is absolutely worth dressing up for.

Girls' night out at Crescent Ballroom.
Girls' night out at Crescent Ballroom.
Michelle Sasonov

Crescent Ballroom
308 North Second Avenue
Crescent Ballroom is an awesome music venue, but it also has burritos, dance parties, and a spacious patio. It's also a great spot to meet people, thanks to its community seating. Need we say more?

The Lost Leaf
914 North Fifth Street
A quaint little art bar housed in a bungalow off Roosevelt Row, Lost Leaf is the perfect bar for those who hate the club scene. This bar exclusively serves beer and wine. Check the event calendar and you may catch a show from a local band, an off kilter dance party, or a burlesque performance.

Correction: A previous version of this article noted that Bitter & Twisted has an enforced dress code. It does not.

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