Approaching Gainesville nightlife can be daunting. New students are embarrassed to know nothing, and older students are embarrassed to be out of the know.
Feel daunted no longer.
Gainesville nightlife is divided into two scenes: Midtown, the more casual college scene across from campus, and the slightly classier downtown scene.
Midtown, a stretch of bars and clubs located in the block between Northwest 17th Street and Northwest 18th Street, is the easiest option for campus residents — a crosswalk away from the closest classrooms.
It’s the civic duty of incoming freshmen to go to Grog House Grill, the only 18+ club in Midtown. Grog offers a good time for $5, and can become a mess of crazy freshmen. Watch out for all-you-can-drink Saturdays — and the stairs.
Fat Daddy’s, colloquially called “Fats,” is soundtracked by dance and house music and is the go-to spot for Greeks and UF athletes alike. Wall-to-wall crowds mean it’s often hot inside, and the persistent craziness despite its 21+ entry makes it the grown-up Grog.
The Rowdy Reptile, or “Rowdy’s,” is also pretty popular. It has food, basketball and mainstream music. It’s a chill place with little dancing — great to hang with friends and typically flooded with families during parents’ weekend.
JJ’s Tavern is a small but busy dive bar. While Fats plays house, JJ’s plays sing-along pop; it’s more chill but still fun. It’s known for its rum buckets, personal pizzas and large populace of frat boys. Its newly added back bar has LED lights and tables for sitting.
Salty Dog Saloon is more of a longtime dive bar. Frequenters stand divided, either calling it “Salty” or “Dog.” Expect an older crowd and country vibes. It’s intimate and casual: lots of sitting, chilling and talking. The Saloon has booths, pool and ping pong tables. It also offers bar eats and drinking challenges in exchange for T-shirts.
Balls is the small, grunge-y, graffiti-littered bar of Midtown. Its crowd is made of more actual adults than college students, so the scene, especially compared to that of Fats or JJ’s, can come off a bit random.
The only rooftop bar around belongs to The Social at Midtown, where patrons can watch a game, enjoy karaoke and $5 pitchers on Wednesdays or partake in all-you-can-drink Thursdays. The downstairs boasts a full menu, and the rooftop comes complete with cornhole and ring toss.
White Buffalo, commonly shortened to “White Buff,” is in the upper echelon of Downtown clubs. Located at 111 S. Main Street, it’s 21+ to enter and typically packed with a long line, booked-out tables and a fleet of bartenders to ensure a short wait for drinks. Bouncer Justin Goldfeder, known as “Alpha Daddy,” and the white buffalo statue inside are icons of the establishment.
Downtown Fats, or “DTF,” sits across the street at 112 S. Main Street. The 21+ club is a favorite — big, packed and as dark as a Hollister dressing room. Tiny tables line the wall next to a big stage, and the lit bar in the back invokes images along the lines of a New York speakeasy. It’s a good move for Fridays and game days.
The Range, located at 10 SE Second Ave., is similar to White Buffalo — in vicinity as well as vibes. Range is 21+ and home to the popular Techno Tuesday, Latin nights and throwback Fridays.
In contrast to the mainstream is University Club, the area’s historic LGBTQ club. Located at 18 E. University Ave., the 18+ club boasts a colorful environment and roaring drag shows. There’s a mirror by the dance floor too, for all those into themselves.
The Lab Bar and Lounge, located at 18 W. University Ave., is Gainesville’s only Latin club, and it’s 18+, so it tends to draw a large crowd. Bricks, located at 112 SW First Ave., is also an 18+ establishment. It’s more of a rap setting and runs more popular with local crowds than UF students.
Simon’s, a club and music venue located at 8 S. Main St., has wide open floors, which are usually packed and light visuals on its walls behind the stage. It’s historic for the prevalent DJs it hosted in the ‘90s, such as John Digweed and Sasha, but nowadays it’s fallen out of popular favor. Simon’s is only the go-to when popular DJs like Noizu or Liquid Stranger are performing.
If clubs aren’t your thing, Downtown also has live music venues.
Vivid Music Hall, an 18+ venue formerly known as Knockin’ Boots Saloon, is good for events. Located at 201 W. University Ave., Vivid pays homage to its former name with regular line dancing events and close country roots. It has plenty of room to dance and an impressive set of stage lights and lasers.The foundation for the success of its concerts, such as its Halloween Steve Aoki set.
The Wooly, located at 20 N. Main St., is an all-purpose event space, but it draws the most sizable crowds for its emo night, ‘80s night and Taylor Swift dance nights. The venue has a huge dance floor and stage and booths off to the side. Age for entry depends on the event.
High Dive, located at 210 SW Second Ave., is another 18+ venue that hosts music artists, comedians and actors with popularity ranging from local to national. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Down the street from the High Dive, the ever-emergent How Bazar at 60 SW Second St. hosts cultural events like night markets, open mics and disco parties.
Downtown also offers several casual drink and entertainment spots.
Cry Baby’s bar, located at 1 W. University Ave., is a chic, slightly expensive spot that offers creative cocktails. The place is great for a chill night with friends.
Main Street Bar, Billiards & Lounge, located at 108 S. Main St., is a pool bar with 12 pool tables, a bar and poker in the back. They have a vast shot menu and cater to a more mature crowd.
Palomino Pool Hall, or simply “Palomino’s,” is connected to Backyard, an outdoor bar and venue. Palomino’s is located at 19 SE Second St., and Backyard at 232 SE First St. The two establishments are 18+ for entry aside from select all-ages events and their 21+ Malibu nights Fridays. Inside, Palomino’s houses a bar and venue, and the two places offer a less intense night out than clubbing with karaoke, trivia and live music.
Arcade Bar, or Barcade, located at 6 E. University Ave., is a three-floored space for people to enjoy drinks and classic arcade games like pinball, Mario Kart and skee-ball. It gets busy but never too crazy.
Lastly, Mom’s OG, located at 1017 W. University Ave., is a social scene of its own kind. Occupying the no-man’s-land between Midtown and downtown, “Mom’s” stakes its spot as Gainesville’s premier Irish pub. This is where you go to catch a game with friends, wings and beer.