Vancouver, show me what you've got!
December 29, 2009 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Hello, Vancouver! I will be in your city this weekend, and am looking for fun things to do and awesome places to hang out. I'm thinking of arriving New Years Day and leaving Saturday afternoon, but if there are fun things to do NYE, I would love to spend NYE there.

Think 3 guys in their early 30s, looking for boozy fun and goodtimes. Bonus if you can name some districts or neighborhoods where we can just wander around and find good bars, restaurants, coffeeshops, music venues, and things of that nature. Think Lower Mahnattan, North Brooklyn, or Mission District. More artsy/scruffy, less fancy/yuppie. That kind of thing.

Also, if you'll be in Vancouver and you've been waiting all your life for that one special chance to party with Afroblanco and two of his lifelong best friends, feel free to MeMail me -- I'd love to meet you!
posted by Afroblanco to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you really like scruffy areas, don't be afraid to wander around the Downtown Eastside (specifically, Hastings St. between Main and Cambie). Its got a bad reputation but there's always interesting people roaming the streets - I was there yesterday afternoon just chatting with random people and checkin out the pawn shops. At night you won't much more than dive bars, but you could also head down Cambie towards the water and drink at the Cambie Pub/Hostel, or in the opposite direction beyond Main you could try Pat's Pub or the Astoria (the latter has a hilarious Monday night karaoke session).

The other well-known artsy neighborhood is Commercial Drive in East Van, tons of good restaurants, a lot of hippies, artists, rastas etc etc. out on the street. The only problem w/ Commercial is everything closes down rather early - even most bars are done by 12 or 1.

NY's day there's also the big polar bear swim down on English Bay ... what else ... if you feel like just taking a really nice walk I recommend checking out Wall St, which is way up in the North East corner of the city and runs along the water. There's a series of small parks with great views of the port all the way out to the Lionsgate bridge; coupled with the recent nice weather (by Canadian standards, not sure what you are used to) this would be a great way to spend an afternoon with a backpack of beer. The more traditional walking tourist thing is doing a lap of the seawall around Stanley Park.

I'll probably think of some more ideas and come back.
posted by mannequito at 1:56 PM on December 29, 2009

oh forgot coffeeshops - there are a few really well respected caffes in the city, especially if you are into the high quality shizniz.
As I mentioned Wall St. previously, if you do end up down there drop in to JJBean at Powell and Victoria St.s, its actually their roasters but they have a shop in the front. Doesn't get any fresher than that. If you're over on the Westside (Kitsilano, West 4th Ave) there's a small cafe on 4th called 49th Parallel that has placed 1st in Canada all three years that it has been open.

If you're more concerned with the environment than the quality of the coffee, just stick with Commercial Drive and try coffeeshop hopping - there's a ton of mellow little cafes up and down the street.
posted by mannequito at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2009

Unfortunately Vancouver is really fucked up when it comes to nightlife. The consequence of puritanical liquor licensing laws. It basically means there are only a handful of neighborhoods that have anything even remotely resembling nightlife and almost nothing outside of downtown. They are approximately:

1. The Granville Strip, Granville St downtown. Home of a dozen major nightclubs, always packed on the weekend, the crowd is what you New Yorkers would call "bridge and tunnel". Most places are quite meat markety but some double as live music venues that host big acts. Probably not your scene.

2. Gastown: Along Water and Cordoba Sts downtown, roughly from Richards to Columbia. One of the oldest parts of town, now home to upscale shopping, the local software/design community, antique stores, and a decent mix of bars, clubs, and lounges, most of which lean towards the upscale/fashionable. Steamworks brewery is a popular lounge. There are a few places on the eastern fringe that are more dive bar-ish (The Bourbon, The Met), they sometimes host live music. There are a few clubs nearby but more in downtown proper that might be a good alternative to the Granville Strip - mostly I'm thinking of the Lotus Hotel.

3. The downtown eastside - skid row, the poorest neighborhood in Canada, absolutely shocking poverty for many newcomers. It's also increasingly the center of the city's art scene because it is one of the only affordable neighborhoods left. Centered on Hastings St between Abbott and Campbell. There are a lot of really depressing dive bars here but some places - notably the Astoria - have started booking DJs and bands and have become hipster hangouts. Other bars are the Balmoral, Funky Winkerbeans, Pat's Pub... some of these might have live music and a crowd, but they might be empty, it's hard to know. The 500-seat Rickshaw Theatre just opened up here and they've been hosting some good bands at good prices. More and more too there are small galleries showing up near Main/Hastings which might be throwing parties.
There is a really cool tiny little cafe/bookshop called Solder and Sons on Main St near Cordova that you should visit. The coffee is excellent.
Oh a new club called Fortune Sound or something just opened up near here in Chinatown too and is supposed to be really good.

4. Yaletown. In the southeast part of downtown, mainly between Nelson, Drake, Richards, and Pacific. Lots of new condos here and an upscale yuppie crowd. Mainly upscale restaurants and lounges. Also probably not your scene.

5. Commercial Drive. Between about 5th ave and Venables along Commercial is a vibrant hippie-type neighborhood, formerly cheap and now getting kind of gentrified. There are quite a few lounges and restaurants - again mostly upscale kind of places.

6. Mount Pleasant - along Main St from 7th to 30th, this is Vancouver's Mission District if it had one, except the nightlife sucks. Mostly just restaurants and lounges on the main drag, but nearby is the Biltmore Cabaret, a fixture in the live music scene. There are a couple of good bars on Main st north of the main neighborhood - look for the The Narrow on 3rd ave behind the gallery, and The Brickhouse closer to downtown (near Georgia I think).

7. Kitsilano. Similar to Yaletown centered along 4th ave and along Broadway between Burrard and Alma. Also probably not your scene.

For New Years Eve - every one of these places I've mentioned is going to be absolutely mobbed. I found this out last year when I tried to go out without a destination in mind. There are likely good parties to be had but have tickets in hand and go early whatever you decide to do.

Happy to help if you have followups.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:58 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you like Japanese food & drink, Vancouver has some great izakayas (Japanese pub + food, often branded as 'Japanese tapas' but ideally not as pretentious as that sounds). The last time I was back for a visit, I did an izakaya crawl through the West End, having a drink & a few plates at each spot - and there are a lot. Try one of the Guu restaurants for the most authentic Japanese experience - quite similar to some of the joints on St Mark's Place in NY. And don't forget to have a shot of Tantakatan, an otherwise almost unobtainable shiso shochu that has been the subject of not one, but two AskMefi questions.
posted by Gortuk at 4:39 PM on December 29, 2009

Yeah, Vancouver sucks for nightlife, but is pretty good for restaurants. PercussivePaul's advice mostly matches what I'd give in re: neighbourhoods. Mount Pleasant is the nicest for eating/lounges (local places people go to a lot: The Foundation -- vegetarian, giant cheap nachos, you eat at vintage kitchen tables kind of thing; The Whip -- slightly fancy/hipster pub, good local beer on tap, I think they do a cask ale on Sundays still?; The Cascade -- trying to do upscale British pub, great burger, extensive list of old-timey cocktails (which is good except oddly for the martini?), has a pub quiz on Monday nights).
posted by SoftRain at 4:52 PM on December 29, 2009

5. Commercial Drive. Between about 5th ave and Venables along Commercial is a vibrant hippie-type neighborhood, formerly cheap and now getting kind of gentrified. There are quite a few lounges and restaurants - again mostly upscale kind of places.\

Yeah, check out Commercial.

I also like the west end of Robson because it has a lot of Korean restaurants and Japanese izakayas, and Denman can be kind of fun.

O'Doul's on Robson has some good jazz combos that come in and are worth seeing, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2009

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