Nightlife in Chicago – 13 Unexpected Things to Do After Dark

Architecture river cruises, tours of the Willis Tower, and smiling selfies in front of the Bean. Chi-town is most definitely blessed by an abundance of daytime attractions and activities.

From craft beer to house music DJs sets this city of grit and glamor continues to impress. Follow along to discover the best nightlife in Chicago.

Whether you are looking to get rowdy with a live music performance at the House of Vans or swing by Lincoln Park for a swanky rooftop view and creative cocktail libation, Chicago nightlife offers a little something for everyone.

Get sweaty on a dance floor in Lake View or sing along to an encore-worthy ballad at the legendary Chicago Theater.

No matter if you are seeking nocturnal thrills or a dash of Chicago history, a night in the Second City is bound to give you a second wind.

Chicago Hotels

Before you don your glitter and heels for the best of Chicago nightlife tonight, you’ll need to secure some incredible lodgings. Prime for your evening of dance parties and craft beer sampling in style when you book any of our premier Chicago Hotels.

From luxurious boutique lodgings by Lincoln Park to sleeping steps from Magnificent Mile, we offer options for every budget. Enjoy marble-tiled bathrooms by Hyde Park or feast on complimentary hot breakfasts after a big night out.

Wherever you reserve, book with confidence, knowing you are guaranteed our lowest rates online.

Close up view of the pink neon sign that says "The Drake" in black letter font on top of The Drake Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, USA
photo credit: The Drake Hotel (140 E Walton Pl, Chicago) via Facebook

Nightlife Chicago

A perfectly mixed martini, a night of nonstop laughs, or a Blues concert that won’t break the bank. Downtown Chicago nightlife proves there’s more than one way to have a night out on the town.

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From feeling fancy with a custom mixologist creation to old-school Beauty Bar fun, there’s no place we’d rather get down than the Windy City.

Buddy Guy Legends

Want to pay homage to one of Rock and Roll’s greatest legends? Head on over to one of Chi-town’s most beloved venues for a night of live music and New Orleans-inspired grub. Buddy Guy Legends is the infamous watery hole and venue of Buddy Guy.

A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and a major influence on rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy is well known as a godfather of the Chicago west side sound.

If Buddy is in town, you can usually find him hanging out at the bar. However, music fiends should visit Legends, either way, to score tickets to affordable and riveting performances from local acts. Get down to the melodies of a sultry jazz concert, or jam out with rockstar Jimmy Burns.

Don’t forget to fuel up on menu favorites such as Louisiana Gumbo and Catfish Po Boys, which draw inspiration from Buddy’s southern roots.

Alcoholic DrinksThe Corner Bar

Cheap and cheerful with a perfect Chi-town neighborhood appeal, the Corner Bar is the ideal spot to swing by for a craft beer or a from-scratch Bloody Mary.

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Located near Logan Square, this down-home establishment is nothing fancy but draws in a loyal group of regulars thanks to a wide array of on-tap beers and their pup-friendly policy.

The Beetle

Equal parts tavern and party haven, revelers in the know flock to the Beetle for a local tavern experience complete with pool tables and a patio. Grab a crisp Allagash White and soak in some sun outside, or stop by over the weekend and be treated to DJs spinning at this Humboldt Park watering hole.

Enjoy the rustic touches of the brick-lined space as you peruse their extensive craft beer list, or fuel up on bar favorites. Their pub pretzels or cheese curds make an excellent snack, or for a full meal, opt for their mouth-watering Figgy Stardust burger, topped with sweet fig jam, smoked bacon, goat cheese, and caramelized onions.

Need a little hair of the dog? The Beetle also whips up a damn good brunch on Sundays.

Flight of six different beersCalifornia Clipper

Sexy red lighting, live music, and a distinctly vintage lounge feel leave both locals and visitors feeling frisky at California Clipper. The longest-standing neighborhood bar in Humboldt Park manages to conjure up the magic of the bygone drinking days of the past with expertly prepared seasonal cocktails, neon signs, and retro-inspired furnishings.

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Liven up your evening with a perfectly lavender Purple Martian house cocktail made with aged rum, Pisco, Concord Grape, lime, and coconut. Or keep things classic with a Cosmopolitan.

Don’t forget to check out their events schedule, as you could be treated to anything from Afro-Caribbean Jazz to Smart Potato Trivia.

The J. Parker

Looking to swank up your Saturday night plans? Take a break from the dive bars and Handshake specials when you throw on a jacket and hightail it to Lincoln Park. Located on the rooftop of Hotel Lincoln, The J. Parker.

Parker oozes both style and scenic city views. While the rooftop does not take reservations, it’s well worth the wait to witness the spectacular unobstructed panoramas of Lake Michigan and the Chicago Skyline.

Cozy up on a couch and warm yourself by the fire, or visit during the summer months to work on that tan. Sample a signature non-alcoholic cocktail made with juniper, sage, raspberry, lemon, and jasmine. Or, cheers to another amazing Chi-town weekend with a glass of sparkling Prosecco.

Feeling peckish? Treat the table to a mess of small plates, including Burrata served with raspberry sauce and the perfectly on-point Chicago-style corn dogs.

Moody bar on a rooftop with a glass ceiling in Chicago
Photo Credit: The J. Parker via Facebook

Untitled Supper Club

Unbridled entertainment in a gorgeous Prohibition-era setting, yes, please! Throw things back to the roaring 20s and perhaps brush up on your Charleston when you visit this shining gem of Chicago’s River North.

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Part cocktail lounge, park restaurant, and all entertainment, the Untitled Supper Club is 18,000 square feet of pure party. Indulge in the largest selection of American whiskies in the world as you take in sultry R&B and jazz performances.

For an even greater thrill, feel temperatures climb as you soak in titillating cabaret acts featuring burlesque, acrobatics, and more. Wet your whistle with a delicious Pink Lady cocktail, or keep caffeinated with a creamy Espresso Martini made with Cold Brew Liqueur, La Colombe Cold Brew Concentrate, and sweetened with Demerara.

The Chicago Theater

Once a lush movie palace, the original Theater Chicago was constructed in 1921 for $4 million and featured a 3,600-seat auditorium. Today, the theater is best known for its giant State Street marquee that measures nearly six stories high.

An indelible part of Chicago history, the theater was built in the French Baroque style and contains exterior features modeled after a replica of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. In addition, the grand lobby and staircase borrow heavily from Parisian architecture and leave many visitors breathless.

Make your Windy City evening unforgettable when you score tickets to headliners such as Lyle Lovett, Jill Scott, Ed Sheeran, and more.

A wide photograph of a open house theater
photo credit: Chicago Architecture Center via Facebook

House of Vans

Calling all skater boys (and girls)! For a little alternative flavor, pull on those baggy jeans and beanie for hours of counterculture fun at House of Vans. The third permanent House of Vans location, the Chicago venue, makes its home in the Fulton Market District.

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Housed in a cavernous zone known for warehouse storage, today, this venue keeps the good vibes flowing with DJs, open skate sessions, night markets, and more. Work on mastering your ollie, pick up handmade candles, or jam out to up-and-coming talent with a Next Era show.


Night Crime Tours

Beneath the Second City’s glamorous facade lies a dark history of bloody crime and corruption. Get the 411 on Chi-town’s seedy past, when you embark on an adventure with Night Crime Tours.

Spend 2.5 hours diving into the lives and legends of the city’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone, John Dillinger, Frank ‘The Enforcer’ Nitti, and Cap George Streeter. Discover the tragic tale behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and walk the paths from famous crime scenes.

Enjoy the comfort of the luxury bus as you swing by historic landmark buildings and neighborhoods such as the The Biograph Theater, Holy Name Cathedral, Cook County Criminal CourtHouse, River North, Gold Coast, and Lincoln Park. Your tour even includes an interactive crime quiz and souvenir pamphlet with photos.*

*Please note that this Night Crime Tour is suitable for guests 21 and over..

night view of downtown with L Train station in Chicago, Illinois, USAChicago Nightlife Clubs

Ready to shimmy and shake your way into some of the best clubs in Chicago? Looking to capture that underground dance club spirit? Or want to splash out with bottle service, Windy City Nightlife offers unparalleled nightlife and clubs:

  • Smart Bar – edgy, awesome, and alternative. Smart Bar has made a name for itself thanks to lush lineups featuring techno-heavy dance music. For over 40 years, this bar has dazzled the masses with cutting-edge DJs and LGBTQ-friendly events.
  • TAO Chicago – searching for a taste of Vegas in Chi-town? Bust out your best sequins and stilettos when you make a splash at TAO Chicago. A dynamic two-level party space, late-night revelers can make their nocturnal debut as they sprawl out on Chinese daybeds or pose in front of the koi pond. Savor Asian-inspired cocktails such as the Bangkok Minute or Coiling Dragon.

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  • Beauty Bar – combine your primping and partying when you get down in a retro beauty salon-inspired setting. Beauty Bar Chicago offers a roster of high-flying events, including Friday Night Fever, Grrl Power, and Femme Fatale Comedy.
  • Berlin – an inclusive, critically acclaimed, pan-cultural dance party is what’s on the menu at Berlin. Ready to keep the merrymaking going all night long? Stop by this late-night art and music club for an all-orientations dance party. Proudly serving the LGBTQ community for over three decades, Berlin is the perfect place to watch a drag show or groove out to New Wave 80s.
Seating area with large leather couches and chairs on the right and a bar on the left with a fireplace in the back at The Darling in Chicago, Illinois, USA
photo credit: The Darling Chicago via Facebook

Wandering through Magnificent Mile, Ferris wheel rides at the Navy Pier, and more museums than you can count. The Second City is pure paradise for intrepid tourists.

However, after dinner, what are you to do in this dynamic metropolis of deep-dish pizza and multicultural affairs?

Thankfully Chicago nightlife doesn’t skimp on exhilaration.

Tantalize your earbuds with a soul-wrenching jazz performance and a steaming bowl of gumbo at Buddy Legends. Or, splurge on seeing your favorite SNL stars crack jokes and one-liners at the Chicago Theater.

Drink like a local at California Clipper when you order a Chicago handshake special. Or sweat out all the toxins on the dancefloor when you shake what your momma gave you at Berlin.

From crowded clubs where you can let your freak flag fly to stylish rooftops that offer stunning Lake views, there’s endless enchantment to be had in the Windy City after dark.

Tell us, Did we Miss Any of the Best Nightlife in Chicago?

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago nightlife downtown?

Leave a comment below!

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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