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Vermont Nightlife

23 South Main Street
Waterbury , Vermont
Tel: 802 244 4120

The Alchemist is the best brewpub in Vermont, worth the 25-minute drive from Mad River Glen, Sugarbush, or Stowe. You can always find a range of tasty suds on hand, eight or nine on tap and only served at the bar, including cask-conditioned (naturally carbonated) and Belgian-style ales. The food runs from daily fish specials to griddle-blackened prime Angus burgers with blue cheese and caramelized onions, doing what pub food should: show off the beer. Often packed on weekends with a young local crowd, it's just far enough from the resorts that it doesn't get overrun with ski bums.

Open daily 4 to 10 pm.

Higher Ground
1214 Williston Road
South Burlington , Vermont
Tel: 802 652 0777

Cool bands do come to Vermont (some even start up here), and they seem to enjoy playing at this outwardly nondescript, inwardly intimate venue in South Burlington. In 2004, the former movie theater morphed into three separate spaces kitted out with recycled white columns from nearby Norwich University, bowling-alley bar tops, and state-of-the-art acoustics. Now, it draws such artists as Rilo Kiley, the Black Crowes, Sharon Jones, and the Green Mountains' own Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Arrive during the opening band to grab some good pub food (the kitchen is generally open until shows end) and a beer from one of three bars. Big artists sell out early, but otherwise tickets are usually available the day of the show. The only drawback? It's two miles from downtown Burlington—a bit too far to walk in the winter.

4969 Mountain Road
Stowe , Vermont
Tel: 05672

In classic Vermont style, the Matterhorn is the small-town general store of nightlife. One stop, and you get it all—sushi, microbrews, pizza, wings, and live music. Plus, you run into everyone you know, or chat up the people you don't. True, tuna rolls and beer-sticky floors aren't always the best of bedfellows, but at the Matterhorn, it works. The martinis and the burgers are good, too, and the local cover bands that play on Friday and Saturday nights are just the right fit for the chummy, family-friendly atmosphere—you'll see kids dancing right alongside their parents.

Open Wednesdays through Saturdays 5 pm to 2 am, May through November 1; daily 2 pm to 2 am, November 2 through April.

188 Main Street
Burlington , Vermont
Tel: 802 658 4771

While it does serve great pub food like pulled-pork sandwiches, the music-and-booze scene is what made Nectar's a Burlington institution. Twenty years ago Phish worked the kinks out here before taking the tie-dyed world by storm. The talent level is consistently better than it has any right to be, considering New York and Boston are far, far away. The crowd is always full of college kids from UVM, but the dark, mod decor is about as close as you can get to real city life in Burlington. Around midnight the gravy fries start to look really good.

Open daily from 11 am to 2 am.

Pickle Barrel
1741 Killington Road
Killington , Vermont
Tel: 802 422 3035

A short walk (or stumble) from the Wobbly Barn, the Pickle Barrel is not quite as old (it opened in 1971) but is equally legendary, thanks to its stellar entertainment lineup. Everyone from Snoop Dogg to Jason Mraz has played to the pickled crowds here. And like the Wobbly Barn, the Pickle Barrel draws people for après-ski, and then keeps them partying all night to live bands. Expect to shed many layers of ski gear here as the dance floor heats up. Also expect to pay a $20 cover on the weekends and to wind up the ski season, usually in April, with the annual miniskirt party.

Open daily 4 pm to 2 am, October through April.

Positive Pie 2
22 State Street
Montpelier , Vermont
Tel: 802 299 0453

In a sea of soggy-crust New England pizza chains, Carlo Rovetto's Positive Pie parlor first made a difference (and still operates in) the tiny town of Plainfield. Now, its sister restaurant brightens Montpelier. The delicious Italian food is only half the draw for the Montpelier hippies, artists, and outdoors types who gather here. The other half is the funky lounge setting, decorated with crystals and Buddha statues, in which the hand-tossed pies and homemade pastas are served. Disco lights flash against an interior brick wall; lava lamps flow; and funk, '70s, and rock bands (or at least a DJ) hit the stage most Friday and Saturday nights.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 2 am, and Sundays noon to 9 pm.

Red Square
136 Church Street
Burlington , Vermont
Tel: 802 859 8909

No word on whether the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn frequented this place during his Vermont exile, but we kind of doubt it. Both the name and the layout are homages to Mother Russia: Laid out like a matryoshka doll, Red Square's door opens to a packed bar, which then opens to an indoor stage, which then opens to lounge areas, which then open to…an alleyway that hosts live music in the warmer months. (Yes, there are warmer months in Vermont.) And while it sometimes slathers on the urban-eclectic vibe a bit too thick and also has some big-city annoyances—cover charges, lines—Red Square is the best all-around bar in Burlington. You'll find everyone from dolled-up undergrads to dressed-down farmers here, along with a good selection of microbrews and live music or DJs most nights of the week.

Open Sundays through Wednesdays 6 pm to 2 am, Thursdays through Saturdays 4 pm to 2 am.

Rusty Nail Bar & Grille
1190 Mountain Road
Stowe , Vermont
Tel: 802 253 6245

Weekenders from Boston, New York, and beyond are drawn to the outdoor ice bar and the rock-the-rafters music at this historic ski-town bar. The Rusty Nail first opened in 1969 and went through several iterations and owners before the current management team took over in 2004 and added such modern-day gimmicks as a martini bar. (After a day on Stowe's Front Four, you may need a Black and Blue martini—Blavod Black Vodka over blue Curaçao.) Exposed high beams and a sunken dance floor have remained faithful to the Nail's original purpose: to get skiers and riders in serious revelry mode.

Call ahead for hours.

Wobbly Barn
Killington Access Road
Killington , Vermont
Tel: 802 422 6171

Arguably the greatest après-ski bar in the country, the Wobbly Barn outshines the go-go girl nightclubs of Whistler, the cowboy dives of Jackson, and the swanky lounges of Vail with its unflappable rowdiness and rusticity. The bar—whose wooden structure is, yes, a bit wobbly, even more so after a few pints of Long Trail—opened in 1963 and has since seen stretch pants, neon one-pieces, and baggy Burton duds boogie to classic, ski-town cover bands. Happy hour (with free nachos) begins at 3:30 pm in the winter. The ambitious keep their ski boots on straight through dinner at the Wobbly's steakhouse; others retreat to the condo for a quick hot tub or shower before returning. It's best to pace yourself.

Open Sundays through Fridays 4 pm to 2 am and Saturdays 3:30 pm to 2 am, October 31 through ski season's end.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.