Bars and Nightclubs
With a nickname like Cowtown it’s not surprising that some of Calgary’s hottest nightspots play country music. Ranchman’s (9615 Macleod Trail SW, 403/253-1100) is the place to check out first, especially during Stampede Week. Some of country’s hottest stars have played this authentic honky-tonk. Food is served at a bar out front all day, then at 7 p.m. the large dance hall opens with a band keeping the crowd boot-scootin’ most nights. The hall is a museum of rodeo memorabilia and photographs, with a chuck wagon hanging from the ceiling.
On the south side of the railway tracks from downtown, is hip Cowboys (1088 Olympic Way SE, 403/265-0699). The crowd is urban-slick, but when country music plays, the fancy-dancing crowd seems to know every word.
Options for a quiet drink in a refined setting include lounge bars in major downtown hotels. Of these, the Sandstone Lounge (Hyatt Regency, 700 Centre St., 403/717-1234) stands out for its central location (off Stephen Avenue Walk), classy surroundings, and extensive drink selection.
Raw Bar (Hotel Arts, 119 12th Ave. SW, 403/266-4611, daily 11 a.m.–9 p.m.) is as exotic as it gets in Calgary—a cabana-like setting around an outdoor pool. Back on Stephen Avenue Walk, in an old bank building, James Joyce Irish Pub (114 8th Ave. SW, 403/262-0708) has Guinness on tap and a menu of traditional British dishes.
If you’re looking to dance the night away (without doing it in a line), there’s a number of non-country alternatives. Downtown in a grandly restored theater, The Palace (218 8th Ave. SW, 403/263-9980) has a large dance floor and big-time lighting and sound systems. Mercury Lounge (550 17th Ave. SW, 403/229-0222) attracts a young, hip crowd for its cocktail-bar ambience—the perfect pre-nightclub hangout.
For many Mercury patrons, the next stop is Tequila (219 17th Ave. SW, 403/209-2215), where a DJ spins house and hip-hop for a young party crowd. Also within walking distance is the Metropolitan Grill (880 16th Ave. SW, 403/802-2393), where the over-25 crowd gravitates to the outdoor patio on warm summer nights. Glitzy Tantra (355 10th Ave. SW, 403/264-0202) attracts the beautiful, high-end crowd, but remains welcoming.
Jazz and Blues
The days of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells taking to the stage of the venerable King Edward Hotel are just a memory, but a couple of modern venues attract jazz and blues enthusiasts. One of the most popular jazz clubs in town is Beat Niq (at the lower level of 811 1st St., 403/263-1650), a New York–style jazz club that welcomes everyone. It’s open Thursday–Saturday from 8 p.m. and the cover charge is $12–18.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition