Houston’s busy nightlife scene is as fluid as any good DJ’s set should be. It’s possible to weave from poolside EDM palaces and sizzling Latin hot spots to gritty retro joints and cozy holes in the wall and back again, all within the course of a weekend — if your feet will hold out. As far as human beings' primal urges go, dancing is only a step down from eating and lovemaking (if that), and so dance clubs’ role within modern urban society can resemble nothing so much as that of secular churches: places for fellowship, spiritual guidance and awesome music. The Bayou City offers no shortage of places to indulge, but the landscape changes all the time; RIP Meteor Lounge, gone to the great shower in the sky all too soon. Of the following ten establishments, only four are holdovers from our previous version of this list, which appeared in July 2014. Frankly, we’re a little surprised the number is that high. (Note: This list is in alphabetical order.)
One of the city’s newest dance venues has endeared itself to the community quickly enough that it has already become a Houston favorite. When we spoke to owner Ryan Supak weeks before Arlo's grand opening, he professed to mold his little spot in the East End as “a dance dive in an old grandma's house.” You definitely won't find bottle service at Arlo's, and the closest thing to a VIP section here is the small parlor that sits in between the main bar and the outdoor patio. Arlo's is cool without trying to be cool, and the good vibes are ever-present and never forced. The dance floor is small but inviting, enveloped in a darkness cut only by the neon lasers above the DJ booth. Stop in for a cheap early drink before a night out, chill with friends after a ballgame or concert, or do The Southside here until last call: Whatever your preference, Arlo's is Houston's newest best dance destination. (2119 Leeland, facebook.com/arlosballroom)
Hardly anyone alive who grew up watching Saturday Night Fever didn't dream about tripping the light fantastic on an actual light-up dance floor. Barbarella allows Houstonians to actualize their wildest polyester dreams, all the while spinning music from across the ages. Half dance club, half dive bar, Barbarella appeals to a wide audience of locals who outwardly have very little in common. Here, all ages, races, socioeconomic statuses, sexual preferences and tastes can gather together on the grounds of one common bond: the love of dancing. In addition to EDM DJ sets, among Barbarella’s best draws are its stellar theme nights, from decade-specific to genre-specific. Bonus points: The name is Barbarella! (2404 San Jacinto, facebook.com/barbarellahtx)
The ability to hang out in the sun during the summer and be cool is not an easy task to achieve unless you are at Clé’s Day/Night Club. The centerpiece is an outdoor pool that frequently hosts some of the globe’s hottest DJs, but Clé’s ability to host events during the day and then reset for a traditional, upscale Vegas-style club experience makes it a game-changer for Houston-area dance clubs. Three large bars service the diverse patrons, and bottle service for the tables and cabanas includes the pageantry of the gorgeous Clé girls. (2301 Main, clehouston.com)
This Houston institution caters to veterans and novices alike. Don't have a damn clue what you're doing? Check out free salsa lessons on Tuesday and Friday nights. It will prepare you for the joy of arguably Houston's top Latin dance bar. Not that Tropicana relies on house music and a DJ to get folks on the dance floor; instead, live Latin music (salsa, bachata and merengue, to name a few) is the draw here. The club is open Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday until 2 a.m. for those who want to experience authentic Latin music and dancing. (3222 Fondren, clubtropicanahouston.com)
Nestled away on a residential side street in Montrose, the small but mighty Etro is one of Houston's best spots to let it all hang out. Boasting one of the city's best ‘80s nights, the club plays an inviting blend of mainstream, New Wave and underground tracks. The split-level layout offers bird's-eye seating upstairs, for-rent areas for private partying, and a large outdoor patio. With one large indoor bar and a smaller outdoor bar, it doesn't take forever to get a cocktail, either. Fact: Any club where patrons can regularly hear When In Rome's "The Promise" is worth visiting. Bonus points: The DJ often takes requests; money helps. (1424 Westheimer, etrolounge.com)
Some of the city's best music can be found at Fox Hollow, home to a few of Houston’s premier DJ nights. Bombón, “Houston's Ultimate Tropical Dance Party,” kicks things off on the first Saturday of the month, followed on subsequent Saturdays by No Diggity (R&B); Grande (hip-hop); and A Really Kool Party (free-form). All this DJ expertise translates into break-dance circles, sexy booty-shaking, two-steppin' in the name of love, and sweaty Latin movimientos as top H-Town dancers such as Darius (a.k.a. Bones) and La Cindy showcase their talents week after week. The mood at Fox is always chill and inviting, unlike at some of the other spots on and off Washington. So whether you're in the mood to mover la colita or do the stanky leg, chances are you can fulfill all your dance desires right here. (4617 Nett, facebook.com/foxhollow)
Numbers Night Club is as well-known for its urban legends as for its actual existence, and that's certainly part of its appeal. It seems that most Houstonians have their own crazy "Numbers story”; if you visit, you will likely have one too. A nightclub since 1978, Numbers has evolved into an all-encompassing venue that hosts DJs, live music and various events, but is currently best known for its "Classic Numbers" party each Friday night. Playing a variety of retro songs with a focus on late-20-century alternative subgenres, Numbers keeps the past alive in the present. Bonus points: Tribute nights are fan heaven; the Bowie tribute night back in January was epic. (300 Westheimer, numbersnightclub.com)
South Beach has been a staple in the Montrose area for nearly 15 years since replacing its predecessor, Heaven, which burned to the ground. Although it's known as one of the best gay dance clubs around, don’t make the mistake of thinking South Beach serves only the LGBT community. Male go-go dancers are posted around different areas of the club, and two large bars and smaller stations are located inside along with a full-service bar on the decent-sized outside patio furnished with several plush couches and tall bar tables. When the electro, techno and house music isn’t being played by locals, South Beach is a great place to catch DJs from the international circuit. The beats don’t stop for hours, since it also serves as an after-hours party spot catering to your early-morning desires, whatever they may be. (810 Pacific, southbeachthenightclub.com)
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We live in Houston, not Las Vegas. Our hotels cater to oilmen, not ravers, and the heyday of techno/house/dub here is a distinct memory. But we certainly still know how to rage! Houston's greatest example of a dance-music epicenter is the massive Stereo Live. The quality of EDM shows that roll through here is unmatched anywhere else in the city, which means that every concert is jam-packed with thousands of jacked-up, sweaty and fun-loving bodies ready to do the EDM shuffle until sunrise. The one-two punch of Disco Donnie Presents and NightCulture produce stellar events that make Houston a favorite among the touring DJs and other EDM acts. From Diplo to Steve Aoki, Adventure Club to Flosstradamus, the biggest artists in dance music find a home on Richmond Avenue. (6400 Richmond, stereolivehouston.com)
The newest entry on the list is definitely a place to see and be seen. The intimate design of the building is expanded, with the second floor overlooking the two main bars. The decor is upscale and beautiful, with tall mirrors behind the bar that give the illusion that the place is much bigger. The massive video screens are set to scenes matched to the music – house beats and pop-radio remixes prevail – which provide the new Midtown club with an edge not seen in its competitors. Those screens also give the beautiful crowd no reason to stop dancing. (820 Holman, Facebook page)
Written by Jack Gorman, Chris Gray, Clint Hale, Selena Dieringer and Marco Torres