Heading to a big city for pulsating nightlife is a no-brainer, but it’s high time that smaller cities shake their reputation for being dull. To find the top mid-sized cities for nightlife on Gogobot, we grabbed the U.S. cities with ranks #100-400 by population according to census data and sorted them by the preferences of our Nightlife Lovers Tribe. These spots may not have the same vibe as the bigger hubs like Los Angeles or New York, but they’ve each got something special that will keep you reveling into the wee hours.
What it’s got going for it: A variety of nightlife options, from salsa dancing to cocktails by the beach, that rival its bigger South Florida neighbor, Miami.
Where you should head: For a latenight mix of arts and culture plus bars and clubs, check out the Riverwalk.
What it’s got going for it: In four words: Craft beer, live music. If you like sipping on microbrews while listening to up-and-coming bands in relaxed (read: hipster chic) music venues, Blue Ridge Mountain town Asheville is your ideal nightlife spot.
Where you should head: For beer, Wedge Brewing in a 19th-century warehouse or the Thirsty Monk for customizable beer flights. For music, local favorite The Orange Peel or all-ages The Grey Eagle for music and tacos.
What it’s got going for it: This upscale city 90 miles north of Los Angeles offers some pretty chill nightlife options during the week, like sipping local wines while people watching on State Street. But when the weekend comes around, the college students add an exciting buzz to the city’s bars and clubs.
Where you should head: To sample a variety of nightlife options, try the Santa Barbara Bowl for live music, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co for beer, Deep Sea Central Coast for local wines (and great sea views), and Tonic Nightclub for DJs and dancing.
What it’s got going for it: Though it’s got quite the reputation for beer (and rightly so), Grand Rapids has plenty of other entertainment options for after you’ve made the rounds of the city’s more than 40 breweries.
Where you should head: On the brewery trail, make sure you stop at Brewery Vivant. Later, try local music as well, at venues like The Intersection, which has been around since 1972, and Pyramid Scheme, with pinball machines out front and a stage in back.
What it’s got going for it: Surrounded by lots of big city competition (San Francisco and Oakland, for starters), university town Berkeley may often stay off the radar for nightlife seekers, but that shouldn’t be the case: it’s got a bit of everything, from breweries, to indie music clubs, to some amazing late-night grub.
Where you should head: Check out world music at Ashkenaz Cafe, sip a pint at Irish pub The Starry Plough, or spend a warm California evening on the patio at The Missouri Lounge.
What it’s got going for it: With historic bars and classic cocktails, plus lots of trendy new spots, including a growing craft beer scene, Kansas City doesn’t often get the credit it deserves for its nightlife.
Where you should head: To get a taste for the new downtown, do some bar hopping in the Kansas City Power and Light District. Then dance a bit with live music and a little honky tonk at Knuckleheads Saloon.
What it’s got going for it: No surprise here — Huntington Beach is a SoCal city by the beach with a laid-back, wine-happy nightlife scene. But the Orange County city is not a cliche. There’s plenty of other late-night options for craft cocktails, live music, dancing and lounging.
Where you should head: The hub of nightlife activity is located around Main Street and the Pier. Some Gogobot recommendations include Baja Sharkeez for beer, sports, and tacos, and Main Street Wine Co for a slightly classier and more romantic scene.
What it’s got going for it: Not only are there lots of cool spots to bar hop in the historic downtown along the riverfront, but it’s also easy to do so, with the “To Go” rule that allows revelers to carry alcoholic drinks with them in plastic cups. Don’t worry, it’s more sophisticated than it sounds — this is Savannah, after all.
Where you should head: There are plenty of fun places to discover in the historic district — follow the crowds or set out to explore on your own.
What it’s got going for it: College town Tempe is branching out into nightlife attractions that will appeal to merrymakers of all ages — whether or not they have class in the morning — and is slowing gaining ground against nextdoor neighbor Phoenix.
Where you should head: Four Peaks brewery should be your first stop. After that, try Marquee Theatre for some music or the bike-themed beer garden The Handlebar.
What it’s got going for it: The nightlife scene in Providence has been experiencing a revival in recent years, sprouting new venues that extend far beyond the typical student hangouts.
Where you should head: Federal Hill, Providence’s Little Italy, offers a number of bars and clubs (plus some really great spaghetti, if you want to make a night out of it). For another cultural option, try getting drinks and then seeing a show at the Providence Performing Arts Center.