Food & Drink

The Best Places to Dance in San Francisco

Published On 01/12/2016 Published On 01/12/2016

There are the nights you want to maybe sway a little and bend your knees to a beat. And then there are the nights when you want to feel like Kevin Bacon in Footloose or Jennifer Beals in Flashdance or Michael Jackson every day of his life (RIP Mike). For those nights, head to any of these poppin’ dance floors and prepare to sweat.

Monarch

Monarch

SoMa

Located on not-at-all-dangerous(-if-you-go-during-the-daytime-and-have-a-bodyguard-and-a-taser) 6th St, this steampunk club pairs a booming downstairs dance space with a slightly less-booming classy upstairs bar, complete with sexy lady acrobats dangling from the ceiling.

Audio Discotech

Audio Discotech

SoMa

Situated above a snazzy bar spot that looks like it was pulled straight out of a billionaire’s hunting lodge, this probably-owned-by-the-same-billionaire club's got a constant rotating list of imported DJs, custom color-changing lights, and a brand-new Funktion-One sound system -- because apparently even respected audio engineers like bad puns.

Flickr/Anuj Biyani

DNA Lounge

SoMa

This guy's home to Bootie (a quintessentially SF party), has three dance floors (some with '90s R&B, some with trance, etc.), draws people ranging from the Marina to Oakland (OK, probably further than that), and if you buy tickets ahead of time, you get to skip past all the newbies in line. Also, 3am pizza!

Vertigo

Tenderloin

Veritgo's got 1) a huge international crowd, 2) a penchant for playing Top 40 that you can get weird to like you maybe do when driving alone in your car, and 3) a hot dog cart outside where, hypothetically, someone could easily steal your bacon-wrapped one and force you to chase them down, trip, and tear your jeans... hypothetically.

The Grand

The Grand

Mission Bay

This bi-level spot is pretty great for the upstairs VIP area (if you’re the bottle service type), otherwise, the line can get a little dicey and the near-entrance bar can clog things up a bit... but the dance floor is always pretty packed and playing EDM.

Infusion Lounge

Infusion

Union Square

Despite the extremely upscale décor, it’s actually one of the cheaper clubs to get into if you sign up on the online guest list ($10 instead of $20). Plus, if you follow it on Instagram, it's constantly doing promotions for free bottle service. Yes, please.

Buckshot

Inner Richmond

The Buckshot is a magical place -- and likely the only spot in the city, if not the world, that you can play shuffleboard and skee-ball, eat bacon, and dance like you’re at your best friend’s wedding all under the same roof.

Madrone

Madrone Art Bar

Divisadero

Madrone offers a reason to practice your Michael Jackson impression seven nights a week -- Motown Monday is particularly bucket list-worthy -- and the dance floor is always crowded with people gyrating as if literally no one is watching. But everyone is.

Flickr/Lynn Friedman

Delirium

Mission

The pub-like vibe upfront conceals the fact that the black-painted back room offers one of the most underrated dance experiences maybe ever. The music is a mixture of top 40, wedding jams, and everything you grinded to at a middle-school dance, and it’s so dark and transformative anything can happen, but mostly... impromptu Dancing with the Stars reenactments.

Starlight Room

Union Square

Unlike most spots on this list, this SF institution is likely not in your usual Saturday-night-out circuit (although please introduce yourself if it is). Still you haven’t truly lived or experienced romance until you’ve twirled someone on the gorgeous Art Deco dance floor under the mirrored ceiling set 21 floors up.

Double Dutch

Double Dutch

Mission

The DJs’ preferences for 1990s hip-hop and funk make cramming into the graffitied dance floor lined with vintage boomboxes worth it. The music is hard to beat anywhere else, especially if you’re looking for hip-hop, so it’s unfortunate that there’s also a high likelihood you’ll get felt up while you’re just trying to “Creep” -- in the TLC way; not in the weird handsy way. Or maybe that’s a plus? Either way, if you’re looking for a modern-day Dirty Dancing scene, go here, but leave your watermelon at home -- there’s no room.

Flickr/Sean Davis

Boom Boom Room

Fillmore

The oldest blues club west of the Mississippi delivering, well, blues, boogie, and soul six nights a week makes for a little slice of New Orleans in the heart of the Fillmore.  

Edinburgh Castle

Tenderloin

The rotating DJs that churn out Motown, hip-hop, glam, and punk put this spacious pub in our top five favorite bars on Geary. While you could have a quiet night here playing pool or trivia, if you hit the dance floor on Friday or Saturday night, chances are you’ll morph into a sweaty, beer-drenched version of yourself that you later have to ask your friend to remove from Facebook.

Eastside West

Eastside West

Marina

Go here and take a late-night spin on this sweaty dance floor, made up entirely of people who can’t really dance but clearly don’t care as it’s definitely a before-30 bucket list activity

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Comet Club

Marina

This divey bar just up the street is for people who want the East Side West dance floor but aren’t 22.

Bissap Baobab/Little Baobab

Mission

Come for the bomb Senegalese food; stay late into the night when they move the tables to dance it all off to reggae, zouk, soca, Latin, Brazilian, and the popular hip-moving, frenetic sounds of West African music, rarely heard outside of Paris or Dakar.

Flickr/Russell Mondy

Bruno's

Mission

It’s a club but also a mid-century historical landmark so when you’re dropping it low, definitely notice the exposed brick and 1950s-era plush walls. The private Pussycat Lounge upstairs (as amazing as it sounds) is perfect for a groovy '70s-themed party. Play your own music and get weird among shag carpeting and stripper poles.

Kells

North Beach

You’re going here because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and you just must stomp around to Dropkick Murphys (upstairs) or you’d like to make out with a stranger and then regret not leaving before the lights got turned on (downstairs). Either way, it’s a little taste of college in North Beach.

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Amy Copperman is a regular Thrillist contributor. She just wants to dance. Literally always. Follow her at @acoppergirl.

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1. Monarch 101 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Located on not-at-all-dangerous(-if-you-go-during-the-daytime-and-have-a-bodyguard-and-a-taser) 6th St, this steampunk club pairs a booming downstairs dance space with a slightly less-booming classy upstairs bar, complete with sexy lady acrobats dangling from the ceiling.

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2. Audio 316 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Not a single detail was spared when creating Audio’s sonic paradise of a dance floor. There's a top-of-the-line Funktion One sound system coupled with a massive LED wall that’s programmed to fluctuate with the music of DJ sets from names like Sharam, Gareth Emery, and Bag Raiders. The bar’s got it all, but if you're in the mood to be waited on, go for the bottle service/table option.

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3. DNA Lounge 375 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Since 1985, DNA Lounge has been at the heart of San Francisco’s underground nightlife. From burlesque shows to not-so-secret Prince concerts, the SOMA venue brings crowds from all over the Bay Area to come party on its four dance floors. Even better, it serves thin-crust pizza all night long.

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4. Vertigo 1160 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (The Tenderloin)

One of the best places to dance any night of the week, this Tenderloin club tends towards Top 40 hits to keep its international clientele on the floor. Hungry? Head outside for delicious bacon-wrapped hotdogs from the street cart that's always waiting to feed the late night crowd.

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5. Vessel 85 Campton Pl, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Union Square)

Vessel's a hip, lounge-inspired spot with awesome tunes and even better libations.

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6. The Grand 520 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Soma)

For a little taste of Vegas, head to this Mission Bay dance club. This bi-level spot boasts a pretty great upstairs VIP area (if you’re the bottle service type) and state-of-the-art sound and lighting (like the ball made of 30,000 individual LED lights). Bust a move to bumping EDM tunes as you pop bottles all night long from one of four fully stocked bars.

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7. Infusion Lounge 124 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

Upscale decor and VIP vibe notwithstanding, this is actually one of SF's cheaper clubs to get into (sign up online ahead of time and your admission's cut in half to a paltry $10). Pro tip: follow them on Instagram where they're steadily doing assorted promotions for free bottle service and the like, rendering your evening even cheaper.

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8. Buckshot Bar & Gameroom 3848 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Inner Richmond)

Buckshot is a bar/arcade, offering cheap drinks and games like Skee-Ball, darts, shuffleboard, and pool. Be sure to grab a seat at one of their picnic tables, and expect someone to do the worm in that open space in front of the bathrooms.

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9. Madrone Art Bar 500 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Alamo Square)

Get to Madrone around happy hour to enjoy $1-off draught beers and well drinks, as well as the live piano player that opens for the rotating host of DJs. It’s a party here every night of the week, including Mondays when Motown draws a line around the block.

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10. Delirium 3139 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

A favorite among local dives, Delirium is the type of watering hole that’ll always be waiting for you with cheap drinks and a pool table in a room full of random neon beer signs, never expecting anything in return. Right off the lively corner of 16th & Valencia, Delirium and its all-day $2 Tecate cans are always a good decision.

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11. The Starlight Room 450 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

Harry Denton's Starlight Room, located on the 21st floor of Union Square's Sir Francis Drake Hotel, is a totally opulent old-school lounge and nightclub. The interior features red velvet, sparkling chandeliers, mirrored ceilings, and an Art Deco dance floor. Even more intoxicating than the Top 40 tunes are the 360-degree views of the city. Oh, and on Sundays, drag queens perform during the weekly drag brunch.

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12. Double Dutch 3192 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

The words "great" and "wall" should never have been used without being followed by "of jam boxes" because that's the precedent Double Dutch has established. The old-school atmosphere, coupled with the DJ spinning '80s and '90s hip-hop, will get you bouncing with nostalgia in no time.

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13. Boom Boom Room 1601 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Located in the heart of The Fill, Boom Boom Rooms serves as the backbone of San Francisco's blues community. With music six nights a week, this low-light, sultry venue is as real as it gets.

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14. Edinburgh Castle 950 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (The Tenderloin)

The Edinburgh Castle is far less pretentious that the title would make it seem -- cheap drinks, a fun trivia night, a young crowd, and cheap drinks (it's worth saying twice!) make this a great spot to relax and enjoy some cheap drinks (sorry)!

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15. Eastside West Restaurant & Bar 3154 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (The Marina)

Wanna get bottle service without going downtown? This is your spot. But wait, there’s more! A $25 bottomless mimosa and entree brunch you say? And shuffleboard and big ass TV’s? While Eastside West generally caters to the trendy Marina crowd, this is a classy joint where anyone can can feel comfortable letting loose and getting down on snacks like Tabasco-sauced calamari or fried truffled mac & cheese. You should also feel comfortable taking down a 120oz beer tower, because they have those, too.

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16. Comet Club 3111 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (The Marina)

Happy hour specials a plenty? Check. Free comedy three nights a week? Check. Nice bartenders AND a photo booth? Check. Run, don't walk to the Comet Club.

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17. Bissap Baobab 3372 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Have yourself a traditional Senegalese dinner and then hit the dance floor. Seriously. Bissap Baobab doubles as a fine African food spot and a lively nightclub. You can’t miss the location with it’s bright yellow paint and blue trim just off of Mission Street. Pop in on Friday or Saturday for the special Ceebu Jen, made with red fried rice mixed with tilapia and veggies.

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18. Bruno's 1375 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Fillmore)

Prominently known in the East Bay's most sub of 'burbs for his Northern Ital-style bistros, Bruno's setting up shop on lower Fillmore, despite the relative lack of four-wheeling opportunities in said locale.

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19. Kells Irish Restaurant & Bar 530 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Jackson Square)

The secret's out. Kell's hosts lively happy hours, sporting events that turn into dance parties, and has plenty of brews on tap. As far as we are concerned, Kell's Irish Restaurant & Bar is the best Irish bar in San Francisco, but we highly encourage that you stop by and see for yourself.

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