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There is a surprising glut of dives in South Beach, the perfect yin to the flashy yang of the club scene. And both dives and hot bars abound in Miami proper. But the best place for a simple drink in this city may well be your hotel lobby. For years now, hotel lounges have been the clubs of the season, and on almost any given night, front desks hire DJs for their lobbies and pool areas. Plenty of people use their hotel lobby as a jumping-off point to bigger things, but for many, the lobby is the be-all, end-all destination for the evening out. Restaurant bars have started to build on the same cachet, and the most popular hotels blend all of the genres, keeping a hot eatery on site that happens to have a hotter attached bar.

Live music

When most people think about the live music scene in Miami, they will start hearing one of two sounds: Latin or hip-hop. And while it is true that these are still the beats that rule this town, there is a lot more going on. Electronica rules at more Design District and Downtown clubs, lovely jazz spots are not hard to find, and a cosy but strong indie-rock scene centres around Sweat Records (5505 NE Second Ave) and Churchill's (5501 NE Second Avenue). Still, Miami is the Latin music capital of America; if you want to hear what is emerging in this genre, head on down to La Covacha (10730 NW 25th Street) and get your dancing shoes on.

Note that there is some overlap between what we call lounges, bars and clubs. A lounge has a bar and dance area, with the emphasis shifting from drinking to dancing throughout the night. Do some research when you arrive: talk to friends or your concierge and pick up a copy of the local arts weekly, Miami New Times, or a free monthly such as Miami Living Magazine or the pint-sized Ego Miami Magazine.

Whereever you decide to go, bear in mind that you have to pay to play in this town. Cover charges for the bigger clubs tend to run around $25 to $30. Bars charge up to $10 for a beer and a little more for mixed drinks. Beers may be relatively inexpensive in a club, but expect to pay as much as $25 for a regular old rum and coke in top-end joints. And do not forget the insidious practice of bottle service, where tables are available for sitting if you are willing to shell out about $200 to $2,000 for a bottle of booze. This can actually work out well if you are in a large group. At some clubs you will have to order bottle service or be on the list to enter after a certain hour.

And finally, make sure you get your beauty sleep in before you hit the town. Miami is one of the most late-night friendly towns in America, and clubs generally stay open from 9 pm to 5 am. Bars open earlier but often close just as late. The only district you are likely to get an "early night" in is Coconut Grove, where the closing time is now 3 am.


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© Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘A guide to Miami nightlife’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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