9322 Highway 57, Baileys Harbor
Steve, the owner of the Tap, has never charged a cover for a show – something he’s actually very proud of. He also never advertises any shows, so if you happen to be there when there’s music going on, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. The Tap is one of the few smoke-free bars in Door County, and it’s been said that musicians love playing there – Door County favorite Eric Lewis likes to say that it’s the one place you can “really put your hair down” – this coming from someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of hair.
4160 Main Street, Fish Creek
Historically, the Bayside has been the epicenter of Fish Creek’s live music scene. When there’s a huge show going on and the tavern is packed, you can literally feel the floor flexing underneath you. The décor hasn’t changed much over the years, but that’s part of the bar’s charm – its dark wood and equally dim lighting make it feel like an authentic Wisconsin bar. The Bayside is also unique in that it has a number of good-natured bartenders that have been serving up patented Bayside Coffees and tappers for many moons.
Beach Harbor Resort/Waterfront Mary’s
3662 N. Duluth Ave, Sturgeon Bay
Beach Harbor is the quintessential place to see a live show on a Door County summer night – the venue is steps away from the Sturgeon Bay waterfront, the music surrounds you whether inside or out, and there’s a mammoth live music schedule every summer. Mary’s also has its own built-in motel in the adjacent Beach Harbor Resort, which actually offers rooms for $35/night on concert nights in an attempt to prevent potential drinking and driving.
C & C Supper Club
4170 Main Street, Fish Creek
The C & C boasts more of a lounge-esque and sports bar feel than most of the other venues that book live music – but that doesn’t stop the owners from booking an entire summer of shows on the weekends. The layout of the bar, with the musicians tucked in an alcove at one end of the bar, allows for patrons to enjoy the shows in their own style – either getting up and dancing right in front of the speakers or carrying on a conversation at the other end of the bar with the live music in the background.
127 4th Avenue, Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay’s first-ever bowling alley is alive more than ever with live music at least four nights a week. In addition to live bands every Friday and Saturday night, the Lanes also adds to the scene on the weekdays as well, with Open Mic Mondays, “Cherryokee” Tuesdays, the Dirty Deuce on Wednesdays, and the infamous 50 cent tappers on Thursdays. Oh, and did we mention that you can bowl and watch a rock show at the same time?
Door County Outpost
4690 Rainbow Ridge Court, Egg Harbor
Centrally located on the peninsula, this “art café” right off of Highway 42 in Egg Harbor is a great place to have a glass of wine or a craft beer and check out intimate acoustic shows and open mics. The Outpost situated themselves as a music venue since their opening a few years ago, and 2009’s calendar of shows is more ambitious than ever.
1699 Jackson Harbor Road, Washington Island
An Irish pub that just happens to be on the Island, Fiddler’s Green has a laid-back vibe (think comfortable couches and a rowboat sawed in half for a bar). The music scene is funky as well, with jam sessions and music circles galore. Oh – and it doesn’t hurt that they have Guinness on tap and a sushi night as well.
The Fishing Hole
6962 County Road M, Sturgeon Bay
Door County’s newest music venue celebrated its grand opening at the end of May, and is starting to book shows featuring many of the peninsula’s favorite acts – Rob Atwood, Johnny Sax, and Dead Horse, just to name a few. The Fishing Hole is a Wisconsin bar through and through, and features a Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary bar, full menu, pool table, and the best video bar games in Sturgeon Bay.
1177 Main Road, Washington Island
The Granary was originally built in the 1860s and recently rebuilt as a pub. It also is connected to KK Fiske, the popular Island Restaurant that serves “fresh lawyers.”
The Hitching Post
4849 Glidden Drive, Sturgeon Bay
The Hitching Post is a 60-year-old log cabin in the middle of the woods – and in Door County, that equates with one great venue to see a rock show. Whether you choose to hunker down at the inside bar or take it outside to the beer garden, one thing is for sure – the shows are intimate, the sound is awesome, and the good times are flowing. The Post also serves food from 11 am – 8 pm every day, so can feed your face – and your musical soul – all in one sitting.
Corner of Maple Drive and Highway 42, Sister Bay
Live music is a feast or famine endeavor in the tavern business, one reason most venues don’t stick with it very long. But Husby’s has consistently booked great bands from far and wide for 10 years, earning a spot alongside the Bayside and C&C as the most reliable places to catch a show. A huge dance floor, plenty of stools, and the watchful eye of “Elky” help make this one of Door County’s best haunts (and one of the oldest – Emma Husby re-opened the doors almost before the ink dried on the 21st amendment repealing prohibition in 1933).
10951 N. Bay Shore Drive, Sister Bay
JJ’s doesn’t have live music very often, although their annual Cinco de Mayo celebration is the stuff that legends are made of. When they do book a band, however, it’s safe to say that the entire county will be there.
Karly’s Dance Hall
1256 Main Road, Washington Island
Karly’s is a very cool place – restaurant in the basement, big stage, and an old bowling alley. Really – what more do you need?
1201 Main Road, Washington Island
Nelsen’s Hall was built in 1899 by Danish immigrant Tom Nelsen, and has served as the Island’s social center for Washington Island residents and visitors ever since. It also holds the distinction of being the headquarters of the world-renowned Bitters Club, a group that more than 10,000 people join every year by drinking a shot of Angostura bitters and receiving a membership card. Nelsen was able to serve bitters throughout Prohibition, therefore making Nelsen’s the oldest continuously operating saloon in the state of Wisconsin. Even if you don’t get to see a show in this historic venue – come for the bitters.
Mink River Basin
12010 Highway 42, Ellison Bay
When one thinks of live music at the Mink River Basin, two bands come to mind – the Mullet Hunters and Little Marsh Overflow. When those bands are playing the Mink, it’s packed full of band followers looking to dance well into the morning. The Mink also has the distinction of being the furthest north of the Door County live music venues before you hit Washington Island, which always adds a spark of activity to typically quiet Ellison Bay.
7778 Highway 42, Egg Harbor
If the beer selection, specialty margaritas, and Mexican fare don’t reel you in, Mojo’s backyard cantina just might, complete with live music every Saturday evening. Situated right in the heart of downtown Egg Harbor.
3931 Highway 42, Fish Creek
Sonny’s offers great pizza – and a great place to see a live show. Being a musician himself, owner Early Thomas routinely books a summer concert schedule that balances out new local bands with longtime favorites – and the result is the a great variety of reggae, funk, rock, and blues music.
Stone Harbor Resort
107 North First Avenue, Sturgeon Bay
The outdoor patio of Stone Harbor Resort offers an absolutely gorgeous view of the Steel Bridge and the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. The resort books music outside on the patio every Sunday during the summer, and Papa Louie’s outdoor tiki bar ensures that your next glass of wine or exotic cocktail is never more than a few steps away.
Top Deck at Gordon Lodge
1420 Pine Drive, Baileys Harbor
Top Deck’s building was first used as a boathouse and recreation room before Phil and Curly Gordon opened it as a nightclub and late-night eatery. In those days, Red Wilson performed live music alongside the dance floor, and hot roast beef was served on homemade bread until after midnight. Top Deck is still alive and well all these years later, with most of their music taking place outside on the patio, allowing patrons to view the immaculate sunsets.