A Saturday night on
Vancouver’s neon-flashing Granville Street resembles virtually any other raucous,
booze-fuelled city strip. Over-lubricated drinkers pinball between jam-packed
bars, while cheap pizza joints dole out slices to those craving a grease fix
before their next round of shots.
But that is not how
all Vancouverites roll.
largest city has developed a thriving alternative nightlife scene in recent
years – and it is about far more than simply getting drunk.
On indie-loving Main
Street, the Regional Assembly of Text
is Vancouver’s coolest stationery store. Filled with handmade pencils cases and
art-printed T-shirts, the store is also packed from 7 pm on the first Thursday
of every month when the free-entry Letter Writing Club
Sipping tea and munching
on cookies, hip locals hammer away on the store’s clunky antique typewriters,
crafting erudite missives to lucky loved ones – all while exchanging tips on such
things as how to make corrections without having to start again. Once your correspondence
is complete, head to the tiny art space where you can peruse handmade magazines
and chapbooks (small inexpensive booklets) from around the world.
When a stronger
tipple than tea is required, uncork a different night out at the East Van Wine Academy, an
antidote to stuffy tasting events – not least because it is staged in the
Waldorf Hotel. Unlike its illustrious New York namesake, the once-crumbling
Hastings Street spot has a legendary Tiki-themed bar and is one of the city’s
hottest alternative nightlife venues since its extensive 2010 makeover.
Taking a different
tippling theme each month – recent topics have included “a best-value bottle
battle” and a “make-your-own-blend” night – eight tastings are typically served
alongside a chatty, laid-back vibe. And despite the trendy venue, the crowd is a
healthy mix of work-escaping professionals, T-shirted skateboarders and their
Street’s busy bars satisfy mainstream drinkers, several Vancouver watering
holes attract a niche crowd, especially on specific nights. On the third
Wednesday of each month, head to the back room at Steamworks brewpub in historic
Gastown for its ever-popular Green Drinks social. Join an
enviro-themed debate or two– ask about bike lanes and transit fares if you are new
in town – and indulge in the bar’s own-brewed beers: the oatmeal stout is recommended.
For microbrew fans
aiming to dive deeper into British Columbia’s craft beer renaissance, several
city bars host regular guest cask events. Check out Mondays at St Augustine’s, Thursdays at Yaletown Brewing Company
and Sunday afternoons at The Whip.
And do not miss
downtown’s Railway Club, an
old-school upstairs pub with a Tuesday cask night and the city’s most eclectic
live music roster. Or join the monthly Monday evening sing-a-long, accompanied
by the foot-stomping local band the Hard Rock Miners.
If you have left your
crooning voice at home, hit the Cascade
Room’s Monday evening trivia quiz or “name that tune” night – they
alternate each week. The bustling spot with a taste bud-tingling cocktail list is
Main Street’s de facto neighbourhood bar, and it is a great place to meet locals.
Of course, before you
sign up for any pub trivia, you can brush up on your general knowledge with a
cultural night out. The Vancouver
Art Gallery stages regular socials (with three scheduled for 2012) where
its domed heritage venue is converted into a nightclub with DJs, bars, live
performances and quirky gallery tours.
There is a similar
approach across town at Science World,
where the shiny geodesic landmark – sometimes called the silver golf ball –
turns its kid-friendly galleries into adults-only nights of carousing, complete
with bars, dancing and eclectic live acts.
Crank up the adult
theme at East Vancouver’s Biltmore
Cabaret. One of the city’s favourite indie music venues, Sunday’s Kitty
Nights combines sleaze-free burlesque and saucy comedy. Attracting
plaid-shirted hipsters and their vintage-dressed girlfriends, it is Vancouver’s
hottest end-of-weekend release.
participants usually remain clothed at two other unusual nightlife
alternatives. Reflecting North America’s love affair with a most unlikely
musical instrument, the Vancouver
Ukulele Circle hosts a strum-tastic monthly jam session – typically at Our Town Cafe – where anyone
can bring their ukes, watch expert pluckers and even join in.
You might encounter
some of the same regulars at the paint-peeled Anza
Club a few blocks away. One of the city’s oldest-established alternative
events, it is where the Celluloid
Social Club screens locally-made short films and grills their makers with
extended Q&A sessions.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Vancouver Art Gallery's FUSE event usually ran on the last Friday of each month. This has been corrected.
The article 'Vancouver’s thriving alternative nightlife scene' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.