The center of gravity in Tampa ’s nightlife scene is Ybor City , and on weekend nights—heck, on any night—it has the decadent historical feel of a Bourbon Street bacchanalia. In other words, people don’t really go out for drinks in Ybor; they come out to party.
Some of the velvet-rope nightclubs like Prana (1619 E. 7th Ave., 813/241-4139, www.clubprana.com , 9 p.m.–3 a.m. Wed.–Sat.) do their best to put a classy facade on things, but the idea behind a night in Ybor is to try to sample as many venues—and cocktails—as they can until they wobble right off their high heels. Granted, this isn’t as appealing to some people as it is to others, and thankfully, that’s not all that Ybor City has to offer.
New World Brewery (1313 E. 8th Ave., 813/248-4969, www.myspace.com/newworldbrewery.com , 3 p.m.–3 a.m., no cover most evenings) is a fine, fine beer bar tucked away near José Martí Park in a relatively quiet corner of Ybor. Friendly bartenders serve a wide selection of domestic microbrews (yes, they’ve got the one you’ve been looking for) and imports (that one too) to local hipsters who gather to chat on the tree-covered patio or listen to live music inside. New World is low-key, casual, and extremely welcoming.
In the thick of Ybor’s club zone, locations like the Pabst Blue Ribbon- and Jäger-serving Reservoir Bar (1518 E. 7th Ave., 813/248-1442), the gay-friendly country-and-western vibe of Spurs (1701 E. 8th Ave., 813/247-7877), and the heavy frozen mugs at Gaspar’s Grotto (1805 E. 7th Ave., 813/248-5900) all have unique personalities.
Fans of live music can catch local and national underground bands at Crowbar (1812 N. 17th St., 813/241-8600, www.crowbarlive.com ) and the Orpheum (1902 Ave. Republica De Cuba, 813/248-9500, www.statemedia.com ).
The tourist-friendly Centro Ybor (1600 8th Ave., www.centroybor.com ) complex is a little more sedate, offering a multiplex movie theater, an arcade, and the Tampa Bay Brewing Company (1600 E. 8th Ave., 813/247-1422), a well-regarded brewpub. Truthfully, a trip through Ybor City  would be incomplete without a cigar and a stiff drink at one of the many cigar bars along Seventh Avenue.
But not every night owl needs to endure the crowds of clubbers who flock to Ybor. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (5223 Orient Rd., 813/627-7625, 24 hours daily) looms high over I-4, beckoning travelers with the promise of riches gained via nickel slots. A very busy low-limit poker room (show up early, and prepare to wait on weekends and holidays) is tucked in the back, while the majority of the floor space is given over to a seemingly endless array of slot machines. Of note: the Hard Rock recently introduced “Vegas-style slots” that pay out independently rather than based on the actions of other linked machines. For all but the most grizzled handle-puller, there’s little difference.
Gaming isn’t the only option at the Hard Rock; in the early evening, Floyd’s is the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, and from 11 p.m. it’s a high-end dance club, playing hip-hop and Top 40 dance music. On weekends Floyd’s is open until 6 a.m., and it is the only nightclub in the area open after 3 a.m. A dress code keeps the club from getting too sketchy, but as you can imagine, the period between 3 and 6 a.m. can get a bit crowded. Floyd’s also hosts live music.
In the dining district of SoHo and Hyde Park, the majority of the nightlife options center around the area’s restaurants, many of which double as late-night watering holes. Four Green Fields (205 W. Platt St., 813/254-4444, www.fourgreenfields.com , 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Mon., 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–midnight Sun.) is an Irish pub through and through, from its atypical selection of Irish cuisine and authentic beer selections to the live Irish folk that can be heard in the pastoral environs.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Hyde Park Cafe (1806 W. Platt St., 813/254-2233, www.hydeparkcafe.com , 9 p.m.–3 a.m. Tues.–Sat.), a high-energy dance club focused on the Red Bull–and-vodka set.
Near the University of South Florida, there’s Skipper’s Smokehouse (910 Skipper Rd., 813/971-0666, www.skipperssmokehouse.com , Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight, Sun. 1–11 p.m.), serving up smoked fish, cold beer, and live music, which despite its reputation as a blues club, tends toward the twin collegiate tastes of reggae and the Grateful Dead.
Also drawing clientele from USF is Meridian Hookah Bar (11401 N. 56th St. Suite 20, Temple Terrace, 813/569-7701, www.meridianhookah.com , 9 p.m.–3 a.m. daily, $10 cover). Meridian serves up water pipes filled with aromatic tobaccos, but no alcohol. Your $10 (cash only) cover charge gets you unlimited hookahs for the entire night.
If a movie’s more your thing, a trip to the Fun-Lan Drive-In (2302 Hillsborough Ave., 813/234-2311, www.fun-lan.com , call for showtimes, $6 adults, $2 children 4–9) should be on your after-dark itinerary. First-run movies play on four screens as you tune in your FM radio for the soundtrack. An old-school snack bar keeps patrons greasily fed.