Chicago Nightlife Spots

One of the best things about Chicago is that there is always something to do: a new art exhibit in town, a new restaurant to try, and a great bar to enjoy for the night. Whether you fancy dancing the night away, romancing your date in a candlelit lounge, drinking beers in a pub, or hanging with friends at a dive bar, there’s a place for you to have a few drinks in Chicago.

Fortunately, many of the city’s bars seem to be grouped by style around different neighborhoods, so it’s easy to go from bar to bar without having to travel too far to find another place you’re sure to like. Here are the neighborhoods to hit up, according to bar style.

Hotel bars

Of course, the hotel bars are where the hotels are, which means predominantly in the Loop and near the Magnificent Mile. JBar at the James Hotel and Elate at the Hotel Felix are known as a good spot for celebrity spotting,  the bar at the swanky Peninsula is perfect for an elegant night out, and Nomi Lounge at the Park Hyatt is the place to go for cocktails with a view.

Dance clubs

River North and the Rush/Division area (also called the “Viagra Triangle” for the ratio of older men to young women) host most of the city’s larger dance clubs. These are the velvet-rope, bottle-service, see-and-be-seen kinds of places where drinks are pricey, there’s usually a cover charge, and the dress code is strictly enforced.

Chicago is a nightlife town and no matter what you are looking for, you’ll find some kind of bar or club that fits your style. We’ve got dive bars, beer bars, speakeasy-style cocktail bars, jazz clubs, gay bars, dance clubs, and more. If you’re looking for a see-and-be-seen, velvet rope, bottle service, kind of dance club, here are some recommended places.

Smart Bar

On weekends come for the world-class DJs that guest spin Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The sound system is excellent, and the house music will get you dancing, all without some of the pretense that comes with other nightclubs.

Spy Bar

River North’s SpyBar brings income great DJ talent to get the scenester crowd moving.  While some say it’s a bit on the pretentious side – what with the bottle service and VIP areas – there’s no denying that it’s one of the best spots in Chicago to see a celebrity DJ.


People either love crobar, or they hate it. With a $20 cover and scantily clad go-go dancers entertaining the crowd, it definitely caters to a certain kind of club-goer. If that’s you, you’ll love it, but if not, don’t waste your money.

Sound Bar

Another $20 cover club, Sound Bar books mostly local DJs and offers the standard assortment of what some would call overprice drinks. They do often have specials and extend discounts to large groups though, so if you are in town for a girls’ weekend or bachelor/bachelorette party, it could be worth checking out.


Located in the basement of restaurant Hub 51, Sub 51 requires table reservations for entry, giving it an exclusive, but never-crowded feel. On Thursday night, national DJ’s guest, which on weekends, some of Chicago’s best play top 40 and electronic dance music.

Sports bars

Many of Chicago’s sports bars seem to be concentrated in Wrigleyville, along with Addison and Clark near Wrigley Field. Places like the Cubby Bear and Harry Caray cater to the pre-and post-game crowd with hearty bar food like burgers and wings, outdoor patios, and plenty of cold beer. These bars can get a little wild after a game, so it you don’t feel like being transported back to your college frat-party days, it’s best to avoid them on game days.

The Game Room/The Milk Room

A mellow speakeasy-style bar attached to cool, vintage, and quiet areas. Inside the Game Room are a bunch of games! Stuff like pool, bocce, cards, foosball, and checkers and chess tables (if I remember correctly) This place was supper mellow and quiet, but you can still make some noise playing games. A great chill spot.

Gay bars

Boystown, located on Halsted and Broadway streets between Addison and Belmont, is Chicago’s unofficial “gayborhood”. It’s home to dozens of gay bars and clubs like Roscoe’s, the Closet, and Kit Kat (where there are live drag shows several nights a week). Further north in Andersonville, there is another, a smaller pocket of gay bars. These bars are all straight-friendly too, and many (like Kit Kat) are popular with bachelorette parties.

Dive bars

Chicago’s dive bars are located all over the city – you’ll find one or two scattered here and there in every neighborhood – but there are also a few pockets of heavier concentration in hoods like Bucktown/Wicker Park and Logan Square. As these areas become more trendy, the true dive bars become harder to find and are replaced with hipster bars masquerading as dives, but if you look carefully you can tell which is a real dive (hint: it’s the one with cheap beer, old bartenders, a screen door, and regulars who look like they’ve been there since the dawn of time).

Beer bars

With its origins as a hard-working, blue-collar midwest town, it’s no wonder that residents of Chicago have a long tradition of drinking good ‘ole American lagers like Budweiser and Coors. But in the past several years, that has started to change – we’ve even had a few breweries open up in the city limits. Chicago may not be as synonymous with good beer as say, Denver or Portland, but we now have some great beer-centric bars that offer stellar selections of craft beers from around the world. For the best beer selections, check out Quencher’s, The Long Room, The Map Room, or the Globe.

Navy Pier

Not a club or bar, but an area. Live music during certain times and a free fireworks show! There was a very talented singer there who kept the night going and lots of restaurants and little shops to entertain yourself at. The overpriced ambiance, but a good place to hang at the end of the day if you’re not interested in parties and looking for some free events that might be happening.

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