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

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

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.

click to enlarge Partying in and out of the pool at Lustre Rooftop Bar. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
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.

click to enlarge If you go to Hanny's and don't find the dolls, you're doing it wrong. - PAUL SCHARBACH
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.

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