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Dance It Out in San Francisco

Dance It Out in San Francisco


When it comes to libations and livelihood, San Francisco has always been at the forefront of West Coast party culture. Los Angeles may have glitz and glamour, but S.F. is the home of cocktail classics like the martini, mimosa, and Irish coffee, and the party-’til-dawn attitude has remained a central aspect of city life, despite the shifting of time.


Today, San Francisco boasts hundreds of bars, clubs, and lounges all designed to give something unique to those looking for a good time. Visitors with enough energy to dance all night (or at least until the lazily enforced curfew of 2 a.m.) will find San Francisco clubs to be the perfect beginning to a weekend of fun – or at least a good way to work off the calories earned at dinner.


Note: While most San Francisco clubs have no age restrictions and bouncers are generally gracious enough to let anyone meeting the dress code into a club, common practice remains that anyone who looks over 40 risks getting glared at by younger “club kids,” who fight to maintain their status as the coolest party-goers in town.

Downtown Neighborhoods

The downtown neighborhoods of the Financial District, North Beach, and Union Square have historically been the heart of San Francisco’s sinful ways since the days of the Barbary Coast – and today not much has changed. Some bars profit off this history by retaining their speakeasy feel, but large dance clubs also provide a space for the urban masses to gyrate and let loose. Mega club Ruby Skye (located near Union Square) holds a varied reputation as a love-it-or-leave-it type of place, and the booming house music and large dance floor make the lively crowd of young club-goers jump with vodka-infused glee. While its music quality varies, nearby Vessel is less popular with locals, mainly due to its small dance floor and tendency to let in older guests. And visitors searching for that sinful, Prohibition-era vibe should check out Slide, a former speakeasy that can still be entered on an actual slide (on certain nights and with specific dress code requirements).


In addition to historic downtown, the South of Market district (known as SOMA) has become a well-known party area in recent years, thanks largely to several clubs that have opened up in former warehouses. The Grand is a fairly new space, popular with a younger, and notably Asian, crowd. Visiting DJs mix Top 40 and house music, and the club often becomes full before 12 a.m. The relatively little-known Holy Cow Nightclub is a small but lively dance floor that offers popular music, even on weeknights. Those looking for an alternative to the house music scene might consider a visit to 330 Ritch, a daytime art gallery that spins older hip-hop beats once the sun goes down.

Cover Charges

In a scene that’s all about getting high on the music and letting loose, cover charges are a downer. True club kids know the only thing you should pay for when going out is a cab; put your name on the online guest list for free entry (sign up on their website), and drink beforehand if possible. Novices may think only girls get drinks bought for them, but in a city known for embracing strangers, anyone friendly enough to start up a conversation has a chance at being treated.


Regardless of where you choose to visit, it will always hold true that the best nights are the ones you can’t fully remember, when dirty dancing blends with creative cocktails and strong beats for the perfect combination of a grown-up dance party—something San Francisco has always done best. 


—By Andrea Powell
A recent college graduate, writer Andrea Powell spends her free time uncovering San Francisco’s many treasures, most often those having to do with food and drink. 

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