We hope you’re good at glugging iced daiquiris, smashing those zingy tequila shots, and downing the crushable Pabst Blue Ribbon, because this guide focuses in on the seven best party destinations in North America. Yep, it’s all about those vacation hotspots where you can let loose, let the hair down, and shindig the night away between the Mexican border and the icy wastes of northern Canada.
We’ll say this: The continent is one major party hotspot. It’s riddled with rambunctious cities that burst with gritty student bars and wild cantinas, pulsating samba joints and edgy clubs where the action never stops. From the Californian coast, where surfer dive bars meet the Pacific, all the way to Mexico’s sleepless mega resorts on the Caribbean, there’s oodles to get through.
Of course, some of the places on our list of the seven best party destinations in North America are wilder are certain times of the year. Take Cancun and Cabo down Mexico way. They really hit their hedonistic stride when spring break swings around in the US. Other spots are year-round affairs, like Vegas and Miami, where you’ll always be able to find something going on until the early hours.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
There’s simply no way that Vegas could be left off this list of the best party destinations in North America. This is the OG of hedonism towns, the original Sin City itself. It sprung up sometime in the 1900s straight out of the desert; a cacophony of casinos and clubs like you’ve never seen before.
The whole thing is centered on arguably the most legendary party drag on the planet: The Strip. A four-mile-long montage of glitzy gaming halls that bear names like MGM, The Mirage, Caesars Palace. You’ll see the spurting Bellagio fountains; you’ll gawp up at the High Roller Ferriss wheel; you’ll be wowed by that replica of Venice and its gondola-bobbing canals.
When the sun sets on Vegas, the place really goes into overdrive. Foam parties erupt in the pool areas of the big resorts, there are cabaret shows, A-list singers on the stages, and – of course – gambling to be done all the way until sunup and beyond (so long as the budget allows!). Just don’t expect to get too much sleep!
Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Utter the word Cancun and goosebumps will spring up on the necks of spring breakers from Boston to LA. The classic February to April getaway for college goers looking to do some serious partying, it’s a town of tequila-soaked bars and rambunctious clubs a la Coco Bongo.
All that happens in the energetic Hotel Zone area. Specifically, there’s the district of Punta Cancun, where big-name venues attract huge DJ acts and really don’t stop partying throughout the main season, which runs from November through to March.
We should also make a nod to the centro area of the city. Not many folks venture this way but it’s great if you want to sample a little more authentic local life. Dive into the mix of food stalls, taco stands, and drinking holes that cluster around Parque de las Palapas on a Friday evening and you’ll see what we mean!
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
New Orleans rocks to the sound of big band and trumpet jazz. It’s the city that gave the world the likes of Louis Armstrong and Buddy Bolden; the home of honky tonks and zydeco sounds. The whole metropolis, from the bends of the Mississippi to the bayous on the outskirts, is one big party.
The pulsating vena cava of it all is Bourbon Street. Welcome to the heart of the legendary French Quarter, where iron-wrought balconies protrude from Creole mansions and the sounds of echoing saxophones and trumpets twist and turn in the humid Southern airs. At night, the whole place comes alive with neon and there are ad-hoc parades moving up and down the concourses.
Of course, there’s no better time to jet into the Big Easy, as New Orleans is known to the loyal revelers who swing by each year, than during the annual Mardi Gras festival. It sends the whole place into overdrive. Double overdrive. Expect carnival processions and dancers filling the streets and sidewalk parties that last until dawn. Woop!
Miami, Florida, USA
The forever-sunny city on the southeastern edge of the Sunshine State has long been seen as one of the most happening places in the stars and stripes. Known as the Magic City, it’s got a rep for good-time partying by the side of sugar-colored sands.
Most shin diggers will head straight for Miami Beach. There, a stylo 1950s promenade rolls past salt-washed surf shacks that sell rum-based cocktails. The strip behind is Washington Avenue. Go there for grill houses and gastropubs. Keep heading down and you’ll soon enter South Beach, the coolest quarter of the lot, what with the Mykonos-esque Nikki Beach club and the riskay Vendôme Miami all in attendance.
For something more off-beat and gritty, skip the shoreline areas and hop to Little Havanna. It’s a taste of its namesake capital over the water, with Cuban cigar outlets butting up to body-shaking samba jazz joints.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico
If Mexico’s east coast hits a hedonistic zenith with Cancun, the west coast does it at Cabo San Lucas. Known, simply, as Cabo to the regular returnees who come to colonize the tequila bottles year after year, it’s a wild spot that’s got a resident crowd of A-listers, spring breakers, and budget surfers. A curious mix but one that really knows how to party.
The heart of Cabo’s party scene is around the main marina of the town. Some bars there are the stuff of legends. There’s Cabo Wabo – the brainchild of insatiable rocker Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame. There’s La Vaquita, a bovine-themed cocktail joint with a huge DJ stage and massive dance pit.
To cure the hangovers, be sure to book your stay out on the so-called Hotel Corridor. It runs about 30 miles to the north and west of downtown Cabo up to the airport in San Jose del Cabo. As it goes, it unfolds in a series of huge hotels with beachside swimming pools, hot tubs, and walking access to stunning snorkeling reefs. Keep watch for whales, too!
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that a town with the official nickname Music City climbs high on this list of the best party destinations in North America. Cue rocking Nashville, TN, a town that’s been bopping and jiving to country, western, jazz, and everything in between since the days of the Grand Ole Opry.
The Downtown hits the main notes here. By day, you can prime the party valves with a visit to the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame. After sunset, stroll Broadway and you’ll get a medley of Hank Williams et al courtesy of cowboy saloons and whisky bars galore.
Over on the western edge of the center, the area curiously called The Gulch has emerged as a pretty hip hub with uber-cool eateries and sleek hotels. Head there if you prefer a nightlife of crisp wines and artisan foods.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
There’s nowhere better to party in Canada than Montreal. Seriously, ask anyone from the home of maple syrup and hard-fought hockey showdowns and they’ll tell you: The biggest city in Québec province trumps both Vancouver and Toronto to the top of the rankings when it comes to after-dark activities in these parts.
There are loads of places to check out but certainly mark the boundaries between Saint-Denis Street and Mont-Royal on the map. There’s a long strip there that includes bohemian craft beer bars and microbreweries aplenty, not to mention the combined quad of venues at the so-called L’Axe du Mal, which fuses a down-and-out rock bar with a 60s garage bar.
St Laurent Boulevard should also be on the radar. It’s home to retro hotels that have basement grunge bars, old-school English and Irish pubs that serve heavy stouts, and sports bars that go seriously OTT whenever there’s a hockey tourney or ski jumping on the TV.
The best party destinations in North America – our conclusion
If you’re looking to dance, drink, and enjoy nightlife over everything else, then you could do a whole load worse than picking North America for your next vacation. Ranging from tequila-sloshed Mexico in the south all the way to the hipster-flavored cities of Canada in the north, this continent is home to some of the world’s absolute best party destinations.
The standouts are surely Las Vegas, where colossal casino halls sprout from the Nevadan deserts, Miami, with its glinting beaches and cool retro clubs, and Cancun, which has been a spring break mecca for more than 20 years.