The seasons are changing and for most of the country those great outdoor patios and bars will soon become snow-covered shells of sadness. And that means one thing - all our friends are coming to LA to visit and they’re thirsty. Our city has a polarizing reputation when it comes to nightlife, and for the most part, it’s well-deserved. But scratch a little deeper, and we’ve got something to impress any of your out-of-town friends. From beachside patios to Korean taverns to downtown music venues, here are 14 bars to keep them (and you) the happiest.
If you’re looking to blow it out and give your Midwestern friends the taste of Hollywood they’re looking for, No Vacancy is the way to go. Located in an old Victorian house right on Hollywood Blvd., this massive bar pretty much has every kind of human stimulation. A crazy entrance that involves a mechanical bed? Trapeze artists flying around the back yard? Live music on the porch? It’s all here. Just get here early, weekend lines get insane (but at least there’s no cover).
Your sorority sisters just want to go to Sunset, but you live in North Hollywood and want to show them there’s plenty to do around these parts as well. Idle Hour sprung back to life after decades of lying dormant, and almost overnight became one of the best places to drink in the Valley. Their cocktail and beer lists are strong and the crowd is exceedingly good-looking. Those two things tend to go well together. Also: you’re drinking in a gigantic wooden barrel.
The reality is there aren’t any actual bars in Malibu, but Barefoot is as close as you get. And after a stressful day of lying around on the beach, you and your bff need a stiff one. Barefoot is technically part of the restaurant Duke’s, but its casual vibe, affordable food menu, and umbrella-adorned cocktail drinks mean one thing - it’s way more fun. It’s also pretty much entirely outdoors and the ocean is right there. Life is good.
Melrose Umbrella Co. sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the more over-the-top cocktail bars in Hollywood and Weho, but make no doubt, this place is great. Despite a confusing lack of umbrellas, this place is indeed on Melrose and that means the crowd is just a little more relaxed than your typical sceney spot. It’s fairly small, but there’s never a line and there’s no cover - two things essential to pleasing out-of-towners (and yourself).
Your brother from Tampa’s version of karaoke is singing loudly in a Buffalo Wild Wings until he gets thrown out. Show him the real deal and get him to Max Karaoke in Little Tokyo. Located inside a gigantic indoor mall, Max is everything you want in private room karaoke, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t known for one thing - BYOB. Roll in with a 30-rack of cheap beer or whatever your drink of choice is and employees will graciously turn their backs. Just don’t get him kicked out before the night even starts.
Hosting tip: no one is ever going to turn down a tiki bar outing. And while you can really take your pick in Los Angeles, the move when friends are in town is Tonga Hut - the oldest tiki bar still in operation in the city. The place isn’t huge, but the big booths somehow always fit the whole crew. The crowd is laid-back, they have a fantastic jukebox, and one or two of those tiki drinks will be all you need to get your night started.
Your freshman year roommate is obsessed with Vanderpump Rules and thinks the only nightlife in LA is in West Hollywood. Time to show her the parts of town Bravo! doesn’t show. Located on a side street in the Arts District, Resident is admittedly not the easiest to get to, but once you arrive and you see that fantastic outdoor patio, the bar inside an Airstream, and a live music venue in the adjacent building, you’ll both be happy you mixed things up tonight.
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you’re visiting LA for the first time you have one goal - to lock eyes with a celebrity. Quick tip: it won’t happen on one of those terrible celebrity bus tours with made-up addresses. It will, however, probably happen at Tower Bar. The scene at this classic Sunset Strip bar/restaurant is a perfect blend of old Hollywood types enduring boring pitch meetings and young creatives looking to get a leg up. There’s also a whole pool area and a build-your-own-sundae situation you won’t want to miss.
Dude. Your cousin Blake from Boulder is in town and he’s got an appetite for the coolest microbrewery in the city. Take him immediately to Mumford. DTLA has become a mecca for craft breweries, and while others have better spaces (Arts District Brewery and Angel City), Mumford has the best beer. Taps rotate pretty consistently, but any of their IPAs are going to be excellent.
You love it/you hate it/you love it/you hate it. There isn’t a more polarizing bar in the city than Santa Monica’s Bungalow, but if you and your sister who’s still in college want to meet some cute boys and get day drunk by the beach, Bungalow is your holy grail. The sprawling space is a legitimate house with plenty of nooks to hide away in, but what’s the point in that? Let’s the boys know you’re here.
When it comes to nightlife neighborhoods that matter in LA, it’s Koreatown and then everyone else. We could frankly fill this entire list with Ktown bars that you need to take your friends to, but our choice here is Toe Bang. The Korean tavern is situated in the center of all the action, making it the ideal jumping-off point for a night on the town. The bar snacks are delicious, they give you free peanuts, and one round of that yogurt soju will kick your buzz into high gear.
To many people, Button Mash is one of the best Chinese spots to open in quite a while in LA. To even more people, it’s an arcade bar where you can go live out your childhood fantasies while getting very intoxicated in the process. Good news - Button Mash is both. So grab your friends, snag a reservation if you’re over six people, and go to town with Dan Dan noodles and pinball.
The Westside has no lack of hotel rooftops, but the reality is most of them are stuffy, expensive, and boring. The roof at the Hotel Irwin in Venice can admittedly get a little bro-y at times, but for the most part, you’re able to get right in, find a seat, and watch your childhood neighbor from Minnesota take in a sunset over the ocean for the first time.
Your friends want something fun but not crazy, cool but not douchey. And they really want good drinks and maybe some food. Does a magical place even exist? Yes, and it’s called Everson Royce Bar. This bar/restaurant on the south end of the Arts District is so fantastic because you can have whatever kind of night you want there. Whether you’re in the mood to relax on the patio and have a couple beers and a burger, or get rowdy inside at the bar, ERB has your Saturday night covered.