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Best Philadelphia Nightlife

AOL PICK from our Editors

Twenty years ago, Philadelphia rolled up its streets at night. Now, with the revitalization of Center City and emergence of the hip Northern Liberties neighborhood, nightlife has become a staple of the Philadelphia experience. South Street still reigns as one of the premiere stretches for Philadelphia nightlife, where the gritty street fills up with an alternative crowd after dark, looking for cheap entertainment and even cheaper booze. Center City lures a more refined set with after-work happy hours and beautiful people, while Northern Liberties serves as a place of respite for hipsters the city over. Clubs and bars run strong until 2AM, when they shut down, forcing patrons to head home or head south in search of 24-hour diners and cheesesteak stands.

Nineteen

Neighborhood: Center City

Housed in a Hyatt, this posh hotel restaurant perches 19 stories above street level, making it the highest in the city. Come for dinner to check out the stunning city views, or simply ease up to the bar and settle in by the fire, drink in hand. The menu combines continental ingredients—cured meats and cheeses, pastas and chops—with a New American sensibility and is priced well enough for noshing while you imbibe. The vibe here is swanky, with floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant architectural design and a dangling pearl chandelier, so be sure to strap on your fancy shoes before you head out the door.

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Nineteen  

Bob and Barbara's

Neighborhood: South Street

A Philadelphia institution, Bob and Barbara’s does dive right. Patrons don’t come for stunning views or frou-frou cocktails; instead, they come for cheap drinks and cheap entertainment—whether it comes from weekly drag shows and jazz performances, or simply from the local drunks and riff raff surrounding the bar. Bob and Barbara's is one of the best Philadelphia bars for an unpretentious night out. Take a hint from the decor and order the $3 special, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam—the perfect primer for participating in porn bingo or a drunken spelling bee.

Silk City

Neighborhood: Northern Liberties

This former diner got a major facelift in 2007, when it was transformed into a bar/diner/dance club hybrid that resonated with the nearby Northern Liberties crowd. Since then, it’s been attracting the hip and hungry with upscale diner food (Thai chili-glazed chicken wings and the hot roast beef sandwich—a behemoth layered with gruyere, horseradish, black pepper cream, and served with French dip on the side), and after-hours dance club, where all-star DJs spin ‘90s songs that will have you busting a move all over the black-and-white tiled floor. If you're looking for one stop for dinner, drinks and dancing, Silk City offers some of the best Philadelphia nightlife.

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Chris' Jazz Café

Don’t let the decrepit block this jazz joint sits on scare you away—inside, the mood is velvet cool, with low lights and white linen tablecloths. While Chris’ is open for lunch, locals wait until after dark for the top-notch live music that happens Monday through Saturday. Cover charges ranging from $5 to $20 usually apply, but are well worth it for the chance to hear both touring acts and local legends like Bootsie Barnes.

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North Bowl

Neighborhood: Northern Liberties

Part diner, part bowling alley, this retro-chic Northern Liberties gem has a cool quotient not usually associated with bowling. Family friendly during the day, North Bowl packs in a more boisterous crowd after 9PM when they begin carding. Head straight for the lanes, where for $6 a game (come on a weekday or during happy hour to save a few bucks) you can bowl alongside Big Lebowski-themed art, and even score free drinks (if you bowl a Turkey—three consecutive strikes—you get a free shot of Wild Turkey). Once you’ve had your fill of the game, head upstairs for a menu mixed with surprisingly sophisticated fare (strawberry arugula salad, Thai beef skewers) alongside deep-fried drunk food (corn dogs and funnel cake). We recommend ordering a pitcher (or two) of beer and a basket of their famous tater tots, which some claim are the best in the world.

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