The River Walk  is a touristy area by design, so it’s not surprising that the bars here lack some scruffy neighborhood charm. Still, when you’re out on the town in a big city, it’s often nice to have a slick place to enjoy a fancy drink and check out the nightlife.
One of the best places to accomplish this along the river is the swanky V Bar (150 E. Houston St., 210/227-9700), located on the second floor of the alluring Hotel Valencia. Shimmery beaded curtains and silky couches give the place an air of sophistication, and the sprawling scene—particularly the inviting stone terrace overlooking the River Walk —makes for a romantic yet vibrant experience.
Not quite as chic yet equally savory is Club Cohiba (1015 Navarro St., 210/222-2008) at the Havana Riverwalk Inn. This is an ideal place to mellow out on a soft leather couch with some light jazz music and a heavy martini. The tapas are worth ordering, particularly the empanadas.
Those not interested in getting their swank on should head to Howl at the Moon (111 W. Crockett St., 210/212-4770), a raucous dueling piano bar where tourists regularly let loose with the abandon of being anonymous in an unknown city. Patrons “sing” along with their favorite tunes (think “Sweet Caroline,” “Crocodile Rock,” and, of course, “Piano Man”) as they’re pounded out on the ivories along with some good-natured banter. Complement the boisterous scene with a Jello shot or fuzzy navel.