The Best Places to Dance in San Francisco
Whether you’re into EDM, techno, hip hop, rap, or ‘90s hits, here’s where to shake your tailfeather in SF.
Like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike, sometimes you just want—no need—to dance, and especially after two years of empty dancefloors (now we really know how the kids in Footloose felt). When that urge hits, you need look no further than all of these SF spots, which range from tiny dives to top-notch cocktail bars to Vegas-like venues and everything in between.
The Valencia Room
This bi-level Mission standby originally opened in 1935, and has been an entertainment venue in one way or another ever since. It's been home to a country bar, a Spanish restaurant, an all-female nightclub, and most recently, The Elbo Room (RIP). The current space looks pretty much the same, but there have been updates to the lighting and sound systems. Downstairs, you’ll find a small dance floor and more of a bar vibe. Upstairs is all about the huge dance area, stage, and music that ranges from Taylor Swift takeovers to hip hop and Latin to reggaeton.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top night out complete with a high-level Vegas-esque cheese factor, bridge-and-tunnel clientele, and bottle service, Temple is your spot. The main dance floor is huge with 50,000 floor-to-ceiling LED bulbs, a custom DJ booth, VIP booths along the edge, box suites, and mezzanine tables. Go downstairs for an underground party that’s more about the dancing and less about the “being seen” scene (though still with plenty of VIP tables).
This SF offshoot of the namesake club in LA’s Koreatown is an awesome option for the 18+ set who want to get down to hip hop and R&B on Thursday nights. Fridays and Saturdays, however, are reserved for those who can legally drink. The experience bills itself as a house party, but just trust us when we say you would not want to have this particular house party in your house. But hey, that’s why dance clubs exist in the first place, right?
Halycon popped up a few years before the pandemic and immediately became a go-to for San Franciscans looking to dance the night (and morning away) to EDM and more experimental electronic music. The one-room venue inside of a brick and steel-beamed warehouse is meant to ensure all 400 guests (at capacity) have a similar experience, complete with a powerful sound system and top-of-the-line lighting system. Halcyon has a 24-hour license, which means that some nights turn into morning, and some mornings start fresh with daytime events.
The Great Northern
This glamorous industrial-meets-art deco-inspired venue (formerly Mighty) comes from the team behind Monarch, so it’s no surprise that the sound and lighting are everything you’d want in a club experience, but that there are also lots of other thoughtful details like stained glass windows, chandeliers, stunning LED projections, space for outdoor parties, and more. During a typical night, you’ll hear underground EDM, deep house, techno, and sometimes even live music, but the ABBA tribute nights are not to be missed.
Sometimes you want a club with all of the glitz and glamor and indulgence possible. And sometimes you just want to dance. On those nights, head to F8, where the music—house, hip hop, techno, dubstep, drum and bass, and everything in between—reigns supreme.
Public Works is all about “giving the people what they want,” and what they want is a multipurpose space for performances, art, dancing, and drinking. Public Works delivers, especially when it comes to dance parties, thanks to a Funktion-One sound system, multiple bars, and sprung hardwood floors that absorb shock, which means fewer tired feet. You’ll find a range of local and international DJs, usually spinning deep house, techno, and EDM.
The 1890s building that houses August Hall was once a Victorian playhouse, the site of the world’s first underground parking structure, a movie theater, and most recently, Ruby Syke. Now it’s home to a downstairs restaurant with three bowling lanes, and a sprawling event space with 32-foot ceilings, stained glass, windows, and three bars. On any given night, you’ll find live music from a wide range of genres, so it’s really just a matter of checking the calendar to find a show that fits your mood.
This 40,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor space hosts all kinds of events, including food festivals, pop-up dinners, corporate meetings, art shows, and block parties, but it comes alive when DJs take over the Funktion-One Evo sound system in the main room. Like some other multi-purpose spaces on this list, your best bet is to check the calendar to see what appeals to your tastes.
When you walk into Monarch’s steampunk-meets-art nouveau upstairs bar, you’ll find quality cocktails and a space perfect for lounging (and taking free photobooth pics), but for those itching to dance, there's a secret private room behind an unmarked door with elegant parlor vibes as well as a downstairs basement with a booming dance floor. The latter is often home to top DJs, and occasional live music. Both spots typically charge a cover.
Audio is all about, well, the audio, claiming to have the best sound in SF “designed by sound fanatics for sound fanatics” with “the world’s first Funktion One 3D surround system, flagship Funktion One speakers.” A 3D lighting system creates a state-of-the-art immersive experience that makes it a favorite mid-sized venue for local and international DJs. The dance floor gets packed with passionate fans who flock here for techno, deep house, and EDM acts. This spot is for people who are there to hear the music and dance, not a casual night out. If you’re looking for the latter, head to Bergerac, the downstairs cocktail bar with more of a mix and mingle bohemian vibe.
It doesn’t get more SF than DNA lounge, which has been luring people to its four dance floors, two stages, and seven bars since the mid-80s. There’s something for everyone at this club, including all-ages shows, 18+ dance parties, burlesque shows, DJ mashups, and more. VIP packages get you a reserved table and front-of-the-line privileges, and there’s a pizza joint attached for pre- or post-dance eats.
The Grand Nightclub
This beautiful bi-level spot with high ceilings and state-of-the-art sound and lighting feels distinctly not San Franciscan but is a good option for when your weekend needs an over-the-top Vegas-style experience, complete with bottle girls and high-level production values. The layout ensures everyone is happy whether you want to mingle, dance, or get VIP treatment on the upper level. As far as music, The Grand is known for its Latino Fridays, plus everything from Top 40 to EDM to reggae to hip hop.
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. Just be prepared for poor ventilation and lots of sweaty bodies. (But, hey, at least the bathroom—once a contender for the grossest in SF—was the recipient of a recent remodel.)
Bimbo's 365 Club
Bimbo's should definitely be on your San Francisco bucket list. It's one of the oldest nightclubs in the city and still retains all of its ornate Art Deco charm with cavernous spaces draped in red velvet, two big bars, and a huge stage that's hosted famous acts throughout the decades, from Rita Hayworth to Adele. Today, it’s an awesome spot for smaller acts, as well as local tribute bands Tainted Love (‘80s covers) and Mustache Harbor (yacht rock covers).
Madrone Art Bar
Madrone is part casual bar to grab a drink with a friend, part art gallery, and part dance party. The latter is why you’re reading this, so check the calendar, where you’ll find all kinds of theme nights, including Michael Jackson vs Prince, Motown Mondays, soul/jazz/funk on Phat Tuesdays, and more. The cover (if there is one) is usually around $5.
Boom Boom Room
The name of this club sets a tone that doesn’t really vibe with what this spot really is: the oldest blues club west of the Mississippi delivering just that (plus boogie, R&B, and soul) six nights a week, bringing a little slice of New Orleans to the heart of the Fillmore.
Theme nights ranging from '80s to goth to new wave to disco to hip hop (and everything in between) give everyone a reason to dance among the exposed brick in this SF nightlife institution. A smoking alley, go-go cage, state-of-the-art lights, sound, and video bring just the right amount of edge to the two-dance-floor space without being over the top. (Okay, so it’s a little over-the-top, but in this case, that’s a good thing.)
Rickshaw Stop is always a good time for an intimate live performance, with 4,000-square-feet, plus a 1,000-square-foot mezzanine with high ceilings and vintage rickshaws (hence the name) throughout. Head there for indie beats, up-and-coming acts, and DJs that spin everything from hip hop to Miley Cyrus to emo.
This bi-level Union Square spot has a tiny, intimate dance floor and low-key sexy vibe that feels New York-adjacent (or as much as anything in SF could ever feel New York-adjacent). You'll pay a premium on cocktails, but the '90s hip-hop and live music make it worth it, especially if you're in the mood to body-roll among cozy accents like a fireplace and exposed brick.
This Cow Hollow lounge has bottle service and booths but frankly feels more like a dive thanks to the dark, narrow space and tiny dance floor. Still, if you’re in the neighborhood, feel like dancing, and don’t mind interacting with a crowd of Marina folks that have usually been fairly over-served, it’s a decent option for live music and DJs on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Like the name suggests, this after-hours spot is for weekend nights that simply must not end. An outdoor patio right off the dance floor lets you cool off (it gets sweaty in here) while still being connected to the music and debauchery. The EndUp is an SF nightlife institution that's been helping people make good and bad decisions since 1973.