AOL PICK from our Editors
Fort Lauderdale after dark might be called “the young and the restless.” Party people pour off the yachts into downtown looking for a place to refresh the buzz lest they sober up suddenly. They mix with young professionals on the prowl, turning Las Olas into a mini-Vegas of sorts. The options are more limited, naturally, if you have something more refined in mind, but if you look for it you’ll probably find it.
Neighborhood: Himmarshee Village (Historic District)
For almost 10 years this big open space, housed in a former brewery, has been drawing huge crowds of revelers who drape themselves across the eclectic mix of furnishings and tapestries to sip cocktails or puff on hookahs between dances. Cover charges vary according to what’s happening any given night—could be a famous DJ appearing, a hip-hop party, a drag show or ladies’ night—so call for a taped rundown. Be sure to dress nice, or you won’t get in; the dress code is strictly enforced. This is definitely not a first-date kind of place or a place to spend your anniversary, but if you’re looking for a younger, wilder vibe, this is it.
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Neighborhood: Fort Lauderdale
A lot of money went into this upscale nightclub when it was being designed just a few years back, and it shows: It’s a gorgeous lesson in sensory overload. Enter through the Zen Meditation Garden, dappled in green, pink and blue lighting. Inside, visit the Opal Room, a mood-changing white ultra lounge; the Meditation Room, with its floating beds and water views; and The Gate, where you can dance to the sounds pulsing from the Dynacore sound system amid a million-dollar cyber art collection. As modern as it is, the ambiance is reminiscent of Miami Vice, with its sexy, mysterious vibe. Various events tend to lean heavily toward model searches, Victoria’s Secret events, Maxim magazine parties—you get the picture.
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Neighborhood: Fort Lauderdale Beach
Legendary for decades of unbridled fun, the Elbo Room is still a mob scene every weekend, when patrons spill out of the bar onto the balcony that overlooks A1A. The beach bar opened in 1938 and has served as the backdrop for more than one Hollywood movie, the most popular being the 1960 Connie Francis film "Where the Boys Are." Loud music, free-flowing drinks and cheap beer—by the way, it’s cash only here—are the main attractions. Spring-breakers still love this dive, which has evolved with the times; its website features an online dating service, webcams, drink recipes and more. Throw shorts and a shirt over your swimsuit and get in on the fun.
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Forget the hotel part; this entertainment mega-complex is like Disney World for grownups. The massive, rock-’n’-roll-themed casino is packed every weekend with those eternal optimists who are feeling lucky. The Hard Rock Live is a venue that attracts talent, like comedian Kathy Griffin and popster Adam Lambert, to its stage. Dance clubs Opium, Gryphon and Passion are tucked among Murphy’s Law Irish pub, Wet Willies, Improv Comedy Club and Slims karaoke bar, so you can pick a spot and hang out there or hop from one to the next. Live musicians perform in the open-air plaza as shoppers and diners mill around from shop to shop, contemplating the idea of slipping just one Jackson into a one-armed bandit. After all, you never know.
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Neighborhood: Fort Lauderdale
Blue Martini is a favorite spot for good-looking locals looking to meet over, well, martinis. There are 42 kinds to choose from here, from the basic Dirty Russian to the lip-puckeringly sweet Cookies and Cream, served in a crumb-rimmed glass with an Oreo. Now, that’s a new twist on bedtime milk and cookies. A light menu of appetizers, flatbreads and half a dozen entrees is available just in case you want something to soak up whatever you’re sipping, but that’s not what this place is all about. The atmosphere, the live music every night and events like the wildly popular annual Little Black Dress Party are what keep this place hopping all year long.
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