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Best Tucson Nightlife

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Tucson’s daily Arizona Daily Star newspaper publishes a very thorough weekly entertainment guide on Thursdays, called Caliente. The best online guide to Tucson entertainment is the Tucson Weekly’s music site. Arena-style concerts in Tucson usually book at the two nearby casinos, Desert Diamond and Casino del Sol (see below). The best strolling nightlife scene is on Fourth Avenue, or downtown around the Hotel Congress; things heat up after 8PM here.

Club Congress

Neighborhood: Downtown

The Hotel Congress’s compact lounge is, as you’d expect, an eclectic place with an eclectic style. Live acts range from world music to alt rock to bluegrass to turntable artists; the bar’s Tap Room harks back to 1919 and thus has survived Prohibition—how many bars can you visit that can say that? Drinks are $3 on Sundays, and Wednesday through Sunday nights there are drink specials after 10PM. The Beaux Arts décor (brocade-like wallpaper, velvet stage curtains) adds to the unique flavor.

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Casino Del Sol

Neighborhood: Southwest

This Pascua Yaqui tribal venture has a 5,000-seat arena, AVA Amphitheater, that regularly draws top acts to Tucson, with a pronounced emphasis on Latin and Mexican stars who hew to such musical genres as Tejano and Norteño. The casino’s Paradiso Bar & Lounge also offers live music most nights, featuring regional stars, again with a distinct Hispanic emphasis. Those who have never been to a Native American casino will find them lower-key, more user-friendly and a bit less tawdry than the Vegas versions.

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Pearl

Neighborhood:

Midtown

No baggy jeans, T-shirts or flip-flops are welcome at this glitzy bar and dance club, restaurant and lounge. The restaurant, Orchid, serves Asian-style tapas and dim sum. The Mantra dance floor has an oxygen bar and unisex (they call them “omnisex”) bathrooms; the semi-private indoor lounge Touch, with its patent-leather walls, offers valet and VIP service; and the quieter outdoor lounge area, Element, affords a sophisticated retreat from the indoor hubbub. It’s also one of America’s last havens for smokers. Pearl advertises itself as “Vegas-style,” and cements its ethos with 150 pounds of pearls embedded in the counters and bars throughout.

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Cactus Moon

Neighborhood:

Midtown

Tucson’s seminal cowboy dance hall is more than just line dancing and singers named Travis and Merle; Wednesday is hip-hop night, just to be ecumenical about things. It’s also ladies night (drinks are a quarter for those of female persuasion), while Tuesday night is ’80s Kiss-style music with Metalhead. Confused yet? OK, the dress code bars “wife-beater” shirts (think Archie Bunker) and excessively ripped jeans, so please don’t come over directly after mucking out the stables. Live music is supplied most Thursdays and Fridays by regional country/Latin acts, and Saturday is country Top 40 night. Yes, this is where the line dancing may happen, but bring your waltz and two-step chops, too.

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IBT's

Neighborhood: Fourth Avenue

A friendly, low-key gay and lesbian bar on Fourth Avenue, IBT’s welcomes customers of all persuasions to its high-style-dress confines. Wednesday is drag-show night, there’s karaoke on the patio on Sunday, and proximity to the university brings a lot of college students through the doors. The cramped dance floor (techno and Top 4) draws complaints, as does the weekend popularity with the straight crowd.

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