Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States, is famous for its rich history, stunning architecture, and diverse cultural scene. As daylight fades and the city comes alive, the Chicago nightlife scene proves to be just as captivating.
From vibrant bars and clubs in the trendy neighborhood of River North to more laid-back and intimate venues in Wicker Park, the city offers a wide range of options for night owls to explore. With a mixture of local favorites and hidden gems, the Chicago nightlife scene caters to all tastes, ensuring a memorable evening for both locals and visitors alike.
Whether you’re in the mood for a casual drink at a craft beer bar, dancing to the beats of world-class DJs, or experiencing the unique ambiance of a speakeasy, Chicago has it all. With an ever-evolving nightlife landscape, the city keeps locals and visitors on their toes, ensuring there’s always a new experience waiting to be discovered.
In this guide, you’ll find detailed information on the best places to party, tips and advice for a safe and enjoyable night out, as well as an overview of the cost of partying in Chicago. So, gather your friends, put on your dancing shoes, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the vibrant and mesmerizing world of the Chicago nightlife.
Where to Party in Chicago
Chicago’s nightlife is concentrated in a few key areas, making it easy to hop from one venue to another. Here are some of the most popular districts to explore during your night out in Chicago:
River North: Known for its upscale bars, clubs, and restaurants, River North is a top destination for those seeking a lively and stylish night out in the heart of the city.
Wicker Park: A hip and eclectic neighborhood, Wicker Park is home to an array of bars, clubs, and live music venues that cater to a diverse and artistic crowd.
West Loop: Located just west of downtown, the West Loop is a rapidly growing area known for its vibrant food scene and trendy bars.
Logan Square: With its mix of dive bars, cocktail lounges, and live music venues, Logan Square is a popular destination for a laid-back evening of drinks and entertainment.
Lincoln Park: A bustling neighborhood with a wide range of bars, clubs, and restaurants, Lincoln Park is an excellent choice for a night out on the town.
Chicago Nightlife Tips and Advice
Chicago is generally a safe city, but like any urban area, it’s essential to stay aware of your surroundings and take common-sense precautions. Keep your belongings secure, and don’t leave your drink unattended.
The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, so be prepared to show ID if you look younger.
Tipping is customary in the United States, with a standard tip of 15-20% for bartenders and servers.
Public transportation in Chicago is reliable and convenient, with the “L” train and buses running late into the night. Alternatively, you can opt for a taxi or rideshare service.
Most bars and clubs in Chicago have a casual dress code, but some upscale venues may require a more polished look. When in doubt, opt for smart-casual attire.
Cost of Partying in Chicago
Drinks: Expect to pay around $5-8 for a beer, $8-12 for a glass of wine, and $10-15 for a cocktail at most bars and clubs in Chicago. Prices may be higher at more upscale venues.
Cover charges: Many nightclubs in Chicago charge a cover fee, which typically ranges from $10-20. This may include a complimentary drink or two. Some venues offer free entry on certain nights or before a specific time, so it’s worth checking their websites or social media for promotions.
Taxis and rideshares: Fares will vary depending on the distance and time of night, but you can generally expect to pay around $10-20 for a short ride within the city center. Be aware that fares may be higher during peak hours or special events.
Best Bars in Chicago
1. The Violet Hour
This award-winning, speakeasy-style cocktail bar in Wicker Park is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. With its dimly-lit, elegant atmosphere and a strict no-cell-phone policy, The Violet Hour is the perfect place to enjoy expertly crafted cocktails and engaging conversation.
2. Three Dots and a Dash
An exciting tiki bar located in River North, Three Dots and a Dash offers a vibrant atmosphere and a creative menu of tropical cocktails, served in unique glassware. This lively bar is an ideal choice for a fun night out with friends.
3. The Whistler
Located in Logan Square, The Whistler is a cozy, hipster-friendly bar that offers a rotating menu of innovative cocktails, craft beers, and a curated selection of wines. The bar also features live music and DJ sets, making it a popular spot for a laid-back evening of drinks and entertainment.
4. The Aviary
This upscale cocktail lounge, created by the team behind the renowned Alinea restaurant, is known for its inventive and visually stunning drinks. Located in the West Loop, The Aviary is a must-visit for cocktail enthusiasts seeking a unique and memorable experience.
5. The Green Mill
Steeped in history, The Green Mill is an iconic jazz club and cocktail lounge located in the Uptown neighborhood. With its vintage decor and classic ambiance, this legendary spot has been a favorite among locals and visitors since the early 1900s. The Green Mill hosts live jazz performances and poetry readings, making it the perfect place to enjoy a night of culture and entertainment in Chicago.
Best Nightclubs in Chicago
1. Smart Bar
A staple of the Chicago nightlife scene, Smart Bar is an underground club located in Wrigleyville that features a lineup of local and international DJs spinning house, techno, and electronic music. With its top-notch sound system and laid-back atmosphere, Smart Bar is a favorite among Chicago’s party crowd.
2. PRYSM Nightclub
Located in the heart of Lincoln Park, PRYSM Nightclub is a multi-level venue that offers a luxurious and stylish clubbing experience. With a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, VIP areas, and a lineup of world-class DJs, PRYSM is a top destination for a high-energy night out.
3. Studio Paris Nightclub
Located in the heart of River North, Studio Paris Nightclub is a chic and sophisticated venue that merges the glamour of Parisian nightlife with the energy and excitement of Chicago. This upscale club boasts a retractable glass roof, providing an open-air experience during the warmer months and a unique indoor-outdoor atmosphere year-round.
Nestled in the River North neighborhood, Spybar is an intimate and underground nightclub that has been a mainstay of Chicago’s nightlife scene for decades. With a focus on house, techno, and electronic music, Spybar regularly hosts both local and international DJs, drawing a dedicated crowd of dance music enthusiasts. The club’s top-notch sound system and energetic atmosphere make it an ideal choice for a night of dancing and socializing.
5. Primary Nightclub
Situated in the vibrant Gold Coast neighborhood, Primary Nightclub is a sleek and modern venue that features a lineup of local and international DJs spinning house, techno, and electronic music. With its intimate setting, state-of-the-art sound system, and vibrant LED lighting, Primary Nightclub offers an immersive and energetic atmosphere perfect for dance music aficionados. The club’s commitment to showcasing both established and up-and-coming talent ensures a fresh and dynamic experience for partygoers looking to discover new sounds in Chicago’s nightlife scene.
Chicago Nightlife Conclusion
The Chicago nightlife scene is as diverse and exciting as the city itself, offering a multitude of options to suit every taste and preference. With its mix of historic charm and modern energy, there’s no doubt that a night out in Chicago will be an unforgettable experience. From cozy craft beer bars to energetic nightclubs, this dynamic city has something for everyone.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor, make sure to explore the best that Chicago’s nightlife has to offer. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the city’s lively after-dark scene and create lasting memories in the Windy City. So, get ready to sip, savor, and dance the night away in the enchanting city of Chicago.