Boston, Massachusetts is one of the oldest cities in the United States and also one of its largest metropolitan areas. Boston is often associated with its strong local accent, the Boston Red Sox, actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and the film “Good Will Hunting,” and it’s prominent role in the American Revolution. As you would expect from such a populous and culturally rich city, it is also home to a thriving nightlife.
When looking for the best bars and clubs in Boston, areas you will want to focus on include Lansdowne St., the Leather District, Faneuil Hall, the Theatre District, the South End, South Boston, Boylston Street, Harvard Square, and Allston. Don’t get suckered into thinking Lansdowne Street is the definitive go-to spot for partying in Boston as many visitors are wont to do. Although it is certainly a relevant nexus of nightlife within the city, there are plenty of other areas that cater less to common tourists and attract a more in-the-know crowd. We recommend branching out into the less famous neighborhoods if you want to experience authentic Boston nightlife culture.
You are bound to find a suitable venue in Boston for whatever variety of music you enjoy, but the city is specifically known for having earned a strong rock pedigree. Beantown is one of the central birthplaces of the hardcore punk genre in the US, and was also a paramount hub of the ska and ska-punk revival of the 1990s. If you want to take in Boston’s authentic rock scene, check out T.T. the Bear’s Place in Central Square in Cambridge, a venue where Nirvana once performed less than a year before the release of Nevermind made them international superstars. Considering that the Boston metro area is home to prestigious music university Berklee College of Music as well as multiple music conservatories, you would have to figure there would be a great jazz scene, and there certainly is. There are quite a few choices in Boston for jazz venues, such as local staples Sculler’s and the Beehive, but if you want to stray from the beaten path a little, check out Wally’s on the South End. Wally’s has been serving up great jazz music since 1947 without the pretense (not to mention the expense) often associated with stuffy, upscale jazz venues.
If you want to go clubbing, look no further than Middlesex lounge on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, which was voted the Best Dance Club in Boston for 2011 by Boston Magazine. The Estate on Boylston Place, Euro-themed Gypsy Bar in the Theatre District, and Royale on Tremont Street are other popular Boston destinations for the clubgoer. For the gay and gay-friendly among us, Boston offers a unique alternative to the typical freestanding gay club; check out The Welcoming Committee, a unique movement to strategically take over traditionally “straight” nightlife establishments for one night only and turn them into gay clubs and bars through word-of-mouth community organization.
With Boston’s reputation as a gritty, blue-collar working and drinking man’s town, you might expect the city to have some good dive bars, and indeed it does. Some of the better ones include locals favorite TC’s on One Haviland Street, BK’s in Roslindale, Hockey-focused sports bar Sullivan’s Tap on Canal Street, and Silhouette Lounge in Allston. To cover the other end of the spectrum, with Boston being home to some of the best educational institutions in the country and a large population of affluent professionals, the city has no shortage of lounges catering to the urbane set. Check out Drink for exotic cocktails and impeccable service in an upscale, trendy environment. Another Boston must-visit (if your pocketbook allows) is James Beard Award winner Tony Maws’ phenomenal Craigie on Main, known for its world-class local and sustainably sourced cuisine and unusual one-of-a-kind specialty cocktails.
Although Boston is not particularly known for its strip club culture, the city certainly has something to offer in the realm of adult fun. The Golden Banana is a good no-frills, inexpensive club in a safe suburban location. If you’re looking for a low-key, non-intimidating experience that won’t break the bank the Banana might be your venue of choice. Club Alex’s in Stoughton is also known for its mellow atmosphere, with the added plus that they frequently feature adult film stars as guest performers. For a high-end gentleman’s club experience with all the accoutrements, pack a fully loaded wallet and visit Centerfold’s Boston.
Boston is a superb location for stand-up comedy, boasting venues such as the Comedy Connection at Wilbur Theatre which has featured top-notch national names like Chris Rock and Dennis Miller, and local’s haunt Dick Doherty’s Beantown Comedy Vault, an intimate 20+ year Boston staple. Trinity Bar is a popular club catering to locals where even the Wednesday night entry policy is humorous, as they offer discounted entry for college students and free entry for the unemployed!
Let’s face it, Boston isn’t the unofficial “capital of New England” for no reason; it is the central hub for culture in the region and boasts a nightlife to match. Sure, unless it’s St. Patrick’s Day, the bar and club scene might not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of Boston, but don’t be fooled, there’s plenty to do year-round in Beantown when the sun sets and the adults come out to play.