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On beyond The Dome

In a city like Halifax, where the student population stretches across town and the commercial infrastructure boasts the most bars per capita in Canada, avoiding the downtown scene can be difficult; and who would want to?

Well, if you’ve had the unfortunate luck of being limited to some of Halifax’s most popular bars, then maybe you? I understand that a few nights at The Dome really is enough to put you off your appetite for the downtown scene altogether but fear not, there is fun to be had in this fair city we call home.

The thing about Halifax’s downtown scene is that there is always something to do, and sometimes the options can even be overwhelming. This can be daunting, especially on a student budget, but this is a good problem to have.

My first year of legality in Halifax was riddled with disappointing trips downtown to bars that just seemed to be the busiest. I am still no expert but, after a few years of experience and valuable lessons learned, I’ve gathered enough know-how to maximize a Friday night out.

Try to abide by a “one cover a night” rule. This not only a treat for the next morning when you wake up and check your bank statement, but forces you to be a little creative when choosing where to go. Seek out smaller rooms with no cover charge to start out your night.

Understandably, no one wants to pay cover for a bar that doesn’t turn out to be any good, so experiment a little on no-cover nights and if it doesn’t end up being your thing, all you’ve wasted is maybe a good outfit. Remember as well that the big bars are typically open later anyway and provide a failsafe if at 2AM you decide you need a change of scenery.

This brings me to the next point about downtown culture: the big bars. Though one Dome experience is a right of passage, a good friend once described it as “a high school dance where guys would drag you home by the leg.” She was not wrong.

The Dome may (somehow) seem constantly busy, but it is not the only dance floor in Halifax that gets packed. Pacifico, The Argyle, The Alehouse, Reflections and The Toothy Moose, just to name a few, are all within stumbling distance from The Dome and also provide the necessary dark and loud environment one needs to get just weird enough on the dance floor. And let’s not forget that “downtown” stretches beyond the space between The Dome and Pacifico.

North End bars are the sites of some of my fondest recent memories, and for good reason. They attract a more diverse crowd than the seemingly homogenous student crowds of Argyle Street, and typically boast better music.

Though it may seem like Gottingen street is a little too off the beaten track for a night out, remind yourself that there is a great little cluster of spots, including The Seahorse, The Marquee, and Menz and Mollyz- all close enough so that whatever you could possibly want is at your fingertips.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Gus’ Pub. A North End landmark and a cornerstone of the Halifax music scene, Gus’ Pub provides a pretty eclectic roster of artists.

Bearly’s and The Carleton also provide space to enjoy live blues, rock and just about anything else you could ask for while Obladee and Stayner’s host Jazz nights on a semi-regular basis. Oasis on Spring Garden, my personal favourite dive bar in the city, hosts metal and punk shows and an atrocious karaoke night that you won’t want to miss.

By this point, a fair amount of names has been thrown at you, but there are plenty left to explore that I myself have not even had the pleasure of discovering yet.

All I am trying to say, I suppose, is that the downtown scene truly is one of Halifax’s finest gifts to offer, if you look in the right places. Don’t be discouraged if the bars you’ve been to so far don’t initially seem like your style- there is always something else happening below Queen Street. It’s just a matter of braving the cold to find your haven.

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