Trendy clubs, bars, lounges and other nightspots have quickly popped up in Phoenix, says Doug Mackenzie, director of media relations for VisitPhoenix. “The nightlife scene has drastically changed during the past five years as Phoenix has undergone a renaissance,” he says. “Several downtown entertainment venues have come to life, and within walking distance of the Phoenix Convention Center and nearby hotels are venues such as FilmBar, Crescent Ballroom, Sky Lounge, The Duce and Hard Rock Cafe.”
Scottsdale, dubbed the “desert version of Miami Beach” by The New York Times, also has an abundance of exciting nocturnal options. “The nightlife scene has been and continues to be incredibly active,” says Kelli Blubaum, vice president of convention sales and services for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The opening of W Scottsdale in 2008 further infused the destination’s reputation as a nightlife hot spot.”
Pool at the W Scottsdale
Most of the nightspots that we feature in these cities are highly innovative, while others are more traditional. All of them—as well as local hotels, resorts and conference centers—have been bustling during the nightlife explosion and are ideal spots for attendees to relax and casually network at after a long day of business.
Live-music hot spots: Locals hailed the Crescent Ballroom as a much-needed addition to downtown Phoenix when it opened in late 2011. It features a wide variety of musical and other performers and accommodates crowds in the 300–550 range. The venue is also a lounge—open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekends, with full bar service and free live music every day. It includes a restaurant, Cocina 10, overseen by James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco and local chef Doug Robson. Bianco terms the cuisine at Cocina 10 “Mexican-accented road food.”
The Rhythm Room Roots, Blues & Concert Club, which opened in 1991, hosts local and national acts on a nightly basis. The club is located near Highway 51, on the south side of Indian School Road. Other music options include Char’s Has the Blues, a small club in the midtown area featuring blues and rhythm-and-blues performers every night; Copper Blues Rock Pub & Kitchen, a downtown establishment offering free live blues and rock performances and more than 60 beers on tap; and the downtown Hard Rock Cafe Phoenix, featuring live performances, tons of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and a steady diet of recorded rockin’ tunes.
Nightclubs with personality plus: The popular Sky Lounge offers two distinct settings under one roof: a classically designed full-service bar downstairs and a high-energy patio area with a retractable roof and spectacular views of downtown Phoenix upstairs. Great for groups, it’s one of the top Latin clubs in the city for dancing, mingling and having fun, and each floor has its own DJ booth. Sky Lounge is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Though it’s often designated as a gay club, Charlie’s Phoenix appeals to a wide diversity of people who love country music and are looking for a fun night out. Line dancing and dance lessons are just a couple of the events that fill the calendar at this club on Camelback Road. DJs break out the hottest country hits and the dance floor is packed to the gills on weekends. Groups that don’t have a pressing schedule might want to take advantage of the late closing (4 a.m.) on Fridays and Saturdays.
Cutting-edge bars & lounges: Perched on the third-floor pool deck at the Hotel Palomar Phoenix, Lustre Rooftop Garden is a poolside oasis in the city’s downtown area. Guests can quench their thirst with fresh-squeezed juices and cocktails on tap, satisfy hunger pangs with healthful tasty bites and relax under a shady umbrella while taking in sweeping views of the urban landscape. Meeting planners can rent a portion of Lustre, which accommodates up to 300 people, or buy out the whole place. “Groups are given the opportunity to have chef Stephen Jones create a memorable menu to rival any restaurant in the city,” says Jan Bracamonte, who helps handle public relations for the popular spot. “Our lead mixologist, Stephanie Teslar, can also shake things up with her fresh, innovative cocktail program.”
Lustre Rooftop Garden, Phoenix
Angel’s Trumpet Ale House, opened in August 2012, is one of the newest downtown places to enjoy craft beer, great food, great times and sunshine. It has more than 30 beers on tap, cask-conditioned ales and draft wines. Lux Central is a midtown hipster coffee shop and bar featuring unique throwback Prohibition-era cocktails. It offers coffee hand-roasted in-house that can be paired with a seasonal pie, bear claw or even a full-fledged meal. It also has an impressive list of beers, wines and mixed drinks.
Captivating live theater: Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Stand Up Live Comedy Theater, which opened in 2011, books some of the biggest names in comedy, including Mike Epps and Damon Wayans, in an upscale environment. Semiprivate and full-club buyouts are available. Groups of 500 people can be accommodated and can hire a comedian for their events.
At Arizona Broadway Theater in Peoria, 13 miles from Phoenix, each patron receives table-side service from a full menu. The menu changes for each show, themed after the production itself (for example, Asian cuisine is served for South Pacific). The 3,000-square-foot kitchen can accommodate three events simultaneously. The Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater, which began in 1989, is the longest-running murder-mystery theater in Arizona history. Its performances are held in the Mystery Mansion Room in the Paradise Valley Mall. Group discounts are available.
And now for something completely different: Retro is definitely the style at The Duce, a young, indie venue in the warehouse district that features the original bar from the Black Orchid Jazz Club in Chicago; a 1915 Chicago drugstore soda fountain; a gym-inspired clothing store; and old-school athletic training equipment such as chin-up bars and punching bags. Guests wait in old high-school bleachers to have their turn at games such as table tennis, shuffleboard and foosball, and on weekends, a DJ spins tunes. It’s available for private events and can accommodate up to 600 people.
The Duce, Phoenix
FilmBar is a beer/wine bar with more than 25 craft beers, 12 wines and a separate soundproofed room dedicated to screening new, classic, cult and local independent films in a micro-cinema setting (70 seats). Groups can enjoy drinks while watching films or cozy up to the bar. FilmBar is in the Roosevelt Row area of downtown Phoenix.
Lucky Strike, a popular destination for groups on Jefferson Street, features 12 state-of-the-art bowling lanes and three tournament-quality billiard tables, two full bars and a four-lane private suite with four lanes. “We are not what you think of when you think ‘bowling alley’; we are a social lounge with bowling mixed in,” says Eric Young, senior marketing director for Lucky Strike Entertainment, which owns Lucky Strike venues across the nation. Gypsy Bar, located next to Lucky Strike, is owned by the same company and on weekends it offers such attractions as karaoke, burlesque shows, fire breathers and aerial artists. An event planner can customize group visits to Lucky Strike and Gypsy Bar, which each accommodate up to 500 people. The entire venues or partial spaces can be rented.
Lucky Strike, Phoenix
Meeting & lodging places that buzz: In the busy CityScape district, Hotel Palomar Phoenix is contemporary, connected and cosmopolitan. Its Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails features a “gastro-lounge” concept that pairs seasonally inspired chef-driven cuisine with artisanal wines, craft cocktails and locally brewed beers. The 242 guest rooms are among the largest in downtown Phoenix, and all are equipped with yoga mats. The hotel also provides 10,000 sq. ft. of flexible space for eco-friendly meetings.
The Clarendon Hotel, located midtown, boasts 1960s retro decor, hip employees and clientele, and an exciting atmosphere. The rooftop deck and lounge area is a favorite local hangout, offering outstanding views of the Phoenix skyline and surrounding mountain ranges. The hotel’s popular Gallo Blanco Cafe and Bar draws a devoted fan base. This boutique hotel provides 105 guest rooms and 660 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel turns into a hot spot at night with its Icon Lounge, specializing in handcrafted martinis and mixed drinks. The hotel provides 527 rooms and 60,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Phoenix Convention Center, inspired by the hues of the Sonoran Desert and the cool tones of the Arizona sky, has natural light streaming in from dramatic architecture inspired by the Grand Canyon. This downtown facility has 900,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibition space, including 106 meeting/breakout rooms and three ballrooms.
Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, Scottsdale
Live-music hot spots: Multiplatinum singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley opened a club, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, in downtown Scottsdale in July that is much more than a whiskey joint. It features live music and DJs as well as Southern cuisine with Arizona flair. “We have taps on tables so that guests can pour their own beer,” says Tina Peterson, the club’s event coordinator. “We’re also the first bar in Arizona to have liquor on our taps.” The venue can hold up to 300 and can be fully or partially bought out by groups.
Located in the heart of Scottsdale’s prestigious Old Town district, Martini Ranch has been a premier live-music destination for almost two decades. It helped to catapult Coldplay, Avril Lavigne and other performers to international stardom. The venue, which accepts group reservations, blends modern style with tradition in a high-energy atmosphere that includes VIP seating and two downstairs bars. The Shaker Room upstairs offers plenty of dance space and a huge bar. Every night of the week and usually on weekends, Old Town Tavern features live music from indie pop to country to good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll by artists from throughout the local area. Groups of up to 15 can rent out the upper patio until 11 p.m.
Nightclubs with personality plus: Named after the ancient Hindu concept roughly translated as illusion or dream, Maya Day + Nightclub opened this spring in the heart of the entertainment district and already has gained a loyal following. It caters to young adults and at night turns into a dance club, featuring local to internationally acclaimed DJs and live music. It has a resort-style feel with lounges, private and VIP cabanas and daybeds, all of which surround Maya’s gigantic pool. A floating stage at the center of the pool is used to host music and DJ performances and fashion shows.
Also located in Scottsdale’s entertainment district, Hi Fi Kitchen & Cocktails is a music-centric, retro haunt with a full menu of amped-up American classics served late into the night and a cocktail and adult (alcoholic) milkshake menu to match. Hi Fi includes a square island bar, two community tables, outdoor high-tops and resort-style lounge furniture. It boasts a vintage speaker wall erected with wood-framed speakers and throwback black-and-white televisions, along with the showstopper, a digital graffiti wall that projects an ever-evolving array of 3-D images throughout the night.
Cutting-edge bars & lounges: Named one of the best bars in America by Esquire magazine, Jade Bar at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain is completing a major renovation in October that will double its lounge area to 1,748 sq. ft., but maintain its signature feature: floor-to-ceiling windows that offer outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and valley. Its stand-up drink bar is made of authentic jade and its patio includes a retractable shade, heaters and a fireplace. Jade Bar offers its guests cuisine from its renowned elements restaurant, in addition to a wine list and exquisite cocktails that are crafted with hand-selected spirits and fresh juices, herbs and vegetables.
Rendering of Sanctuary Camelback Mountain’s expanded Jade Bar, Scottsdale
The W Scottsdale, near Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall and within walking distance to the entertainment district, boasts three vibrant, chic destination lounges/bars. Shade Lounge & Bar, a Mediterranean-inspired open-air venue, was named to Nightclub & Bar Magazine’s “Top 100 of 2011.” Groups can party indoors against a dramatic backdrop of desert-inspired water-and- fire design elements or socialize alfresco in the stylishly landscaped patio. The W knocked down the walls of a traditional lobby to create the Living Room, Lounge and Bar, where guests enjoy socializing over cocktails. After 9 p.m., the Living Room transforms into a stylish lounge where DJs spin sultry, inspiring beats. National and local recording artists perform every Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to midnight. Some groups at W might prefer basking on the daybed and lounging pods in 13 private cabanas at Sunset Lawn.
Shade Lounge at W Scottsdale
Captivating live theater: Each week, Stand Up Scottsdale in Old Town features some of the best up-and-coming national touring comedians from Chelsea Lately and Comedy Central shows. The venue’s pre-show lounge can accommodate 80 people and has a full bar and grill. The main showroom handles up to 170 and has two full bars. The club, which opened in 2011, arranges for comedians to perform in-house for groups or at other sites and can fit any group’s budget.
The Scottsdale Valley’s longest-running comedy club, the Comedy Spot, features nationally known comedians and books comics for group functions at its facility and other venues. Located in central Scottsdale, it can be rented for groups of up to 100 and offers a full bar and in-house catering.
And now for something completely different: Located off Highway 140 in northern Scottsdale, Studio Movie Grill offers first-run movies and alternate programming alongside an American Grill menu and full-service bar. At the push of a button, attendees can place their orders with an SMG team member directly from their seats and have food and beverages delivered before and during the show.
Groups wanting to spend an evening sampling a variety of Scottsdale’s downtown dining options might want to try the Old Town Dinner Tour by Arizona Foods. The tour explores the culture of this historic area of the city, from its beginnings in the Wild West days to its present status as a world-renowned culinary destination. “During this three-hour adventure, participants travel through time and learn about the area’s Wild West roots and how the area has developed into the trendy nightlife, dining, arts and shopping hub it is today,” Blubaum says.
Meeting & lodging places that buzz: Perhaps no resort in Scottsdale better reflects the recent regional shift in style than Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, which has been transformed from fading racquet club to plush hipster getaway and ultra-discreet celebrity haunt. Set against the dramatic sandstone cliffs of Camelback Mountain, it offers clusters of luxurious, contemporary mountain casitas featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the valley; private terraces with soaking tubs; plush, colorful modern furnishings; and lava-rock fireplaces. Healthful Asian-influenced cuisine is served with panoramic views at Elements, the resort’s well-appointed restaurant. Ideal for small groups, the resort has 105 casitas and 3,204 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, buzzes at night as three pools offer full-service bars serving cocktails and entrees. The hotel has 649 guest rooms and added the 52,331-square-foot Palomino Conference Center as part of a major renovation project completed last year. This increased the resort’s total indoor/outdoor meeting and event space to 156,000 sq. ft.
The Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center, a four-minute walk from McCormick Ranch Golf Course, combines modern accommodations and technologically advanced meeting spaces with amenities that capture the elegance of historic haciendas of the past. It boasts 326 ballrooms and 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including the 10,000-square-foot Coronado Ballroom. Meeting planners can opt for the Benchmark Conference Plan, a per-person packaged pricing plan that allows them to work with conference professionals to meet specific objectives.
While many areas of the nation boast a lively nightlife scene, few can match the innovative qualities of the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the opening of The Yard in north-central Phoenix in February. Situated on the site of a former motorcycle garage and dealership, it is a 53,000-square-foot space that houses the Culinary Dropout gastro pub and Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend restaurant. Plans call for The Yard to eventually house a coffeehouse and additional restaurants.
It’s already a great place for groups partly due to the large open space and the affordable food and drinks at Culinary Dropout and Little Cleo’s. Guests at these restaurants can use the adjacent interactive gaming area, with bean-bag toss, table tennis, foosball and shuffleboard. Large groups can reserve a section of the indoor lounge or outdoor patio area at Culinary Dropout, along with half of the games.
Culinary Dropout also offers set menus for large groups as well as several appetizer and sandwich combinations for cocktail parties. Capable of accommodating groups of up to 200, it can be bought out Mondays through Thursdays. “With great food and drinks, Culinary Dropout can serve as the first stop before a night out on the town or the last stop of the evening,” says Anita Walker, vice president of marketing for Fox Restaurant Concepts, which owns the restaurant. “Guests are invited to eat, drink and play at The Yard all night.”
Main image: Maya Day + Nightclub, Scottsdale
- Chandler Office of Tourism: visitchandler.com
- Glendale Convention & Visitors Bureau: visitglendale.com
- Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau: visitphoenix.com
- Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau: experiencescottsdale.com
- Tempe Tourism Office: tempetourism.com
- Visit Mesa: visitmesa.com
Intriguing Nearby Options
While most groups heading to the Phoenix-Scottsdale area hold their meetings in those cities, some smaller destinations—including Chandler, Glendale, Mesa and Tempe—also are attractive nightlife destinations.
Great nightlife spots abound in Tempe, eight miles east of Phoenix. Tempe Marketplace, Mill Avenue and the streets surrounding Arizona State University all have bars and late-night dining options along with dueling pianos and other live music. The Tempe Improv comedy club and captivating street performers entertain on most nights and weekends. Tempe also boasts attractive lodging and meeting options, including Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes. Set against an inspiring backdrop of a majestic hillside butte, it offers 345 guest rooms and 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Omni Hotel & Resorts has entered into a development agreement with USA Place, LLC, to develop a new hotel in downtown Tempe. The multistory hotel, due for completion in late 2015, will feature 330 luxury guest rooms and 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. This luxurious property will be one of the cornerstones of USA Place, a robust, concentrated commercial and residential urban district that also will have a 4,500-seat multipurpose events center.
Mesa, 20 miles east of Phoenix, offers plenty of ways to keep the party going well into the wee hours. Attendees can sip cocktails at stylish bars and get their groove on at dance clubs, including Cactus Moon, where a 1,000-square-foot dance floor heats up at night as a DJ plays the latest country and rock hits. The Mesa Convention Center is a full-service downtown meeting and event facility that offers a 19,000-square-foot exhibit area and an additional 19,000 sq. ft. of space. Also, the Hilton Phoenix/Mesa hotel provides 260 guest rooms and 25,000 sq. ft. of space.
Chandler, 25 miles southeast of Phoenix, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and boasts several lively bars, including The Irish Republic Public House, offering 50 types of beer, and SanTan Brewing Co., a microbrewery featuring handcrafted beers brewed on the premises and delicious food. The Hilton Phoenix Chandler, in the heart of Chandler’s high-tech district, offers 197 guest rooms and 17,000 sq. ft. of space.
Glendale, 10 miles northwest of Phoenix, is perhaps best known for its buoyant downtown shopping scene, but it also has plenty of nightlife. Westgate City Center isparticularly lively,with an abundance of wine bars and happening restaurants. Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa offers 320 guest rooms and 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Evening at the Boulders
The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is a striking luxury destination in Carefree that offers several interesting evening activities for groups. Boulders Stargazing allows attendees to spend an hour observing the Arizona sky with the resident professional astronomer. Using a high-powered telescope, everyone views the planets, stars, constellations and lunar surface, including canyons and craters.
A Moonlight Bicycling tour reveals the desert night as never before: The desert sky suddenly becomes a planetarium and night-blooming cactii explode in a kaleidoscope of colors. Fascinating nocturnal creatures of the Sonoran Desert, including coyotes, jackrabbits, javelina and deer, can be seen scurrying about in a flurry of activity. The Boulders supplies the bikes, helmets, water and 15-watt lighting system, and participants cruise along the resort’s roller-coaster-like golf-cart paths. The trip covers about two miles and lasts about 90 minutes.
The Boulder’s state-of-the-art Airstream Bullet, outfitted as a deluxe kitchen and dining space, was aptly named the Rolling Stone Diner; it brings a “Movable Feast” with menus designed exclusively for meeting guests to enjoy an innovative reception or dining experience under the stars anywhere—from the golf course to remote desert locations.