With dozens of microbreweries and hundreds of bars, Portland’s nightlife would seem to brim with alcohol-related activities. But in reality, it’s the energy of the city’s residents that fuels evenings all over town. Wielding a “go-out-and-play” attitude, this social, after-work set packs restaurants, clubs, theaters and performance halls all over town to catch up with friends and make new ones.
Every night of the week — not just on weekdays — happy hour generally gets the party started. Almost every establishment in town has one, so finding the best depends on where you are and what you want to eat (or drink). For example, Departure has daily happy hour specials running from 4-6 p.m., mixing inexpensive, inventive Asian cuisine with equally mouthwatering views of the city’s downtown. Meanwhile in the Pearl District, Bluehour has specials from 4-6 p.m., serving a range of high-quality finger foods and local beers and wines for less than a sawbuck.
Karaoke is a popular way to keep the good times going, and from dive bars to private boxes, there are no bad places to sing — only bad singers. Serving tropical drinks and piles of Hawaiian food, The Alibi Tiki Lounge will make you feel like you’re on an island vacation just long enough to belt out some Elvis in front of the packed house. The Ambassador Restaurant & Lounge, meanwhile, embraces everything that a Chinese food restaurant-cum-karaoke bar should be, and raises the bar with a light-up stage and a fog machine. If you’ve ever wished you could front a real, live rock band, Karaoke from Hell is for you. Hosted by Voodoo Doughnut co-founder Tres Shannon, the band’s repetoire includes nearly 500 songs, and they play twice a week. But if you’d rather keep it between friends, Voicebox can accommodate up to 20 members of your entourage with pay-by-the-hour private suites.
When it comes to professional music, Portland has all sorts of options. Crystal Ballroom and Roseland Theater attract all genres of current and pop musical acts to Portland’s downtown, while the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall hits the classics by hosting performances by the Oregon Symphony, Portland Opera and Oregon Ballet Theatre. Recording its popular public radio program in front of Portland audiences, Live Wire stitches together sketch comedy, music and confessionals in a variety show format.
Comedy & more
Meanwhile, Helium Comedy Club is all about the punchlines, drawing everyone from touring, a-list professionals to emerging local talent to its stage. The nightly shows at Darcelle XV are also good for a laugh, but the world famous female impersonators take their art very seriously, as their Las Vegas-style cabaret has has been entertaining Portland for nearly 40 years.