It should surprise exactly no one that this city, where the happiest place on earth exists, knows how to happy hour. Not only is this town properly schooled in getting sloshed, we’re also privy to the other necessities of nightlife: live music and dancing. Whether you’re looking for a dive or a dance club, an art or an arcade bar, craft beer or classic cocktails, there is a vast world of options for you to explore. You thought the theme parks were legit? Wait ’til you’ve experienced the magnetism of Orlando’s real attractions.
Accidental Music Festival
November, various venues
A festival curated for music lovers, this festival focuses on inventive, avant-garde music with pleasantly surprising performances, educational activities and a special showcase of international performers.
Florida Music Festival
April, various venues
Drawing in huge acts from all over the country, FMF is the longest-running music festival in Orlando and is coupled with industry conferences that offer an opportunity to network and discover new music while pub-crawling downtown.
Summer, various venues
Imagine Otronicon as a music festival, and you’ll begin to understand the unique treat Nerdapalooza offers resident geeks, delivering the best acts in hip-hop nerdcore, chiptunes, comedy rock and video game music to town for two days.
Orange You Glad Music Festival
This awesomely amoebic event takes on different shapes but what remains consistent is the value-to-talent ratio, with the best in emergent indie rock and impressive regional acts held together by community sponsorship that keeps it affordable.
Fall, various venues
A treasured celebration of local music, this festival brings together bands across several genres to provide something for everyone, acting as a cornerstone for our local scene, just as the Orlando musician it strives to memorialize so capably did.
September, Audubon Park
One of the best events put on by the AP Garden District, you’re encouraged to dress as a zombie – including full, gloriously gory makeup – then parade down Corrine Drive to enjoy live music, horror films, costume contest and local food trucks and vendors!
400 W. Church St.
The biggest national pop stars stop through town at Amway, making this our one-stop shop for arena rock, in addition to sports and other major events occurring on downtown’s biggest stage. Plus, they have a rooftop bar with an incredible view of downtown.
929 West Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
For fans of open-mic nights, this 24-hour establishment hosts some of the best amateur nights for music and comedy, providing a friendly launch pad for a variety of budding talents, along with serving the best iced coffee in town.
37 W. Pine St.
Not only do they host one of the city’s best metal nights, this downtown club is religious about its most popular dance night, Midnight Mass, while offering their intimate stage to touring acts for seriously memorable shows as well. Cross your fingers when you go that the back bar is open.
46 N. Orange Ave.
Downtown was sorely missing a large venue, and the Beacham came along just in time to ease the pain. With balcony seating to escape the frequently sold-out show crowds below, the Beacham saves us from trekking to the themes parks any time we want to see a burgeoning touring act like Purity Rings or seasoned legends like Sharon Jones.
Copper Rocket Pub
106 Lake Ave., Maitland
For fans of rock and blues, Copper Rocket is a mainstay, with excellent local shows and the occasional, surprising national band stopping through. And you really can’t beat their trivia nights.
578 N. Orange Ave.
Is it a venue or a club? Firestone still seems to be making up its mind, but with some of the best EDM nights in town, it doesn’t matter which way Firestone swings, because there’s no other place like it in Orlando, with its winding layout and fun-filled outdoor shows held in the back lot.
Hard Rock Live
6050 Universal Blvd.
Located in Universal Studios, give yourself plenty of time to park and haul ass through CityWalk to see shows at the Hard Rock, which often includes nostalgic tribute shows in its “Classic Albums Live” series, the nation’s best touring comedians and the type of big-name bands that form the venue’s longstanding legacy.
House of Blues
1490 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista
This Downtown Disney venue is where you’ll find your mascara-caked pop-punk acts, as well as the occasional ’80s reunion act. But enough good can’t be said about the venue itself, which is cozy, inviting and offers great vantage points.
The Peacock Room
1321 N. Mills Ave.
Fans of experimental music would be wise to frequent the Peacock Room, where you can guzzle Key lime martinis while enjoying Kill Yr TV Tuesdays and other unique shows coordinated by some of Orlando’s most invested and inventive music community members.
The Plaza Live
425 N. Bumby Ave.
For live sound, the Plaza rules all in Orlando, whether you wind up in the big room or the small room. When you see acts booked here, quickly join the rush to reserve front row seats for the best folk, country, hip-hop and classical music you’ll hear performed within our city’s walls.
54 N. Orange Ave.
Local bands strive to perform on this stage, the one shared with most of the Pitchfork-worthy bands that come through Orlando. It’s a smaller room, which means nine times out of 10, you’re shouting the lyrics shoulder-to-shoulder with similarly impassioned fans. Get there early and snag a table in front of the pit.
Stardust Video & Coffee
1842 E. Winter Park Road
The Stardust main room provides a den that welcomes all the weird ideas its devoted community cooks up in terms of live music performances, original plays, performance art and The Video Dept., a weekly DJ set of indie, goth pop and shoegaze.
100 S. Orange Ave.
One of the few bars downtown you can depend on for live music every night of the week, Tanqueray’s provides all the funk, jazz and blues you can handle, including a talented crop of locals like Kaleigh Baker, Thomas Wynn and the Believers or RJ Harman and Company performing regularly.
Timucua White House
2000 S. Summerlin Ave.
The family home of Cirque du Soleil conductor Benoit Glazer is also home to stellar jazz and world artists, and Glazer opens the doors of his self-made venue for free, once-in-a-lifetime shows.
Gemini Boulevard North & West Plaza Drive or Bldg. 50 North Gemini Blvd.
Don’t discount this venue just because you’re not a student – UCF Arena books mainstream rock and hip-hop artists, invites national comics to town and holds many special events that are a huge draw for community members to come down to campus.
1042 N. Mills Ave.
If you are a fan of punk, metal, garage, Americana or all of the above, you need to get down to Will’s Pub. This smoky, grizzled venue is an Orlando tradition and provides stacked lineups, stocks a huge beer selection and is home to the much-loved Southern Fried Sundays.
DRINKING & DANCING
64 N. Orange Ave.
Located at the start of downtown’s heart, BBQ’s porch provides great people-watching, and while the quarters are tight inside, if you can land a booth, you’re in for the sort of warm, inebriated night typically reserved for backyard hangouts.
1205 N. Mills Ave.
Combine classic arcade games, campy ’80s movies and a cooler full of craft beer, and you’ll get Bart, the Mills 50 bar/art/arcade. They pack a lot of fun into the small space they have, with mostly-free gaming and a lounge area for those disinterested in the nostalgic allure of Frogger or Missile Command.
3001 Corrine Drive
It’s either your dream or your nightmare: a karaoke night with an attentive audience who will hang on your every squeaky note as you eke out your rendition of “I Touch Myself.” But that’s what you get at Big Daddy’s, which recently serves stiffer drinks with a new liquor license.
CityWalk at Universal
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Whether you’ve been dragged there by visiting friends and family, know someone who works out at Universal or are just out on some tourist-inspired whim, CityWalk has its own merry lure for locals in Rising Star karaoke, Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom and Margaritaville. Although there’s no cover to get on the strip, you will have to pay to park.
114 N. Orange Ave.
Orlando is not trying to be Brooklyn, but the Courtesy Bar’s theming does transport you a little bit. However, their craft cocktails pay homage to local ingredients and include an inspired riff on a classic in the Florida Sour. Go for happy hour to enjoy the punch of the day!
819 E. Washington St.
In Thornton Park, this art bar provides a hip alternative setting amidst burger joints and sports bars with original concepts that form the basis of both art shows and DJ nights; it’s a fun escape on certain nights and otherwise divinely low-key.
The Hideaway Bar
516 Virginia Drive
In a loud building done in Miami Dolphins colors, you wouldn’t expect to find a dive bar that feels delightfully small-town, but that’s the Hideaway, where people are serious about pool, sports and strong drinks. Incidentally, it’s also a great greasy joint in the morning to cure your hangover.
70 N. Orange Ave.
If you’re looking for a great dance night, look no further than I-Bar, home to weekly throwback parties like Grits ’n’ Gravy soul night. Admittedly, I-Bar is hipster central, making it a target for teasing, but it also means that you always have a story to tell after a night there.
1036 N. Mills Ave.
This new spot has quickly become a favorite among locals looking to nestle into the wooden booths, rock free songs on the jukebox and escape from the smog at sister bar Will’s Pub. But it’s also where you’ll find a really energetic weekly ’90s R&B dance night.
Little Fish Huge Pond
309 E. First St., Sanford
You never know quite what you’ll find going on at this trippy hangout: intimate soul performances, pirate parties, hookah-passing, maybe even cheese-inspired art shows or Mexican holiday movies. End your all-nighter here, and you’ll swear the whole thing was a dream the next morning.
55 N. Orange Ave.
Drunken camaraderie marks this Irish pub with one of the longest happy hours in downtown Orlando and one of the best atmospheres to boot. You don’t want to be anywhere else for St. Patrick’s Day, that’s for sure.
2810 Corrine Drive
If Orlando were famous for something other than Mickey Mouse, it’d be Redlight Redlight. With an exhausting beer list and impeccable taste, it’s tempting to take up residence on a bar stool and enjoy the much bigger space they now inhabit in Audubon Park.
Wall St. Plaza
19 N. Orange Ave.
Located at the epicenter of downtown Orlando, and always throbbing with music, booze and vitality, Wall St. Plaza and its eight venues take up an entire city block, but it’s easy to navigate, heavy on the drink specials and stocked with eye candy for all.
Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors
1001 Mills Ave.
Wally’s is the only place in town as committed to your drinking habit as you are. It’s open at 7:30 a.m., meaning you can find a good strong drink at pretty much any hour. Plus, you will not find a better spot to marvel at Orlando’s celebrities in full drunken splendor.
World of Beer UCF
3402 Technological Ave.
Craft beer finally infiltrated the east side of town in the worthy vessel that is World of Beer. With a seemingly endless selection of beers on draft and the occasional live show, WOB offers a steady temptation to keep UCF locals drinking in the neighborhood.