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Boston City Guide

1. Avalon  2. Axis  3. The Roxy  4. Paradise Rock Club  5. Sophia's  6. Comedy Connection  7. Belvedere  8. The Middle East  9. Whiskey Park 10. Aria  11. Ruby Room  12. The Rack  13. T's Pub  14. Wally's Cafe  15. Coolidge Corner Clubhouse

The club with many faces.
15 Landsdowne Street
Boston, MA 02215
Dance clubs in this corner of New England simply don't come more extravagant than Avalon. From the chest-thumping, 360-degree sound system and hallucination-inducing light displays to bikini dancers, secluded VIP rooms and the wildest dance floor in town, this is where you come to let loose. It's no surprise, then, that Avalon consistently ranks as not only the best club in Boston, but also in the country. Superstar DJs are regularly flown in to spin house, techno, Top 40, hip-hop and everything in between for Boston's A-list of resident and visiting celebrities as well as hordes of college students and beautiful twentysomethings.

Of course, all of this luxury comes at a price. Cover charges can top $20 for dance nights and much higher for certain rock acts who crank up their guitars on this hallowed stage from time to time. Coat checking can run you more than the price of your coat and those fancy drinks can be worth more than most people make in an hour. But make no bones about it, Avalon is the cream of the crop. For a true taste of New York-style clubbing, this is as good as it gets. -- Jack Morris

International Thursdays: Hip-hop, 19 and over; $15 Fridays: Avaland, DJs, 19 and over; $20 Saturdays: Total Request Avalon (send in your Top 40, dance and hip-hop requests through the club’s Web site), 21 and over; $10 before 12:30AM, $15 otherwise Sundays: Gay Night, 21 and over; $10   (Photo: Jack Morris)

Dance, DJ, Gay/lesbian, House/techno, Live music, Theme bars

13 Lansdowne St
Boston, MA 02215

Never mind the extravagance of its next-door neighbor, Avalon; Axis, often referred to as the city's underground dance club, is its own animal, and when it comes to entertaining dance or rock crowds, these folks have it down pat. This split-level, split-personality club reels in the anti-Avalon college clubbers who still want the Lansdowne experience. A killer sound system starts thumping as soon as the bands play their last encore (usually around 9:30PM). That's when black lights start to pulsate and glow-sticks begin twirling through the darkness. Need a place to chill down? Head upstairs to ID, where the down-tempo tunes, plush couches and the occasional "What's your major?" inquiry either gets those stomach butterflies fluttering or sends you back down into the anonymous darkness.

Mondays are gay nights featuring live entertainment and the occasional drag show while resident and guest DJs spin house and hip-hop Thursdays through Saturdays. A stiff cover charge of $20 on Fridays gets you access into Avalon and the Modern. If you've had your fill of house music on Saturday night, head upstairs in jeans and studded bracelets for punk rock all night long. -- Jack Morris   (Photo: Jack Morris)

Dance, DJ, Gay/lesbian, Hip-hop/rap/funk, House/techno, Live music, Rock/pop, Theme bars

The Roxy
279 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116
For a nightclub that's only open two nights a week, The Roxy has easily positioned itself into legendary status among the techno and house dance crowd. Powered by a huge sound and light show that is matched only by its cross-town rival, Avalon, this royal complex can drive a beat through your rib cage and pump you full of adrenaline so fast you'll be buying the $4 bottled water without flinching.

Around midnight is when things really get pumping. The crowd of about 2,000 ranges from rookies who just want to people-watch to the VIPs and show-offs clad in nothing but the best and most revealing designer wear. Scope out the action from the upper balcony or mix it up underneath the stage dancers. There's usually hip-hop and R&B on Fridays, followed by techno and house on Saturdays. For the ladies, The Roxy hosts special Chippendale's nights and, from time to time, reggae and rock bands take over the stage. Any way you slice it, for a night of serious clubbing, it's hard to beat The Roxy. -- Jack Morris   (Photo: Jack Morris)

Dance, DJ

Paradise Rock Club
967 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
Rock and roll on this side of the Charles has called "the Dise" home for decades. Just about every band that has gone onto national success has performed here at one time or another (including U2, the Police, the Cranberries and many others). It has a history unmatched by any other Boston club. More than just a rock club, the Paradise is a coveted sanctuary for Boston music lovers who want to see talented local and national bands before they make it big. While the club has seen it's share of changes over the years, two separate rooms now split this club into two equally distinct experiences.

For large, national acts and the occasional local bill, head into the Back Room where you and hundreds of fans can experience one of the best sound and light systems in town. Ideal sightlines from every angle in this room, topped with plush couches and its own bar upstairs, makes for an ideal live music experience. The more intimate Lounge (which was once a dance club), serves up an ideal after-work menu of cheap eats, quality brews, live music, DJs and occasional burlesque dancers in a warm and inviting setting. Paintings from local artists decorate the walls and private seating upstairs beckons to lovers and xenophobes, alike. The Paradise is here to stay as one of Boston's best live music venues. Some Boston traditions never die. -- Jack Morris   (Photo: Jack Morris)

Dance, DJ, Live music, Rock/pop, Underage

1270 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215
With beautiful Spanish-styled decor, Sophia's is truly the romantic's spot to woo a lover. There's dinner and dancing, as well as a place to get coffee and talk, all under one roof. The stucco walls are illuminated by votive candles stuck into the walls and the dining room tables are adorned with fresh white cloth and spaced evenly to maintain an open, airy feel. The bar is the main attraction in the dining room, centered nicely between the live entertainment and dining room tables. Too bad there's barely an open seat past 10PM. This place fills up rather quickly, so you'd better arrive early.

Saunter upstairs to the lounge and dancing area, where traditional music will have your hips swaying and fingers snapping. There are so many beautiful exotic faces here that it feels as if you've entered Barcelona. Sophia's is Boston's best unknown nightspot, yet to be tainted by pretense and melodrama. But with three floors of Spanish fervor, the word is bound to spread. -- Dina Valente   (Photo: Jack Morris)

Dance, Latin/salsa, Lounge

The Middle East
472(up) and 480(down) Mass Ave
Central Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
Rock 'n' roll may have its origins far beyond the banks of the Charles River, but for musicians and music lovers, the Middle East is the epicenter of rock in this neck of the woods. Anyone who has ever thought of playing on a stage in the Boston area or has toured through town has, at one point or another, walked through these doors. And if they're not playing here, they're harassing the booking agents to get a gig here.

Spread out over two floors and three separate rooms, each with its own bar, the Middle East goes out of its way to give you quality music, food and drinks at bargain prices. Not in the mood for loud guitar riffs? Check out the acoustic stage for local jam sessions and weekly belly dancing performances. Want to see who's up and coming around Boston? Slap a few bucks into the bouncer's hand and slide into the upstairs room. Looking to catch an indie touring act or a bigger local band? Follow the bass downstairs and rock out with up to 550 of your new best friends. Sure, the floors are sticky and the bathrooms can get nasty, but this is rock 'n' roll. Nobody said it was going to be neat. -- Jack Morris   (Photo: Liza Weisstuch)

Live music, Rock/pop

Wally's Cafe
427 Massachusetts Ave
Boston, MA 02118
People don't come to Wally's expecting much. This narrow, cramped neighborhood bar tucked into the South End can barely fit 50 people, the bartenders don't serve fancy drinks and the word "trendy" hasn't been uttered here since its inception in 1947. But when the jazz bands really start to get cooking, it's no wonder Wally's draws a capacity crowd almost every night of the week.

Ranging from bee-bop to Latin, funk to R&B, Wally's is the proving ground for jazz students from Berklee and the Conservatory, as well as talented local musicians. Get there early to ensure a good seat; otherwise, you're left standing in the flow of traffic from the front to the back of the bar (yes, it's that small). Don't worry about a dress code, either, because there isn't one. Wally's is so laid-back that you'd think you were at a friend's party, were it not for the hellish parking situation just outside the front door. -- Jack Morris   (Photo: Jack Morris)

Jazz/blues, Latin/salsa, Live music, Neighborhood, Pub

The Rack
24 Clinton St.
Boston, MA 02109
Don't let the dress code and the fancy collection of 22 Brunswick Gold Crown pool tables fool you. If people tell you they want to go to The Rack for billiards, they're probably lying. Former frat boys, financial analysts and single females get their buzz on here for one reason and one reason only: to hook up.

But while you're here, you might as well make the most of it. There's a good chance that your face might appear next to a famous sports hero or rock star in the bar's sought-after advertisements. Go easy on the nachos and draft beer, and that talent recruiter sitting in the corner might choose your buff body to be in the next reality television show. With live jazz after work followed by DJs and cover bands seven nights a week, there's always something going on here (food is even served until 1AM, a rarity in this town). But do people really come to The Rack only to play pool? Sure, just don't try to convince your friends that's why you want to come here. They'll know better. -- Jack Morris   (Photo: Kristy Martin)

Dance, DJ, Hip-hop/rap/funk, House/techno, Jazz/blues, Live music, Lounge, Rock/pop