Planning a night out? Yaaaah ya are. No matter if you're a group of 2 or 25, I gotchu. Check this list for my top places for a night out on the town. I can't wait for how much fun you are going to have. Hey, where's my invite?
There are SO many great cocktail bars in Calgary and a number of restaurants have really stepped up their hand-crafted cocktail game, so this was REALLY tough to choose.
I think Proof is on every list in Canada as a top cocktail bar. Their bartenders mean business. They will make the shit out of your cocktail. Proof is small so you can usually have one eye on the bar from where ever you are sitting so you can watch this 25 step drink making process go down. Note, don't go here hungry because they mostly serve snacky things (stem buns, skewers, dumplings).
Who would have thought someone would make a bar theme from the infamous Jack Nicholson movie The Shining? Whoever you are, you've got issues and I like it. The decor has a luxury 1960's feel, reminiscent of The Grand Overlook Hotel. Located on Stephen ave this place is popular for after work drinks and also serves a full dinner menu.
Cleaver on 17th Ave is a popular hot spot. What they're most known for is their amazing happy hour (before 6pm and after 9pm weekdays). During this time you can get delicious $4 sliders and $8 specialty cocktails. This is SUCH a good deal for this high of quality of products.
Beer halls are all the rage nowadays, ever since Craft Beer Market opened downtown in 2011 to wild success. Plus with all the new local breweries around it is convenient to have establishments with everything on tap for us. Calgary's beer halls are big and great for a laid back party atmosphere.
Like I said, the original beer hall. Even though they didn't really need it, Craft did a reno last year to refresh, update, and add bocce ball! They also have a camper that serves drinks. Yes, an indoor camper. Come here for massive drink selection and solid food menu.
Somewhat weirdly, National has 3 locations in downtown alone. (Probably just to confuse newcomers.) National on 10th has bowling and a speakeasy called the Bourbon Room. National on Stephen Ave has a massive rooftop patio and National on 17th ave, is well, on 17th! The old National menus were lackluster but they recently redid them and now their food is smashingly good!
Kensington wanted to join the beer hall club, so welcome to the stage... FREE HOUSE. whoop whoop *throws money* There are however, a lot of pubs in Kensignton, so they kind of have their competition cut out for themselves. That said, Free House serves good food, has a good selection of beer and has really good happy hour prices. Worth checking out for sure.
One thing that sucks about living in Calgary is the limited good weather. For that reason, most bars don't put a lot of money into creating a good patio. There are however a few notable exceptions! You definitely need to take advantage of these amazing spots that show Calgary is upping it's game.
Alright, so I mentioned National on Stephen Ave's roof top patio already. (They have a downstairs but it's basically just an entry way to the good stuff up top.) This patio is big, happening and has a big city feel that nowhere else in Calgary achieves. The late night summer time dance parties can't be beat.
This breathtaking rooftop patio is the upper level of Modern Steak on Stephen Avenue. The views and atmosphere are impeccable and I'd highly recommended. The food and drinks are of course also excellent. Modern steak is good for an anniversary dinner, a corporate occasion or drink out with the girls. Last year there were doing Sunday brunches with a DJ, hope they bring it back this year!
This one is a bit of a secret, because it's hidden, somewhat new and not well advertised. In the summer, during specific hours, the Marriott Hotel downtown opens up it's massive rooftop patio to the public. The menu comes from One 18 Empire (the restaurant below in the Marriott), it consists of drinks the bar is set to handle and a few menu items. The view is outstanding, but the prices are high and because the patio is so big, it feels dead even when there are people there. (So the vibes are bit weird).
Tell me if I'm wrong, but dancing isn't as big as it used to be. I practically LIVED in the club in my early 20's, but 20-somethings now just don't have that interest level. Which is totally fine, but I think the nightclub scene has suffered due to this trend. There are just less good places to have epic and embarrassing dance offs.
You may see Cowboys on this list and laugh or cringe, whatever your feelings, you must admit Cowboys is the quintessential Calgary dancehall. It's loud, fun, epic and provides cheap booze, but... it's also filled with 18 years, barfed-in bathrooms, and extremely sticky floors. Oh and don't forget the long line up to get in. If you're under 30 go for it, if you're over 30... maybe skip this one.
Broken City is another old reliable. I remember going here when I was just a young visitor from out of town, now here I am a grown up Calgarian. It's small and has a dive bar vibe but that's what makes it loveable. Be warned, a girl stole my coat here, I caught her red handed and took her to the bouncer so he'd kick her out at minimum. Bouncer didn't seem to think people stealing was a problem. Typical bouncer I guess.
The Palace Theatre showcases some pretty big name musical acts. And a lot of variety too. Personally, I'm a sucker for EDM so I love the DJ's they bring in, but they also bring in country artists and a lot of other stuff. Whatever the kids are listening to these days you can probably find it here.
Okay, I'll be the first to admit this isn't my category of expertise. That said, my male friends, (actually and a lot of times female friends), do drag me out to watch hockey or basketball. Probably there are better bars depending on which sport you are watching. If my recommendations are way off please teach me your ways.
They moved from their 17th ave location to a new spot closer to the Saddledome at the end of 2019. It's smaller but now has levels! The basement is a shuffle club that's only open a few days a week. My fave thing to eat at Home & Away is their cauliflower "hot wings" they are actually reallllly good!
Melrose is nifty cuz it's in Cowboys Casino which is right next to the Saddledome. It's fun to be by the Saddledome even if you're not there for a game, cuz that's the heart of the action. Melrose has surprisingly decent food, for a pub located in a Casino, and they have TV screens in literally every direction.