Locals’ 8 Favorite Bars in Orlando

Whether you’re looking to rock out, step out or chill out, you can get out and about in Orlando's fantastic bar scene.

By Vincent Crampton, ContributorAug. 25, 2017
By Vincent Crampton, ContributorAug. 25, 2017, at 9:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Locals’ 8 Favorite Bars in Orlando

House of Blues Orlando

House of Blues Orlando is a popular concert venue with a "folk art collection and blues theme."(House of Blues Entertainment)

If you seek perfection in nightlife, then you’ll find nirvana in Orlando, Florida’s extensive bar and club scene. Local Orlando experts suggest you sidle up to the bar at these top-notch music venues, dance clubs, speak-easies, lounges and themed drink joints.

House of Blues Orlando

House of Blues Orlando(House of Blues Entertainment)

House of Blues Orlando at Disney Springs is one of the best concert venues in town. Visitors can chill on the outdoor courtyard with a beverage and listen to free live music or buy a ticket to see nationally recognized bands inside. Nearly every location in the House has a great view of the stage – a very intimate feel.

“Not only do they have live music and concerts, but also the folk art collection and blues theme they have inside is very nice,” says Sandra Ferrarese, chief concierge at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.

House of Blues’ restaurant and bar are open daily at 11:30 a.m., and close Sunday through Thursday at 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 1 a.m. Check the website for event hours.

Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando

Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando(Courtesy of Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando)

Known for its sparkly, feathered dancers, shirtless hunks and live Latin music, Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando on International Drive has the feel of an old-school Havana hangout with a modern flair.

“It’s a very famous Florida dinner show that started 25 years ago in South Beach, and they opened one in Orlando,” says Lourdes Gee, concierge at the Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando. “It’s a cabaret-style entertainment show.”

Patrons can enjoy live performances at a VIP table in the main bar, lounge in the Mojito Room or dance to the DJ’s beats in the Vodoo Room. Mango’s is open daily from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Blue Martini Pointe Orlando

Blue Martini Pointe Orlando(Courtesy of Blue Martini Pointe Orlando)

Blue Martini, which has locations throughout Florida and the country, is the go-to after-hours cocktail bar for local professionals. Located in International Drive’s Pointe Orlando, the trendy spot features live music nightly, top-notch DJs and themed events such as Monday’s Hospitality Night or Wednesday’s True Blue Ladies Night. If you hadn’t guessed yet, Blue Martini specializes in – wait for it – martinis! You’ll have 42 signature concoctions from which to choose, including a jalapeno passion fruit martini, plus other specialty cocktails and VIP bottle service.

There's a business casual dress code, so don’t show up in your bathing suit and flip-flops. Blue Martini is open weekdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Hanson’s Shoe Repair

Located in downtown Orlando, Hanson’s Shoe Repair is one of three local speak-easies that mix history and specialty cocktails for a special Orlando experience. To get inside Hanson's, you must use a password.

As Phillip Haddock II, lead concierge and ambassador of the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, Autograph Collection, explains, “You have to knock on the door and they ask you for the password. It has exclusivity. They only allow about 15 or 20 people in there.”

Call ahead at 407-476-9446, or check out its Twitter account @hansonsshoeshop to get the password. The speak-easy is open Monday through Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Herman’s Loan Office

A short stagger from Hanson’s Shoe Repair is Herman’s Loan Office, which has the speak-easy feel but without the password exclusivity. The original loan office operated in the mid-1900s, and the decor reflects this.

“It has a Great Gatsby look,” Haddock says. “It’s got a fireplace and leather-backed booths” and various vintage accents. The skilled bartenders craft liquid art for patrons. This is a great place to impress a date.

Herman’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., opening early at 5 p.m. on Fridays. It's closed Sunday and Monday.

Pharmacy

Any bootleggers needing a hideout can drop in on Pharmacy, located just off West Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. According to Pharmacy's purposefully ambiguous website, its expert apothecaries craft pharmaceuticals “to provide you with an antidote from all your troubles.” A true speak-easy, the establishment uses an unmarked elevator door for its entrance. If you can find it, you’re in.

“It’s kind of a secret entrance,” says Ferrarese, who enjoys the establishment's specialty tinctures. “Pharmacy has craft cocktail drinks [and] a great lemon tart.” It also has a full menu to accompany your elixirs.

Pharmacy writes prescriptions Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight.

Wall St. Plaza

Wall St. Plaza(Ninjetic)

Wall St. Plaza, which opened more than two decades ago, comes alive at night with a rowdy street-party atmosphere.

“For a collection of options in one location, locally owned Wall St. Plaza in downtown Orlando offers true variety, from a laid-back restaurant and bar atmosphere by day to the livelier vibe of Orlando’s only [regular] block parties every Friday and Saturday night,” says George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, the area's official tourism organization.

Orbiting a long, blocked-off brick street sit seven themed bars from the island-themed Waitiki Retro Lounge to the carnivalesque Sideshow to The Hen House, billed as “The World’s Smallest Bardello.” Bar entrance is usually free, except for certain special events and the larger holiday block parties. It also hosts many events like RumFest, the Florida Music Festival & Conference and the self-claimed “biggest and best pregame party” for Orlando City soccer home games. Hours vary from bar to bar, so visit the website for more information.

One80 Skytop Lounge

The terrace of the stylish One80 Skytop Lounge, located on the Amway Center’s rooftop, has probably the best view of downtown Orlando.

“It’s a unique place,” Gee says. “It’s very high. They have these nice patios, and you can see the whole city while enjoying the experience and music and company.”

If you’re watching an Orlando Magic basketball game or a concert, this is the perfect pre-event/halftime/intermission/post-event bar. One80 has specialty cocktails, themed DJ music and VIP bottle service, all under the stars. It also has a chic indoor lounge if you don’t want to sweat. Wear something fashionable, and get plenty of selfies with the city glowing in the background.

One80 Skytop Lounge is open Monday, and Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. It's also open before and during concerts, basketball games and other special events at Amway.

To experience more of what Orlando has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

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Vincent Crampton, Contributor

Vincent Crampton is a freelance writer, editor and educator who’s in love with his native ...  Read more

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