Low lighting, good service, and attention to ambience make Etnicos, next to the Ola Verde restaurant, almost romantic.
The block surrounding Hipa Hipa’s bar hosts a rotating bar scene: The bars change from year to year, but the scene—and the crowd—remains the same. Start with the trendy Hipa Hipa itself, now less exclusive than it used to be (they got vilified for refusing entry to the dark-skinned daughter of a diplomat), this is still one of the best places to be seen, with an atmosphere straight out of Miami’s South Beach (Wed.–Sun. after 7 p.m., but Hipa Hipa offers happy hour starting at 4 p.m.).
Below and adjacent to Hipa Hipa are three similar, but less popular bar-discos that take up the slack, including Broder, a college favorite (baseball cap at a 45 degree angle is all but mandatory here).
Just down the street, Time–Out (from the Lafise financial center, half a block east, 3.5 blocks north) has 20 pool tables for $2.50 per hour, and serves cocktails, beers, and snacks.
A similar zone of tightly clustered fun spots where the bars serve food and the restaurants have a good bar scene, is Zona Hippos, west of Carretera Masaya. Piratas on the corner is a favorite and a good place to see-and-be-seen.
A surprise favorite, Bar Rollos, isn’t near much of anything else, but its gauzy ambience, candlelit simplicity and cheap, cold beer has brought it success from international travelers and young Managuans. In the Colonia Centroamerica, open evenings after 6 p.m.
Moods on the outskirts of Managua  in Galería Santo Domingo is rather exclusive but the most upscale disco in town and gets consistently good reviews for its swanky atmosphere and great music, and skilled bartenders. You’ll need to dress well to get in (no jeans, baseball caps, T-shirts, etc.) and maybe even catch the eye of the bouncer (Wed.–Sun., cover charge typically $5). The city’s burgeoisie are upstairs in the VIP lounge, photographing themselves. Thursday is ladies’ night, with varying specials.
The liveliest—and youngest—party in town is at the new Chamán, a Mayan pyramid structure just south of the Laguna de Tiscapa  and north of the UCA. Expect long lines, as Managua’s youth have made this the place to be, but the wild, party atmosphere makes it worth it (Wed.–Sun., cover charge is typically $3).
Matrixx Disco is also impressive, with a lot of black lights and a slightly less university-crowd that knows how to dance. It’s open Thursday–Sunday, though Friday is the best (cover charge typically $4).
Two other discos are largely spurned by the trendy, Facebook crowd. That makes them unpretentious, inexpensive, and still great places to dance. El Quetzal and La Laguna de Tiscapa are old Managua favorites, with a somewhat older crowd. The former is air-conditioned and glassy, the latter is open air on a balcony overlooking the crater. Both are recommended and open Friday–Sunday starting around 8 p.m., no cover charge.
Managua’s Costeño crowd is still loves Island Taste (Km 6 Carretera Norte, Thurs.–Sun., cover charge $4), somewhat far away from the rest of town and a bit run down these days, but still well-loved (and packed!). Palo de Mayo, soca, and reggae are what’s playing. Go on a Thursday, when there’s more elbow room.
Managua ’s music scene, both intimate and refined, shows a lot of local talent and energy. Without a doubt, the single best show in town is Casa de los Mejía Godoy (in front of the Hotel Crowne Plaza, tel. 505/2270-4928 or 505/2278-4913, fmejiago [at] cablenet [dot] com [dot] ni). Both brothers perform here regularly, Carlos on Thursday and Saturday, with or without his band Los de Palacagüina. Luis Enrique does Latin rhythm nights on Friday, and Sunday features other Nicaraguan or international performers. Both brothers are born showmen and present a theatrical mix of stories, bawdy jokes, and famous songs. The club is expensive by Nica standards, but well worth it by any measure. Buy tickets the afternoon of the performance for $8–15; shows are Wednesday-Sunday only and start at 9 p.m.
Just up the block, El Caramanchel (two blocks south and 15 meters west of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, open from 7 p.m. Wed.–Sat.) is a favorite Bohemian haunt, with an inviting, casual atmosphere, and a soundtrack that includes reggae, rhumba, and bossa nova. The cozy, open-air dance floor doubles as a stage and has hosted some fantastic bands from as far away as Brazil. This is a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in which to enjoy live music.
The breezy, outdoor terrace of La Ruta Maya (150 meters east of the Estatua de Montoya, tel. 505/2268-0698, open Thurs.–Sat., $4–6) is a pleasant place to appreciate a wide variety of performers from singer-songwriters to reggae, jazz, and everything in between. Local talent includes names such as Macolla, Llama Viva, Dimensión Costeña, Elsa Basil, and Clara Grun, to name but a few.
Latino’s (600 meters north of the Metrocentro roundabout) gets a similar entourage of troubadours and has an attractive, modern decor and dance floor. This is the place if you want to dance rather than just listen. They have live music Thursday–Saturday, entrance $4.