In the 1980s, DJs Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles began spinning a new strain of disco music built from bass and drum machines in Chicago clubs, establishing the city as a hub of dance culture and the birthplace of house music. While you can't bust a move inside the most legendary Chicago nightclubs, a new crop of late-night destinations has stepped up to make sure the beat goes on. Whether it's the jam-packed season of summer music festivals or winter in Chicago, these dance clubs keep electronic acts and talented DJs onstage late into the night. If you're looking for spots with crowded dance floors, energetic soundtracks and attractive clientele, hop in the queue at some of the best nightclubs and dance clubs in Chicago.
The best dance clubs in Chicago
This subterranean club adjacent to Metro is a testament to Chicago's storied dance music history, hosting a weekly Sunday night party (Queen!) that carries the torch for the city's house music scene. Open four nights a week, the Wrigleyville venue is the local home base of internationally renowned DJs like the Black Madonna, Derrick Carter and Mark Farina. Whether you're listening to cutting-edge DJs or dusty old records, Smart Bar's cozy confines and European sound system make it an ideal place to lose yourself to dance.
While the first floor of Tao Chicago functions as an Asian-inspired restaurant, serving dishes like peking duck and lobster wontons, the venue's second floor is one of the city's hottest nightclubs. The 1,000-capacity space features towering murals and a disco ball mounted beneath a 10-foot-tall Japanese bell, setting the scene for packed parties soundtracked by some of the world's biggest DJs (Deadmau5 and Afrojack performed during the club's opening weeks). Cover charges tend to be expensive and reservations are nearly essential for marquee acts, but if you've got cash to burn, this is one of the Chicago nightlife scene's glitziest locales.
A preferred hideout of local weirdos since the ’80s, the Lakeview club once lived up to its name by regularly featuring German new-wave music and art installations. These days, Berlin is best known for its weekly drag shows, ’80s dance parties and quirky tributes to artists like Prince, Madonna and Björk. Stop by every Thursday for the rotating A Queer Pride Presents party, featuring events like Femme's Room and DURO that explicitly welcome LGBTQ, Latinx and other underrepresented communities.
Chicago's outpost of the kitschy Beauty Bar concept falls in line with iterations in New York, San Francisco and Austin, outfitted with sparkling walls and ’60s beauty salon furniture. Hang out under the disco ball at popular recurring parties like Timehop Thursdays and Emo vs. Pop-Punk or show up for themed Friday night happy hours. And if your nails need a bit of work, you can often score a manicure and a martini in the front room.
If you're looking for bottle service and floor-shaking EDM beats, you might want to go elsewhere. This Bucktown bar (tucked into the ground floor of what looks like a residential building) isn't a club in the contemporary sense, but it's one of the most reliable places for a night of dancing to a truly eclectic playlist. Grab a glass of whiskey or dirt-cheap PBR and elbow your way into the crowd moving to the rhythms of everything from ’80s hip-hop to Brazilian samba.
Located above Celeste in River North, Disco wears its retro aspirations on its sleeve, boasting a gigantic lighted dance floor and plenty of massive mirror balls. The playlists are also a conscious throwback to the ’70s, filled with key disco (duh), funk, soul and house music cuts. Show up on Friday and Saturday nights for champagne and dancing in this Instagram-worthy club.
This two-tiered nightclub brings the party to Lincoln Park... just across the street from the Whole Foods Market. You'll find big-name DJs like Steve Angello and Afrojack dropping beats, in addition to regular parties like Industry Monday and Pretty in Pink that always seem to draw a crowd. PRSYM boasts three bars, plenty of tables for your bottle service splurges and a VIP suite that you can rent out if you're feeling extra flush.
For some reason, the VIPs flock to this River North nightclub, which is frequented by folks like Chance the Rapper as well as members of the Bears, Bulls and Cubs. Though it once sported an underground bunker theme, the subterranean space has been remodeled to reflect the tastes of its chic clientele. You’ll find DJs spinning electronic beats, tables sporting bottle service and—if you’re lucky—a famous face to take a selfie with.
Located in Wicker Park's prominent Flat Iron Building, Debonair caters to the young people that fill the neighborhood's streets every weekend. On Fridays and Saturdays, the venue's signature video dance party keeps guests visually stimulated while they groove on the dance floor. Legendary goth and punk club Neo lives on in the basement on Thursday nights with a mix of New Wave and ’80s tunes.
Founded in 1995, this 300-capacity River North club plays up its "global vibe," inviting underground techno and electro artists from around the world to perform. The cramped confines make this one of the area's more exclusive dancefloors, so you'll need to show up early (or book a table) if you want to ensure a spot at the party.
Miss the days of drinking juice boxes with your friends? This expansive River North club serves many of its cocktails in plastic boxes, allowing guests to safely sip booze while exploring the massive three-level space. Neon lighting, graffiti and bright sculptures decorate the long corridors, where you're likely to spot groups knocking back shots that are dispensed from a miniature slot machine. Anyone with an early bedtime need not apply—LiqrBox keeps rocking until 4am in the morning (and 5am on Saturdays).
A slick, modern, multilevel Euro-style entry in River North's crowded club scene, this venue has kept clubbers busy ever since opening in 2004, hosting touring progressive house and techno DJs on a regular basis. With a solid lineup of resident DJs, costumed dancers and a powerful sound system, this multiroom venue always seems to boast a spectacular scene.
Located in an old River North warehouse that once operated as an electrical supply company, the Electric Hotel now harnesses the power of steady beats and moving bodies on a dancefloor. Boasting exposed brick walls, Instagram-friendly neon signs and a veritable bouquet of disco balls hanging from its ceiling, this nightclub is open five days a week until at least 4am (5am on Saturdays), making it a popular spot for DJ afterparties.
Looking for a textbook River North nightclub? LITE Chicago has the cavernous space, the dim lighting, confetti drops and bottles of booze adorned with sparklers. The one thing that separates LITE from many of the other clubs in the area is that it's open on Tuesday nights, when it hosts a weekly nostalgia-themed night that's packed with ’90s hip-hop and R&B hits.