Help me have un-boozy evenings
April 13, 2007 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I need suggestions for evening activities that don't focus on drinking.

I quit drinking almost 3 months ago to help me quit smoking (they go so nicely together), and so far I have held to my commitment. Two bonuses are that I've lost a bunch of weight and my bank account has improved. So far, it's a win all around EXCEPT my social life has suffered.

Before, the de facto evening activity for myself and my friends was to go to a bar and get loaded. I had a hard time interesting them in other things, and now that I can't join them in their revelry, I'm having to give them up and find a new social circle. The problem is, what is there to do at night (weekends, primarily) that doesn't center around drinking? The answers to this question seem to fall under the category "go to a bar and order non alcoholic stuff" but bars are pretty boring to begin with, and only through booze do they become interesting (also: dealing with drunk people when you're not drunk as well is godawful). Bartending is out for the same reason: being sober and dealing with drunks = a big tub of No Fun.

During the day I don't have a problem; I'm volunteering at an animal shelter, I'm taking classes, and I'm working on my art. But evening social activities mystify me. I could go to a play or a movie, but there's really no chance of human interaction there. So far, the only activity I've identified is dancing, and I've started salsa lessons, but it will be awhile before I'm good enough to hit the clubs. And doing the same thing over and over will ruin the fun, so I'm looking for variety.

My commitment to non-drinking runs out on April 21st (3 month anniversary) but I'd like to continue (mostly) abstaining if I can make it work socially! If it helps, I'm in Chicago (in Wrigleyville, aka sports bar hell).
posted by mjbraun to Human Relations (31 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Board games, card games, video games - all are lots of fun with good friends and some tasty snacks.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:39 AM on April 13, 2007

I don't drink very much and I love to hang out with my friends at coffee shops. That is pretty much what we do whenever we can't think of anything else. I guess "Coffee shop" is sort of an obvious answer, but it provides a nice atmosphere where the focus is on conversation and hanging out. And your friends still get to hold a drink, even if it's a non-alcoholic one. :) I'm sure if your friends are supportive of your decision, they'd be willing to forgo their evening at the bar occaisonally for a coffee shop instead.
posted by crackingdes at 7:41 AM on April 13, 2007

Poker, dude. Poker. (might not help with the bank account)
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:41 AM on April 13, 2007

Join a gym. For more social interaction, take various classes at the gym.
posted by amro at 7:42 AM on April 13, 2007

Oh, seconding the video game suggestion... if you want an activity to do late at night, multi-player video games are great. More opportunity to bond than at the movie theater, say, but there's still a fun activity to focus on. Assuming, of course, that your friends are up for multi-player halo or something equivalent.
posted by crackingdes at 7:43 AM on April 13, 2007

Laser Tag.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:43 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can try going to some meetin events that don't feature drinking.
posted by birdlady at 7:43 AM on April 13, 2007

What about going to one of the big box book stores in the evening? Their cafes often have entertainment, and clubs and reading groups that have open door policies meet at regular intervals. The local paper might have lists of these groups and when they meet.

I started going regularly to these with my husband after accompanying my daughter to a "music night" at the local Barnes and Noble - she was playing her flute with a few of her friends. It was a relaxing atmosphere, and most everyone was friendly.
posted by Flakypastry at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2007

Movies, Bowling, Driving around, Taco bell, hanging out in front of supermarkets.
posted by banished at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2007

Photography, climbing, DJing, walking (usually lots of 'urban exploration' or walking clubs around.. no skills needed!)
posted by wackybrit at 7:47 AM on April 13, 2007

This isn't quite what you asked for, but can't you find some bars with enforced no smoking then go drinking there?
posted by biffa at 7:47 AM on April 13, 2007

Join a dodgeball/kickball team, go bowling, film festivals, art gallery openings, modelling for night portrait classes (or taking one), minor league baseball games, urban bike rides, evening lectures, picnics in cemetaries, indie music shows, tutoring, work at your local co-op, sit in a cafe and plan a trip.
posted by barometer at 7:48 AM on April 13, 2007

Tons more under hobbies.
posted by barometer at 7:50 AM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: The crux of the issue isn't that there aren't things to do in general or that I don't have hobbies; it's the time of day (7pm and up) that is the limiting factor.

wackybrit: actually, I do urban exploration, but only during the day (part of "working on my art"). Also, I'm in a pool league (I'm terrible) and I hit the gym after work. Generally, the weekday evenings are ok; it's Friday and Saturday that suck. (Also, I can't wait to get my turntables out of storage).

Assume that I don't have any friends; the people I know are either dating (and thus always occupied) or focused on getting crunk, and so I have to get new pals.
posted by mjbraun at 7:56 AM on April 13, 2007

Hobbies. For example, I do darkroom work. Model building, music-playing, anything works.

Also, backgammon.
posted by The Michael The at 7:57 AM on April 13, 2007

Seconding allkindsoftime. A regular weekly poker game is about 1000 times more fun than bar-hopping. There's tension, drama, calculation, laughter, and scads of amiable bullshitting. And you get to pick the music. God how I miss my old game.
posted by saladin at 8:15 AM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Yes! Get those turntables out of storage. Practice, practice, practice, then you can run the entertainment.
Create difficult and complicated dinners. Meet up with other foodies, they might like wine but they will concentrate on the food, and long hours of preparation.
posted by bobobox at 8:16 AM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: crackingdes: They're supportive, but I think they're more focused on their own interests than willing to try new things with me. All the more reason I'm "kicking them to the curb".

All: thanks for the feedback and advice (and I'm glad no one has said "Get a girlfriend"). I really appreciate it!
posted by mjbraun at 8:21 AM on April 13, 2007

Chicago's hard for non-drinking. even card games have a tendency to go that way. The neofuturists have a late show (11pm) that can be a good activity to take a group of relative unknowns to (slightly more interactive than some plays). & intelligenstia has good coffee in the area, though most activities tend to more like 7pm on weekdays unless you have a group already. is there a website, group art project or something you could try to recruit a group for? (darts is usually my excuse but it's also drinking centered, alas.)
posted by ejaned8 at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2007

Great question! I just started a 90-day no-drinking plan (still in the first week, but committed), and am facing a sober weekend. I may go to a movie tonight (I like going by myself because (a) I can pick really dorky romantic comedies and (b) I can sit close up like I like). Eventually I may get a laptop with wifi and hang out in cafes. I've been cooking every night (the kids are really confused).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:02 AM on April 13, 2007

I found joining a book club (a fun one, not a really serious one!) to be a good way to meet friends with similar interests. We have expanded to going to movies together and out for dessert after to discuss, to game nights, and even to an annual trip to a UFO festival's parade :)
posted by purenitrous at 9:06 AM on April 13, 2007

What about doing things that teenagers (who are supposed to not be drinking) do for fun?

What about going to the local rollerskating rink? Or going bowling (where beer exists but isn't a requirement). Putt putt golfing? Video game arcade? Chuck E Cheese (ok so you might need a kid to help with that one)? Drive in Movies? Hanging out at the mall? Making out at your favorite look out spot?
posted by mulkey at 9:08 AM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Sometimes when I'm bored in the evenings I will just grab a book and head into the City (SF). I'll park and explore. Walk around neighborhoods. Window shop. Grab a cup of coffee and if nobody's around I'll read a little. Maybe grab a nosh. People watch. Just be OUT in public. It's relaxing, interesting, and I often meet people that way.

Also I take some classes & workshops too. (Night classes generally start between 6-7 pm.) I'm learning a lot of new stuff & meeting people at the same time. Right now I'm learning a new language and also have my dog enrolled in a bunch of training classes. It's fun.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:10 AM on April 13, 2007 [4 favorites]

Definitely consider the suggestion about preparing a complex dinner. It's something I do (and have done for about a year now) every Sunday night. We drink wine, usually, but it hardly is a major part of the event, which is particularly rewarding in terms of extended conversation and cooking excitement!

Cooking is something people LOVE to do, and I bet you can easily pull people away from the bars on a Friday or Saturday by cooking for them and sitting around chatting.

As for a personal anecdote, tonight I won't be going to a bar. Instead I will be going to an African-American film festival followed by a panel discussion, then having a nice slow dinner at a restaurant afterwards. I'll probably end the evening with some coffee and chat with friends. This is the kind of stuff you're looking for: community events that allow for intellectual participation. Check your local Alt Weekly newspaper for not only film festivals and lectures, but also for concerts.
posted by dead_ at 9:20 AM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Some ideas:
- Chicago Critical Mass
- record shopping on weekend nights
- Want to spruce up your apartment so you're ready to invite over new friends? Apartment Therapy is in Chicago tonight
- Chicago summers are filled with free concerts and festivals
- next month's Looptopia is a "dusk-to-dawn cultural and artistic spectacle"
posted by limeswirltart at 9:32 AM on April 13, 2007

Try finding a board game that doesn't lose its appeal (Monopoly and Risk, I'm looking at you!). I've found that Carcassonne is constantly fun, not intimidating like Risk is to some, and only gets boring once you play it day after day.
posted by Meagan at 9:49 AM on April 13, 2007

Chicago's hard for non-drinking. even card games have a tendency to go that way.

Yeah, but you're doing something, so they're fun without drinking, whereas bars aren't. Plus if you're the only sober one you're much more likely to win :)
posted by dagnyscott at 9:51 AM on April 13, 2007

I don't think Butterfly Social Club has opened yet, but it's slated for Spring 2007 and might be a good fit. Smoke free + (for now) non-alcoholic drinks by the owner of Funky Buddha.

Also, Gapers Block, the Reader, and the like can be helpful in these situations.
posted by asuprenant at 9:58 AM on April 13, 2007

Go to a comedy club or improv show. Fun, and you don't have to be loaded to find it funny.
posted by radioamy at 10:04 AM on April 13, 2007

it might help for a while to stop thinking about friday and saturday nights and some special social emergency. if you can't find anything else of great interest, schedule some personal activities for those times. lots of groups and classes meet during other evening hours, and you should be able to find interesting new friends through those. once you have a base of new non-drinking-obsessed friends, you can start planning your own social activities for the weekends like dinner parties, game nights, or any type of excursion that would be fun with a group. if it's an emergency, coffee shops and art openings are probably good bets. and some dance parties (all-ages ones, primarily) are non-drinking, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by lgyre at 10:21 AM on April 13, 2007

I too live in Wrigley and am encountering the same problem. Here's what I've done in the past few weeks other than drink. Gone on a long walk, altough I know how cold it is so don't roll your eyes, but SOON! Had a game night, went to a movie and went to IO on Clark. They have shows starting all the way to midnight. The Music Box on Southport has funky indie movies, and I know you're already taking salsa but I signed up for breakdancing classes once a week just to make my life a little difficult and make my muscles freak out. And those are happening a short walk away on Wellington. Read the RedEye, concerts galore every week! That can get expensive, but if you've just given up drinking in this town, you probably have a lot more money.

Oddly enough, my favorite of all of these that I've done was the long walk.
posted by smeater44 at 11:10 AM on April 13, 2007

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