Dance, Drink, Do-Si-Do: Sarasota's Best Nightlife Spots

Dance, Drink, Do-Si-Do: Sarasota's Best Nightlife Spots

After watching the final sliver of sun disappear below the Gulf, visitors to Sarasota County shouldn't hole up in their hotel rooms to wait for the next warm beach day. Whether you're a dance-floor devotee, a cocktail aficionado, or a live music junkie, Sarasota's nightlife will keep you up well after the sun goes down.

After watching the final sliver of sun disappear below the Gulf, visitors to Sarasota County shouldn't hole up in their hotel rooms to wait for the next warm beach day. Whether you're a dance-floor devotee, a cocktail aficionado, or a live music junkie, Sarasota's nightlife will keep you up well after the sun goes down.

Where to dance the night away

Sarasota's answer to Miami's South Beach club scene is Ivory Lounge (1413 Main St, 941-388-7869), an upscale nightclub that draws in a smartly dressed, younger crowd. Ivory is slick and minimalist inside: all-white furniture, light installations, linear abstract art. The DJ's hip-hop and EDM song selection keeps the dance floor packed tight on Fridays and Saturdays. Ivory also hosts Cream Thursdays, a gay-friendly party every week where you can sip cocktails next to some of South Florida's best drag performers.

Located in the heart of Siesta Key Village, Beach Club’s (5151 Ocean Blvd, 941-349-6311) vibe is more Margaritaville than Miami. Surfboards hang (ten) on the walls, and a gigantic shark dangles menacingly above the dance floor. Drinks are strong and, especially on the weekends, the dancing can get rowdy. For those who didn’t bring their dancing flip-flops, there are pool tables and bar games, too. At Beach Club, every weekend can feel like Spring Break.

If cowboy boots are more your style, then White Buffalo Saloon (5377 McIntosh Rd, 941-927-6655) is the place to fill your dance card. Sarasota’s country nightclub features a 2,500-square-foot dance floor, and line dancers of all ages slide, kick, and sway to contemporary country hits almost every night of the week. The saloon also offers free line-dancing lessons to customers, so you don’t have to be a pro at the Watermelon Crawl before scooting your boots onto the dance floor.

Where to see and be seen

With its stunning modern design, Social Eatery & Bar (1219 1st St, 941-444-7072) could easily be mistaken for an art gallery or a Hollywood Hills dream home. In actuality, it’s a cozy, hip spot for splitting wood fired pizzas and sipping craft cocktails with friends. (It’s also the surest bet for celebrity sightings in Sarasota.) Menu items like the Grapefruit Old Fashioned give classic drinks a modern, Florida twist; the sharing plate of pretzel-dusted calamari is traditional Italian food for the 21st century.

Another Sarasota hotspot with atmosphere that's as trendy as its clientele is Clasico Café and Bar (1341 Main St, 941-957-0700). The charm of Clasico lies in the details: a sliding library ladder aids bartenders in retrieving shelved liquors for summery specialty drinks like the gin basil and cucumber cocktail; black and red chalkboards hang like art from the building's subway-tiled pillars. A DJ keeps EDM humming on the weekends, and the dining area transforms into a dance floor.

Where the locals go

Driving at night through the otherwise sleepy Southside Village, you'll find the Five O'Clock Club (1930 Hillview St, 941-366-5555) hard to miss: the deep thumps of an electric bass escape out the club's front door and onto the sidewalk decorated with amps and drum sets owned by the next band in line. Known as the "neighborhood club with the national sound," the Five O'Clock Club features nightly live music encompassing every genre, from rock and reggae to Motown and blues. The crowd is mostly local, and with Sarasota Memorial Hospital right across the road, it's an especially popular spot for medical professionals looking to wind down after a long day in the emergency room.

But few destinations in Sarasota are as venerated among locals as the Gator Club (1490 Main St, 941-366-5969). Housed in the oldest building on Main Street, this 100-year-old bar and dance club carries a scandalous past of illegal gambling, Prohibition-era whiskey production, and an upstairs brothel. The present-day Gator Club has cleaned up its act, but don't think that translates into a boring night. With live music, strong drinks, wall-to-wall dancing, and two floors of packed-tight partiers, this place draws a nightly crowd of both visitors and residents. An evening spent at the Gator Club is as essential to a Sarasota County itinerary as a sun-filled day on Siesta Key Beach.

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