From intimate dinners to larger gatherings, dancing at a club to top-name musicians, Anne Arundel County -- and especially Annapolis -- has plenty to offer in the way of nightlife.
"At the first burst of warmth, the places are mobbed," says Ellen Geiger, a bartender for 15 years at Armadillo's by the City Dock in Annapolis. "It's still our quaint little drinking town, even when it's slow. It's not terrible because all the other restaurant people go out and we try to take care of each other."
Wait staff and bartenders head to places like Acme Bar and Grill (163 Main St., 410-280- 6486) for the music and drinks, the Mexican Cafe for the margaritas and Tsunami for its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Tsunami is among the gay-friendly establishments.
The crowds' demographics shift as the night progresses. Professionals attend most happy hours around town. The 21 and up crowd visits Armadillo's, the 30-somethings cluster at McGarvey's and those older than 40 meet at Middleton's.
Dawn Christensen, a student at the University of Maryland, heads to Armadillo's to hear her favorite bands after her shift at Griffin's City Dock. "It's a younger crowd by the time I get there," she said.
Nick Wolf, a waiter at Middleton's, says, "I like going to places where they know my name and have my drink ready for me."
The most well-known venue in town is the historic Rams Head Tavern. From its beginnings as The Dove and then The Happy Buzzard and later as a brothel, the establishment has always been an entertaining place.
In 1989, the Rams Head opened and over the next 10 years expanded by buying other businesses on the block.
Today the tavern sports a stage and concert venue that has showcased the talents of Lyle Lovett, Delbert McClinton, the legendary Bo Didley, America, Little Feat and country stars Marty Stewart, Kathy Mattea, Suzy Boguss, Pam Tillis, Hal Ketchum and Trace Adkins. Upcoming shows include John Hiatt, Roseanne Cash, Nils Lofgren, Taj Mahal Trio and David Byrne. Check out the Web site to see who is on the stage this summer: http://www.ramsheadtavern.com/ annapolis/index.html.
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts also offers live entertainment. Shows this spring and summer include Peabody Preparatory, Doo Wop Reunion Volume II, Comedy Pet Theater, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Pam Tillis, Eddie From Ohio and the Reduced Shakespeare Company.
Maryland Hall serves the Anne Arundel County community by providing a range of creative experiences such as fine arts education, culturally diverse programs, classes, exhibitions and workshops.
If you're into a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll, Cancun Cantina (7501 Old Telegraph Road, Hanover) is the place for you. The club's sand, palm trees and tropical atmosphere draw patrons from outside the county.
Besides the restaurant and dining area, the club has six bars, pool tables, state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, and two stages. Leave your cap at the door and don a cowboy hat; Cancun Cantina offers live local and national performers of country music. Various dance lessons help you boot-scoot and boogie across the hardwood floor.
Live bands and solo artists play rock music in another bar and the Deck offers dance music by a DJ. Friday's happy hour until 7 p.m. offers specials and a buffet.
Other nightclubs offering dance music include Daytona's (410-255-5533, 8501 Fort Smallwood Road, Riviera Beach). This bar offers a rock music dance club and Top-40 dance club featuring DJs and national bands.
Hurricane's (BWI Airport Sheraton International Hotel, 7032 Elm Road, Linthicum) has two bars and an outdoor deck.
Here is a sampling of more live performances in the county:
Sean Donlon's Irish Pub, Annapolis offers nightly Irish music at 9 p.m.
333 Coffeehouse, Annapolis Unitarian Church, 333 Du Bois Road, Annapolis. Hear local songwriters, acoustic folk singers and spoken art at 8 p.m. on the third Friday of the month. No alcohol permitted. Proceeds go to charity. Inexpensive fare offered. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10; $8 for students and senior citizens.
Woodfire Grill, (Park Plaza Shopping Center, Severna Park, 410-315-8100) offers live music beginning about 8:30 p.m. Fridays and weekends.
Loews Annapolis Hotel, (West St., 410-263-7777, Ext. 3411), Annapolis, offers jazz and other live performances. Call for reservations.
U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis presents several concerts during the year. Hear performances at Alumni Hall from various national recording artists, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the various USNA bands and glee clubs. Call for tickets. 410-293-8497.
And the granddaddy of all local nightlife, First Night Annapolis, offers more than 200 performers of the arts during the downtown New Year's Eve celebration.
Acts include music, theater, comedy, magic and art at nearly 50 sites around town.