It’s Saturday night, and a group of 20-something, Shakira look-alikes in spike heels are showing off their dance moves, pulsating, gyrating, bailando the night away in a darkened room that feels like Puerto Vallarta, but is really somewhere near UNLV. While Vegas celebrates Cinco de Mayo this week with Latino fiestas all over town, every weekend Latino nightclubs are turning regular evenings into noches calientes. For these young women, and hundreds of others who flock to the various bailes every Saturday, these clubs are the place where nightlife—both on the dancefloor and off—takes place in Spanish.
The city’s most popular Latin nightclubs are ready to bailar all weekend long, with DJs and bands coming from LA to churn out the best merengue, cumbia, salsa, reggaeton, hip-hop and rock en Español. Gringos are welcome, and everywhere is on south-of-the-border time, so show up after midnight, plan to dance until the sun comes up and grab some huevos rancheros for breakfast on the way home.
Havana Grill It may be tucked away in a non-descript shopping center, but for those who can’t wait until flights between Vegas and Cuba start up, Havana Grill is the place to eat island food, dance late and drink authentic mojitos all night long. Friendly and freshly shaven bartenders from el barrio in Havana will gladly tell you everything you want to know about Uncle Castro, beautiful beaches and how to keep the beat, and a mature crowd of Cuban and Latino customers tend to join in on the conversation. A great place for first-timers, drinkers down cocktails like the Orgasmo Havanero and Havana Mama (half price along with appetizers 4-7 p.m.), before working up the nerve to join the crowd and salsa into the noche.
Vida! Boasting a Strip address and music from DJ Gil Barba, DJ Virus and some of the top Latino DJs in the city, Vida! is the late-night, weekend version of the MGM’s Diego restaurant. But don’t expect to eat dinner and mosey over to the dancefloor: The heavily local party doesn’t start until 90 minutes after the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. and the staff has had time to move the furniture. For those arriving later—which is just about everyone—the floor gets crowded with excellent dancers who know every lyric and don’t head out the door till 5 a.m. On Cinco de Mayo, the dancing will get going extra-early at 4 p.m.
Blue Martini If you’re sitting at home on a Thursday night in the mood for a fiesta, there’s only one place to go: Blue Martini. The Town Square bar’s Latino Night Thursdays has the market cornered with a good mix of Latinos and gringos from across the Valley taking over the joint. A DJ starts the party before a live cover band from LA plays the latest in Spanish-language club music. While many are up and dancing, even more spend the night sitting, drinking and hiding out in the dark to cuddle with an amor. Though there’s no special event planned for Cinco de Mayo, Blue Martini will just be a regular night, en Español.
The Mayan Club For those into space—and I mean really big space in the dark where no one can see gringos learning dance moves—the Mayan Club is about to double its already huge dancefloor to become one of the largest in the city. They also recently went live with a new website that streams the club’s music when it’s open, and the Mayan has begun shuttling in tourists who are staying on the Strip and need a ride to and from the party. For the most part, however, it’s still local Latinos that come to drink, dance and celebrate. For birthdays, the club offers two-for-one bottle service, and for Cinco de Mayo the party actually starts on May 6, when mariachis will descend upon the hotspot, adding to the already crazy atmosphere.