The best Las Vegas nightclubs and music venues

Few towns in the US rival this one when it comes to nightlife—see a live show, revel in debauched ultralounge excess or hit the Las Vegas dance clubs

No other city comes alive when the sun goes down quite like Las Vegas does. The daytime desert doesn’t do justice to the dazzling jewels that illuminate the sky after dark. And nighttime is, of course, the right time to head to the clubs in Las Vegas.

Plus, here in the desert, there’s a little something for everyone. Searching for the hottest dance clubs in Las Vegas? We got that. Hakkasan at MGM Grand continues to book an A-plus list of DJs and a packed floor night after night. XS at the Encore is another madhouse, with top-notch spinners and rabid fans waiting for the beat to … drop.

If you’re more of a live music fan, you will find plenty of Las Vegas clubs playing what you want to hear. The Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan hosts amazing outdoor gigs from early spring through late fall on its fourth-floor pool deck overlooking the Strip. At the Hard Rock Hotel, bands with larger audiences rock its 4,000-person room, The Joint, and smaller acts play neighboring club Vinyl.

Want something off the beaten path? Head to one of the many live-music bars around the city. TheCheyenne Saloon in northeast Las Vegas is mighty far from the lights of the Strip. But there’s no waiting in line to get in, the cover charge is low, and the range of music (think “heavy” to “heaviest”) will blow you off your feet.

But if you just need a good laugh instead, there’s plenty of comedy in Las Vegas’s clubs. Some of the best stand-up in Las Vegas can be found at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in the MGM Grand, conveniently located near the parking lot or, as Garrett says, “the basement.” Other comedy clubs include the improv at Harrah’s, which brings in three new acts a week and has been in the laugh-business for 50 years. That should tell you something.

The best nightlife in Vegas

1 Oak

Critics' pick

In its effort to remain relevant in the face of its newer, bigger, hipper competitors on the Strip, the Mirage couldn’t have done any better than the opening of this West Coast branch of New York hotspot, 1 Oak. Since its debut in the spring of 2013, the club has hosted a veritable Who’s Who of A-listers: performers and attendees alike. Guest musicians like Flo Rida, Snoop Dog and Kayne West have all graced its stage, while others, like the ever-controversial Chris Brown, have merely partied down here. Want to see and be seen? No need to look elsewhere.

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West of the Strip

Beat Coffeehouse & Records

Critics' pick

Part coffeehouse, eaterie, bar, vinyl record store and music venue, the Beat is Las Vegas’s epicentre for all (anti-establishment) things Downtown. Local musicians play on the stage-less floor at the front of the store, while their fans and friends spill out on to the sidewalk of Fremont Street. Cheap food and strong coffee is available during the day; after 7pm even cheaper beer is served.

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Downtown

Body English

Hard Rock nightspot Body English was retooled in late 2012 following a four-year hiatus, much to the delight of its ardent fans. “Fans” is the operative word here. Visitors to Body English usually fall into one of two camps: love it or hate it. This probably has as much to do with expectations as anything else. The smallish club is not like many of the larger spots you’ll find on the Strip, which is fine—it’s not on the Strip. But if you’re looking for a smaller—and naughtier—experience, this might be right up your alley.

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East Las Vegas

Boulevard Pool

Critics' pick

The Cosmopolitan started hosting live musical acts at Marquee before it realised what a gem it had in the Boulevard Pool. The logistics took some retooling, but the hotel-casino now features regular bands on a specially designed stage that overlooks its fourth-floor open-air pool. The music is varied—Hot Chip, Gary Clark Jr, MGMT—and the sound system (and experience) is beyond superb. Enjoy top-notch music overlooking the Strip, and don’t worry about the view: the bands are broadcast on to a four-storey screen adjacent to the pool. Best Las Vegas music experience, hands-down.

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The Strip

Double Down Saloon

Critics' pick

No head for drink? Then hand over $20 for puke insurance: if you barf, staff will clean up. Otherwise, you’re on your own at this darkly chaotic bar. ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, they bill it, and with good reason: the music is loud, whether from the impeccably curated jukebox—filled with ska, surf, psychobilly and punk tunes—or the regular bands, and the vibe is welcoming. Acts that have graced its stage include TSOL, Dickies and the Supersuckers. It’s also known for its tasty alcoholic concoctions such as Ass Juice and bacon martinis (no one’s ever had two). Beers are a better bet.

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University District

Gallery

Critics' pick

Lovers of fine art and the fine female form unite! Both are on display at the appropriately named Gallery Nightclub, located in Planet Hollywood in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. OK, so the “artwork” isn’t likely to inspire any heated discussions among art history majors, but the vibe is plenty hot nonetheless: case in point, Thursday night’s Good Girls Gone Bad, which is bound to create inspiration of one kind or another.

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The Strip

Hakkasan

Critics' pick

You really can’t compare any other nightclubs in Las Vegas with MGM’s newly opened, gigantic Hakkasan because that would be, well, impossible. With multiple levels and room for about 7,000 revellers, Hakkasan puts the “mega” in megaclub. To fill this aeroplane-hangar-like space when the club opened in the spring of 2013, MGM execs signed on some of the hottest DJs, including Calvin Harris, DJ Tiesto, Steve Aoki and Deadmau5 for residencies. The strategy has worked. All 80,000sq ft of space is packed—from the Ling Ling Lounge to the main dancefloor—and for good reason.

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The Strip

Light

This club of the same name used to be located inside Bellagio, before operators the Light Group teamed with Cirque du Soleil (in that company’s first-ever nightclub venture) and moved the show down the road to Mandalay. Tiered balconies surround an intimate dancefloor, while DJs spin from a small, elevated stage smack in the middle of it. For added effect, Cirque performers wow the crowd, crawling across sprawling walls of LED screens or swinging from the ceiling like the proverbial residents of an asylum. We mean that in a good way. 

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The Strip

Vinyl

Critics' pick

Looking for a more intimate—and diverse—experience than the acts at the Joint? You’d do well to check out the Hard Rock’s newer club, Vinyl. Opened in 2012, this 650-seater hosts everything under the sun, from heavy metal mariachi act Metalachi to Courtney Love to local crooners. Shows are often free, and if you’re not in the mood for music, check out bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, whose shtick is sure to offend even the most hardened sensibilities.

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East of the strip

XS

Steve Wynn doesn’t do things by halves, and the opulent gold-plated nightclub at his newest casino-hotel sets a new standard of luxe. The 13,000sq ft indoor-outdoor space is gilded with rotating gold chandeliers, golden moulds of cocktail waitresses and balconies surrounding the huge dancefloor. The effect is Donald Trump’s dream nightclub. Still, all that shimmering opulence might be a little hard on the eyes, but the patrons sure aren’t. Book your spot well in advance if you want to have a look. 

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The Strip

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