Diverse nightlife beckons to all

Anne Arundel County may be known as the seat of state government, home of the Naval Academy and an area rich in maritime traditions -- but after a full day of history, education and enlightenment, it's time for a little entertainment.

From sophisticated theater and classical music to high-energy bar bands and amateur boxing, the county offers a wide variety of live entertainment, holding its own against the hot spots of nearby Baltimore and Washington.

Among the top picks for those seeking to sample the local nightlife:

Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, 143 Compromise St., Annapolis, 410-268-9212, Every summer, the Garden Theatre holds outdoor evening performances. This season includes The Merry Wives of Windsor and My Fair Lady.

Cancun Cantina, 7501 Old Telegraph Road. Glen Burnie, 410-761-6188 www.can It's a beach bar. It's a country-and-western joint. It's a top-40 dance club. It's all of those things. With six bars, a restaurant, pool tables, an outdoor deck with sand and palm trees, a dance floor with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and two concert stages all under one roof, this place has something for everyone.

Chesapeake Music Hall, 339 Busch's Frontage Road, Annapolis, 800-406-0306, www.chesa In addition to theatrical and musical performances, the theater has special events and even children's productions. This season, you can check out the theater's productions of Chicago, Camelot and A Christmas Carol. Michael Hoover brings his "Memories of Elvis" show in May and again in September, complete with the dazzling jumpsuit.

Coconuts Bar & Grill, 1629 Crofton Center, Crofton, 301-261-3366, www.coco There's music and dancing almost every night of the week at Coconuts. Mondays are for SIN -- that's Service Industry Nights, for folks who make a living waiting on others and can enjoy being waited on for a change. Tuesdays are hand dance nights. Hand dancing, a type of swing dance, originated in the Washington area and is also known as "D.C. Hand Dancing." If you don't know how to hand dance, don't worry, someone will take you by the hand and show you the way. Wednesdays are retro nights with DJ Tre. Thursdays are Ladies' Nights. Fridays always have a DJ and Saturdays bring bands to the stage. The cover charge varies, but it is rarely more than $5.

Jillian's Billiard Club and Cafe, Arundel Mills mall, 443-755-0113. In addition to live entertainment, Jillian's has a Video Cafe and Bar, with 10 60-inch TVs and a 27-screen video wall, a traditional Japanese steakhouse, where cooks show off their fancy spatula skills at tableside grills, video games, billiards, bowling lanes and the "Groove Shack" dance club.

King of France Tavern, 16 Church Circle, in the Treaty of Paris Restaurant, 410-263-2641. The tavern, one of several Historic Inns of Annapolis, features live jazz at 8:30 p.m. on weekends. It was a favorite space of the late jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd. The jazz nights are popular, so reservations are highly recommended.

  • Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis, 410-263-5544. Once the old Annapolis High School, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is now a nonprofit community center for the visual, performing and creative arts. The hall is home to the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, Annapolis Chorale, Annapolis Opera, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Cardinal Gallery.

  • Michael's Eighth Avenue, Eighth Avenue and Greyburn Drive, Glen Burnie, 410-768-7901, Michael's is known by many as a lovely catering hall and reception site, a place for brides, promgoers and class reunions. But every now and then the flowers and ice sculptures are put away to make room for some unique entertainment. How about ballroom boxing? If watching the fights is your thing, you can get pretty close to the action while sitting comfortably at a banquet table at these amateur and semiprofessional boxing matches. Most events include four to six matches and feature what they call "dig-in-the-trenches, low-down rumbles." Next bouts are scheduled for Sept. 25. Michael's also puts on the occasional concert and amateur wrestling match.

  • Middleton Tavern, 2 Market Space, Annapolis, 410-263-3323. The Middleton is a historic tavern, restaurant and oyster bar at City Dock, featuring live entertainment almost every night. George Washington may not have slept here, but he supposedly did have a drink or two, along with other well-known figures of early American history.

  • Rams Head Tavern, 33 West St., Annapolis, 410-268-4545, The Rams Head dates to the late 1700s, when the tavern was known as the Crown and the Dial. Over the years, the place has been the home to numerous drinking establishments of various names, a tearoom and a brothel. The tavern's resident ghost, Amy, is believed to be a resident of that establishment. Sadly, she died in bed, but she didn't pass quietly in her sleep. She, a sailor and her bed crashed through the ceiling one night.

    Her bedpost is in the Down Bar in the tavern.

    When the Rams Head expanded by buying the properties on either side, it became a showcase for major musical talent.

    Performers such as Aaron Neville have graced the stage.
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