Providence is well known for its culinary options and for good reason, but don’t go straight home when you’re done with dinner – the city’s nightlife is not to be missed and is best experienced at some of these (personal favorite) bars. Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated spot for an expertly-crafted cocktail and a private conversation, or someplace a little more active and adventurous, we’ve got you covered.
The Walnut Room is a dimly lit, elegant, speakeasy-style bar on the corner of South Main and Power Street, perfect for old-world style cocktails and intimate conversations. The space is full of dark wood, exposed brick, and velvet, and the menu is tightly and artfully crafted, each drink designed and made with the utmost care. Owner Candida had completely rebuilt the space and was ready to open in March of 2020 but had to roll with the punches of the pandemic and began safely serving new customers that summer instead. It quickly became a favorite spot for locals (me especially) and is a must for out-of-towners to experience some of the best of the city.
The Scurvy Dog is my actual favorite bar in Providence, hands-down, and it’s hard to adequately describe it in writing since much of its appeal has to be experienced live. But, since this is an article, I’ll try. It’s a punk dive bar with lots of beer on tap and even more whiskey options, macabre dioramas built into the walls, pool tables, and a big parking lot for gathering. Oh, and lots of friendly dogs as guests! The aesthetics may throw some people off but don’t let that deter you – you’re still welcome even if you’ve never gotten a tattoo or piercing. From their FAQ page: “Don’t believe everything you read on Yelp. Nobody here gives a shit if you’re still in your work khakis, so long as you can hang. But if you act like a douche bag, our customers will let you know about it…”
Free Play Arcade is where I suggest everyone go on a date – be it first or otherwise. It’s New England’s largest arcade bar, with more than 160 classic video games (OG classics like Mario and Frogger and Pacman, to the slightly more obscure, as well as my personal favorite, Jurassic Park III), pinball, skeeball, air hockey (including 4 way!), and Dance Dance Revolution. $7 weekday entrance fee ($10 on weekends) gets you unlimited access to all of the games for the duration of your visit!
Courtland Club is a performance venue, cocktail bar, and social club, with live DJs nightly and live jazz weekly, on Sundays. One of my favorite subsets of bars is the speakeasy, and Courtland Club falls into this category as well, with its lack of signage and front windows. I was first taken here by a friend in the know – and now I can be your friend in the know! The building had historically been a social club for returning soldiers, and the owners have followed in this tradition, creating an inviting (if secret!) and joyful place to gather, regardless of your identity.
Marcelino’s Boutique Bar takes you on a journey from Rhode Island to the Mediterranean whenever you walk past their velvet curtains. World class cocktails await you, to be enjoyed at the bar or at the communal table if you’re in the mood for meeting new people, or on a plush loveseat with a friend (old, or newly discovered) in any one of the conversation corners throughout the surprisingly spacious downtown destination.