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Best Los Angeles Nightlife

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The best Los Angeles nightlife hotspots are scattered all over city, but Hollywood has, by far, the highest concentration of clubs.  Many of the celebrity haunts have guest lists, but most also serve food; so here’s a trick to get in—make dinner reservations and then stick around for the festivities, which start around 11PM. The “in” spots change in the blink of an eye, but Los Angeles also has great music venues and some insider events that cost nothing. The Sunset Strip may not be what it was in the ‘80s but there’s still a lot to do and travelers can find a lot of action here and on Hollywood Boulevard in the evening hours.

LACMA and Chamber Music

Neighborhood: Hollywood
From April through November, on Friday nights from 6 to 8PM, there are free jazz concerts in the L.A. Times courtyard. Drinks and food can be purchased. A couple of thousand locals show up, and the people-watching is great. A bonus: after 5PM, admission to the museum is “pay what you wish.” On Sundays, year-round, at 6PM in the Bing Theatre, chamber music concerts are free of charge.

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Independent Shakespeare CompanyIvy Augusta

Independent Shakespeare Company

Neighborhood: Griffith Park
There are a number of Shakespeare theatre groups in Los Angeles, but this one has the fun of a minstrel show with minimal props, costumes put together on a shoestring, and a multi-cultural cast. After some years in Barnsdall Park, the company has moved to Griffith Park. Performances take place summer nights in July and August (check the websites for exact days)—bring a blanket and a picnic. There’s no admission fee, but hats are passed at the end of each performance, and you can donate what you wish—or not. Great for families.

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House of Blues Sunset Strip

Neighborhood: West Hollywood
This tin-clad venue on Sunset Strip has an ever-changing calendar of concerts, with the occasional superstar performing. Even when you’ve never heard of the band, the place is jumping and fun. There’s also a restaurant serving salads, burgers, steaks and grilled fish, along with gumbo and Cajun dishes.

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The Laugh Factory

Neighborhood: West Hollywood
LA has famous comedy venues, including the Comedy Store and the Improv. The Laugh Factory features name as well as up-and-coming comics, with functional-at-best décor but an intimate room that’s perfect for watching standup. Many legendary comics have passed through here, including Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, Michael Richards, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. The Laugh Factory opened in 1979 and while it has changed over the years it still is ranked as the number one comedy club in the country and continues to produce top comedians.

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Music Center

Neighborhood: Downtown

This is the umbrella group for the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum. The resident companies are the Los Angeles Philharmonic, L.A. Opera, L.A. Master Chorale and the Center Theatre Group. Check the calendar for a full listing of shows.

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Bar Marmont

Neighborhood: West Hollywood
Bar Marmont manages to be low key, elegant and cool all at the same time. The décor is at once glamorous and kitschy, hipster-cool with black laquer walls and banquettes offset by a ceiling full of faux butterflies, suspended raw lightblubs and red Chinese lanterns. Oil paintings grace the walls, including one of Ho Chi Minh. The open skylight is a nice touch and opens up the bar to the night sky. You could come for dinner, but our favorite reason to visit is for the drinks. This is one of the few places where you can find old classics like the sidecar, international favorites like the Pisco Sour (a Peruvian wonder made with pisco, lime, simple syrup and egg white) and newfangled concoctions that pay homage to Hollywood’s past, like the Ginger Rogers, a tantalizing mix of vodka, Lillet, lemon juice, mint and muddled grapes. Come sober so that you can try all three.

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Comedy StoreThe Comedy Store

Comedy Store

Neighborhood: West Hollywood
A night at Comedy Store is a rite of passage on any Los Angeles vacation. Yes, you’ll have to pay to get in the door on most nights (ticket prices vary depending whose on stage, so call ahead for details) and there’s a two drink minimum once you get inside but we promise that it’s worth it. Whether or not you recognize the performers, there’s always something hilarious taking place on set in one of the three rooms (this is, after all, a club that prides itself on class acts—everyone from Robin Williams to Whoopi Goldberg to Jim Carey have whooped it up here). It’s so dark that you won’t be able to see the crowd, but you’ll certainly hear them laughing.

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Roxy (The)

Neighborhood: Hollywood
The Roxy has been a mainstay of Sunset Strip since its debut in 1973.  The original owners were heavy hitters in the music industry, and Neil Young was the headliner. Since then everyone from Guns N' Roses to the Chemical Brothers have rocked out here. The line-up changes constantly so be sure to check the website to find out who is playing before you come. These days the Roxy tends to feature heavy metal. The music venue is downstairs, but head upstairs to "On the Rox" (once so fashionable it was almost impossible to get into) for a more intimate space where you can listen to music and chill. The Roxy isn't what it used to be, but it's still a lot of fun.

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Viper Room

Neighborhood: West Hollywood
You haven't experienced L.A. nightlife until you've been to the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip. The (in)famous club opened in 1993, and its main attraction has always been its dark, grungy boys' club atmosphere, especially during the period when Johnny Depp was an owner and habitue—and when River Phoenix overdosed on drugs and died on the sidewalk outside. It's still popular these days and draws locals and travelers, but rarely the celebrities it once did. The DJs spin top 40s and the drinks are strong, but the main draw is the rock performances (check the website for schedules). After all these years the Viper Room still cultivates its old outlaw image, but it's pretty tame now.

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