Actually Fun Things to Do in Atlanta After Dark

Let loose.

Atlanta nightlife is back like it never left because despite a short period of lockdowns during the start of the pandemic, it really never did leave. Atlanta’s sprawling night scene has endured a lot over the past year, so although many of our favorite nighttime events and go-to clubs remain open and operating under new health and safety guidelines, there have been some pretty serious changes. From The Music Room bidding farewell to Edgewood Avenue last fall to the Castleberry Hill 2nd Friday Art Stroll taking a hit, there’s a lot to miss. But thanks to new late-night spots like The Bar at the Illuminarium and Puttshack, there are still plenty of great things to enjoy about Atlanta’s vibrant dark side. Here is everything that you can do in Atlanta after dark.

 Jojo's Beloved
Courtesy of Jojo's Beloved

Various locations
It’s probably safe to say that going out for drinks is the most popular nighttime move for everyone ages 21 and up, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for your typical neighborhood bar. This year alone, Atlanta’s bar scene has gotten a huge upgrade, and two of the most stunning new watering holes are JoJo’s Beloved and The Bar at the Illuminarium. JoJo’s Beloved’s moody and nostalgic decor is a cocktail lounge that looks like it came out of a scene of Bad Times at the El Royale, so don’t hesitate to book a reservation there. Then there’s The Bar at the Illuminarium, and although it’s attached to Atlanta’s newest tourist attraction, the bar is a visually striking 21+ only offshoot of the Illuminarium that’s only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Wall-to-wall projections will transport you through several magical immersive settings, so prepare to enjoy some drinks and tapas and be amazed.

The one and only Midtown Bowl, which you should be more than familiar with since it’s been here for six decades, lets the balls roll until late every weekend (until 1am on Thursdays, 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, and midnight on Sundays). In addition to staying open later than your typical bowling alley, Midtown Bowl has a solid snack game, including subs, breaded wings, and a weekly changing eggroll special. They also take their beer seriously, with rotating highlights from Creature Comforts, New Realm, Dogfish Head, and a few ciders and meads here and there.

Hit a strip club

The strip club scene has been part of the city’s culture since way before the Olympics came to town, so it shouldn’t be a shocker that Atlanta’s favorite industry found ways to adapt to the pandemic. You’ve heard of the main players: Magic City, Clermont Lounge, Cheetah, Tattletale, Oasis, Swinging Richards, and Blue Flame Lounge, among countless others. Grab your mask and your cash, and give back to the local economy and support an Atlanta strip club tonight, with that same energy you’d have for a casino in Las Vegas.

Refuel with a late-night meal

Sometimes when you’re out late, you’ll find yourself in desperate need of food because you didn’t eat before going out with friends like you were supposed to, or you’ll have completely worked off your last meal and start looking for a tasty way to cap off your night. Since COVID first threw a wrench into all of our plans last year, many restaurants have drastically cut their hours, but luckily, Atlanta still has you covered. You can get your late-night fix from 24/7 diners like Landmark and new late-night options like the Slutty Vegan on Edgewood, and of course, there’s always a Waffle House nearby.

Georgia Aquarium
Courtesy of Georgia Aquarium

Although the Georgia Aquarium's rare adult cocktail party and sleepover package is currently unavailable, there is still plenty to do at the aquarium after dark. Leave the kids at home and head over to one of the aquarium’s recurring Sips Under the Seas events, and even though you won’t be able to spend the night there, you will be able to sip themed cocktails while exploring the beloved local attraction. Pro tip: Dish out the extra cash for a VIP ticket because they automatically come with three complimentary drink tickets. Now go drink like a fish with some of the most popular aquatic creatures in Atlanta.

Virginia Highland
People can’t ever seem to wrap their minds around the concept of heavy metal karaoke until they experience Metalsome for themselves. Every Monday through Saturday from 10:30 pm to 3 am, you can walk into Dark Horse Tavern and expect to see a karaoke party that’s backed by a live band. If you want to unleash your inner rockstar, make sure you arrive early as they are very strictly first-come, first-served. Don’t forget to check the song lists on Facebook before you go applying too much hairspray.

Fernbank Museum
Courtesy of Fernbank Museum

Druid Hills
When the second Friday of the month rolls around, go ahead and do Fernbank After Dark, where the city’s brightest science-minded geeks like yourself enjoy adult beverages, tapas and legit scientific fun from 7 - 11 pm. There’ll be hands-on experiences, and for the next couple of FAD events, there will be activities centered around science fiction and Halloween themes. So if you’re interested in alternate realities, action-packed science experiments, potions, and poisons, you should definitely pay a visit to the Fernbank Museum’s spectacularly geeky 21+ experience.

T.I.’s Trap Music Museum was supposed to close for good after Super Bowl LIII, but its popularity has made it necessary to bring in new exhibitions (a new area dedicated to Nipsey Hussle was unveiled late-summer). In addition to curated art representing trap music all-stars like Lil Baby, Migos, Future, Gucci Mane, and Jeezy, and the “Escape The Trap” room experience—a replica of a trap house that you can now visit on Thursdays from 4 - 10 pm for “Sip & Trap,” which for $30 gets you a complimentary glass of Champagne and a private tour of the museum.

Old Fourth Ward
Joystick Gamebar, the original barcade, is finally back to regular service. Joystick not only has Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, TMNT, and other '90s-era arcade staples ready to play for just $0.25, but the bartenders can sling some seriously crafty drinks and whip up some boozy sodas to-go. So instead of just playing your Playstation or Xbox at home and sipping on a lacklustre homemade cocktail, go drink, mingle, and game at Joystick Gamebar. The party doesn’t stop until 2 am Monday through Friday.

The Painted Duck
Courtesy of The Painted Duck

Drink, eat, and get your analog game on

Various locations
For those who like the kinds of games you can’t plug into a wall, including bocce, basketball shooting, ping-pong, shuffleboard, billiards, skee-ball, and more, Atlanta has several options that all serve later crowds. There’s Puttshack at the Interlock, The Painted Pin in Buckhead, its cousin The Painted Duck on the Westside, Ormsby’s in West Midtown, both the Westside and Alpharetta locations of Topgolf, Skyline Park on The Roof at Ponce City Market, and Punch Bowl Social at The Battery.

It’s not exactly news that you can see movies after 9 pm, but not every city has the Starlight Drive-In, which has been around for 60+ years and routinely has films starting after midnight. At only $10 per person, and the nostalgic coolness of bringing your own food and listening to your movie’s audio through your FM radio, it’s a priceless piece of Atlanta history that’s open all week long and is still going hella strong. Where do you think Donald Glover screened the first episodes of Robbin’ Season? Yep, here. But be advised: You can’t buy advance tickets, so get there early for a good parking space.

Sublime Doughnuts
Courtesy of Sublime Doughnuts

Home Park
People to this day are still surprised to learn that you can get a Sublime Doughnut 24 hours a day. Yes, at both the Briarcliff and Tech Plaza locations you can get donuts and ice cream at any time, day or night. Don’t feel too bad if you’ve never taken advantage of their anytime-pastries attitude—we all make bad decisions after midnight, and not eating a donut is pretty high on the missed opportunities list.

Dance all night

You’re really into clubbing—it’s fine. You’re in Atlanta, so of course you have options. There’s Havana Club, Tongue & Groove, Gold Room, Compound, and Suite Lounge if you want the super-big cosmopolitan nightclub vibe. But if you’re really into dancing—serious dancing—you’ll find that in spots like El Bar, MJQ Concourse, The Basement in East Atlanta. Seriously, no judgments either way.

Get dragged

Various Locations
Atlanta is a legendary LGBTQ+ capital, and it’s also home to plenty of great drag shows. On Buford Highway, there’s Lips Drag Queen Show Palace, Restaurant & Bar, a place that offers you a lively drag performance along with flavorful eats. On Saturday nights, they have a pretty wild performance from “mistress of seduction” Taejah Thomas called Taboo: The Dirty Show. Sometimes, you can also pop over to Edgewood Avenue for drag shows at My Sister’s Room and Georgia Beer Garden, and of course, you can’t forget about Mary’s in East Atlanta.

Southwest Atlanta
Sunday nights might seem like a bad choice to stay out from 9 pm until 1 am, until you realize there’s no alcohol available for sale where you’re headed. But that doesn’t stop the good vibes at Cascade Fun Center, whose crowd of Atlanta’s cultural avant garde shows up in skate crews and execute some of the most unbelievable rolling routines you’ve ever seen to songs made by some of Atlanta’s greatest hip-hop artists, sporting some of the most inimitable fashion styles you’ll find anywhere in the world. Roll in and roll out.

Smith's Olde Bar
Courtesy of Smith's Olde Bar

Hear live late music

While the city could always use more live music venues, we’ve got a few that have held us down for years and are still serving their neighborhoods some soul-stirring blues, funk, jazz, and more. If you’re in the Old Fourth Ward there’s Venkman’s for everything from funk to yacht rock (literally, as members of Yacht Rock Revue own it). Then you can find blues at either Northside Tavern in West Midtown or Blind Willie’s in Virginia-Highland, and a range of rock, alternative, country, and acoustic at Smith’s Olde Bar.

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Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram at @roshrisky.
Mike Jordan spent so much time out late in his 20s and 30s that he never wants to see a sunrise again, but he can still be bribed with a Sublime Doughnut from time to time. Follow him on Instagram at @MikeJordanATL, and on Twitter at @MichaelBJordan.