Find the Beat in Orlando

By: Paula Lewis

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From a burgeoning underground scene to blues, rock and reggae, music of all genres fills this city’s clubs.

Orlando is known worldwide for its theme parks, including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, but this destination offers much more to its visitors than all-powerful Marvel Superheroes and Mickey Mouse’s friendly gang.

For the past two decades, Orlando has been making a name for itself with its pulsating nightlife. Talented local DJs drive a lively underground music scene, and the energy spills over to a wide variety of quality clubs. Visitors can take in underground sounds in a cool lounge scene or sit back, relax and drink a pint in a pub that takes them to Ireland. Or they can check out live concerts featuring international superstars or dance till the wee hours in one of the city’s mega clubs.

Where the Locals Hang Out

If you’re looking for an authentic Orlando nightlife experience, head to the favorite local nightspots in downtown Orlando and Thornton Park. Most of the action is clustered along Orange Avenue, which runs through the heart of the city. Orlando is one of the few cities in the country to nurture its own alternative DJ and dance music scene. This movement has been compared to the one that took place in London in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Considered downtown’s epicenter for all music house and techno beats, Firestone Live provides the ultimate dance club experience. Priding itself in discovering the next big thing to hit the streets, Club Firestone has hosted the hottest names in the industry early in their careers, including Sasha, Diplo, DJ Funk, Keoki and Digweed. Also, offering the “big city” feel of the trendy nightclub is The Beacham.

If you prefer something a little less flashy, but one that still allows you to dance the night away, the Independent Bar is the place for you. This club features ‘80s alternative, ‘90s indie and post-modern sounds. With its café-style outdoor seating, this place is perfect for people watching.

Speaking of people watching, the Wall Street Plaza provides more than ample opportunities, with its nine bars and restaurants making it an entertainment destination of its own. If you’re a music performer at heart and are feeling gutsy, you can get up on stage and dance on the oversized bar at One Eyed Jack's. Or head over to Monkey Bar, a sleek martini bar, to listen to the sounds of lounge music. Wall Street Plaza is known for its weekend block parties.

Unique Character

There are places around the world that are full of character; they tell a wonderful story without really saying a word. Orlando has a few of those one-of-a-kind places waiting to be discovered.

For starters, The Bösendorfer Lounge is designed to be edgy and intriguing. It’s named after its Imperial Grand Bösendorfer piano, one of only two in the world. Residing in the artsy Grand Bohemian Hotel, the lounge hosts original works of art and has a nightly lineup of local musicians.

If live music is your thing, the Raglan Road Irish Pub features exciting nightly entertainment, complete with a live Irish house band and dancers. This gem showcases four antique bars, each more than 130 years old, imported directly from Ireland.

In the mood to chill out? Head to Icebar Orlando, one of Orlando’s trendiest nightclubs. As soon as you step inside this frozen wonderland, you’ll know there’s no other place like it in Florida. Everything is made of ice – from the bar you lean on to the couch you sit on to the glasses you drink from. Icebar Orlando is kept at a frosty 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, a cape and gloves are provided when you walk in.

If you love celebrating Mardi Gras, Pat O’Brien’s is the place for you. An authentic reproduction of one of New Orleans’ favorite watering hole, Pat O’Brien’s is the original home of dueling pianos, the “flaming fountain” patio and the world-famous “Hurricane” specialty drink. A sing-along in the Piano Bar provides lively entertainment and lifetime memories.

Live Acts

Nothing else comes close to the feeling you get when you experience a live concert. Orlando offers a unique selection of venues offering live music.

The BackBooth is a popular beer and wine bar that is also known around town for its live music performances, art and dance parties. It has become a favorite of the locals. You’ll hear sounds ranging from rock to metal and indie top punk in a comfortable and inviting pub-like atmosphere. House of Blues Orlando also prides itself on musical diversity and has been the backdrop for almost every musical genre imaginable.

A concert venue that can’t be missed is the Hard Rock Live. Built with Rome’s Coliseum in mind, it’s one of the largest and most popular spots for live music in the Orlando area. Onstage any night of the week, you’ll see a wide variety of big-name performers or on-the-rise acts, from music to comedy. And if you’re into finding the newest “it” group, check out The Social for its up-and-coming local bands, as well as established national indie acts.

A Touch of Star Power

Celebrities are known for leaving their mark wherever they go; this holds true in Orlando, with two exceptional venues that merit a visit.

Blues icon B.B. King has brought a little bit of soul and southern hospitality to the city with B.B. King’s Blues Club. This place is a stopping point for big-name acts on the blues circuit. If you’re lucky, you’ll see B.B. King himself; he graces the stage twice a year.

If you really want to celebrate music, head to Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom. This salute to Marley’s music and culture commemorates the “King of Reggae.” It’s designed after Marley’s home and garden in Jamaica, and memorabilia from his legendary career surround guests in the open-air veranda and courtyard.

As you can see, Orlando’s nightlife scene has undergone a major musical renaissance in the past two decades. It has raised the bar on entertainment, with its larger-than-life dance floors, amazing spaces, creative DJs, world-class and local live talent, intimate lounge atmospheres and originality. Combined, they rival the nightclubs of any international city, including Miami, London or New York.

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