Go ahead—get crazy in these 10 festive hot spots around the globe. You won’t be alone.
“Goths in black leather sit next to new-century punks with dyed Mohawks, who are talking to a group of ‘80s revival, thrift-shop girls on their way to a party that’ll be DJ’d by a transvestite,” says Peter Chow, 30, an American student living in Berlin. He’s describing what he sees on the subway coming home from carousing at 5 a.m. in this anything-goes party town (though 5 a.m. is of course way early to quit). “It’s impossible to be bored in this city.”
Revelers may converge on party meccas like Rio de Janeiro, Munich, and New York City for specific events like Carnival, Oktoberfest, and New Year’s, but a great party town is one that buzzes year-round. It’s an expectation that Berlin lives up to, night after night. And the same holds true for other hot spots around the globe.
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Take New Orleans. The Big Easy goes extra wild for Mardi Gras, of course, but the sultry, unabashedly debauched town that’s launched many a music career is a party that never stops. “New Orleans just has great odd things happening,” says resident Sally Asher, mid-30s, who loves eclectic music venues, like Rock ‘n’ Bowl, where Cajun dancing mixes with bowling.
It’s not a surprise that many of our party towns are in urban areas. Big-city vibrancy and sophistication permeates São Paulo, Brazil, often referred to as the “New York of South America” for its international culture and ethnic mix. The term “balada,” meaning “excitement, partying, and fun starting at midnight and lasting till noon,” began with Paulistanos, residents of São Paulo. And Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is famous for its Nordic brand of nightlife, and even economic downturn hasn’t stopped the revelry—it just makes partying more affordable for tourists stopping after easy flights from the U.S. or Europe.
But cities aren’t the only places to find a party. Islands, too, often spur the urge to get up and dance. Greece’s island of Mykonos, for example, lures sun and song worshipers. “The whole hungover island dozes until around noon,” says Mark Guiducci, 20, a Princeton University student from San Diego, reflecting on his most recent visit. “Then the beaches and clubs become populated with beautiful people, and techno music again percolates across the island.”
And you know you’re in party-land when the nightclub holds 10,000 guests. That’s the claim made by Privilege, a club on the Spanish island of Ibiza (also home to the “foam party,” where cannons spray suds over exuberant dancers until they’re neck-deep in bubbles).
But great parties aren’t restricted to tropical climes. Ask Gable Richardella, a ski instructor in Steamboat Springs, in Colorado’s Yampa Valley. “Steamboat is a great party town,” he says, “because locals are pulled to like-minded people who enjoy life and want to have a good time—and end up staying in Steamboat longer than they thought they would.” He’s lived in the resort town 15 years.
Richardella cites the “Yampa Valley Curse,” which says, “Once you come to the valley, you are destined to return.” Maybe that’s the “curse” of all party towns—no one ever wants to leave.
Although chilly outside, it’s still hot (after eight years) inside this supernova nightclub with a spacious stage, where a galaxy of gorgeous carousers can make live videos of themselves.
Tausend Backroom Cantina
Over in Mitte, a mix of fashion and media types frequent this club, built under the tracks of the commuter S-Bahn train.
Near the boardwalk, popular Magnums has its own party formula: a beer garden with live music, cheap drinks, mechanical surfboard riding, jelly wrestling, and...you get the idea.
A DJ-centric club with zebra-striped dance floor and tribal motifs.
This bar’s name is a reference to the 40-second elevator ride that clubgoers must take to reach its 8th floor location. Once the elevator doors open, its occupants enter a space that is part futuristic, part vintage 1980's. The space has white walls, and low, white tables and banquettes. Light is provided by space age-looking Verner Panton lamps. Patrons can sip cocktails in one of the bar’s three rooms, where the atmosphere is made complete by pulsating R&B, house, and electronic music.
Tables are cleared at 11 p.m. to make room for an epic dance floor between two-story-tall lighted pillars.
Notorious Berlin club entrepreneur Heinz “Cookie” Gindullis has been a household word for Berlin’s revelers since he opened the first Cookies in 1994. After years of searching for a new home, Cookies’ latest (fifth!) incarnation has revived its old spirit in what was once a cinema. Accessible via a small door tucked between the Westin Grand Hotel and the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur on the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden, the cavernous main space is lined with vertical wood slats and has a freestanding island bar topped with a huge chandelier, and a sunken dance floor where enthusiastic danceaholics are inspired by local and international DJs. Smaller rooms feature soul, 1980s favorites, or just lounging. Refreshingly, most people are here to move rather than impress or watch.
A rum bar that serves 74 different kinds of rum—one for each of the 74 Whitsunday Islands.
Spain’s manic party-till-dawn mantra is especially evident at this club. The largest club in the world, the seven-story-tall Privilege can accommodate some 10,000 celebrants and has an open, 65-foot-wide geodesic dome and a stable of DJs who spin while suspended over a dance-floor swimming pool.
Full Moon Festival
Re-create free-spirited scenes from Leo DiCaprio’s The Beach (2000) at Thailand’s Full Moon Festival. Claiming to be the “world’s biggest beach party,” the all-night outdoor celebration on Haad Rin Beach, on the moonrise-side of Koh Phangan island, explodes every month with some 10,000 globe-trotters looking to cut loose to techno, hip-hop, and psy trance on a white-sand beach under the glowing night sky. Raves do still happen.
Hedonism is honored at this club, which can accommodate some 1,000 gyrating merrymakers.
Cavo Paradiso Club
In a spectacular location overlooking Paradise Beach, Dionysus devotees romp around a pool.
To stand out on jazz club-lined Frenchmen Street, you need more than just great music. The pull at d.b.a. reaches beyond their line-ups, which can include anything and everything from the Treme Brass Band to local indie favorites to touring funk bands. The bar also boasts one of the best craft beer selections in town, so fans of small domestic breweries or Belgian rarities will have their taste buds catered to as well as their eardrums. Many of the shows don't even have a cover charge, but get there early if you want to get a good view of the music.
Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl
What started as a shopping mall bowling alley in 1941 was transformed into a live music venue in the late 1980's. Today, Rock 'n' Bowl has reached legendary status in New Orleans with eclectic tunes and vintage bowling—no electronic scoreboards in sight—which converge seamlessly under one roof. Crowds of two-stepping and swing dancing locals descend upon the huge dance floor to whirl around, many in costumes of bygone eras, to all genres of live music ranging from zydeco to southern rock. When you need a break, stop by the bar for a beer, pizza, wings, or the fried bread pudding poboy. Bowling parties, complete with Cajun fare, can be booked in advance.
Soho, Punta del Este
A bar that creates a warehouselike party atmosphere, complete with multiple dance levels, disco balls, and strobe lights.
Occupying a former paint store, this bistro is located just next door to the city's hottest shopping district. Ground zero for people watching — the second-floor bar has a picture window overlooking the street — Kaffi Solon is an artsy venue with more than just eats. (There are magazines for perusing, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a wide selection of coffee and tea beverages.) The menu is international bistro fare, ranging from Asian stir fry to burritos and quesadillas to vegetarian dishes. On weekends, the bistro is transformed into a popular DJ-hosted night spot.
Ground zero for the city's gay scene, this raucous venue in the nightclub district hosts DJ-spun music four nights per week. Billing itself as the "hottest gay bar in Iceland," Q-Bar serves as a meeting spot days and a hopping dance club most nights (typically Wednesdays through Saturdays, consistent with Iceland's fondness for extended weekends). Music at the straight friendly club ranges across various genres. The menu offerings are just as eclectic, but tapas and wraps are the headliners. Besides wine and beer, Q-Bar serves cocktails such as strawberry mojitos.
One of the city’s coolest electronic-music clubs, D-Edge attracts partiers with a wild dance room that makes you feel like you’re inside a giant Rubik’s Cube.
Emporio de Serra
Head to Emporio de Serra tavern atop the Cantareira, overlooking São Paulo’s skyscrapers, to savor Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha, made of lime juice, sugar, and cachaça (distilled from sugarcane).
Gondola Pub & Grill
After a day on the slopes, skiers unwind at this atmospheric honky-tonk club, where a full-size gondola loaded with skis dangles from the ceiling over the dance floor.
Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Soothe dance-and-ski-exhausted muscles with a deep-tissue massage and mineral soak in natural stone-lined pools.