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The night awaits

Nightlife excursions in Vancouver's Gastown district

Fortune Killers, a Canadian band on tour through British Columbia, frequently plays at popular bar and live-music venues like Guilt & Co, found in Vancouver’s historic Gastown district. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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Saturday nights in Vancouver's historic Gastown district are all about live music, exceptional cocktails and exquisite cuisine. Forget about history tours and sightseeing, which you can find plenty of during daylight hours -- we're talking about the quintessential nightlife experience, my friends.

Located just north of downtown Vancouver, Gastown is the city's original settlement. While it somehow managed to hold on to its historical charm during the last century and a half (think vintage lamp posts, cobbled streets and an old-fashioned steam clock that whistles on the hour), Gastown's true appeal lies in its multi-cultural nightlife offerings, all of which are walkable from one venue to the next.

To start your weekend romp, head straight to Revel Room, a Southern-inspired supper club and intimate live-music venue in the center of Gastown. Revel Room is known for hosting exceptional blues, jazz, rockabilly and swing bands six nights a week. It also offers daily live-piano jam sessions during happy hour. Low lighting and saxophones dangling from the ceiling set the mood on both floors of this jazzy little venue, which springs to life when local musicians take the stage. For a stiff drink, order the always-dependable Old-Fashioned, or peek at Revel Room's page-long selection of whiskey. 238 Abbott St., Gastown, Vancouver, B.C.,

Keep the music and drinks flowing by making your way to Pourhouse Restaurant, a highly recommended establishment famous for its cocktail concoctions. Tucked away among the brick and brass of a historic building, Pourhouse is dripping with style. Wingback chairs and antique lamps accompany each table, and vintage bar taps glisten behind the bartender (who'll point you toward hidden, "locals-only" watering holes if you're polite enough). Pourhouse is best enjoyed on a Sunday night, when blues and ragtime-inspired bands croon near the bar. 162 Water St., Gastown, Vancouver, B.C.,

For a meal amid your revelry, pop into The Flying Pig, a corner restaurant with a long bar, open layout design and vegetarian-friendly menu that defies the name. Here, you'll find the best calamari in town, presented as Salt & Pepper "Humboldt" Squid, prepared in long, thick slices and light batter, served with lemon and dill yogurt. Many of the menu's dishes are created with local, seasonal ingredients. 102 Water St., Gastown, Vancouver, B.C.,

Not to be outdone, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie offers a modern Chinese dining experience to hungry bar-hoppers. The restaurant can be found on the edge of Gastown, where storefronts straddle the neighboring Chinatown district. While Bao Bei's menu includes easily recognizable dishes like vegetarian potstickers and pork dumplings, it's best known for more daring cuisine. Mantou, or steamed buns with pork, bean sprouts and sugared peanut filling; Sticky Rice Cake made with stir-fried pork, salted mustard greens, wood ear mushrooms and preserved bamboo shoots; and Shan Tofu with peanuts, charred cucumber kimchi and green curry spinach are all well worth a taste. 163 Keefer St., Gastown, Vancouver, B.C.,

Once you've got a full belly and a second wind, take a jaunt to Guilt & Co, a basement bar beneath Gassy Jack Square. The live-music venue is a favorite among locals, as it offers nightly musical performances by roving bands and only asks a "pay-what-you-can" cover charge. Although musical stylings vary with each act, dancing is a guarantee at the late-night venue. Guilt & Co's delightfully experimental cocktails add to the experience, thanks to Guilt & Co bartender Kevin Tron, who concocts house-made ingredients to accompany crowd favorites like Lightwork (clarified milk gin, tamarind, star anise, black tea, kombucha, lemon) and Street Fighting Man (Glenmorangie Original, Benedictine, Fernet Branca, Ardbeg 10, Ms. Better's pineapple star anise bitters, lime zest).

For those who can hang on long enough -- long past the band packing up and the slow lifting of lights as bartenders declare "last call" -- you may be able to convince Guilt & Co staff to take you under their wing for the rest of the night.  If so, your ventures in Gastown will be far, far from over. 1 Alexander St., downstairs, Gastown, Vancouver, B.C.,

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