AOL PICK from our Editors
We have to be honest: despite the many bars and clubs, even places listed as the best Boston nightlife end up going to bed kinda early. Compared to New York, Chicago or even Austin, the city’s 2AM closing time for bars seems rather square, a hang-up from the Puritan past. Worse, the trains stop running an hour or so before that. But that doesn’t mean the city doesn't know how to have fun. If you look closely, you'll find the best Boston nightlife caters to every desire—from boisterous dance clubs and upscale wine bars to comfortable beer-and-oyster bars.
Neighborhood: Kenmore Square
Yeah, there's good food and all, but instead, we're drawn to Eastern Standard by the chance to get a great cocktail in an upscale yet fun environment. Selling points include its old-school, bistro-cool atmosphere in a high-ceilinged room and its professional mixology—happily pulled off sans pretension. The only downside is that the place can get loud and crowded before and after ballgames at Fenway Park, just around the corner. Nightlife historians among you may enjoy noting that you're drinking on the grave of the late, lamented punk rock club, The Rat.
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U2 played their first American gig at Paradise Rock Club, which opened its doors in 1977. The Police, Coldplay, Tom Petty and Elvis Costello are among the other names who played here before they hit theaters and arenas, along with local faves like Dresden Dolls, Buffalo Tom and Mission of Burma. It’s sometimes a battle to get from the stage to the bar for a refill, and the low-ceilinged entrance hall can be claustrophobic on sold-out nights (a remodel is supposedly in the works). But this is still some of the best Boston nightlife and a great place to see stars on their way up, like Diane Birch or the Futureheads—or bands like Los Lobos and Joe Jackson, who aren’t playing bigger venues on their current tour. The front room has food, art exhibits and acoustic musicians playing groovy sets.
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Neighborhood: Fenway Park
Few remember that the House of Blues chain started in Cambridge, in a funky little building just off Harvard Square. The current incarnation is a mega-club on the Lansdowne Street entertainment row, just behind Fenway Park’s Green Monster. It still offers the rootsy art, comfort food and Sunday Gospel Brunches that are HOB trademarks. But basically this is another big music venue where you can see everyone from Sharon Jones to Ted Nugent to the New Pornographers. House of Blues may not be on top of the list of best Boston clubs, but if you want to see the hot show in town tonight, this is likely the place, for better or worse.
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Club Passim, one of the oldest and best Boston bars carries a weight of history that goes back to 1958 and the opening of Club 47 a couple of blocks away. That coffeehouse venue was an epicenter of the 1950s folk revival, and saw gigs by Joan Baez when she was just 17 (her buddy, Bob Dylan, played a few numbers between her sets). By the mid-'90s, the spot was known as Club Passim. Artists like Shawn Colvin and Suzanne Vega played here early in their careers. Now the schedule is a mix of newbies, returning favorites and the occasional old lion of folk. Look for Lori McKenna, Ellis Paul and other local favorites. All shows allow all ages, and it's a very mellow scene.
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Want jazz? You can pick a ritzy hotel bar (Scullers Jazz Club), a neighborhood listening room (Ryles) or a funky little dive (Wally’s). On any given night, though, Regattabar can be all of the above. Well-situated in the ritzy Charles Hotel, it is a serious and intimate listening room that hosts everything from world music to smooth jazz. Regattabar is one of the best Boston clubs to sit back with a cocktail and drink in your surroundings. Past performers have included piano playing legend McCoy Tyner and then-up-and-coming Norah Jones.
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