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Turns out, there’s still plenty to do in the Nashville nightlife scene for people who are under 21. Despite the city’s tourism industry reputation that is so closely tied to the consumption of alcohol, folks under the drinking age have managed to find their niche in the spots that welcome them.
For recent Vanderbilt alum Varsha Nair, line dancing at Wildhorse Saloon and going to the drag shows at Play Dance Bar defined her college career, even after she turned 21.
“I think those kinds of experiences definitely made Nashville really perfect for my years as an early 20-something,” she said on a recent episode of This Is Nashville, dedicated to sober nightlife in the city.
Below, WPLN News has compiled a list of places people under 21 can go to for a night out. Or, if you prefer Instagram, you can find WPLN’s interactive guide there.
Located in South Nashville, this retro arcade is an affordable option for college students. While people under the drinking age must pay an $8 cover, there are 136 free arcade games including Mortal Kombat, Ms. Pacman, Donkey Kong and Tapper. Food and drinks are also available at the two bars. There are plenty of alcoholic drinks, but a mocktail menu offers mojitos, palomas and more. The patio also has giant-sized classics like Jenga, Connect Four and Beer Pong to get away from the loud music and bright lights of the arcade games. Depending on the day of the week, Game Terminal offers fun catered to trivia and karaoke fanatics.
People of all ages are allowed to come in until 8 p.m., but Game Terminal closes at midnight from Sunday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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This spot in SoBro has something to do for any time of the day. The pool and patio are open on weekends until 7 p.m. The restaurant and bowling alley are open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. A neon sign overlooks the 50s-style bowling lanes, which are separated from the dining area. Menu offerings are new American fare that can be paired with blackberry or ginger mocktails.
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Head to Wildhorse Saloon for an authentic Honky Tonk experience. There are some places on Lower Broad that welcome people under the drinking age, but Wildhorse on 2nd Avenue has the most flexibility since it becomes 21+ only after 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Before the young ones have to head home, they can enjoy live music and hourly line dancing lessons. Wildhorse Saloon is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.
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On any given day of the week (except Mondays) Plaza Mariachi has fun for the whole family. Lotería nights on Tuesdays are open to people of all ages. Attendees have the chance to play the traditional Mexican bingo for prizes ranging from blankets to amusement park tickets. Wednesdays are for the little ones to take center stage at the family parties. Salsa aficionados can show off their skills starting at 8 p.m. Thursday nights. Those with lesser skills can attend the free lessons an hour before the pros arrive. And on weekend nights, anyone 18 or older can dance the night away to live music or DJs. There are some events that are 21+, though.
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This intimate venue located in South Nashville has hosted both big-name and amateur comedians. There’s a bar, but their menu has a few mocktails to choose from. And they have a variety of food options. Plus, you only have to be 18 to get in—just make sure you have a valid form of ID. Zanies is open every night of the week, and you can check out their website to see the calendar. Ticket prices depend on the show, and keep in mind that there’s a two-item minimum purchase requirement. Stop by and you might just see someone at the peak, or the start, of an impressive career.
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The Listening Room Café
When you buy tickets for shows at The Listening Room Café, you’re also making dinner reservations. As Nashville has changed so has the location of the café, but it’s been around since 2006. The venue off 4th Avenue is meant to be enjoyed by music lovers. The staff asks patrons to keep conversations to a whisper. It’s open to all ages, but make sure to buy tickets beforehand. They’re generally not more than $20, but there is a $15 food or beverage minimum.
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A longtime staple for Nashville’s queer community, Play is 18+ and invites you to come dance. That’s why they have the huge dance floor, after all. Open Wednesday through Sunday, Play puts on drag shows multiple nights a week. They also host drag queens who are touring, so you can buy tickets to see your favorite queens. Remember to bring cash for the cover fee, which can range from $10 to $20, (though there are ATMs on site) and so that you can tip the queens. And P.S., everyone gets in free on Wednesdays, even if you’re under 21.
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Lonnie’s Western Room
If you’re a college student in Nashville, you probably already know about — and have embarrassed yourself in — Lonnie’s. The “No. 1 local karaoke bar in Nashville” is open Thursday through Sunday past midnight. Although western is in its name, this go-to karaoke spot has music ranging from country to hip-hop to oldies. Since 1989, Lonnie’s has welcomed singers under 21 to the stage.
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The volunteer-run collective in East Nashville says it “hopes to build a community in the underground music and arts scenes to create a safer environment for all ages and backgrounds.” Priding itself on being Nashville’s all-ages, all-people venue, you can catch indie, punk, hardcore and experimental rock shows here, whether or not you’re 21. Tickets are available to each event on their calendar, with most costing around $15.
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Update: This story has been updated to add an additional nightlife option, Drkmttr Collective.
Filed Under: Arts, Culture & Music, Features, WPLN News
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