For this year's tbt* Ultimate Bar Guide, we tallied up more than 100 reasons we love going to bars in Tampa Bay. Here are eight bars, clubs and even a winery where you can cut loose on the weekends and indulge your wildest party instincts.
The DJ is sick, bro: The Amphitheatre
Just about every Friday and Saturday night, the Amphitheatre is jammed with college-aged kids in LED gloves, pony beads and GoPro cameras packing the dance floor and hugging the speakers to wring as much bass as possible out of their weekend revelry. It's like a scaled-down version of Tampa's Sunset Music Festival, which is co-organized by the Amphitheatre's owners, and which drew nearly 50,000 people to Raymond James Stadium over Memorial Day weekend. And when the Amp brings in big-name DJs like Armin Van Buuren, Krewella or Porter Robinson, the party doesn't stop until last call. Ybor City ain't Miami, but the Amphitheatre is Tampa's best EDM club, period, and Ground Zero for the city's emergence on the national EDM scene. 1609 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. (813) 873-8368, amptampa.com.
We like to spin records, too: The Bends
Six or seven years ago, I used to put on a weekly event called FILTH at the Emerald Bar. It's hard to believe now, but at the time, having DJs in a bar setting was pretty uncommon. For better or worse, DJs are all but ubiquitous in bars nowadays, and wouldn't you know it — I've found myself back in the game. The Bends is St. Pete's go-to spot for a quality DJ/bar combo, featuring a variety of monthly events and one-offs, with a wildly diverse range of music to dance to under the laser lights and colorful murals of its back room. My picks: The smoke, red lights, and custom cocktails of the Cloak+Dagger party (upcoming dates TBA), and the showcase of new live music and DJ talent at my night, Fast Company (the first Saturday of every month). 919 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 202-8931, facebook.com/thebendsbar. — Justin Grant
Glow parties: Freaki Tiki Bar
The rise in popularity of and EDM culture has brought about a wave of colorful and creative late-night bacchanals — paint parties, neon parties, feather parties and the like. Clearwater's Freaki Tiki Bar is entirely on board with the trend, throwing a monthly Glow Party during which DJs spin dubstep and trap music, bartenders dispense silly-sounding shots and fans dress in their finest white and neon to dance amid laser lights and glowsticks. This sort of activity seems better suited for the Ybor strip than a tiki-style compound off U.S. 19, but maybe that's why its North Pinellas regulars always seems so amped up. 28778 U.S. 19, Clearwater; (727) 329-6160, freakitikibar.com.
Rooftop reggae: Club Prana
Nothing about Club Prana on a Friday night is chill — at least not on the first four levels. After you've chosen your entry line, cheap/long wait, not cheap/shorter wait, or breeze on in because you're Kate Upton, only the determined take the five stories to Prana's roof for the unique-to-Ybor experience. The cloud of suspiciously marijuana-smelling smoke greets you immediately as a DJ spins the best of current and classic reggae, leaving no riddim unplayed, too keep the crowd moving. It's the most relaxed level of the bar, with groups of friends peering off in every direction, taking in the lights of Ybor City. 1619 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. (813) 241-4139, clubprana.com.
We want a taste of NYC nightlife at home: Anise Global Gastrobar
A lot of people get turned on to slick, big-city parties during a short stint living in New York before ultimately deciding that $3,000 a month is too much to pay for a bedroom and moving back home. The good news is Tampa has a weekly party that wouldn't seem out of place in the Lower East Side, and that party is the Smoke+Mirrors at Anise Global Gastrobar. Anise is a winner on its own, serving up creative cocktails with international flair in a hip, downtown Tampa space. But after 11 p.m. on Thursdays, the Savior-Faire gang gets the party started proper — everything is stark black and white, with champagne flowing and a playlist several times fresher than the usual party jams that you're bound to run into elsewhere. If Anise has the big-city feel that you're looking for, then Thursday nights there are a cinch. 777 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. (813) 225-4272, aniseglobalgastrobar.com.
We want adult entertainment, sans boobs: G Bar
Very tiny briefs are the only things the male go-go dancers at G Bar in Ybor City can be bothered to wear as they dance on platforms around the dance floor on Tuesday nights. Popping, twerking and shaking for hours is just a warm-up for the main event — a piecemeal drag show blended with crowd contests. No cover, free drinks till 11 p.m. and $1 wells after that make G Bar a draw for people of all persuasions, especially on the late-night side, when Ybor City starts to look like a desert town. The dancers keep the party going as partiers fuel up on liquid courage some need to showcase their best moves. The highlight of the night is an amatuer strip contest that goes to show that you never really know the people around you. Unassuming clubbers drop trou to the beat at the slightest provocation. It's not for the faint of heart. G Bar, 1401 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City, (813) 247-1016, facebook.com/gbartpa.
We've got money to burn and nowhere to be in the morning: Center Bar at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
American Indian casinos have different rules than the cities surrounding them — cities that insist on prohibiting drink sales past 3 a.m. or so. At the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, there are no clocks, both literally and figuratively. Its Center Bar, easily identified by the Kiss costumes on display at each corner, is open 24 hours on weekdays (alas, it closes from 3 to 8 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), so you can keep the rounds going until the sun's back in the sky. For maximum vice indulgence, you can play video poker right at the bar; hit a jackpot and the staff can grab you a top-shelf bottle to celebrate. 5223 N Orient Road, Tampa. (813) 627-7625, seminolehardrocktampa.com.
Wino and Dino!: Keel & Curley Winery
"Wino and Dino" is the greatest Plant City invention since the Parkesdale Farms strawberry milkshake. Your afternoon-long foray into awesomehood begins at the Keel & Curley Winery tasting room, where for the super-low price of $6, you can sample eight of the 14 wines grown and produced right there on the property (you can also try beer from Keel & Curley's Two Henrys Brewing Company). This is key: There is no limit to the number of tastings you can do, a single glass of your fave is $5 and a bottle is $14.99. Doors open in the early afternoon and food trucks offer barbecue in the parking lot. When you've had your fill, grab some wine to go — including frozen wine-mixer drinks — and have your designated driver take you to Dinosaur World less than a mile away. Wandering around the scale models of the creepily smiling and sometime even mauling sculptures on a wine drunk makes for an awesome collection of pictures far more valuable than the paltry $18 you pay for admission. Wino and Dino is everything. Plant City is Valhalla. Keel and Curley Winery, 5210 Thonotosassa Road; (813) 752-9100, keelandcurleywinery.com, Dinosaur World, 5145 Harvey Tew Road. dinosaurworld.com.