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Best Albuquerque Nightlife

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The best Albuquerque nightlife is indisputably downtown—and that's "best" measured by quantity and quality. The core stretch of bars and clubs, on Central between Second and Fifth streets, can look like one long college party to the uninitiated, but there are a few distinctive spots tucked in among the large-scale clubs and $2-shot bars. The city's best live-music venues are here, as is one of the best places to drink in Albuquerque, a funky barn of a bar that draws an interesting slice of the population. Look over on Gold Street, too, for a couple of smaller, more eclectic venues. The scene heats up after 9PM on Fridays and Saturdays and lasts until the clubs close after 3AM, and the sidewalks fill up with revelers looking for the next step. Elsewhere in Albuquerque, the scene is more sedate—Nob Hill has a few good bars that, despite their proximity to the university, are not really popular with students. In fact, this is the area people in their 30s typically head for—perhaps after catching a show at one of the small stages around town. Albuquerque is known as the live theater capital of the Southwest. We can't recommend a particular theater here, because the scene changes frequently, but expect anything from avant-garde stagings of Shakespeare to surreal improv. Check out the weekly Alibi for recommendations and listings for other top Albuquerque nightlife.

Anodyne

Neighborhood: Downtown
What makes Albuquerque nightlife interesting is that the city isn't big enough to be dominated by any one particular subculture. As a result, bars are often a mishmash of social interests, and one of the better places to see this at work is Anodyne, a big second-floor bar with creaky wood floors, hanging plants and dilapidated couches. It attracts college students, as well as professors, pool sharks and beer hounds, and even a few pinball fanatics who play the games in the back.

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Church of Beethoven

Neighborhood: Albuquerque Metro Area

It's not "nightlife" at all, but one of Albuquerque's most distinctive live music events is the Church of Beethoven, a weekly gathering that promises "church minus the religion." Every Sunday morning at 10:30AM, followers settle in to folding chairs in the Kosmos, a funky, cobbled-together café in a warehouse arts space. Free espresso (dangerous!) fuels a rapt appreciation for the classical musicians who take the stage to perform a selection of Beethoven's works for about an hour, punctuated by a short poetry reading and a few minutes of contemplative silence.

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Ibiza

Neighborhood: Downtown

If Hollywood types are in town for on-location shoot, they're almost certainly staying at the Andaluz, which means they might just be enjoying a drink at the swank patio lounge on the hotel's second floor. Even without the celebrity sightings, the place offers fine views: Around sunset, you can settle back in a comfy chair and watch the Sandia Mountains turn bright pink. Later at night, the crowd is very dressed up, to match the pricey-for-Albuquerque cocktails (the Sandia Fresca, a watermelon-lime concoction, is dangerously drinkable). The lounge is open only Thursday through Saturday; other nights, you can sip a drink in the cozy hotel lobby, set with cool private conversation nooks along one wall.

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Kelly's Brew Pub

Neighborhood: University & Nob Hill

Occupying a curvy old car dealership, this casual brewpub is an anchor in the Nob Hill scene. This has a lot to do with its huge outdoor patio, so starting in late afternoon on a sunny day, it fills with regulars of all stripes, checking out their fellow drinkers and any action on the sidewalk. There's a something-for-everyone menu (chicken fingers, edamame, bratwurst), but honestly, you're better off getting your nutrients from your beer—the list ranges from light pilsners to a heady Belgian-style tripel.

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Launchpad

Neighborhood: Downtown
Albuquerque's best alt-rock venue, the Launchpad has been a blasting-off point for the careers of local heroes like The Shins, and it has hosted every reputable indie touring band for more than a decade. It looks tiny from the street, but has a surprising amount of space inside, with an upstairs balcony bar for folks who want to stay out of the fray. And it's a good hangout spot even before shows, with retro sci-fi décor, a pool table, a generous everything-half-price happy hour and a good selection of beers.

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