Are you a salsa dancing aficionado? Don’t fear that you’ll have to hang up your dancing shoes when you’re traveling — there are a number of cities that have embraced salsa dancing wholeheartedly. In fact, some of these locations have such a big Latin dance scene, you may want to make a trip there especially to experience it.
What makes a salsa venue win raves from visitors?
- Quality of the dancing
- Number of salsa tracks played or salsa-only nights
- Availability of partners if you’re single
- Ability to just listen to music without having to hit the floor
- Friendliness to foreigners or non-regular customers
- Live music (versus DJ only)
- Instructors for newbies
- Welcoming atmosphere for beginning salsa dancers
Miami is always a top destination for Latin clubs of all kinds. With the closing of Bongo’s downtown, more people than ever are flocking to Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana (2212 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135. Phone: +1 305-541-2631), where you can dance to both live bands and recorded salsa in a laid back atmosphere. This place is so authentic, you’d better bone up on your Spanish, as you won’t hear much English there, including from the employees. The biggest competition for Hoy Como Ayer? Mango’s Tropical Cafe (900 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139, +1 305-673-4422) and La Covacha (10730 NW 25th St, Doral, FL 33172. Phone: +1 305-594-3717).
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan has a long history of producing some prime salsa musicians and dancing locales. Head to Old San Juan, where at the Nuyorican Cafe (312 Cll San Francisco, San Juan, PR 00901. Phone:+1 787-977-1276), tucked away in a tiny alley, you’ll find a global crowd (including the likes of Mick Jagger!) dancing the night away. You’ll have to meet the dress code, but it’s worth it there, and the cost is a bargain for the quality of music and dancing. If you want a change from the Nuyorican Cafe, try Latin Roots (Galeria Paseo Portuario Suite H/I, San Juan, PR 00901. Phone:+1 787-977-1887), another crowd favorite.
While Buenos Aires has the tango market cornered, it’s Bogota, Colombia where salsa reigns supreme. The Galeria Cafe Libro (Carrera 11A No. 93-42 , Bogota 45 , Colombia. Phone: 285-1794) has been a hit with both locals and travelers for over 30 years. A large space with live music, it’s perfect for big group outings and even family dance parties, and beginners are always welcome. El Candelario (Candelario calle 13 N 4-94, Bogota 111711, Colombia. Phone: 342-3742) and La Villa (Cra. 14a, Bogota, Colombia. Phone: Tel: +57 313-236-4413) give the Galeria Cafe Libro some stiff competition, so be sure to check them out too.
Don’t put the Windy City in fly-over country when it comes to salsa! Chicago has a bustling Latin dance scene, and you can find salsa-only venues every night of the week there. Dylan’s Tavern and Grill (118 South Clinton Street, Chicago, IL 60661. Phone:+1 312-876-2008) has become a weekend favorite, offering lessons weekly and live bands once a month. Believe it or not, the Cubby Bear at Wrigley Field (1059 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613. Phone:+1 773-327-1662) has become a hot salsa spot, and locals also love the Alhambra Palace, Patron’s Hacienda and Nacional 27.
It’s no surprise that LA would have a big salsa presence. Skip the celebrity-owned Conga Room and head out to Alhambra to The Granada LA (17 S 1st St, Alhambra, CA 91801. Phone:+1 626-284-7262). They almost always have a salsa band on Saturday nights, and your cover charge includes a class there. This is a big, traditional venue with a huge dance floor, so you’ll have plenty of space to step out in style. Want to try some other venues in LA? Mama Juana’s (3707 Cahuenga Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604. Phone:+1 818-505-8636) and Vasilio’s (7931 Firestone Blvd, Downey, CA 90241. Phone:+1 562-869-5733) get high marks from salsa regulars.
It seems like natural that Latin dance forms would be popular in Spain, and Barcelona leads the way in salsa-friendly clubs. Antilla Salsa (Carrer d’Arago, 141, 08015 Barcelona, Spain. Phone:+34 934 51 45 64) and the Habana Club (Passeig Joan de Borbo, 74, 08039 Barcelona, Spain. Phone:+34 932 25 02 63) are two popular locales. The Mojito Club at Salsa Buenavista (Carrer del Rossello, 217, 08008 Barcelona, Spain. Phone:+34 932 37 65 28) has a dance school that offers floor show performing opportunities for students. They play a mix of salsa, merengue and bachata, and they’re popular with visitors and locals alike. Dress is casual, but plan on staying out late this is Spain!
New York City
Think salsa originated in Puerto Rico, Cuba or Colombia? Guess again. While salsa definitely has roots in all those places, it was born back in the 1970s in New York City. New York offers lots of salsa dancing clubs, but none is more iconic than the famed Copacabana (268 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036. Phone:+1 212-221-2672). The Copa is a huge club with two floors, so they can offer different types of music simultaneously. Tuesdays are exclusively for salsa, and salsa gets mixed into Latin nights on other days too. You can take lessons there, and gents will need to mind the strictly enforced dress code. Other nights of the week check out the salsa scene at Bungalo Lounge (32-03 Broadway, New York, NY 11106. Phone:+1 718-204-7010) or Club Cache (42 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10018. Phone:+1 917-684-8584) on Thursdays, all highly rated by salsa fiends.
The salsa scene is growing in so many places, from Seattle to Singapore, so it’s only a matter of time before you can go out dancing salsa just about anywhere. Meanwhile, you can count on these cities above to keep your feet moving long into the night.