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Best Orlando Nightlife

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Orlando nightlife lacks the glitz of L.A. or Vegas and the variety of New York, but there is a lot of musical talent in the area; there’s a reason all those boy bands started here. The ebst Orlando nightlife generally revolves around music. The shows at the area theme parks employ hundreds of singers and dancers and, combined with the convention and party business, it’s a good home base for entertainers. Iconic rockers Roger McGuinn and Pat Travers are residents as are Noble “Thin Man” Watts, Joey Fatone (’N Synch) and a couple of the Backstreet Boys. There are a half-dozen small concert venues and many restaurants and hotel bars feature live music. “Live music” typically means a solo performer or small combo, but some have full-on jazz, salsa or rock bands on weekends. If you’re looking for a party, you’ll find it in some of the best Orlando nightlife.

Wall Street Plaza

Neighborhood: Downtown
A pedestrian mall that fronts on Orlando’s main street, Orange Avenue, Wall Street Plaza has restaurants, bars and a whole lot of semi-rowdy 30-something patrons, especially during its block parties held Fridays and Saturdays from 10PM til 2AM. While the dancehall/rap/electronic crowd is packing the nearby Firestone, the Wall Street acts run more to rock and progressive. There’s something going on every night of the week, from Kona Music Mondays to Taco Tuesdays (with rock band karaoke), movies and reggae on Wednesday, open mic acoustic on Thursdays. The Plaza also hosts big-screen watch parties for sports events like the NBA playoffs and World Cup soccer.

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Firestone Live

Neighborhood: Downtown
The list of past performers is the best guide to the style here: Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, The Supervillains, Agent Orange, Stephen Marley, Coolio and Tone Loc. The club is located in an actual historic Firestone tire dealership on Orange Avenue. Forget the lifts and racks; after its 2007 remodel the interior is all 21st century chic with room for 1,500 partiers. There’s a VIP, two intimate DJ lounges upstairs and a patio out front in addition to the main room in front of the full sized stage. Firestone Live provides some of the best Orlando nightlife. The place is mobbed on the weekends, the party starts late—after 9PM—and ends whenever.

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Hard Rock Live/Velvet Sessions

Neighborhood: International Drive
The Hard Rock Live is a premier concert venue located on the City Walk at Universal Resort next door to the Hard Rock Café. They call it the “Colisseum of Rock;” with its towering pillars, theater seating and fine-tuned acoustics, that’s not far from the truth. Hard Rock Live is one of the best Orlando clubs, if you're looking for live music or entertainment. Check the website for upcoming events; they span the range from aging comedienne Joan Rivers to the irreverent Wanda Sykes and from retro bands like the Go-Gos to the Backstreet Boys revival to contemporary rock standards like Barenaked Ladies and Death Cab for Cutie. There are no bad seats in this house but there are some better seats, especially the tables along the upper balcony to the left and right of the stage. It’s a great view and you have a place for food and drinks. The Velvet Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel (a short distance away) also hosts live music called “Velvet Sessions” the last Thursday of each month. The lineup focuses on well-known acts slightly out of the limelight such as Joan Jett, Eddie Money, The Tubes, Foreigner and Blue Oyster Cult.

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Roxy

Neighborhood: Mills 50
Roxy is a straight-up dance bar for 20- to 30-somethings, and probably has one of the best Orlando nightlife scenes at that. In addition to the main floor, there’s a VIP bar, Cream, and the Suede Ultralounge upstairs. The music varies, but it’s all danceable: Tuesday is for Indie rock; Wednesday is Latin nights with salsa, meringue and bachata; Thursday is progressive; Fridays and Saturdays run to house, electronic, hip hop and Top 40. Drink prices are affordable and the club runs specials, like dollar drinks until 11:30PM on Tuesdays and no-cover and free drinks until 11pm on Saturdays. The Roxy is close to the University of Central Florida with its 40,000 students, so it stays busy. With the Firestone, this is the cornerstone of Orlando’s late night party scene.

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House of Blues

Neighborhood: International Drive
The Orlando branch of this club chain is at Downtown Disney, its rusting water tower a prominent punctuation mark on the skyline. The entertainment isn’t limited to blues—it’s also a rock club, a soul club, a jazz club, a salsa club. Guests range from Cheap Trick, Cinderella and Cyndi Lauper to Ted Nugent and up and coming blues artists. Sundays, HOB hosts a Gospel Brunch that nourishes both the stomach and the soul.   

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BB King's Blues Club

Neighborhood: International Drive
The thrill isn’t gone yet: Riley “Beale Street Blues Boy” King may be getting older, but he can still play that thang with the best of them. Although King’s trips to play in his Orlando club are growing less frequent, the venue showcases the country’s best young blues talent—you know, under 60—in the country. The house band, BB King’s All-Stars, plays Tuesday through Saturday and brings the house down. Their Motown medley will get you out of your chair no matter how much corn liquor you’ve had. The space is large, with tables on three sides of the stage for dinner and a space at the front to dance for those who’re so inclined. The crowd is an interesting mix of visitors who’ve popped in on a whim and locals of all ages out to catch some righteous riffs. BB King's is one of the best Orlando clubs to sit back, relax and enjoy the blues.

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Bosendorfer Lounge

Neighborhood: Downtown
Pianists will tell you that a Bosendorfer is fuller, richer and more elegant than any other grand piano, and the Bosendorfer Lounge—named for the piano in the center of its rotunda—is all of those things. Located in the Grand Bohemian Hotel downtown, the lounge is hung with owner Richard Kessler’s fascinating contemporary art collection. The lounge's live music every night, including jazz nights that feature an ever-changing mix of Orlando’s best jazz artists putting it on the list as one of the best Orlando nightlife for those interested in a more mellow evening. Once per quarter there’s a Sunday jazz brunch—simulcast on jazz FM station WLOQ. You won’t find rowdy partiers here, but you will find the room packed with Orlando’s power elite having après dinner drinks (older) or tuning up before a trip up the street to Firestone Live for an all-nighter (younger).

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