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Ottawa for the Night Owl in You

Looking for nightlife in all the wrong places. Copyright Victoria Brooks.After a day visiting museums, most visitors to Ottawa feel like something more then just a quiet dinner. Luckily Ottawa offers a wide selection of clubs and pubs within a short taxi ride or pleasant stroll from downtown hotels. There are so many places to wander after dark that an evening that starts out with a quiet drink with friends can easily end up with a dizzying swing on the dance floor.


Mercury Lounge

Located on the second and third floors in one of the market buildings, this place would be bigger if you turned it on its side. Its red velvet couches, high ceilings, small floor and red lamps give it the feel of a different era when men with sleeked-back hair and women in clinging satin drank martinis and smoked cigars among bubbling lava lamps. Alas, the Lounge is missing the lava lamps and cigar smoke doesn't fill the air, but the martinis are good -- very good. In fact, Mercury Lounge specializes in martinis. At $7 a glass these aren't cheap, but they do have a kick (2 ounces of liquor in each) and they are addictive. My favorite has to be Global Warming, a cool chocolate flavor that slowly warms to room temperature as you drink. The music here varies depending on the DJ, but it tends to get better and more danceable as the night progresses. A dress code is in effect, so wear something wild.

Mercury Lounge is located at 56 Byward Market.
Call (613) 789-5324 for more information.

Chateau Laurier

Journey back into the past with the Grand Dame of Ottawa, the Chateau Laurier. Zoe's Lounge in the Chateau Laurier is a good place to spend a quiet night or have a quick drink. The atmosphere is very pleasant, and the music is often live and not too overpowering for a quiet conversation. The menu has an extensive selection of after dinner drinks: martinis, cocktails or even something warm for those cold Ottawa nights. There is also a short menu and a little desert buffet. The lounge has two distinct sections. The one in the back is dark and dimly lit with comfy, old-fashioned armchairs. It is the perfect place for two long-lost friends to talk into the night. The front section with modern windows to let in the light and chairs that aren't as comfortable as those in the back, is better for lighter, more casual conversation. It is the atmosphere of the Chateau which makes it special; the drinks were good but pricey, the service mediocre at best. The inclusion of a small television set in a lounge with such history and style is a crying shame.

The Chateau is located at 1 Rideau Street.
Call them at (613) 241-1414, or visit

Ottawa nightlife. Copyrighted image - used with permission.Darcy McGees

Same Ireland, different country, is this pub's motto. Darcy McGee, one of Canada's founding fathers, is remembered again in this recent arrival on Sparks Street. No expense was spared on the decor of this pub and it looks like it has been there forever, steeped in history and tradition. The atmosphere is unique and a loyal following has already been found. Among other things, they have a number of Irish beers on tap and a good but slightly pricey menu, but the price is justified by the quality of the food. If you order a Guinness, you will be rewarded with a lucky three-leaf clover carved into the stiff creamy head. Secluded nooks and crannies give you the feeling of being in a small country bar. Darcy McGees has live music Wednesday through Saturday. The night I went a very talented New Brunswick man played great Irish tunes, took all requests and told some great jokes. Every night the entertainment changes. This pub is a must see and if you like Irish bars, you may want to go two nights in a row.

Darcy McGees is at 44 Sparks St., which is at the Chateau Laurier side of the famous pedestrian mall known as Sparks Street. For more information, call (613) 230-4433.

The Cave

Although this place has a young crowd, which would rule it out as a place for older folk, it may be worth checking out if you are feeling particularly young at heart one evening. Appropriately named, this club is underground and sparsely decorated. It is known for its swing music and free swing lessons on Friday night. It is the perfect place to take your girl for a spin in the old revived style of swing. Those who come usually dress the part in clothes of the '30s and some of the couples look stunningly retro. It is advised to only watch some of the moves, as they can be quite dangerous. Throwing your girl up in the air and catching her again is not as easy as it looks.

The Cave is at 63 Bank St. near the Sparks pedestrian mall. For more information, call (613) 233-0080, or visit www.thecave.ca

Casino de Hull

Lacking Las Vegas luster but still one of the better casinos in Canada, Casino de Hull is a gambler's paradise. Even non-gamblers will want to take a peek. The casino is located on a quarry turned into a lake in Ottawa's adjacent Quebec neighbor, Hull. The water fountain located in the lagoon throws up a 200-footjet of water that can be seen clearly from many of Ottawa's vantage points. The architecture of the building is very modern and the interior is spacious and well laid out. One of the strangest things about this casino is that there is no liquor allowed on the gaming floor, probably a wise measure but unusual in a province that sells beer at gas stations. In an effort to make up for this, drink servers wheel around carts of free non-alcoholic beverages. These free drinks tend to be a bit watery due to the pre-dispensed ice in the pre-dispensed drinks.

The casino has a number of restaurants and a pleasant nautical theme bar on the main floor where the music is often performed live. The casino boasts 1,326 slot machines, several with progressive jackpots, and 45 gaming tables along with a number of other facilities like Keno and electronic horse racing. One of the more novel ways to get to the casino is by boat. There are 20 births located in the lake surrounding the casino. The lake is connected to the Ottawa River. Complimentary buses leave from most hotels.

Located at 1 boulevard du Casino, Hull, Québec. For more information go to www.casinos?quebec.com/HullA.htm
or call 1-800 665?2274

It is recommended that you call before visiting these nightspots.
Special events often mean tickets must be purchased in advance.
Cover charges vary depending on the night, though several places are always free. Entertainment shifts from night to night.