Houston's nightlife scene is as vast and diverse as the city itself. And when it comes to shaking what your mama gave you, the options are plentiful. There is no shortage of discos, honky-tonks, and dive bars to choose from in the Bayou City—but not all are created equal. Whether you're looking for a cocktail with a killer beat or a fun Latin dance night, start with these great Houston-area night clubs and dance halls.
Don't be deceived by Club Tropicana's drab, strip-mall exterior—it's what's on the inside that counts. And this club has gorgeous decor, tasty drinks, and an always-hopping dance floor. Primarily a Latin dance club, DJs and live bands play almost exclusively salsa, merengue, and bachata.
While Club Tropicana attracts serious dancers with impressive moves, amateurs are welcome, too. If you don't know what you're doing, don't worry. The club offers free salsa lessons on Friday nights from 9-10 p.m. If you miss them, more experienced dancers are almost always willing to show you how it's done.
The club's dress code is "sexy cool," and no loose-fitting or baggy clothes are allowed—or as its official dress code puts it: "the club is sexy, the night is hot, and we want guests to look the part."
Pro Tip: If you want to avoid an overly crowded dance floor, drop by Tuesday or Thursday nights. There are still plenty of dance partners to choose from, but there's a little more room to move.
If all you're looking for is a place to grab a drink, let your hair down, and dance with your friends until your feet hurt, Barbarella is the place to do it.
"Barbs," as it's affectionately dubbed by regulars, is a favorite among Houstonians for its casual dress code and no-judgment atmosphere. Themed music nights pay homage to all things fun, including the 80s, 90s, and—occasionally—the Spice Girls. To get you in the mood, a row of TV screens showcase music videos, and the dance floor lights up—a nice touch that adds to the ambiance.
When you need a break, a large outdoor patio allows you to get some fresh air and take in the Houston skyline before heading back in for another round. Or if you just want a quick minute to rest your feet, you can grab some free water in the back and grab a seat in one of the neon-lit alcoves.
Most of the week, Gloria's (2616 Louisiana St.) is a typical Midtown restaurant, serving Tex-Mex and SalvaTex to the downtown business crowd. But come the weekend, it transforms into one of the hottest dance clubs in Houston. On Friday and Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., Gloria's has a live band playing salsa music and a DJ that spins Top 40 and Latin hits.
It's hard to find a swankier place to salsa in Houston. The ceiling is decorated with draped fabric and chandeliers, and the up-lit bars are as stylish as they are stocked. It should be no surprise then that Gloria's is strict about its business casual dress code. No flip-flops, sweatpants, or rude behavior allowed.
It's also not cheap. Between cover charge, parking, and drinks, you'll spend a pretty penny. But if you want quality Latin music and dance partners who know their stuff, it's worth the extra cost.
Note: SSQQ Dance is currently in recovery after being flooded during Hurricane Harvey.
For those not quite ready to brave a night club on their own—or who just want to dance with other newbies—SSQQ's social dance studio offers both classes and socials for dancers of all skill levels.
Classes vary from two-step and polka to salsa and swing and typically are offered once or twice a week for several weeks. You can pay monthly for a given class or just drop by and pay per session. Then practice your newfound skills at one of the studio's themed "socials."
While it's definitely not a night club, SSQQ does have alcohol available for purchase, not to mention knowledgeable instructors nearby to help you when you need a little extra guidance. And because so many of the other dancers are students themselves, you can relax and have fun on the dance floor knowing you're in supportive company.
Another popular Midtown club, Indigo's crowds are more sophisticated than most, and the music and atmosphere reflect that. The spacious dance floor allows you to move without stepping on anyone's toes even on busy weekend nights, and the ample seating means you can rest your feet when you need to.
DJs and live bands play a wide range of music—from NOLA bounce to 80s to reggae—and the themed nights always make for a good time. The Taco Tuesday AfroLatin night is a fun take on the ubiquitous Latin-themed nights in Houston clubs, with free tacos from 6 to 8 p.m. for those who RSVP and live music throughout the night. If you prefer to sing rather than dance, Thursday Night Live features an open mic and karaoke with the added bonus of a free buffet.
With its fruity cocktails and friendly vibe, this downtown spot is perfect for bachelorette parties or celebrations. The signature drink is the Blue Hawaiian—a sweet, frozen blend of white rum, citrus, and coconut that is the perfect solution to Houston's nearly year-round heat. Weekdays feature a wide range of vinyl or live bands, while the weekends crank the house music to 11—but you'll find a full dance floor all week long.
The Nightingale Room is cozy, so it can get a little crowded, but the bartenders are quick and attentive. Even with a packed space, you'll often find them dancing while they make several drinks at a time or singing along to the music, making sure you're having a great time, too.
If you'd rather two-step than twerk, Firehouse Saloon might be more your speed. One of Houston's favorite honky-tonk haunts, this fireman-owned Country Western bar is positively brimming with Texas pride—from the rustic exterior to the cowboy boots hanging from the rafters.
Live bands play nearly every weekend, drawing big crowds from all around the Houston metro. The dance floor is huge, but there's plenty of seating, too. And if you want to relax with a cold beer to build up some liquid courage, that's more than okay here—just be sure to say "thank you, y'all" on your way out.