By Kara Chalmers
Looking for a fun night out? Head to one of these Florida cities with multiple nightlife options clustered all in one place for the ultimate in convenience.
The Core in Jacksonville
Jam to Caribbean music at an island dance party, play pingpong at a retro bar, sip cocktails or ride a mechanical bull to a backdrop of live country-western music. These Florida nightclubs options and more await you – all within a short walk of each other – in a part of downtown Jacksonville dubbed “The Core.”
Bounded by Adams, Clay and Market streets and the St. Johns River, The Core is a one-stop shop for nightlife. Just print out the user-friendly map showing The Core’s 18 bars, nightclubs and late-night eats and hit the town.
Church Street, Wall Street Plaza and Universal CityWalk in Orlando
Jacksonville is not the only place with a core. In downtown Orlando, Church Street and its environs have long been nightlife central, offering revelers countless bars, nightclubs, restaurants and major street parties.
A historic space at 33 West Church Street houses three separate bars. Enjoy a frozen drink at Chillers (first floor), a brew at Big Belly Brewery (second floor) and an amazing view of Orlando’s skyline at the open-air Latitudes (rooftop). Ready to dance? Then head next door to Antigua.
Around the corner on Orange Avenue is Wall Street Plaza, which charges one cover for eight distinct bars – from Slingapours dance club to The Monkey Bar martini lounge – plus outdoor block parties with live music. Simply everything you look for in an Orlando nightclub.
Note: If you’re in the neighborhood, check out Universal Orlando’s CityWalk, an entertainment complex with a dozen places to party, including bars, clubs and restaurants.
Ybor City and Channelside in Tampa
Tampa’s historic Latin Quarter, Ybor City, charms with red-brick buildings, wrought-iron balconies and the sweet smell of Cuban coffee. But after dark, the neighborhood turns lively, with music – everything from salsa to hip-hop – emanating from bars and nightclubs, many of which are clustered along a few blocks of East Seventh Avenue.
In the heart of the nightlife in Tampa action is Centro Ybor, a dining, shopping and entertainment center with a comedy club and a movie theater with an adults-only section with a full bar.
From Ybor City, jump on a cool electric streetcar to Channelside Bay Plaza, yet another entertainment complex with restaurants, theaters and a handful of bars and clubs, including Splitsville, an upscale bowling alley with its own lounge and restaurant.
Seville Quarter in Pensacola
Pensacola’s Seville Quarter features seven individual bars and clubs, and for one cover charge, you can enjoy them all. The prospects for pleasure are varied, from listening to dueling pianos at Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Emporium (the first bar to open, in 1967), to chilling at the open-air End O’ the Alley Bar and gaslit Victorian-style Seville Quarter Courtyard, listening to live music. There’s also the Seville Party Plaza, where larger outdoor concerts are staged.
With a New Orleans French Quarter feel, Seville Quarter is housed in a beautifully renovated and revitalized 19th century space at 130 East Government Street. The night spots feature unusual yet elegant antiques. Look for the iron gates from the old Governor’s Mansion in New Orleans found at Phineas Phogg’s Balloon Works dance club.
Clematis Street and CityPlace in West Palm Beach
For nightlife in downtown West Palm Beach, Clematis Street is the place to be. Beginning at Flagler Drive on the Intracoastal Waterway and extending five blocks west, there are about a dozen great bars and clubs. Equally fine destinations are the restaurants that transform into clubs by night.
Four Clematis Street hangouts great for bar-hopping (because they’re practically neighbors) are Dr. Feelgoods Rock Bar and Grill with the Lost Weekend bar upstairs, Reef Road Restaurant and Rum Bar and Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar. Every Thursday, check out Clematis by Night, a free concert series in Centennial Square. Make sure you catch movies on the Great Lawn as part of the Screen on the Green series.
Alternatively, from Clematis Street, you can walk or take a free trolley a few blocks south to CityPlace, home to restaurants, theaters and nightspots including a wine bar, microbrewery and blues club.
Downtown St. Petersburg
Located in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, you’ll find Jannus Live. This outdoor concert venue – anchoring an area bordered by Central Avenue, First Avenue North and Second Street – is often thought of as party central with jazz clubs, wine bars and dance clubs, all located within steps of each other. Stop at Bishop Tavern, with its three balconies and indoor and outdoor bars, as well as Vintage and Push ultra lounges, which are a cross between full-blown dance clubs and upscale lounges, with private VIP areas.
It’s just a short walk to Beach Drive and the waterfront, where hip restaurants and bars, such as Cassis American Brasserie, mix with museums and art galleries like the Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center.
Bold New Venue for Dalí
The new Dalí Museum opened in early January 2011 in St. Petersburg. But months before its opening, AOL Travel included the museum on its list of “Buildings You Have to See before You Die.” It was the only U.S. structure on the list.
The new building will feature a geodesic glass structure that will house the foyer and a grand spiral staircase. It will be more than twice the size of the current space housing the priceless art collection, which is the largest collection of Dalí’s work outside his home country of Spain. For more information, visit thedali.org.
For this and other tips on best places to eat and drink in Florida, go to VISIT FLORIDA's official restaurants and bars guide.