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Best Atlanta Nightlife

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Atlanta's nightlife is a testament to the diversity and urbanity of this Southern metropolis, offering the quality and variety you'd expect from much bigger cities. Try Midtown and Downtown for some of the best Atlanta nightlife when you’re in the mood for sleek and modern surroundings with the beautiful young clientele to match. Current favorites include Halo and CosmoLava. For the GLBT crowd, Blake's on the Park is a fun and friendly favorite. To experience the city's grittier underbelly, head to Poncey-Highland, home of such offbeat classics as the Drunken Unicorn and the Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge—both great for seeing live music—as well as the Clermont Lounge, great for seeing live muses. Whether you are looking to rub elbows with the trendy crowd or appreciate dive bar grunge, the best Atlanta nightlife covers it all. It's worth noting that smoking is still allowed inside Atlanta bars, and while some have cordoned-off smokers' areas, a good many others haven’t, so be prepared for an old school onslaught of tobacco fumes.

Cosmo Lava (Cosmopolitan Lounge)

Neighborhood: Midtown
With CosmoLava, you get two of Atlanta's hottest dance clubs for the price of one (usually $10), including three dance floors and five bars on three nicely decked-out levels. CosmoLava has quickly become one of the best Atlanta clubs. The crowd is stylish, diverse and lively, definitely skewing under age 30, but casual it’s not. Leave your grunge T-shirts and Chuck Taylors in the closet as there’s a dress code and they do enforce it. If you’re willing to dress, CosmoLava offers a great snapshot of young Atlanta’s movers and shakers as they move and shake on the dance floors. The covered Tropical Deck is perfect for experiencing real Southern Comfort (both the social and the liquid varities). At peak times (midnight on weekends) there can be a CosmoLava line, but it's usually manageable. No athletic gear, hats, tennis shoes, shorts or flip-flops are allowed. Open until 3AM, Wednesdays to Saturdays only.

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Drunken Unicorn (The)

Neighborhood: Poncey-Highland
It's small, it's subterranean, it reeks of smoke, and the bathrooms are disgusting, but that's all part of the, um, charm (presuming you consider divey-ness charming). Besides, you come to the Drunken Unicorn for the music and it delivers solidly on that front. See great local and touring rock, punk, and alt-dance acts in a high-energy venue with an excellent sound system. In between sets, marvel at the unicorn paraphernalia. The Drunken Unicorn is one of the best Atlanta bars for live music. There's no sign out front, but it's part of underground dance club MJQ Concourse—though actually that has no sign either. Get to the approximate address and follow your ears. You’ll find it.

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Blake's on the Park

Neighborhood: Midtown
Often packed and always friendly, diverse, and lively, Blake's is a landmark on the city's thriving GLBT scene. "The Park" is Midtown's famed Piedmont Park, and there are even windows looking out onto it—though it'll probably be dark and you'll have plenty to keep your eyes on inside, like Blake's famous drag shows. There's never a cover, and drinks are cheap and strong. Blake's offers some of the best Atlanta nightlife with wild shows, unique entertainment and eccentric clientele. If you feel like returning to the scene of the crime in the light of day, Blake's even has a full menu that serves up a "Morning After" breakfast, as well as reasonably priced lunch and dinner options later on.

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Clermont Lounge

Neighborhood: Poncey-Highland
Sometimes called "a retirement home for strippers" and often named a can't-miss city attraction, the Clermont is Atlanta’s oldest strip club with a roster of aging performers to match.  See beer cans crushed in ways you'd never previously imagined, and meet the woman who's known for said talent, Clermont headliner Blondie. A night at the Clermont doesn’t really qualify as a trip to a sleazy bar; it’s an Atlanta institution and you’d only be embarrassed if you claim to have “experienced” Atlanta without trying it. Playboy.com pegged it one of the country's top ten dives. Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray were both spotted here while making movies in Atlanta in 2009. Hey, if it’s good enough for Dr. Venkman, who are we to cast aspersions? The only question is, are any of the current performers named Kelly?

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Halo

Neighborhood: Midtown
Designed for those who know where they’re going—literally, it has no sign on the entrance—Halo blends sleek décor with quality alcohol and smart music for a trendy crowd. It has great signature cocktails made by bartenders who know their stuff using booze that doesn't suck (Ketel One is Halo's well vodka, Makers Mark is the well bourbon). Halo is one of the best Atlanta bars for a great drink in a cool and secluded atmosphere. Adding to the exclusive ambiance, Halo's entrance is through an unmarked steel door on 6th St. beneath the Biltmore Hotel. You don’t have to knock twice and give the password, but you do need to know where you’re going. Open every night but Sunday, and there's no cover before 10pm.

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