This city has plenty to offer after dark. Here are the best places to wind down or party it up when the sun set
Place to Hear Live Music
Last summer, the gradually opening NC Music Factory took two giant steps forward when it opened the Uptown Amphitheatre and the Fillmore Charlotte. The amphitheater, which holds about 5,000 in seats and on the lawn, offers views of the Charlotte skyline and is the only outdoor performance venue in center city. The Fillmore, which can accommodate 2,000, features an acoustics-friendly ballroom complete with chandeliers, hardwood floors, and vintage concert posters inside a restored warehouse. Perhaps the best part of these new venues is the partnership with Live Nation, which ensures drawing impressive musical acts, such as upcoming sum- mer shows by Phoenix and O.A.R. 820 Hamilton St., 704-987-0612
Plaza Midwood's newest watering hole, Whiskey Warehouse, is a bourbon and scotch lover's dream. Offering more than seventy whiskeys and an extensive menu with a variety of burgers, salads, and apps, this has quickly become a neighborhood hangout that draws crowds from around town. With ten flat-screen televisions typically tuned to the game and a long bar perfect for pulling up a stool, it's obvious why blue-shirted bankers and Midwood hipsters alike love this place.
1221 The Plaza, 704-334-7005
You may not imagine that a nightspot that jams house music could be serene, but despite its hip soundtrack Dharma Lounge manages to channel your inner Zen. The large headphones-wearing Buddha statue towering over the bar sets the tone, while the white sofas and cabana beds invite you to chill with a sweet martini. Top DJs often spin late night, and the cocktail prices are some of the cheapest in town.
1440 S. Tryon St., Ste. 105, 704-334-8336
Wine bars have come and gone in Charlotte, but like the drink it's famous for Dolce Vita only gets better with age. Many a patron has discovered this eclectic bar during the popular NoDa Gallery Crawl -- one peek through the often-open street-front windows at the overstuffed couches and cozy bistro tables will tempt you inside. Looking for a bargain on your vino? Stop by on a Wednesday, when wine by the glass is half price and you can experiment with the varied selection. 3205 N. Davidson St., 704-334-1052
After undergoing a name change and rebranding last year, Halo became the city's go-to place to see and be seen while dancing like nobody's watching. With big-name DJs playing your favorite music, the large dance floor, which is surrounded by VIP booths, gets packed. The best time for going is during warmer months, when the outdoor patio with its own DJ and bar keeps the party flowing in and out all night. 820 Hamilton St., inside NC Music Factory, 704-246-1752
After enjoying a meal or show uptown, stroll over to Chima Brazilian Steakhouse and up the spiral staircase to the second-story bar, where you can cap off the night. It's intimate and relaxing, while the two-story windows overlook uptown's busy urban streets. Streetlights and candlelit tables converge to create the perfect nighttime glow. In addition to your favorite wines and top-shelf liquors you'll find Chima's selection of Brazilian beers and South American wines. 139 S. Tryon St., 704-601-4141
Whether it's a sunny afternoon perfect for people watching or a late night with the skyline aglow, you won't find a better outdoor seating experience than at Press Wine/Food. The tables sit just off the Trade Street sidewalk, giving you easy access for taking in the sights and sounds of uptown. Plus, with tasty food such as creative sushi rolls and small plates, as well as the wine bar's large selection of reasonably priced reds and whites, you'll want to settle in for a while. 333 W. Trade St., 704-370-3006
Innovative Bar Experience
Finally. A place where playing on your iPhone over drinks is completely socially acceptable. At TI Tapas in Birkdale you're invited to "eat, drink, connect." This means that while you're sipping on one of the innovative mixed drinks you can enjoy the touch-screen menu on your table and plug your laptop, digital camera, or mp3 player into the thirty-two-inch plasma television in your booth. So go ahead, log in to check your e-mail and show off your digital photos -- that kind of behavior is welcome here. 8625-C Lindholm Dr., Huntersville, 704-895-4373
With the addition of some seriously swanky hotels, Charlotte's hotel bar scene is hopping, and leading the charge is w xyz at Aloft Charlotte Uptown. Not only is it a cozy hideout from the busy EpiCentre (you can look down onto the nightlife complex from the bar's floor-to-ceiling windows), but it's a great nightspot in its own right. Top-40 pop and hip-hop plays while a mixture of out-of-towners and locals kicks back in the cushioned sofas, chat it up at the bar, or mingle around the pool table. 210 E. Trade St., inside the EpiCentre, 704-333-1999
Fridays at McCormick & Schmick's in SouthPark are worth ditching work early -- which is precisely what you have to do if you want a table at this popular spot. By 5 p.m. the dining area and patio are packed with young professionals chowing down on delicious -- and inexpensive -- dishes like fish tacos, quesadillas, and half-pound cheeseburgers (priced from $2 to $4). Drink specials change weekly, and squeezing your way to the bar may be hard, but go ahead -- the weekend is worth celebrating. 4335 Barclay Downs Dr., 704-442-5522
Even if the bar scene isn't your thing, there's one day a year in Charlotte when donning your green and drinking a Guinness are practically mandatory. Rich and Bennett's St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl has been taking place on the Saturday closest to St. Patrick's Day for the past ten years. In 2009 it drew 5,000 people as well as camera crews from the Travel Channel for an episode of Extreme Wild Parties. For $20 you get an official pub- crawl T-shirt and access to twenty uptown bars, as you see how many you can hit in a span of twelve hours. Good (Irish) luck! rockhouseevents.com/stpatricksdaypubcrawl
Change in the Nightlife Scene
Since January 2, we've been able to breathe a deep sigh of relief without having to take in secondhand smoke thanks to North Carolina's Smoke-free Restaurants and Bars Law. This piece of legislation (in our tobacco state, nonetheless) has made it possible to bar hop to your heart's desire and still smell smoke free upon returning home. We think the city's nightlife scene is happier -- and healthier -- for it.