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The best nightlife in Atlanta

Ready for an all-timer of a night out? From bars and clubs to comedy and games, this is the best nightlife in Atlanta

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Contributor
Frances Katz
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Nightlife in Atlanta can be epic, whatever your scene. Whether you lean towards hopping around the city’s best bars, sipping expertly-crafted cocktails at a rooftop bar, dancing at a top club, listening to music, or playing games with your friends, there’s a spot for you. 

The best of Atlanta nightlife includes institutions for all kinds of night owls, and you’re bound to run into some of Atlanta’s finest barflies on any given night. After dining at one of the best restaurants in Atlanta, round out your night at one of these spots. If it turns into a rager, refuel and recuperate the next day with one of the best Atlanta brunches.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Atlanta

Best nightlife in Atlanta

An Atlanta music institution, Eddie’s Attic has been bringing tunes to ATLiens’ ears since 1991. If time allows, plan your visit on a Monday to experience the bar’s weekly, competitive open mic nights for aspiring musicians and songwriters. The winner receives a coveted spot in the bi-annual shootout, which is no small victory; previous winners have included John Mayer and Jennifer Nettles.

Don’t be fooled by the Southern aristocratic exterior of this Little Five Points gem. The renovated mansion houses a welcoming neighborhood brewery and restaurant. Perfect for hanging out with a group of friends, Wrecking Bar offers a range of well-made beers and stepped-up bar bites. A menu of innovative cocktails will please non-beer lovers.

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This Atlanta institution is packed with regulars — some even honored with brass nameplates — who contribute to the friendly, convivial vibe. Simplicity is the key, so order a no-nonsense pint and settle in. The atmosphere is what you come here for; Manuel’s is a destination for parties, post-game celebrations, and general revelry, and when it’s time for a bite, Manuel’s Burger is the way to go.

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Nestled in the Four Seasons Hotel, this (very fancy) drinking hole is named after Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in The Royal TenenbaumsBar Margot just begs you to saunter up to the bar and order a gin Margot with a crab toast. Master mixologist Greg Best—a local legend among the cocktail savvy—devised the drink menu.

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Two members of Atlanta’s best-known cover band, Yacht Rock Review, own and operate this club and serve as the house band. The ‘70s and ‘80s tributes to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Prince will keep you coming back for more. Not into oldies? Test your trivia prowess every Wednesday night; we're all more intelligent with a beer in hand.

This spot might be the world’s tiniest stand-up venue, but the talent and the laughs inside are massive. Big-name local and national comedians take the stage at the 74-seat club adjacent to the Vortex. Grab a burger and a beer, then head over for a night of top-notch comedy. If you can’t get enough, Laughing Skull has a podcast too.

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Both gen-X-ers and millennials agree that the subterranean MJQ is one of Atlanta’s best venues for losing yourself in music. This is why – like many of the timeless tunes carefully curated by DJs like Kemit and Karl Injex over the years – it has thrived for more than 20 years. While the neighborhood around it has become swankier (it’s hard to be a few steps away from Ponce City Market and not see the changes), MJQ has not simply retained its stains and grungy, sweaty club appeal, it has celebrated them with a few changes. This is the most beloved club in town and still the best option for literal underground hip-hop.

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Serving cocktails and oysters in a renovated train depot outside downtown Decatur, Kimball House is well known. Expert cocktails feature house-made bitters and produce grown in the restaurant’s garden. The bar program has been recognized by the James Beard awards multiple times. Couple that with twenty varieties of oysters, and you’ve got yourself a success story.

Deep in the heart of Virginia Highland’s hipster wonderland is Blind Willie’s, one of the best places to listen to live blues in town. It is all about the music, man. Dark and divey, it’s a slice of heaven for blues aficionados. If you happen to catch Ms. Sandra Hall and her band trying to burn down the house on a Saturday night, you will not be sorry.

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This Edgewood bar has everything you need in a late-night bar (or anytime, really). Head to Church, as it’s affectionately known, grab a cheap beer and find a couch upstairs, then check out the walls packed with wacky art and bits of advice from namesake Sister Louisa. Of course, a ping pong match is a must, as is Church Organ Karaoke. Sister Louisa’s is a prime spot when you want to roll in for one last drink or two.

This Buckhead club is the longest-running Latin club in Atlanta. Upscale yet welcoming to all, Sanctuary is the place to be for hot Latin sounds. On Fridays, dance to the best in salsa, bachata, merengue, Latin pop-rock, and reggaeton. LGBTQ Saturdays feature guest DJs and a great vibe. No matter what dancing skills (or lack of) you have, head to Sanctuary for an all-night baile.

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This hip bar was late Anthony Bourdain’s first stop when he visited Atlanta in 2012. Hard to find and closed until 10:30pm, Octopus Bar is a dark, unassuming venue, serving great food and better experiences. You can’t help but feel like you’re in on a very special secret when stopping by. The lobster rolls are legendary. Pair them with the venue’s punk rock vibe, and you’ve got yourself a night to remember.

With multiple locations in Atlanta and outposts in Texas and North Carolina, Atlanta-based CRU is the largest Black-owned nightlife chain in the country. Offering unique hookah flavors, hemp oils, and a menu of specialty cocktails and small plates, CRU is a relaxing hangout that has become a destination among locals and celebs.

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Designated Atlanta’s 'elevated beer garden', 9 Mile Station earns that label honestly. For one, it’s more like dining in alfresco sophistication than in brewski bliss. For another, it is quite literally elevated. The venue sits atop Ponce City Market, a former Sears building turned food hall and shopping district. While more luxurious than its more common German beer hall cousin, 9 Mile Station does deliver on a robust beer menu. Order a flight to sample multiple varieties.

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Filled with pinball machines, overstuffed recliners, and table lamps, the bar resembles the set of Stranger Things, and it is oddly comforting. If you are craving a relaxed night out with friends, tacos, grilled cheese, boozy slushies, and an endless array of old-school video games, you’ve found your destination.

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