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How to Rock the Nightlife in Charlotte, NC

Travel Insider Guides
by Alex Nolette Feb 3, 2010
Everyone from Fancypants to Indie Rockers to Jagerbombers can find a good time in Charlotte. Here are our picks for the ten best.
Snug Harbor

A pirate themed dive-bar/venue. Snug Harbor is amazing in its simplicity because it’s one of the only dives Charlotte has. Cold beer (most likely PBR) and live music from bands you’ve never heard of are the only reasons to attend. Inexplicably, there’s also free homemade soup.

All that you have to do is prop up on a bar stool, order a beer, and then turn 180 degrees to see the stage. With new and interesting bands almost every night, who knows? You might just witness the next…somebody.

1228 Gordon St. in Plaza Midwood


If you haven’t heard of Penguin, you could be living on Mars. This nook has been highlighted everywhere recently. It was even privy to a stop-in by Food Network’s Guy Fieri. Yes, the food is excellent. The wings are killer and the burgers were just voted #1 in the nation by Gourmet Magazine.

What really makes this place special, though, is the atmosphere. An unassuming dark diner, this joint attracts all types (businessmen, college kids, punks, rockers, hippies) and Penguin is OK with that. Everything is set to the soundtrack of the jukebox that plays anything from The Ramones and Buddy Holly to Stone Temple Pilots and The Temptations. Grab a beer and some food. Make some new interesting friends. Just don’t neglect the Cheerwine in a bottle.

1921 Commonwealth Ave. (In the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood)

Dolcetto Wine Room

Everyone has “beer friends” and “wine friends”. Dolcetto is the place for you and your wine buddies to dust off your button-up oxfords and kick it. This place is chill, so don’t show up expecting to yell your war-cry and start a bar brawl.

Boasting one of the largest wine lists in Charlotte, Dolcetto is also one the cheapest wine bars in the city since they don’t charge corking fees. There are tons of wine choices to pair with their better than average cuisine of salads, sandwiches, and wraps.

Go on Fridays and Saturdays when the doors are open till 1 am, with live music from 8-11pm.

4625 Piedmont Row Dr. Suite 115D (On the “Crescent” at Piedmont Town Center)

Cosmos Cafe

With their brick walls and “Microcosm art gallery”, Cosmos nearly pulls off the Brooklyn art scene. Being so far away from the hipster hub, nearly is as good as it gets in Charlotte. They’ve even loaded the menu with tapas, wood-fire pizza, and sushi. It almost makes you want to go out and buy a messenger bag.

Dubbed Charlotte’s best cocktail bar by City’s Best, this place is not just known as a place for great food. Stefan Huebener (a bartender from the downtown location) was just selected as one of the top 40 “most inspired” bartenders of 2009 by Bombay Sapphire. People definitely come for their choice of over 50 martinis, but they also come for the loud music and all night dancing.

Go on Wednesdays when the Martinis are ½ price. Thursday nights have salsa dancing.

Downtown – 300 N. College St. #101 or Ballantyne Village at Robinson Farm – 8420 Rea Rd.

Sir Edmund Halley’s

What does the south know about English pubs? Not a whole lot. Sir Edmund Halley’s obviously doesn’t let that bother them and their dimly lit, wood paneled cave of a pub.

Plenty of true English beers are on tap and poured in traditional 20 oz pints. Not only do you get more beer for the money, they serve a highly touted menu of traditional English dishes like bangers & mash. For the less eclectic, there are also dishes for the true American and a few vegetarian choices.

Being rated Best Beer in Charlotte by City’s Best has as much to do with the bartenders as it does the drinking. The bartenders know their brewski and they pride themselves on being able to pour the “perfect pint” of Guinness. Pip-Pip, Cheeryo!

4151-A Park Road in Park Road Shopping Center

Bar Charlotte

No theme, no attitude, just bar. That’s their slogan. This dance club serves as a training ground to the newly of-age and the well disguised under-age. The goal of the night is to get as drunk as possible and then drench yourself in other people’s sweat as you dance the night away or until you vomit.

Rated as one of the best dance clubs in Charlotte by Citysearch and City’s Best, it’s strange that this place gets bad reviews by many patrons. You have to know what you’re getting into here. Don’t come here expecting to hear the latest and greatest DJs, but sweating it out to top 40 hits with college students never makes for a bad night. Don’t be afraid to order a Jagerbomb here, it’s the drink of choice. (Be Aware: You may have to use your war-cry.)

Go on Friday night for ladies night. 10 dollar cover most nights.

300 N. College St.

The Scorpio

Imagine walking into Dracula’s castle. The lights are a deep red and it’s hard to see through the fog. Then all of the sudden, multicolor laser lights start to pierce the darkness. A DJ starts to spin some “urban sophistication” and a dance floor filled with drag queens and their servants appear before your eyes. Another night at The Scorpio has begun.

The Scorpio is Charlotte’s Gay/Lesbian/Transgender nightclub. With an open door policy, everyone has fun here. Whether you’re gay or just don’t want to spend another night alone, its hard to turn down good drink specials and a killer dance setting.

Go on Saturdays for the drag show and $3 LITs. Go on Fridays for retro dance night. $5 cover for over 21, $8 cover for under 21.

2301 Freedom Dr.

Breakfast Club

Do you ever feel like burning up the dance floor to some early Madonna and Cindi Lauper? What about pulling out your acid-wash jeans and leg warmers? Apparently enough people in Charlotte do.

Breakfast Club is a 3 story dance club devoted to everything 80’s. Drinks have names like Long Island Mr. T. and Purple Rain. They even show 80’s MTV segments and 80’s movie clips. Some of the patrons come in full 80’s garb. The clothes might be authentic, depending on their age.

Breakfast club is also home to the best drink special in Charlotte: 123 Flashback Fridays ($1 domestics, $2 imports, $3 mixed drinks).

Only open Friday and Saturday from 8:00 – 2:30

225 N Caldwell St. (Uptown)

Dharma Lounge

One of the hottest new clubs in Charlotte, Dharma sports a Buddhist theme and part of the cover charge goes towards local charities.

The nightlife at Dharma is very eclectic. From business casual to hipster, everyone is starting to learn about Dharma’s good energy. The club owners pride themselves in Dharma being an arena for up and coming DJ talent, so the music is always new and refreshing. Anything from House to Retro Dance, everyone should feel enlightened.

1440 South Tryon St., Suite 105


Epicentre is not a club or a bar. It’s actually a miniature city inside uptown Charlotte. The modern architecture and proximity of restaurants, clubs, bowling alleys and movie theaters make Epicentre one of the best places to waste the night away. Everything you need is located in this same little city.

Epicentre is home to Whiskey River (Dale Earnhardt Jr’s bar), Howl at The Moon (dueling piano bar), and Suite and Kazba (two classy VIP clubs). Finding a bar and a dance floor is as easy as crossing the street. EC is continually growing and the city planners want to make it THE nightlife source in Charlotte.

210 E Trade St. (Bordered by East Fourth St., South College St., East Trade St., and the Charlotte Transportation Center)

***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***

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