Vancouver's nightlife scene is young and trendy—especially with Canada's legal drinking age being 19 years old—but that doesn't mean the over-40 set is left out of the fun. If you fall into this category, you might want to skip The Roxy and other college bars and opt for cocktail lounges, breweries, and dinner cruises instead.
There's something for every age group and interest in this British Columbia metropolis, from salsa dancing and pisco sours to opera and champagne. Whether you choose to spend your evening in the ever-lively Gastown, trendy Yaletown, or out to sea (literally), you'll never have to worry about filthy bathrooms or not fitting in at Vancouver's more sophisticated nightspots.
While the college students and other 20-somethings make their way to whatever dance floor has the best DJ, the 40-somethings head instead to Vancouver's number of cocktail bars, hotels, and lounges for the evening. If you're hungry, some of the upscale drinking spots have equally high-end menus to peruse. The low-key pubs and taverns in Gastown, rather, are where you'll find live music.
- Opus Bar: Even during happy hour rush, this chic bar (which disguises itself as a coffeehouse by day) keeps it easygoing. The swanky Yaletown haunt that's housed in the Opus Hotel is known to draw a diverse crowd—young cocktail connoisseurs and over-40s alike—including the occasional celebrity. It does host frequent DJs, too, but in a classy way.
- UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar: If it's a refined wine or an expertly crafted cocktail you seek, this stylish hangout (housed in the Moda Hotel, also in Yaletown) is the solution. Like Opus Bar, this intimate space also acts as an espresso bar by day, but after dark, spirits abound. After a night of drinking, come back for a delicious breakfast the following morning.
- Reflections: In the summertime, much of Vancouver moves its nightlife outside. Patio bars like Reflections—on the roof of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia—are the norm. This fairytale-like garden lounge is closed for most of the year, but when it is open (typically starting in late April), the tapas and creative summer cocktails are exquisite.
- The Sylvia Hotel: Unlike the Moda Hotel, Rosewood Hotel Georgia, and Opus, The Sylvia Hotel is less of a scene and more of an old-fashioned landmark than anything. It isn't the fanciest, but the retro feel gives it character. You'll find plenty of over-40 folk hanging out here.
- The Irish Heather: Let's say you're more of an Irish pub kind of person. Vancouver has plenty of those, too, including this Gastown landmark which has its very own whiskey house located in the back. Not interested in spirits? This place has a great selection of local and imported beers, too.
- Guilt & Company: Another Gastown haunt, this dark and intimate bar is reminiscent of a speakeasy. Folks over 40 come here often for cocktails, nibbles, and live music. The stage is occupied nightly by local jazz artists, soul singers, and more.
- Alibi Room: If it's craft beer you're after, but you simply can't tolerate the brewery scene, then there's Alibi Room, a down-to-earth bar with a rotating tap list (50 of them!) and flights on the edge of Gastown.
- The Keefer Bar: For those who like to travel off the beaten path a bit, The Keefer Bar in Chinatown might be just the thing. It's a swanky place with tapas and an outdoor patio for summer evenings and the cocktails are, of course, Asian-inspired. It's sure to get you away from the party parts of town, in any case.
- The Narrow Lounge: The Narrow Lounge will make you feel like you've stumbled upon a secret hideout because, well, it sort of is. It's tucked away under a furniture store on Main Street, speakeasy-style. You'll know if it's open by a red light.
- Calabash Bistro: It sounds like a restaurant, but Calabash Bistro's drinks are as popular as its Caribbean fare. This place is a favorite among the over-40 set, who love the small bands that play downstairs on weeknights. Be careful of weekends, however, when hip-hop and reggae acts can turn the place into a proper dance party.
Like other Pacific Northwest cities on the U.S. coast, Vancouver is big into breweries. There are more than a dozen to choose from in East Vancouver (whose beer focus has earned the nickname "Yeast Van") and even more around the Lower Mainland. Tours—either organized or do-it-yourself—are popular with every age group, but if you're not into that sort of thing, there are plenty of taprooms to keep you quenched. Keep in mind that many close earlier than your standard bar, typically around 11 p.m.
- Brassneck Brewery: Suckers for interior design will simply swoon over the industrial aesthetic of this Mount Pleasant brewery. Beer lovers, on the other hand, will be entirely focused on Brassneck's mile-long tap list.
- Steamworks Brewery: Open since the mid-'90s, Steamworks is one of the originals. This Gastown haunt has been brewing up craft beer since before craft beer was cool. Bonuses include the pub-style menu and waterfront view.
- 33 Acres Brewing Company: No tour of the Yeast Van beer trail would be complete without stopping by this beloved brewery. Minimalism is theme of 33 Acres' interior, but the beers are anything but. The small-ish beer list always features some sort of creative concoction (a cinnamon and date brew, perhaps?).
- Brewhall: Those who can't stand a crowd might prefer the more spacious Brewhall in Olympic Village. This place is downright massive, so you certainly shouldn't have trouble finding a table. Non-beer drinkers will love that Brewhall has a wine menu, too.
- Electric Bicycle Brewery: Come for the hoppy IPAs and stay for the live piano at this Mt. Pleasant staple. The vibe is colorful and funky, unlike other sleek, rustic breweries around the city.
Sometimes, you want something a little more than simply taking a seat at the bar. In this West Coast city, you can have your wine with a side of opera, theatre, burlesque, or even a cruise. Take your date salsa dancing or to see an open-air presentation of Shakespeare in the park. There's plenty to do besides just bar hopping after dark.
- Burlesque: If your idea of burlesque is Gypsy Rose Lee circa-1957, then allow Geekenders to educate you on the modern-day version. These days, burlesque is more tongue-in-cheek, feminist-friendly, and in this case, geeky. Geekenders specializes in nerdy subjects, with productions like Star Wars: A Nude Hope. Biltmore Cabaret and Kitty Nights Burlesque & Cabaret are other troupes to check out.
- Dancing: Salsa dancing knows no age limits. Thankfully, there's plenty of it in this city and many of the events include introductory lessons for newcomers. Couples and singles are welcome alike at Mango Lounge's Salsa Saturdays, Salchata Thursdays, and Havana Fridays. Check Salsa Vancouver's calendar for upcoming events.
- Performing Arts: Spend an evening at the Orpheum listening to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra or watch the Vancouver Opera perform classics like Rigoletto by Verdi. For something less traditional, watch one of the nightly presentations of Shakespeare in Vanier Park (part of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival May through September).
- Night Cruises: From mid-May through early-October, most of Vancouver's sightseeing cruise companies offer sunset dinner cruises that are perfect for a romantic night out. Vancouver Harbour Cruises' sunset dinner cruise package, for instance, is a two-and-a-half hour cruise around Downtown Vancouver, with incredible views of Stanley Park, the downtown skyline, and the northern mountains, plus a buffet dinner and live music.
Tips for Going Out in Vancouver
- Ridehailing apps like Uber and Lyft are not available in Metro Vancouver, but there is something similar called eCab. Otherwise, you'll either need to take a taxi to your destination, walk, or ride public transit (which is clean and reliable, unlike in some other cities).
- Don't get too caught up on dressing up for a night out in Vancouver. It isn't exactly the most fashionable city and the folks here are more apt to dress for the weather than for style.
- For mingling with an older crowd, concentrate on going out in Yaletown and Gastown. The gay-popular Davie Street district is lively, but it's often extremely busy and caters to a young demographic.
- Don't forget to tip your bartender—18 to 20 percent is the norm for Canada.
- Bars in Vancouver are required to stop serving alcohol at 3 a.m., but many close at 2 a.m. on weekends and as early as midnight or 1 a.m. on weeknights.