Graphic by: Len Duenas
When you think of Houston, nightlife probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you – here’s our comprehensive guide to a night out in Houston. All spots listed are 21+ unless otherwise noted.
Before the list, here are some quick safety tips.
1. Always go out with friends and either A) a designated driver or B) fully-charged phones so you can take an Uber, Lyft or other ride-share option.
2. Share your locations with each other if the group decides to split. Text to make sure everyone gets where they’re going safely.
3. If someone gets sick, stay with them and make sure they aren’t lying flat on their back (vomiting can block their airway if they’re unconscious). Call an ambulance or bring them to the ER if necessary. Have them drink water and eat food if they can.
4. Always carry Narcan (an opioid overdose reversal agent) in case of overdose. If you’re not sure what an overdose looks like, this website has very helpful info.
NOTE: If you think someone might be overdosing but aren’t sure, it’s always better to administer Narcan than not to. Narcan isn’t harmful, even if the person isn’t actually overdosing, so use it if there’s any possibility that they are.
And now, Cooglife’s guide to navigating a night out in Houston!
Bauhaus: For lovers of techno and house music, you can’t beat Bauhaus. Located just between Downtown and EaDo, Bauhaus is a great spot if you’re looking for somewhere to dance without the dress code and price point of other classic clubs.
Clé (check Instagram for 18+ nights): I’ll be candid here that I’ve sort of aged out of the Clé crowd, but I have to give it a bit of credit where it is due.
Clé is the first modern day-to-night upscale Houston club, and does it well — bottle service is good, there are lots of sections and the vibe is classic club energy. If you’re interested in going out for a birthday or other occasion, or you just want a classic club to dance and drink, Clé is a decent bet.
Sekai: Much like Clé, Sekai is a day-to-night club that’s a strong competitor in Houston nightlife.
From what I’ve heard, Sekai isn’t quite as conducive to dancing as Clé, but it has a large number of sections, decent bottle service and otherwise hits the mark on a classic upscale club atmosphere. Check out their Eventbrite for deals on entry and specific events.
Rise Rooftop: Rise Rooftop, much like Bauhaus, is home to some fantastic DJs and music events. Located in Midtown (right by McGowen at Milam), Rise Rooftop is a massive venue, great for anyone looking for a high-energy spot to dance with a bit more variety in musical acts than Bauhaus.
Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge: One of the first “real bars” I went to when I turned 21, Captain Foxheart’s is a classic, excellent cocktail bar.
Nestled in a decent strip of bars and clubs along Main St., this bar is a semi-hidden gem, perfect for the slightly-hipster-y crowd looking for a good drink and mellow ambiance. Captain Foxheart’s is also a bit smaller than some of the other craft cocktail bars in Houston, so if you’re looking for a quieter spot, your odds here are pretty good.
Marfreless: Esteemed by lovers of the speakeasy-style bar, look for the unmarked blue door to enter Marfreless. Recently having celebrated its 50th anniversary (in November of last year), Marfreless’s great cocktail selection and moody ambiance have kept it competitive in the Houston craft cocktail scene.
Anvil: According to my friend Diego, this is the place to go “if you want really good drinks from some of the best bartenders in town.”
I personally haven’t gone, but I hear it’s very swanky and great for starting to break into the craft cocktail scene. Diego said it’s a place where you can go to the bar, tell them a spirit or flavor you like and get served a fabulous cocktail without much more hassle than that.
Julep: Julep, like you might guess, makes a mean mint julep. But it’s also home to a number of delicious craft cocktails. They have house cocktails, devised by their host of experienced bartenders, as well as a few “Julep Classics,” both of which are worth checking out.
Blur Bar (18+ to enter, 21+ to drink): Ahh, Blur Bar. This was the first “club” I ever visited, fresh out of high school, and it’s still one of my favorite spots.
If you’re in the mood for a high-energy, queer-safe, wild night out, Blur is the way to go. The drinks are strong and cheap (21+ only, of course), the dance floor gets insanely packed and the upstairs patio is super chill (and great for people-watching).
Pearl Bar: The only lesbian bar in Houston and one of only 29 bars in the Lesbian Bar Project, Pearl Bar is a unique staple of Houston’s queer nightlife.
Hosting karaoke nights, drag shows and other LGBTQ-oriented events, Pearl is a must-visit for lesbians and queer Houstonians in general.
Ripcord: I haven’t ever been to Ripcord myself, but from what I’ve heard it’s a huge part of Montrose queer nightlife. Ripcord is a self-proclaimed “kinky gathering space,” and one of Houston’s quintessential leather bars.
Numbers (18+ to enter, 21+ to drink): Numbers isn’t necessarily a “gay bar,” but it does have semi-queer vibes. It’s a safe spot for LGBTQ+ people, alternative-music lovers and goth/emo/punk culture lovers in the city. They have themed nights which you can see the schedule of on their website.
Lola’s Depot: This is my favorite dive bar simply because it’s unpretentious, cheap and a little grimy. PBRs are $1.75, there’s a patio, a jukebox and the bathrooms are awful. That’s basically all you need to know.
Big Star Bar: Big Star Bar is a beloved spot in Houston Heights, known for its “cheap beer, good beer and friends & neighbors” (which they proudly display on their website). Looking for a classic Texas dive? This is a strong contender.
Cecil’s Pub: Home to three pool tables and a friendly, unpretentious vibe, Cecil’s Pub is for the casual drinkers of the city. Diego, my friend, one again said nearly everyone here will tell you hello — it’s definitely a welcoming atmosphere.
Shady Acres Saloon: Another Heights classic, Shady Acres Saloon is for the country folks looking for a good dive bar to relax and grab a beer at. Shady Acres is also dog-friendly, so if you’re looking to bring your pup with you on your night out, this is the place for you.
Just Good Fun
Cidercade (21+ after 8 p.m.): Cidercade is a huge retro arcade with house-made ciders on tap. Entry is a flat fee of $12 at the door, and ciders range from about $5 to $10. It’s a pretty great deal (in my opinion) because the game selection is massive and it’s completely free-to-play after the door fee. If you’re not into ciders, they have sodas as well.
Lei Low: Lei Low is a neighborhood bar that also fits the classic “tiki bar” label (rum-oriented drinks, coconut mugs, etc.).
While it’s not as flashy as some other tiki bars outside Houston, Lei Low still hits the mark and is very popular for Houstonians and out-of-towners alike. If you’re into rum, or just looking for a cute tiki spot to hit up, Lei Low has you covered.
Neil’s Bahr: In my opinion, this is one of the most unique bars in Houston. A beacon of light to the Houstonian nerds interested in a good night out.
Neil’s Bahr hosts movie nights on Mondays, video game tournaments on Tuesdays and karaoke on Wednesdays. But their comic books and arcade games are available every day of the week. And of course, Neil’s Bahr also has an extensive collection of board and card games available every night.
Barbarella: A prime spot for dance lovers, Barbarella is held in high regard by everyone who enjoys the occasional uber-high-energy night out.
Barbarella puts on videos in addition to the music, focuses on keeping a danceable atmosphere and plays a combination of old and new songs. Great spot for the dancers out there.
Grand Prize: Grand Prize you will always be famous. Located in an unassuming building in the Museum District, Grand Prize is a funky little spot with a few pool tables, an upstairs DJ on the weekend and a humble, but decent, cocktail selection.
I recommend Grand Prize on the weekdays, when it’s less busy because it can get pretty packed on Fridays and Saturdays. Still, this is a great, quirky little bar.
Axelrad: Axelrad is a solid spot. There’s live music pretty often; you can find the schedule on their website.
Mostly I’m putting it on the list because it’s connected to Luigi’s Pizza (which is so good) through a backyard area full of hammocks for seating. My friends Julia and Diego highly recommend this one for the excellent beer selection and the iconic LED tree.
Notsuoh: My friend Julia recommends Notsuoh if you’re looking for a sprawling bar to explore. With three floors and eclectic decor, Notsuoh is a prime spot for bar hopping on Main St. You’ll know you’re there when you see the collection of figurines out front.
And that’s our guide to a night out in Houston! Be sure to check out Cooglife to see our tips to navigating the city.