Steel bands, limbo dancers, calypso singers, folkloric groups -- there's always something happening by night on Antigua. Your hotel can probably tell you where to go on any given night. If you want to roam Antigua at night looking for that hot local club, arrange to have a taxi pick you up so you're not stranded in the wilds somewhere. The following clubs are reliable hot spots.
The best and most elaborate gambling joint on island is Grand Princess Casino, Jolly Harbour (tel. 268/562-9900), spread across three floors, offering a lot more than gambling. You can dine in the first-class Bellagio Restaurant, patronize an Internet cafe, get down in a dance club, enjoy flashy Las Vegas entertainment in a lounge, or even work out at the rooftop fitness center. A small but flamboyant alternative is the St. James's Club at Mamora Bay (tel. 268/460-5000). Other action is found at King's Casino on Heritage Quay (tel. 268/462-1727), the only casino in St. John's proper. Entrance is free and no ID is required. You must be 18 to play.
The best place to be on island on Sunday afternoon is the bar and restaurant at the Shirley Heights Lookout at Shirley Heights (tel. 268/728- 0636). Beginning at 4pm, a barbecue is offered here, followed by a reggae and steel-pan band for dancing later in the evening. Celebrities such as Chuck Norris, R&B singer Bobbie Brown, Sting, and even Whitney Houston have joined in a weekly be-in that sometimes evolves into the island's largest and most free-form social event. Many locals arrive on any late afternoon, grab a sundowner, and head for the patio in the rear for a sweeping view over the arid landscapes surrounding English Harbour and Antigua's most spectacular sunset. Sunday's $6 cover charge includes the first drink.
Antigua's hippest nighttime venue is the Coast, Heritage Quay, St. John's (tel. 268/562-6278; www.coast.ag), drawing both islanders and visitors to its precincts, where they are entertained by Antiguan live bands, especially techno music, in a raucous setting of good times with plenty of drink and local specialties. No admission is charged.
Another venue is Rush Nightclub & Connors Sports Bar, Runaway Bay (tel. 268/562-7874), open Thursday to Saturday. Doors open nightly and the cover is free on Thursday and Saturday, rising to $10 on Friday. Resident DJs entertain the mostly young crowd with hip-hop, soca, reggae, and R&B music.
At English Harbour, the joint is always rocking at Abracadabra Restaurant & Disco-Bar, Nelson's Dockyard (tel. 268/460-2701; www.theabracadabra.com). Trattoria such as homemade pastas and fresh seafood, even lobster from an aquarium, launch the night, which becomes a dance party as the evening progresses. There's always something happening here: live jazz, reggae performances, even costume parties. Check it out.
Admiral's Inn (tel. 268/460-1027) is a barefoot-friendly kind of place. You can always play a game of darts, and there's live music Thursday and Saturday nights, usually a local 14-piece steel band. Try one of Norman's daiquiris (the island's best), and ask the bartender about the famous guests he's served. Another much-frequented English Harbour watering hole is the Life Bar, Nelson's Dockyard, VHF no. 68 (tel. 268/562-2353), the most popular spot for visitors arriving aboard yachts. We like its nautical atmosphere and the wooden pier that the action centers on. On occasion it's West Indian party time, with live groups performing. The most authentic British pub at Nelson's Dockyard is Mainbrace (tel. 268/460-1058), with darts, of course; fish and chips; and, on some nights, live jazz. The pub is part of the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel.
18 Carat, Lower Church Street, St. John's (tel. 268/562-1858), is the most popular and sought-after dance club and night bar on the island. Expect a cover charge, ranging from $4 to $8 per person, an indoor-outdoor format that's open to a view of the night air of downtown St. John's, and a barrage of music that includes lots of reggae and soca. It's open Friday to Sunday 8pm to 1am.
Sand Haven, Runaway Bay (tel. 268/771-6803; www.sandhavenantigua.com), is the hangout of local cricketers and always attracts a fun-loving bevy of patrons who dance the night away after ordering Tex-Mex fare. The beach bar associated with this place is especially busy on weekends.
Live nightly entertainment takes place right on the beach at Millers by the Sea, at Runaway Beach (tel. 268/462-9414). Its happy hour is the best in town.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.