The days of Madonna sightings and Versace parties are gone, but the nightclub scene of South Beach rages on. The players change and institutions come and go. Velvet ropes line the street, then vanish, only to return under new blinking signs. The music shifts, styles evolve, but the energy and excitement remain.
Whether you're searching for rock, hip-hop, EDM, or Latin vibes; whether you're looking to down a beer or sip expensive champagne; whether you're dressed to the nines or keeping it casual, South Beach is the place to go when it's time to get shit poppin'. Here are our favorite after-dark haunts east of the mainland, for now.
10. Purdy Lounge, 1811 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-4622; purdylounge.com. Sunday doesn't have to be the saddest night of the week — not when you head to this beachside bar for the last pinch of weekend at Made You Look Sundays. The 17-year-old bar just got a face-lift. All new decor and a refreshed cocktail menu mean more exciting things in store. This is one place in South Beach where you can feel free to be yourself.
9. Mango's Tropical Cafe, 900 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-673-4422; mangos.com/miami. If you're a tourist from the Caribbean or South America, this is probably the only club you'll go to for the duration of your stay. This is the place where salsa, merengue, and bachata reign. Here, the biggest reggaeton hits blast through pink and orange atmospheres, and any woman walking alone is bound to be swept up in a close gyration before she can reach the bathroom. This is a spicy place where lovers entangle themselves between bass bumps and live dancers entertain all manner of birthday girls and bachelorette parties into the wee morning light. Is it a little cheesy? Yes, but honestly, why shouldn't it be?
8. Rockwell, 743 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-793-3882; rockwellmiami.com. From the mind of SoBe nightlife impresario Chris Paciello comes an exclusive spot where tastes are expensive and style is high. Paciello was a man about town in the roaring '90s, known for his ability to attract celebrities like a magnet. And he's hoping that, with Rockwell, he can bring some of that lush era atmosphere to Washington Avenue. It's not all about big-name DJs, but stars such as Lenny Kravitz, Lupe Fiasco, and Timbaland have been spotted here. This is the kind of place visitors dream of experiencing when they arrive at Miami International Airport.
7. Twist, 1057 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-538-9478; twistsobe.com. Looking for a gay ol' time? Twist might be the gayest thing on SoBe. "Never a cover, always a groove" is the motto. Hot dancers in nothing but underwear grace the bar. Drag queens rule the stage. With seven bars, three dance floors, and different music and energy in each, there's a whole lot more to explore than just your sexuality. It's OK, straight people, you're allowed in.
6. Do Not Sit on the Furniture, 423 16th St., Miami Beach; 510-551-5067; facebook.com/DoNotSit. After more than four years in operation, Do Not Sit has carved a place in the hearts of Dade County hipster house heads. It's small, it's dark, and it's wonderfully decorated. It's kind of weird when the lights come on and you suddenly see the faces you've been dancing shoulder-to-shoulder with for hours. But when it's dark and muggy, it's got that true underground magic, a place that puts music first and welcomes all willing to dance.
5. Nikki Beach, 1 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-538-1111; nikkibeach.com. Where else can you party to the sounds of the best international dance DJs while wearing a bikini, catching rays, drinking fruity cocktails, and partying on one of the undisputed best beaches in the world? Yeah, without flying to Croatia, it's probably not happening for ya. Nikki Beach is one of those places that leaves an imprint of your mind for years — as long as you remember it the next morning.
4. LIV, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4680; livnightclub.com. Everyone knows LIV is the tits. Even Rolling Stone once called this club the second best dance spot in the nation. Everyone, from Calvin Harris to Lil Wayne, plays the Fontainebleau's fanciest club. On any given Sunday, you're liable to see some of the biggest names in hip-hop take the stage just for shits and giggles. If a star is in town — from Bieber to Future — chances are they'll stop by LIV. It's world-famous. It's in movies. It's the quintessential South Beach bottle-service joint. And we all know that's the truth.
3. Basement, 2901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-257-4548; basementmiami.com. This hideaway in the Edition Hotel is a multiroom pleasure emporium of sensory overload. The club itself is dope enough, a 330-person seatless dance floor and bar that regularly bumps feel-good party jams at weekly functions like Wednesday's Jelly with DZA, Friday's Discobox, and more. It's also the spot to catch special guest DJs from all around the world, but what really pushed Basement over the edge are the ancillary activities. Where else can you bowl and ice-skate while getting this turnt? Nowhere in this city, babe.
2. Trade, 1439 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-6666; trademia.com. Walk off Washington Avenue through the velvet rope and up the stairs to the second-floor house haven. It's dark, minimally decorated, just a few lights strobing to set the mood. It's all about the music here, and the menu offers international house and techno talent on a regular basis. Friday nights are dominated by the Link Miami Rebels crews and are always a good time to check out the spot.
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1. Story, 136 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-538-2424; storymiami.com. We're going to give it up to Story. Owned and operated by the same great peeps who bring you LIV, this Collins Avenue megaclub is the bottle-service alternative. It has a larger dance floor than the cramped LIV situation, but it has the same dedication to style and exclusivity. At Story, the bookers dig a little deeper with their musical selection, giving more underground artists a chance to play in a bigger, sexier environment. For that, we commend it.