Fab 4: Late night, dry night (…or, Sydney’s Not Dead)

So I want to try a new series highlighting my top favourites across a broad spectrum of things that take my fancy – food, activities, fashion stuff, anything really… and hopefully it’ll be interesting? We’ll see! And to ensure I don’t just ramble on and on about things I love, I’m also going to try and really narrow it down, and curate it into a list of just four things – or my Fab 4! 😀

To kick things off, my first top 4 faves that I want to talk about are my favourite late night things to do in Sydney, in particular the most fun activities (IMO) that don’t involve a boozy night. Why? Well, the whole idea of listing my faves at all came about when I was chatting with a friend about Sydney’s lockout laws. She said: “It’s so dead now, it’s just dead out there on a Friday night.” I could see where she was coming from, but I didn’t wholeheartedly agree because I could think of at least a dozen different things to do! [Note: Scroll down a bit if you want to just go straight to the list ;)]

I posed that depending on where you were in the city, and what you were looking to get up to, it wasn’t really so bad. Maybe it’s a little quieter out and about town, especially around the witching hour… but personally, I don’t think it’s all that different down say, the centre of the CBD where it tends to be pretty quiet anyway (even more so now that the former main street of the city, George St, is under construction and there’s no traffic going up and down). It would be amiss for me to say that lockouts have not had an effect at all, and certainly some areas like the Cross have seen a complete shift in activity. But I feel most areas in the centre of town, not being near any of the higher traffic tourist areas by the water or Chinatown, always got quieter from 10pm or so because most of the bars and restaurants wrapped up around midnight – and that was happening well before the new lockout laws came into place. The Glass Brasserie at the Hilton Sydney for example, takes last orders around 9.30pm – something that always surprised me for the main restaurant at an international brand venue. Sure the nightclubs stayed open, but what if you just wanted to have a glass of wine or a cup of tea and chat with your mates without the obnoxious drunks and loud music? Well, you’d have to take your business elsewhere.

My point is that anyone looking for some Friday hijinx would not find it that difficult to find somewhere to kick on, and kick off, the weekend. Fun always finds a way! And indeed not long after lockouts were instigated, people figured out that they could just… leave the lockout zone. I recall many a night after the laws came in were spent making our way over to Newtown’s Marly Bar or Tokyo Sing Sing, where we definitely were able to make a good night of it. This roundabout “solution” perhaps highlights one of the many flaws of the sudden blanket system… but I’m not going to spend too much time on my thoughts on the laws (confusing, patronising, disappointing…). For those interested though, this popular article from over a year ago, goes pretty in depth into what a lot of people feel… and still feel. The #KeepSydneyOpen campaign is a movement in protest of the laws and there are still petitions going, so while the laws introduced in 2014 have now apparently been relaxed, it would seem that the discussion is still far from over. For the most part, I think people have just gotten used to the laws, and while it has been sad to see some popular places close down, I think it would also be unfair to say that Sydney’s nightlife is completely dead… it just depends on what kind of evening you’re looking for 😉

I certainly think that if you wanted to go out and “party” and kick on, then there’s plenty of places you could do that, and a quick search on buzz sites like Concrete Playground or Urban List, or even Facebook, can point you in the direction of what might be on. Certainly there’s plenty of new small bars popping up all the time where you can chill with your friends or club events where you can drink and dance the night away. But, a night of easy drinking isn’t what this post is about (maybe next time hah). As me and my liver get older, I find that it’s not just harder for me to carry on at the pub, but also sometimes you just want to carry on with your friends outside of a bar, or at least have a mix of options that don’t just involve drinking – something to especially consider for those less inclined in your party. I’m a firm believer that while the lockouts may have put people off for a time, Sydney is still a stunning city and can offer a brilliant night out well past dinnerime, and certainly well after 1.30am! A big part of keeping this magic alive though is to also keep supporting the city and going out. Whatever you seek, just go and explore – create your own buzzing nightlife experience, find new things to share with your mates, stay out late and see for yourself what may still be open and you may just find something amazing for everyone 😀

And so here’s to the night owls, like me, who just want the night to keep going. Whether it’s to stretch out hanging with your mates just that little bit longer; you’re killing some time before heading somewhere else before lockout hits; or, just that heading home before midnight is simply not your thing, then here are my “pro-tip” suggestions for a late night out – super-dry as needed. Sydney’s not dead, I promise! 🙂

FAB 4: Late night, dry night to-do’s!

In no particular order…

1. Dance the night away in silence

It’s not too hard to find a Silent Disco happening somewhere in town. Unlike your typical rave or club nights, it’s an event where all the music is pumped through headset provided on entry. The headsets typically offer 3 channels featuring live DJs playing in the venue and you can enjoy music, dance, or just chill in a corner with your mates if that’s what you wanna do. It’s quite a unique setup really, though of course there’s pros and cons to the headsets – pro: you get to control the volume and when you want to listen to the music, con: it’s not really like real clubbing where you’re awash in noise whether you like it or not – and yes that can be considered a downside. One of the joys of going dancing is that feeling that you’re being bathed in sound… with other people in that bath, but you know, that’s all part of the fun 😛 A bonus to the Silent Disco though, is that the reduction in noise overall means that the event can be held in any sort of venue that may be typically be trapped by noise restrictions, and/or an event could run longer into the evening. I’m seeing more Silent Discos pop up in cool venues like the Sydney Tower and Sydney Aquarium which not only adds to the atmosphere but makes it less of a sad excuse for a party, and more of a unique way to experience a venue in a way you may not have been able to before. The Silent Disco might get a little bit of hate in light of the lockouts as the geriatric version of a real “disco”, but personally I think they’re a fun and potentially different way to kick off an evening, and so far I haven’t experienced one that ended before midnight. Just don’t expect a total nightclub experience, because that’s not what this is :-D. There’s usually only a simple bar setup and it can be a little awkward when you’re not wearing the headphones/there’s not many people yet (though isn’t this the case anyway when you arrive early anywhere…), but there’s usually ample dance space and a variety of DJs playing a wide mix of music – so while you’re rocking out to Farnsy’s “You’re The Voice”, your less enthusiastic friend can be on another channel enjoying something else less… bagpipey :P. Where else could you dance in the same space with your friends while listening to completely different music and loving it? And yes, there are some amazing sing-a-longs that happen, oh yes, it can still get louder than you expect :-D. This option may require a bit of pre-planning, but it’s so worth it when you stumble out around midnight and decide it’s time to kick on somewhere else, or maybe just go grab some late night dumplings. Depending on sales you may also be lucky at the door.

2. Catch a late session at the movies

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Amanda, you’re tapping into the lame ad that the NSW Government released after the lockout laws came in. But hear me out, if you’ve just finished dinner and it’s way too early to go home, what’s wrong with a movie? As long as there’s something good to see then it’s totally a viable option. It’s also the only time I would approve of going to the George St Event Cinemas anyway 😛 (seriously,  they need to do some serious upkeep on that place). These cinemas run sessions going as late as 9.30pm (around the same time the restaurant at the Hilton is closing up), even in winter. Hoyts Broadway, being closer to the universities and student accommodations, run sessions as late as 10pm, even on a Sunday. So I’ll give that lame ad a point on this one – it’s totally a good way to hang out late with mates… and then kick on later somewhere to discuss and dissect the film over coffee (I suggest Badde Manors in Glebe or Machiatto in the CBD’s Pitt St) :D.

3. Take on an escape room challenge

Because you just had a massive dinner and you wanna work off some of those kilojoules by working that brain! The escape room is a popular live puzzle challenge – you and your friends are “trapped” in a room where the only way out is to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes’ and work together to find the clues, solve the riddles, and unlock the puzzles before time runs out. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for something a little bit different and puzzles are your thing, then round up your Scooby Gang and get cracking on that mystery. A session can go anywhere from an 1-1.5 hours and some venues will have sessions starting at 8.30pm or 9pm. Not a bad way to kill some time towards the witching hour!

4. Sing your heart out

Ok. Yes, I know, this is also tapping into that advertisement. But, in my defense, karaoke has long been my favourite late night pasttime and as an Asian person, I can say, it’s totally something I grew up with and cherish as a fun activity and great way to hang out with people – with or without booze 🙂 Asian style karaoke, I should point out is typically singing in private booked rooms, so it’s just between you and your mates. The great thing about this setup is that private rooms can be booked by the hour, so you can stay for just an hour or for as long as the venue is open – usually into the wee hours of the morning! Be careful though, on a Friday or Saturday night venues can get pretty booked up, so if you know that’s where you’re heading, call ahead and you can hold a room in advance. Karaoke World is a classic venue that’s been around for ages and has every song you can possibly want to sing, but my more recent hot pick is the more recently refurbished Echo Point which has a pretty good mix of new and old. Alternatively, if the good ol’ pub style karaoke in front of a crowd is more your speed – or you’ve decided too late and can’t get into a venue with private rooms – then I’d recommend The Orient Hotel on a Friday evening, which has some fun open mic karaoke upstairs in the Atrium from 9.30pm, and best of all its free!

And more… the honorable mentions

So above are my top 4 late night “dry” activities, but here are some more things that I can recommend, though they may come with some caveats or require some more effort…

  • Luna Park. If you want to head out and go for a whirl on the Gravitron, or just have a nice stroll through the lights of the rides, Luna Park is an amusement park close to Sydney’s CBD that stays open till about 9.30 or later depending on the season. Trekking out to Milsons Point and back in itself will stretch your night out, longer if you go by ferry!
  • The Nerd Cave. Fancy a board game with your mates? The Nerd Cave is a gaming space and store that carry more than your standard Monopoly set. They used to be located in Surry Hills and stay open late into the evening, but recently re-located to Ashfield, just near the train station. Hours on the weekend still go to about midnight so if you were keen for a game of Catan or 7 Wonders then this may be the place for you. The storepeople are friendly enough and will help you with games if you need. I’d recommend going with a group, though be prepared for other board game enthusiasts (or nerds, as the store may suggest ;P) to ask to join your game… or slot themselves at your table without asking… just be nice and be honest if you’re not comfortable with randoms joining you :).
  • Night at the Museum? This might be a little bit of a random one and can depend on how much effort you want to put into planning in advance as bookings may be required. There’s always lots of different museum activities on in Sydney, from community events and markets to themed evenings or exhibitions, so it’s worth checking out what might be happening near you.  Facebook is a good starting point or museum sites, here’s some starting points!
    • Jurassic Lounge – The Jurassic Lounge is a great example of a different style of event that made use of the Australian Museum running a variety of activities throughout the museum display areas such as a silent disco, live bodypainting, magic shows, etc.
    • Culture Up Late – Depending on the season, there may be events commissioned by the NSW Government at museums, like the Powerhouse.
    • Art After Hours at NSW Gallery – The NSW Gallery run “Art After Hours” once a week, featuring a movie, talk etc!
    • Sydney Living Museums – This organisation cares for a group of historic houses, gardens and museums in NSW and their Facebook is a great way to learn about new events from historical dinners or  that may be happening across any of their unique venues including Rose Seidler House, The Mint, Hyde Park Barracks and Vaucluse House.

Ok and that’s my Fab 4… and more! I know this was still a little rambley, but hopefully it’s useful to someone out there and maybe inspires more people to stay out and enjoy Sydney 😀 This was really fun to put together so I may try this format again – feel free to give me suggestions for topics!

Also, let me know if you have any more suggestions for fun activities for the night owl in Sydney that may not necessarily require going to a bar. I know most of these are centred around the Sydney CBD, but if you know of any activities around the greater Sydney area, feel free to comment and point them out! I’d love to learn what else I could be doing up late on a Friday that I can share with friends 🙂


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