In a city as sprawling, vibrant, and diverse as Houston, as you might imagine, there are pockets of truly excellent nightlife—you just have to know where to look. As with all large cities, in terms of the drinking scene, there are some neighborhoods you can’t miss and some you’ll want to avoid. In addition to a flourishing fancy cocktail scene, H-Town isn’t short on laid-back dives, sunny beer gardens with ample outdoor space, and well-known live music venues. Those who’d prefer a swanky, velvet rope-strewn nightclub experience won’t be disappointed, either. Read on to find out more about some of the best neighborhoods, bars, clubs, and concert venues to get a true taste of Houston’s nightlife.
Best Areas for Nightlife in Houston
- Downtown. If you’re up for a bar crawl, Downtown is a great place to do so—this is where you’ll find many of Houston’s most popular nighttime hangouts, all (or most) within walking distance of each other.
- Galleria/Uptown. Want to shop (and then maybe drink) ‘til you drop? The always-crowded Galleria has plenty of pubs and wine bars to choose from after you’ve gotten your shopping fix.
- Midtown. For a rowdy night out, Midtown is the perfect place to be. You’ll find a wide variety of cocktail bars, wine bars, beer gardens, and after-hours clubs here.
- Washington Avenue. Stretching from Downtown through Memorial Park, Washington Avenue comes alive with glammed-up clubgoers at night. This is where the majority of the city’s slick, see-and-be-seen nightclubs are.
- Rice Village. If you want to re-live your college days, head to Rice Village, where there's no shortage of cheap dives, pubs, and jam-packed patios.
- Montrose. Just west of Downtown, Montrose is known for being Houston’s slightly bohemian, hipster neighborhood—the place where you can pair your craft brew with a slam-poetry reading, if you will. It’s also easier to bar-hop here than in most other neighborhoods, where walkability can be an issue.
- Monkey’s Tail. You could easily spend hours at Monkey’s Tail, a Mexican-American cocktail dive with a great indoor/outdoor setup and an effortlessly cool vibe. The food menu includes hot dogs, pizza, burgers, and other easygoing grub.
- Anvil Bar & Refuge. The list of cool, inventive cocktails is seemingly endless at Anvil Bar & Refuge, which was one of the first craft cocktail bars on the scene and continues to be one of the best.
- Secret Garden. A bar inside a greenhouse, Secret Garden is easily one of the most striking-looking bars in H-Town. Enjoy stiff craft cocktails surrounded by lush plants and flowers at this perfect date-night spot.
- Julep. This Southern-inspired gem has frequently been called one of the best bars in America, thanks to its bold, old-fashioned drinks (get a julep or Sazerac) and elegant space, inside an impeccably designed 1880s-era uniform factory.
- OKRA Charity Saloon. You can actually feel good about imbibing too many drinks at OKRA Charity Saloon. At this beloved nonprofit watering hole, 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to a different charity every month.
- Eight Row Flint. This bar’s got it all—a great patio, frozen cocktails (a staple drink during those famously sweaty Houston summers), and tacos. What more could you ask for?
- The Pastry Bar. For the city’s best selection of agave-based spirits and cocktails, head to the Pastry Bar, which is helmed by Houston cocktail legend Bobby Heugel (owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge, among many others).
- Lei Low. Get into the Tiki spirit at Lei Low, where the rum flows like water and the cocktails come with fun garnishes, like bananas carved to look like dolphins (yes, really).
- Bacco Wine Bars. A new local chain of wine bars (with locations in Montrose, Upper Kirby, Braeswood Place, and Heights), Bacco exudes homey, countryside bed-and-breakfast vibes in the form of vintage furniture, cozy, tucked-away nooks, and swing-filled patios. The wine menu is well-curated yet relatively affordable; house bottles are just $18 during happy hour. There’s also a small food menu with crispy thin-crust pizza and other light bites.
- 13 Celsius. Housed in a historic, 1920s-era building in Midtown, 13 Celsius boasts an extensive menu of over 450 global selections, all kept in a perfectly calibrated cooler—whether you’re a diehard wine connoisseur or a newbie trying to get into the game, you’ll definitely learn something new (and sample something tasty and unexpected) at this little gem of a neighborhood wine bar.
- La Grande Rue. La Grande Rue opened its doors fairly recently, but this chic Heights wine bar and market has quickly become a go-spot for wine fans. Part of the space is devoted to a retail market with an excellent selection of cheeses, coffee, floral arrangements, and other specialty goods, while the other part provides access to the small, Euro-inspired wine bar.
Beer Gardens, Dives, and Pubs
- Cobble & Spoke. Offering an ever-changing menu of 40 taps from small, independent breweries (solely located in Houston and Texas), Cobble & Spoke is a cycling-friendly bar (hence the name)—park your bikes at the rack by the door, grab a brew, and pull up a seat at a picnic table on the sunny patio.
- Axelrad Beer Garden. Chill out in hammocks and chow down on pizza alongside your craft brew at Axelrad Beer Garden, an unassuming, off-the-beaten-path beer garden in Midtown. At night, the colorful string lights come on, and live music and movie screenings are a regular occurrence.
- The Hay Merchant. Popular Montrose hangout The Hay Merchant is a beer geek’s heaven, with a rotating list of 80 taps (including five cask ales) and an above-average food menu that changes weekly. Patrons can indulge in a brew and meet other beer lovers inside at the “community table” or hang out at one of the picnic tables outside and enjoy the sweet skyline views.
- Heights Bier Garten. With 60 beers, 30 wines, and four ciders on tap to choose from, you’ll find the perfect beverage to quench your thirst at Heights Bier Garten. The bar has a separate indoor cocktail bar if that’s more your speed, and the full food menu includes a variety of entrees, burgers, salads, and more.
- Wooster’s Garden. It’s not often that you’ll find a beer garden with killer cocktails, but Wooster’s Garden is the exception. A floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door connects the elegant interior with the outdoor seating area, and on the weekends, there’s a rotating cast of food trucks.
- Lola’s Depot. Lola’s is a true counterpoint to the glossy, high-end nightclubs in the neighborhood. This for-real dive bar has cheap drinks, a timeworn jukebox, salty bartenders, and of course, grungy, windowless darkness.
- Lil’ Danny Speedo’s Go Fly a Kite Lounge. One of the city’s buzziest new bars, Lil’ Danny Speedo’s checks all the (upscale) Houston dive-y boxes: It’s located in a former UFO-themed ice house. There’s a dog-friendly patio. There are frozen seasonal drinks galore, plus a daily rotation of food pop-ups. And, of course, there’s that bizarre, unforgettable name.
- West Alabama Ice House. Houston’s iconic West Alabama Ice House has been drawing crowds since 1928, with its big backyard, horseshoes and basketball courts, rotating selection of food trucks, and rows of picnic tables filled with regulars. Lone Stars and tacos al pastor for everyone.
Live Music, Entertainment, and Dancing
- Cezanne. Easily one of Texas’s best jazz venues, Cezanne was recently evicted from its longtime location in Montrose—luckily, the city’s only “listening room” (a place people go solely to listen to music, a la jazz clubs in New York City and Chicago) has a new location in the heart of the theater district.
- Stampede Houston. For a Texas-style nightclub experience, head to Stampede Houston. Located on 33 acres of land a little over 10 miles from downtown, this country bar has it all: a huge hardwood dancing floor, a mechanical bull, karaoke, live music, poker tournaments, free line-dancing lessons, and more.
- Barbarella. Austin import Barbarella has quickly become one of the best dance clubs in the city, beloved for its talented DJs, lovingly curated indie music, theme nights (Thursdays are Grits n’ Gravy Night, featuring soul tunes, and Fridays are New Noise Night, with under-the-radar hipster bands), and LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere.
- Goodnight Charlie’s. A veritable Houston honky-tonk in the heart of Montrose, Goodnight Charlie’s has hosted dozens of top-notch local and regional country artists since opening its doors in 2017. There are also daily happy hours, an extensive whiskey list, and truly delicious tacos to be had.
- Etro NightClub. For a solid dose of 80’s music dance culture (which, let’s be honest, we all need from time to time), head to Etro NightClub, which has a semi-new location on Main Street. Club-goers can dance the night away to The Cure and Depeche Mode while sipping cheap (strong) cocktails.
Tips for Going Out in Houston
- Houston may be sprawling, but luckily, much of the city’s nightlife is concentrated in a few neighborhood clusters. That being said, you’ll probably need to use a rideshare service if you’re going out in car-centric Houston. The most popular rideshare apps include Uber and Lyft.
- Be prepared to place your last order before last call at 2 a.m.
- Check to make sure there’s not a dress code before heading out; some bars and clubs in Houston require formal attire.