I love dueling piano bars. They’re a fun entertainment option for everyone, from groups of friends to couples to solos. It’s less expensive than a show (especially the $100+ A list shows) and can be way cheaper than spending the night gambling (and losing). It’s also a way for solo travelers to socialize and become part of a fun-loving group for a little while. I have had many a good time at dueling piano bars during my travels, including Las Vegas. Here’s how you, too, can have some dueling piano fun during your trip to Las Vegas.
What to look for in good dueling pianists
- Musical talent, obviously.
- Teams who play well off each other.
- A sense of humor.
- Teams who know how to engage the audience in a fun way, without insulting anyone’s taste in music or being too offensive. (I’ve seen this line crossed once or twice.)
- Those who aren’t too pushy for tips. There’s a difference between occasionally reminding people that tips are appreciated and being pushy about it. People are out to have a good time, they don’t want to feel like they’re being mugged every few minutes.
How to have fun at a dueling piano show
- Dueling piano shows are fun because of crowd participation. That means you. If the pianists tell you to clap, clap; if they tell you to sing the chorus, sing the chorus.
- Bring your sense of humor. You might find yourself as the center of attention, especially if you’re celebrating a birthday and they find out about it. Or they might gently tease you about a song request. Most times it’s meant as good fun. Take it that way.
- Make song requests and make them as unique and difficult as possible. This really livens things up. Everyone requests “Piano Man” and “Sweet Caroline”. But if you can request something difficult, say a heavy metal tune from the ’80s, that’s when things get interesting. The best pianists pride themselves in being able to tackle a tough tune.
- When you make your request, don’t forget the tip ($1 or more). Those who tip more have their requests moved to the “front of the line,” so to speak. It is not unusual to see $20 tips accompany requests.
- The show may be free, but don’t be cheap. Order some drinks and don’t forget to tip your server.
- If there’s bar seating, that’s the best place for a solo to hang out and meet others. Or if you can snag a table first, offer to share with others as they come in looking for a seat.
So, where can you find dueling pianos in Las Vegas? The better question might be “Where can’t you find them?” There used to be just two–New York, New York’s Bar at Times Square and the Piano Bar at Harrahs–but now it’s like those two shagged like bunnies and produced offspring everywhere around town. I’m okay with this, because choice is a good thing.
The Bar at Times Square, New York, New York
When: Nightly, 8pm – 2am
What you need to know:There is a $15 cover if you want to sit. The bar is separated into a standing section and a seated section, with the pianos separating them. This is the granddaddy of the dueling piano shows in Las Vegas and one of the most fun. The bar itself is a neat space, reminiscent of an old-time pub you might find in New York City, with lots of dark polished wood. If you’re looking for a rowdy, slightly off-color piano show, this is the one for you.
The Piano Bar, Harrahs
When: Nightly, 9pm – 3am
What you need to know: Identical twin sisters Kim and Tamara Pinegar are the headliners for this dueling piano lounge, but they’re not there 100% of the time. They do know how to work up the crowd. The atmosphere here is down to earth, lively, and fun, and the show is always packed. There’s also lots of solo seating, including at the bar and a row of seats right in front of the pianos. This is my favorite of Vegas’s dueling piano bars. There may be a cover on the weekends, per Craig (see comments below).
When: Nightly, 9pm – 11pm
What you need to know: Napoleon’s started out as a cigar and champagne lounge, so it’s got a much more upscale atmosphere than most of the other piano bars. The crowd tends to be a bit more grown-up and less rowdy than New York, New York or Harrahs.
Eastside Lounge, Encore
When: Nightly, 9pm-on.
What you need to know: There is a 2 drink minimum here during shows. I haven’t been here during the show, but the Eastside Lounge has a very long bar (yay for solos!) and lots of comfortable seating areas. Mixologists mix up organic cocktails during the show.
The Pub, Monte Carlo
When: Thursday – Sunday, 9pm – 2am
What you need to know: If you like beer, this may be the best piano bar for you. The Pub has a huge selection of beers from around the world in every category. They also have some tasty adult milkshakes.
Swinger’s Club, The Plaza
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 8:30pm – 2am
What you need to know: This is the only dueling piano club in town that also offers a 9-hole miniature golf course. It’s located Downtown at the top of Fremont Street.
Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar, Town Square
When: Wednesday – Saturday, 8pm – 2am
What you need to know: Pete’s is a chain of dueling piano bars with locations in Texas, Nevada, and Florida. Given its location in the Town Square development (on Las Vegas Boulevard, south of the airport), it tends to attract more locals than tourists and is more down to earth. It gets crowded and can be hard to find a seat if you don’t reserve one. Note: There may or may not be a cover charge.
Salute Lounge, Palazzo
When: Nightly 7:30pm-1:30am.
What you need to know: I love the retro feel of Salute Lounge, with its zebra strip upholstery and stalactite shaped overhead lighting. It is a cool place to hang out. If only the dueling pianos here were as cool. Honestly, this is the weak link in the chain of dueling piano shows in Las Vegas.