Chico After Dark: 5 Ways to Explore the City’s Thriving Nightlife

by David Selkirk

As the sun goes down, step into the exciting and entertainment-filled nightlife of Chico.

Explore Live Music Venues

With venues spread throughout town,  you’ll encounter everything from acoustic bluegrass bands playing under the moonlight at the Meriam Park Barn to high-energy jam bands playing on stage at Winchester Goose. Chico’s music scene is diverse, and full of creative locals, touring bands, and headlining acts. The hardest part is choosing which tickets to purchase.

You can’t go wrong with the major stages, each with wildly different vibes. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Big Room has world-class live music events right in the middle of its brewing operation, and both the El Rey Theater and Senator Theatre bring a touch of the classic to downtown with their distinctive decorative touches. A variety of acts come regularly to all three venues, from comedy to big bands and DJs.

Then there are medium-sized venues like the iconic Chico Women’s Club showcasing a variety of performance art including spoken word, string bands and soul. If you’re in the mood for a more chill nightlife experience, pour your own beer and check out the newly updated outdoor venue at The Commons Social Empourium. And for arguably the most eclectic collection of acts, head to Lost on Main, which hosts a variety of unique performers, from metal and funk to reggae and rock, and everything in between.

A backlit burlesque dancer speaking into a microphone.
Hypnotique Productions Burlesque (Photo: Madeson Bea Photography)

Dance the Night Away

Bring a partner and get ready to move! Chico is the place where you can hit up the honky-tonk line dancing at Crazy Horse Saloon or turn up the floor at Duffy’s Tavern Dance Night all in the same evening—and that’s just on a Wednesday night. The weekends bring DJs and electronic beats to get your toes tapping. Enjoy DJ nights at Argus Bar + Patio, The Beach, and Parkside Tap House. Dance nights are notorious for big laughs, good drinks, and music that makes your heart pump.

A group of people dancing at Parkside Tap House
Parkside Tap House Dance Night (Courtesy Photo)

Dive Right In

Few things are better than the rustic charm of an old fashioned dive bar, and Chico has an abundance, perfect for classic drinks and playing a few games of pool. Established in 1961, the Oasis Bar and Grill is the oldest bar in town. The Chico State alumni staple is famous for its pool tables, burgers, Bloody Marys, and pictures of old Chico nailed all over the walls. Another favorite is The Banshee. Once featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, it’s always packed with people enjoying delicious pub food and cold draft beer. A good Chico dive is the perfect spot to start the evening and end the night, all the way to last call.

Have Fun with Friends

It could be a celebration, bachelor party, or girls night out; whatever you’re doing, it’s always more fun with the besties, so spice up your nightlife with more than just good cocktails. Rent a private room filled with colorful lights, strobing effects, and your favorite jams at Karaoke Television, where you can sing your heart out. Perform as loud as you want—we promise the other rooms can’t hear you.

Have some intellectuals in your group? Come up with a team name, because the sign-up sheet for trivia night at Discovery Bar is waiting for you. If your combined smarts put you on top, you can win some prizes from local Chico companies, but be prepared—competition can get heated.

And retro game fans should head to Coin-Op Chico for a night of arcade games and cocktails. This coin-operated barcade features a variety of classic and contemporary games, all-ages access until 9pm daily, and even all-day free play the Sunday of every month—no quarters needed!

Three friends posing with video game target guns at Coin-Op Game Room in Chico
Coin-Op Game Room (courtesy photo)

Start with Dinner and Drinks

While you can run into entertaining activities while out and about, we recommend starting with happy hour for light fare and drinks. Some great options are Crush in Downtown Chico or The Pour House in east Chico, where you can unwind, settle in, and truly enjoy the moment.

When you’re ready for the main course, an exceptional dinner is a must, and few cities have the breadth of options that Chico does. Check out the classic 5th Street Steakhouse, the delicious Rawbar Restaurant & Sushi, or the laid-back B Street Public House. After dinner, keep the conversation going with a specialty cocktail at Roselle Bar & Lounge located in Meriam Park, North Chico’s Strong Water for quaint speakeasy vibes, or its neighbor The Lost Dutchman Taproom for brews and bites. And if you’re catching a second wind going into the late hours of the night, head to a local watering hole like Bella’s Sports Pub, Studio Inn Lounge, or Park Avenue Pub.

A woman holds out a glass of beer while staring into the camera
Roselle Bar & Lounge (Courtesy Photo)

Chico nightlife can be relaxing or full of entertainment, and the best part is that however late you plan to stay out, it’s easy to fit it all in.