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 3 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. Don't go here expecting a meal 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.
While I haven't had great experiences with Two Penny, The Tea House (in the basement) is pretty awesome. They have a solid cocktail menu featuring strong but tasty drinks with fun names like Post Water-Malone and Spray Tan 2.0. They also serve specialty slurpee drinks! They have a menu of fancy Asian dishes that look amazing but are a little pricey for me (e.g. $35 duck, $18 vegetarian noodles, $40 ginger beef).
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.
So this one doesn't actually exist yet, well it EXISTS, it's just not open. Modern spent 2019 renovating their Stephen Avenue location to be Modern Steak, Modern Ocean & Modern Rooftop. So it's 3 restaurants in one. Wow. And they are all good! Imagine that. Really tasty food and really top notch decor. Anyway, the rooftop is set to open to the public in 2020. Get excited for it. I wanna be the first one there.
This one is a bit of a secret. In the summer of 2019, One 18 Empire (Marriott Hotel downtown) opened up a pop-up patio on their Stephen Avenue rooftop. Not many people knew about it because it was only open select days and there wasn't a lot of signage or anything (it's hard to see a rooftop after all). But I went there, yes indeed. And it was awesome because I went on a hot day and got a seat overlooking Stephen Ave. It was everything I wanted it to be. Downside was beer prices were outrageous (like $9 for a 12 oz pint? jeeze). And it was such a huge spread out patio, it seemed dead even though lots of people were there.
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 night club scene has suffered due to this trend. There are just less good places to have epic and embarrassing dance offs.
This club is legendary in club years. It's been open since 2005 and still going strong. I can't say that much else about it because I've only ever visited really late at night so memories are hazy at best. Expect crappy well drinks and dirty bathrooms. You know, the usual.
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. I tried going there and it was wall to wall people that felt claustrophobic and not up to fire code. Maybe it's better now though?
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.