Offbeat Evening Entertainment

By Adam Sawyer | Photo © Lincoln Barbour Photography

When the day has drawn to a close and all of life’s responsibilities have been placated to the point that you’re ready to wind things down, or perhaps even turn things up, what do you do? What are the options There’s always Happy Hour drinks and small plates. Maybe dinner and a movie? How about a nightclub and dancing? All of the above? It’s hard to go wrong with the old standards—they are tried and true for a reason. But if you’re looking to spread your wings a little or broaden your horizons, the creative culture that thrives throughout the Northwest has been working overtime with alternatives to the traditional after dark outings. Here’s a rundown of some exciting new ways to expand your post sundown repertoire. 

When was the last time you played Pacman or tried your hand at pinball? Whenever and wherever it was, you probably weren’t allowed to sip a martini in between lives or losing a ball. That’s changed. A number of classic arcades have sprung up that allow you to play all of the games that stole your adolescence, but now with the added bonus of a full bar, food menu and music. If you’re interested in seeing how well you can do at Space Invaders with a beer in hand and without an authority figure questioning your motivation or life course, check out Ground Kontrol in Portland, Shorty’s in Seattle, Spacebar in Boise, or Level Up Arcade in Eugene.

Comedy Clubs have changed significantly since the days of airplane jokes and wise-cracking hand puppets. They’ve morphed into the Swiss Army Knives of after-dark entertainment. In addition to the traditional headlining stand-up acts and open mic nights, there are improv troupes, classes, bingo nights and beyond. If you’re interested in checking out the new breed of comedy clubs, visit Helium in Portland, the Spokane Comedy Club, or Unexpected Productions in Seattle. To sample some of the beyond, try the Funhouse Lounge in Portland or the Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret in Seattle. The Funhouse regularly hosts expanded comedic productions as well as inventively themed offerings, like TrekLesque, a Star Trek-themed burlesque homage to Captain Kirk and the crew. The Can Can in Seattle puts on a rotating list of stellar cabaret and burlesque shows like “Flamingo” or “Zombie Cheerleaders,” complemented by an acclaimed kitchen. And if the evening gets cut short or goes longer than expected, they have a brunch show as well.

The thirst for knowledge, as well as for craft beer and artisanal food, are not mutually exclusive. Next-level museums, like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, offer after-dark events that stimulate the mind as well as your inner social butterfly. Adult-only events like “Science is Brewing,” detail the science behind culinary arts like beer and cheese making. The transformative role that microbes play with regards to yeast and milk respectively, is both fascinating and delicious. Once you have a thorough understanding of that role, sampling at Whole Foods Market will never be the same.

Among the social trends that have developed over recent years, the tendency to consume alcoholic libations while engaging in what were previously viewed as “dry” pastimes or activities is certainly one of the more notable. The list is extensive: Movies, yoga, arcade games, even laundry, are all suddenly activities you can engage in while sipping a glass of pinot. And if you’re composing a list, go ahead and add painting to it. That’s right, painting. A number of studios are now offering classes and instruction paired with wine, beer and music. At places like Canvas Paint & Sip in Kirkland and Seattle, the Loaded Brush in Portland, Paint & Pints in Spokane, or Sip N Dip in Bend, you are encouraged to tap into your inner Van Gogh while simultaneously working down the house tap IPA.

While there may be trends in after-hours entertainment that have been popping up across the Northwest, there are some one-offs of distinction worth noting as well. Emerald City Trapeze Arts in Seattle is one of them. Their live performances are captivating and showcase the leading edge in all aspects of the aerial arts. They host dance parties, weddings, team building events and classes. They offer trapeze classes for all levels of ability and all fields of interest, including a Date Night class. But while sipping on your adult beverage of choice during some of the aforementioned activities is encouraged, trapeze classes are a slightly different endeavor. Save the drinks for the dancing after class.

Finally, when rules cease to exist and the boundaries that have guided us for so long fall by the wayside, what is left is Bingo Karaoke, once a month at the Greenwood Senior Center in Seattle. It’s exactly what you think it is, and it is magnificent. Is this where after-dark fun finally jumps the shark, or have we actually attained societal nirvana? That’s open to individual interpretation, but it’s as much fun with a drink as it is without, and tickets sell out fast.