While there are a countless number of places to dance, drink and have a fun night, check out these ten cool clubs we'd love to spend a couple of hours in.
1The infamous Manhattan disco where anything could happen – and everything did
Yes, that's Michael Jackson in the hat.
No club is probably better known than New York's Studio 54, the mother of all cool clubs in the world.
54, which was in operation from 1977-1981, was known for its celebrity clientele, the nightly mob scene outside its doors with thousands of people jostling for a spot beyond the velvet rope and the drugs and debauchery going on inside.
It was the right club, in the right place at the right time – for a total of only 33 months. The stories of what happened inside – from Bianca Jagger (then wife of Mick) riding a white horse into the club on her birthday, to the famous crescent moon snorting coke over the dance floor (see above) – are endless. Everyone from Hollywood's elite to world politicians were regulars including Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Halston, Mick Jagger, Calvin Klein, Elton John, Margaret Trudeau, Truman Capote, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Diana Ross, Cher, Salvador Dali, John Travolta, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and Brooke Shields to name just a few.
In 1978, club co-owner Steve Rubell made the mistake of telling the press the club made $7 million in its first year and that "only the Mafia made more money." That comment put Studio 54 on the radar of the Internal Revenue Service and it was soon raided. Rubell and co-owner Ian Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million.
Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison and while the club remained open under different management, it was never quite the same.
2A prison themed cafe dubbed one of the "seven wonders of Hollywood"
Themed clubs first popped up in Montmartre (Paris) in the later nineteenth century. In 1885, Café du Bagne (Café of the Penitentiary) was the first of its kind with a prison motif. Within a few years, the trend made its way stateside and by 1925, The Jail Cafe opened its doors on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
At the Jail Cafe, patrons were served at a table which occupied its own cell, by waiters dressed as convicts. Customers "roughed it" – they weren't given any utensils and were encouraged to eat with their hands.
The Jail opened a second location downtown, but by the time it was named one of the “seven wonders of Hollywood,” by a local newspaper, the trend of theme establishments died down and the cafe closed its doors.
3The glamorous hotspot that was once the toast of Hollywood
The world famous Cocoanut Grove opened in the equally famous Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1921.
The Grove's architecture had a definite Moorish-influence – the palm trees that dotted the room were said to have come from the Rudolph Valentino film classic The Sheik and even had stuffed monkeys perched in them! The ceiling was painted a midnight blue and stars dotted the Grove's "sky."
The club is where legends like Bing Crosby and Barbra Streisand had their start, and Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and many others came to perform. Gene Kelly, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and Julie Andrews all played the Grove. The Grove was also they location for the the first ever Oscars and Golden Globe Awards.
Despite efforts to save the property over the years (along with the rest of the Ambassador Hotel), it was deemed unsalvageable and has since been demolished and replaced by a public school.
4The Heaven & Hell nightclubs of La Belle Époque
As we previously mentioned, theme clubs first came into existence in Montmartre during La Belle Époque. Check out this trippy trio of watering holes once in the area:
• Goth before goth meant anything, The Cabaret du Néant ("The Cabaret of Nothingness") patrons were treated to the jovial atmosphere of death – they drank on coffins and were served cocktails (named after diseases) by monks and funeral attendees. As they moved from room to room, they were treated to an illusion to make revelers look as if they melted away into skeletons.
• Perhaps after "dying," a club patron would make his/her way to the Cabaret de l'Enfer ("The Cabaret of the Inferno"), which was a Hell-influenced club in Montmartre in which patrons could witness a snake transform into a devil. They also enjoyed being heckled by "Satan," and were warned repeatedly of the scalding temperature.
• Right next-door to the Cabaret de l'Enfer was the Cabaret du Ciel ("The Cabaret of the Sky"), which was "heavenly" by comparison. Upon entry, patrons were greeted by Dante and Father Time. St. Peter served as emcee to the night's divine entertainment, as beautiful "angels" flirted with patrons.
5The punk club that's been listed in the National Register Of Historic Places
At about the same time Studio 54 was gathering steam uptown, another club made its mark on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Founded 1973 by Hilly Kristal at 315 Bowery, CBGB became known worldwide as a famed venue of punk rock and new wave bands including the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Talking Heads as well as countless others.
The name CBGB & OMFUG stands for "Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers." The club initially catered to country, bluegrass, and blues music (along with poetry readings), but within a few years punk became its mainstay.
Over the years as the neighborhood changed, the club fought to stay open, but was eventually forced out due to rising rents and gentrification. In 2006, the doors to CBGB finally closed. Today, the clubs lives on in market ventures such as the CBGB Music and Film Festival, CBGB radio (on the iheartradio app) and countless t-shirts.
The club's building even made it to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 as part of the Bowery Historic District. Of its nomination it is said, "CBGB was founded in 1973 on the Bowery, in a former nineteenth-century saloon on the first floor of the Palace Lodging House. The legendary music venue fostered new genres of American music, including punk and art rock, that defined the culture of downtown Manhattan in the 1970s, and that still resonate today. In this role as cultural incubator, CBGB served the same function as the theaters and concert halls of the Bowery's storied past. The former club, now occupied by a retail business, remains a pilgrimage site for legions of music fans.”
6The prohibition-era speakeasy with a treehouse and painting classes
The Krazy Kat Klub, a Bohemian cafe, speakeasy and nightclub, was located steps away from Thomas Circle in Washington D.C., in the early teens and '20s.
The club's entrance was marked with a small sign that read, “Syne of ye Krazy Kat” along with a warning at the top of the door that read, “All soap abandon ye who enter here.”
Inside, patrons were welcome to access a tree house that could be reached by a precarious ladder. It was also the site of frequent artist exhibitions and painting classes.
During prohibition, the club was raided several times. In February 1919, the Krazy Kat was raided after police heard gunshots coming from the club at around 1:00 a.m. “25 patrons, including three women — self-styled artists, poets and actors, and some who worked for the government by day and masqueraded as Bohemians by night," were taken into custody and faced charges of drinking in public.
7A kid-friendly matinée at the world famous Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge, the world's most famous cabaret, is mostly a tourist attraction nowadays. While kids as young as six are now welcome to enter the establishment, the above photos are from the far more conservative era of the 1950s, when the birthplace of the cancan apparently had a Sunday children's matinee! We're assuming the show was a toned down version of the evening's entertainment.
8A cabaret of connecting treehouses influenced by the Swiss Family Robinson
Le grand Robinson was a cabaret located in the Le Plessis Robinson suburb of Paris established in 1848. This suite of interconnected tree houses was named Le grand Robinson after the tree house described in Swiss Family Robinson, a novel by Johann David Wyss.
9The 'floating' club that inhabits abandonded spaces in Paris
This "floating" club is one of the only clubs still in existence on our list and if you find yourself in Paris, we encourage you to go.
Secretive event organizers called We Are The Oracle find abandoned locations in and around the city and set up shop for a night to remember. Some of their past soirées have been in the abandoned Rothschild mansion, a World War II bunker and closed inner-city railway.
10A bar that's also an entrance to Portland's shady past
While the Shanghai Tunnel is more a bar than club and a pretty nondescript one at that, it is what lies underneath that is captivating. Below the floors of the establishment lie tunnel passages that link Portland, Oregon's Old Town (Chinatown) to the central downtown area of the city. The basements are also linked to the Willamette River waterfront through the tunnels, which allowed supplies to be moved from ships docked there directly to basements for storage.
But according to local lore, the tunnels may have a more sinister history – patrons in the establishments above were either drugged, kidnapped while intoxicated or simply knocked out, then dropped or dragged into the tunnels through trapdoors called "deadfalls." Once in the tunnels, they were locked in specially designed prison cells and held captive until they were shipped off as slave laborers. The practice was known as "shanghaiing."
While there is some doubt as to the veracity of the claims, shanghaiing did take place in the American West. What is unclear is what role the tunnels actually played in the practice (although we do know the tunnels were utilized to escape police raids on opium dens and gambling rooms). Today, you can tour the tunnels and judge for yourself, and cool off for a drink at the Shanghai Bar afterward.