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The winters in Northwest Territories are long. I know this because I moved to Yellowknife in April 2014, a month, which I thought would be the start of typical spring weather. By Southern Canadian standards, I was mistaken. Winter’s lack of daylight and warmth had a tendency to make everyone in the community want to let loose a little in the company of friends. Accordingly, bars and nightlife are serious business during the winter months in Yellowknife. When summer comes around, the city is such an incredible orgy of life, and the sun literally doesn’t set, in effect, making a good bar scene even better. I caught up with some old friends from “The Knife,”to get their thoughts on the local haunts.
The Black Knight Pub
“BK’s,” as it’s affectionately referred to, is an institution in Yellowknife. It’s the local’s spot with great service, live music, and a decent beer selection. Their brunch is nearly as legendary as their evenings, which had me wondering if some people simply stay there through the night and end their partying at brunch.
“The Black Knight has the best pub atmosphere in Yellowknife, for sure. Some of its greatest attributes include live acoustic music, great food, and an upper level called Top Knight. The nightlife is tamer than all the other bars you’ve mentioned, but it holds a special place in my heart. Initially, when I heard a local refer to it as “BK,” I thought we were headed to a Burger King, I was surprised as well as disappointed when I ended up at the pub.” – Kyle Lundy
“10 years ago there used to be lineups to get upstairs. Full on blizzards, minus 40, paying off bouncers to get in. The Black Knight was the spot. Today it’s way more low-key. It has great management, good food, it’s just a go to.” – Jordan Bryan
The Raven is the main alternative to The Black Knight. Most of your pub crawling will start or end with either pub.
“Locally referred to as ‘Raven,’ it is the go to party/dance club in YK. If you’re looking to get into a fight, The Raven is the place for you! Alternatively, if you’re just looking to dance and have fun, it’s great too; what a paradox. The drinks aren’t cheap, and they only take cash, but it is always a great time.” – Kyle Lundy
“Always go after Harleys. I’ve never had a bad experience there. It’s a little different, but it’s always super fun. You go there with an open mind and you’re going to have fun. You could end up shooting pool with that weird Scandanavian, or just dancing your face off with 40-year-olds.” – Jordan Bryan
The new kid on the block, The Woodyard just had soft hours when I was living in Yellowknife. Since I’ve left, it’s apparently become the hotspot in the city as it serves up quality food and functions as the only craft brewer in town, NWT Brewing Co.
“I love it! It’s a great place to start an evening, a trendy spot in Old Town that offers their own micro-brewed draught. Perfect for those who want to try out the popular micro-brew trend, without committing to a man bun and plaid.”-Sydney Scott
“Woodyard is great. Good food. Good ownership. You can get some different beers there. It’s nice.” – Jordan Bryan
Harleys Hardrock Saloon
Harley’s is a weird joint, but perhaps it’s worth checking out as it’s Canada’s most northern strip club and tattoo parlour.
“Harleys Hardrock Saloon is Yellowknife’s one and only tattoo parlour and strip club. If you’re looking to meet an interesting human or two, look no further than here. Most, if not all of the dancers are imported from down south, so falling in love with one is definitely out of the question. The tattoo parlour only runs business during the day but I’m sure you could sweet talk them into an evening tattoo session.” – Kyle Lundy
“I had to shave my beard because of that place. Long story, but it’s a lot of fun.” – Jordan Bryan
The Gold Range is another Yellowknife classic with one of the best dance floors in the city. It’s always difficult to tell when it’s going to pop-off as groups tend to pour out of nearby bars and into The Gold Range as the night progresses.
“To be honest, I never remember leaving this bar, and rarely entering, which tells you this place is good for one thing… It was the home to Yellowknife’s most infamous bar band, “Welders Daughter.” If someone asks you to go to “range,” say, “no,” but definitely concede and go anyway .” – Kyle Lundy
“Similar to The Raven, if you go with an open mind, it can be a lot of fun. I have fun everywhere. Maybe I have a problem.” – Jordan Bryan
Sam’s Monkey Tree
Sam’s Monkey Tree is outside of downtown Yellowknife but has great Wing Night Wednesdays, an extensive menu, and a pretty good pub vibe.
I don’t know if it was because I lived around the corner, or if it was because there was a McDonald’s right across the street, but my best memories are at The Tree. They have an amazing brunch and it’s a good spot to go any day of the week. When the dance floor gets packed, you’re going to have a good time. – Kyle Lundy
“It’s definitely for the younger crowd. But it’s fun too. Newcomers, kids coming back from college; if you live in that end of town, I think it’s the go-to.” – Jordan Bryan