Nightlife in Atlanta: Best Bars, Clubs, and More

Elevated view over Downtown Atlanta and Centennial Olympic Park
Getty Images/Gavin Hellier

It’s no secret Atlanta has an abundance of things to do during the day whether it’s getting outdoors, hitting up the best shopping malls or exploring the city’s top tourist attractions. But the fun doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down. Atlanta is bustling with some of the country’s top live music venues, nightclubs, brewpubs, and dive bars to entertain every type of personality.

Bars

With the huge number of bars in Atlanta all competing for customers, the city has developed a unique bar scene with an endless amount of quirky bars to cater to every niche. While there are some neighborhoods with a greater concentration of good food and drinks—such as Little Five Points, Inman Park, and Old Fourth Ward—there are truly worthwhile places scattered all over the city.

Beer Bars

  • Wrecking Bar Brewpub: This quaint tavern tucked away in Little Five Points is known for its not-so-quaint beer selection. The pub features an ever-changing selection of specialty beers brewed on a seven-barrel system on-site, like Belgians, Weizenblocks and Kolsches, and chef-driven pub food (you can’t go wrong with their cheddarwurst corn pups). Named the “Best Brewpub” three years in a row by Creative Loafing, Wrecking Bar also offers a cocktail menu to please the non-beer drinkers.
  • Porter Beer Bar: Located in the heart of Little Five Points, the Porter Beer Bar has been Atlanta’s premier beer destination since it first opened over a decade ago. You won’t find your average bar food here. Porter is known for its gourmet pub grub that puts a twist on classics, such as pumpkin ravioli and smoked trout sandwich tartine—each accompanied with a beer suggestion. The pub boasts a drink list including 44 beers on draft and 700 beers available by the bottle, many of which can’t be found anywhere else in the city.
  • Brick Store Pub: More than 1,000 vintages of beer have passed through Brick Store’s taps since 1997. Located in Decatur, it strives to be a neighborhood pub where “conversation dominates, pints are served properly, service is friendly and knowledgeable, and the food is made from scratch every day.” The pub serves local, regional, and nationally acclaimed American craft beers; German and English specialty beers; and a vintage reserve beer list.
  • Argosy: Since its opening in 2013, Argosy has quickly become a go-to for local beer lovers and tourists alike. With 35 beers on tap, the East Atlanta Village restaurant offers several hard to find brews. The backroom has a skeeball table and separate bar, all set to a contemporary soundtrack of hip-hop, house, and soul. The menu, curated by Culinary Director Edward Russell, features wood-oven pizza, salads, sandwiches, and select rotating entrees.
  • Ormsby's: During the day, Ormsby’s—in the heart of the Westside Provisions District—is a warm and cozy gathering spot with an impressive craft beer selection boasting dozens of brews on draft and innovative pub fare (don’t miss their Guinness-dipped German pretzel). Come nightfall, the tavern is more akin to a stylish speakeasy fit for gamers—they’ve got backgammon, bocce, darts, pool, shuffleboard and board games. Look out for their Bocce Ball League, with an 8-week season where players face off every Monday night.

One-of-a-Kind Bars

  • Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium: “Going to church” takes on a whole new meaning at this bar. Known by locals simply as Church, this irreverent, two-story dive bar puts a twist on traditional religious traditions and art (think velvet paintings, religious folk art, a real church organ, and vintage church signs), alongside ping pong tables upstairs. Make sure to try their spiritual sangria, the bar’s signature drink.
  • Clermont Lounge: Forget what you think you know about strip clubs. Clermont Lounge, the city’s oldest strip club, is more dive bar (in fact, it’s consistently ranked as one of the coolest dive bars in the world) than swanky gentlemen’s lounge—just see the age and talents of the strippers for proof (one of the most famous, Blondie, is 55 years old, a poet, artist, and dancer known to crush beer cans between her breasts). Hidden in the basement of Clermont Motor Hotel on Ponce, Clermont has a storied past guest list, including celebs like Bill Murray and Robert De Niro, and a kitschy atmosphere complete with a stripper-DJ’ed jukebox. No food or draft beer is served.  
  • Darkhorse Tavern: In Virginia Highlands, the must-see bar is Dark Horse Tavern. A music venue meets dive bar, Dark Horse is known for its college-aged crowd and hair metal karaoke nights. If metal isn’t your thing, the tavern offers a variety of other entertainment including Soul Karaoke, eight HD 70” TV’s and a dartboard upstairs.
  • The Painted Pin: The Painted Pin takes a twist on traditional nightlife by adding upscale bowling and craft cocktails, offering 20 full-service vintage bowling lanes, alongside complementary interactive games like bocce ball, shuffleboard, ping pong, and darts. The sophisticated atmosphere is the perfect place to gather with friends over one of their craft cocktails and upscale alley fare such as wood-fired pizzas, tacos, and sliders. The Painted Pin also offers live music Thursday through Saturday, which always draws a large crowd to the dance floor. There is a strict dress code on most nights, so come dress to impress and ready to have a good time.
  • Star Community Bar: Another gem found in Little Five Points is the Star Community Bar, where great live music and comedy come together for lively themed nights, like ‘80s dance party, live band cowboy karaoke, rock and roll trivia, and live music every weekend. Expect cheap drinks and great service while you’re there. Go on Monday nights for one of Atlanta’s longest-running comedy shows—it’s free and is always good for a laugh.
  • Joystick Gamebar: Head to Joystick Gamebar to experience the city’s first true barcade, a wonderland for classic arcaders (some favorites include Donkey Kong, Galaga, Double Dribble, and Ms. Pac Man) offering childhood-inspired bites (think gourmet grilled cheeses and potato chip tacos) and innovative cocktails, like their Back in Black cocktail (a blend of Larceny bourbon, Lluxardo Amaro, house blackberry syrup, fresh oregano and lemon juice and Angostura bitters). Stop by to fight for a high score or opt to sip a cocktail and watch the gaming take place.

Clubs

After leaving the bars, continue the party by heading out for a night of dancing at one of Atlanta's many clubs.

  • Havana Club: Consistently ranked as one of Atlanta’s top nightclubs, Havana Club boasts 15,000 square feet of ambiance and Cuban essence, including three rooms and nine bars. The club is known for its exclusive events, legendary DJs, and celebrity clientele (stars such as Lenny Kravitz and LeBron James have dropped by in the past). Havana features a main room playing Top 40 song, The Gallery playing EDM music, and the Latin Studio playing the hottest Salsa hits, so everyone can make their way to the dance floor. If you want a more intimate experience, make sure to head over to their private bungalow/cabana sections. The Cuban vibe is complete with a cedar-wood humidor stocking rare and exotic cigars.
  • El Bar: El Bar is the best-kept secret in Atlanta. Open Thursday-Saturday, the nondescript bar is located on the backside of El Ponce restaurant. The hole in the wall spot features a rotating cast of the best DJ’s in the city and a full bar, complete with cheap drink specials. If you’re looking for a no-frills spot to have fun with your friends, El Bar is a sure bet. Just remember, absolutely no music requests.

Live Music

Atlanta has a huge music scene. In addition to attracting major headliners from around the world, the city also contains a flourishing community of up-and-coming music artists. Several locations promote local artists with dedicated nights of live music. Head to one of them and you could be sitting front row for a future superstar.

  • The Earl: Head to East Atlanta’s famed The Earl, a dive bar and live music venue (they've hosted local and national acts from The Avett Brothers to The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers) named one of the 10 best rock clubs in the U.S. by Playboy. The bar oozes an urban funky vibe while the restaurant side is known for its burgers. Recommended is the three little pigs burger, an Earl burger topped with BBQ sauce, crispy bacon, and chicharrones.
  • Northside Tavern: Northside Tavern is Atlanta’s go-to spot for low-key live music, particularly blues and jazz. With seven nights of live music, the offbeat watering hole offers cheap drinks (their 24-ounce PBR tallboy is the house specialty) and DIY grilled cheese bars. Inside the tavern, you’ll find a dark and smoky atmosphere where the music is always rocking.
  • Eddie's Attic: Eddie’s Attic is famous for its legendary listening room, known for hosting aspiring and accomplished performing songwriters alike (the intimate venue has hosted everyone from John Mayer and Sugarland to local artists like Amy Andrews) thanks to their superior sound system and acoustics. The eats are decent—go for their specialty burgers and small plates, like pulled pork wontons and baked brie.
  • Terminal West: Located in King Plow Center in West Midtown, Terminal West is a cool, low-key place to see rising bands and artists of all genres. Since opening its doors in 2012, a bunch of groundbreaking acts have performed here, including The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Netsky, Zeds Dead, Leon Russell, and Thundercat. This standing room only venue has great acoustics and its one of the few local venues where fans have a chance of getting up close and personal with the acts. As an added bonus, there is a bar/restaurant attached to the venue that serves above-average bites, cocktails, and craft beers.

Comedy Clubs

For those nights where you want to go out and be entertained, you can't beat a comedy show. Atlanta may be the comedy capital of the south, so you are guaranteed to find a show that will leave you rolling on the floor.

  • Laughing Skull Lounge: Situated in the heart of Atlanta’s Midtown Mile, Laughing Skull Lounge is a highlight of Atlanta’s burgeoning comedy scene and proudly boasts itself as the smallest full-time comedy venue in the world (with only 74 seats in the intimate venue there truly isn’t a bad seat in the house). They showcase a mix of touring pros and the city’s brightest up and coming artists. The club doesn’t sell food during the show, so come early or stay late to grab a burger at the famed Vortex Bar and Grill, which sits underneath the club.
  • Uptown Comedy Corner: Despite moving to multiple locations since its inception, Uptown has been a staple in Atlanta’s comedy scene for many moons. Several comedic legends have graced the Uptown stage, ranging from the late Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney to young veterans like Kevin Hart and Lil Duval. As with most comedy clubs, there is a two-drink minimum (food or beverage) and seating is first-come, first-serve.

Tips

  • The Atlanta metro—called MARTA—runs until 1 a.m. on weekend nights.
  • If you are traveling around late at night, Uber, Lyft, and taxis are available all across the city.
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