A perfect night out with friends, meeting amazing strangers, and an experience you’ll never forget with stories that you can pass on for a lifetime without regret–these are the ultimate goals of planning any successful after dark event.
As simple as these ambitions sound, though, the complexities and elements of planning the perfect gathering are all equally important and should be considered individually.
The space you will be spending your evening enjoying is vitally important to your overall enjoyment of the party you’re attending and options should be weighed thoughtfully.
For nights where you’re looking to sit and talk, make sure it’s a venue with ample comfortable seating and low enough noise levels where conversations can be heard without screaming. A darker, more dive-y vibe is usually preferable in these scenarios and allows for you and your guests to get comfortable and share intimate conversations without feeling like everyone can hear what you’re saying.
For a more raucous circumstance, plan for a crowded place with loud music and dancing and lots of people to mingle with.
Sometimes you want a quiet night of conversation and a mellow mood and sometimes you want to get crunk and disorderly and throw down horrible dance moves to drunkenly impress the attractive person standing next to you.
If you’re claustrophobic, you may want a bigger architectural space to work with. If you hate big empty places, you’ll want a smaller and cozier environment.
Pro Tip: Look up google images of any venues you plan on visiting online or scan through their Yelp reviews. This should give you a proper range of opinions and visual aides to make the call whether the building, bar, or stadium is to your specifications for maximum comfort and fun level.
This tip becomes even more important if we’re talking about a “date” situation. You need to be able to ensure that the quality of the ambiance and the noise level are acceptable for conversation and getting to know one another while also leaving the door open for fun and spontaneity that can make a good first impression great.
Accessibility of Drinks
If you’re into alcoholic beverages–and what self-respecting non-recovering-alcoholic isn’t?–the accessibility of drinks at your destination is a largely important part of outlining an evening itinerary.
It’s extremely annoying when all you need a quick refill and you have to stand in massive lines and fight through crowds of people to spar for the bartender’s attention. I get it, barkeep, you’re busy as hell and running around like a mad person, but I have money and I’m happy to tip well for prompt service.
I always try to choose places where they have multiple bars set up that are also staffed with multiple bartenders. This means that you have a choice where you want to stand to wait for a drink and you have the ability to pick a new bar if the one you started at isn’t satisfactory.
I was at a rave a few years ago on a historical boat and their bars required you to buy drink tickets at a separate table and then wait in absurdly long lines to get a drink. It was frustrating, slow, I lost my buzz, and I was extremely agitated by all the people cutting in line. Getting a drink at the bar should never be such a confusing and anger-inducing experience, if the venue would like the cash to keep flowing unimpeded.
When I’m looking to imbibe intoxicating poison that dulls my senses, I really don’t want to have to wait.
Genre of Entertainment
Before you commit to buying tickets or securing reservations, you should make sure it’s the type of entertainment that you’d likely enjoy.
Someone solely into hip-hop would likely be very uncomfortable and bored at a country-centric event. EDM folks would find nothing to do at a rock-focused live music affair. Someone expecting an art gallery or live performances would be bored by phoned in top 40 pop hits. Consider the audience and apply that consideration to the type of entertainment you’re proposing.
I’ve been to bars with friends with cover bands and as soon as the first few chords of Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'” starts creeping over the PA system, I know it’s time to leave. As a white person myself, I feel doubly empowered to claim how much I hate bars that are “too white.” If it’s nothing but 40+ woo girls and old men with their Dockers hiked too high, then it’s time for me to leave.
The best idea is to go to events by yourself and try to meet new people. If you’re going on your own, you don’t have to be beholden to anyone else’s preferences and you can do exactly whatever the fuck that you want to do. If you want to go to a fetish party, burlesque show, or dramatic reading of “Wocket in my Pocket,” then you can go ahead with no social obstacles.
Any way you choose to attend, make sure it’s the kind of good time that suits your tastes.
Crowd and Clientele
Another big piece that makes or breaks an evening exploit is the people who are surrounding you and your guests.
If you’re anything like me, the “bro” crowd is a big no-no. You’re not looking for people who wear too much cologne, fight about bumping into each other, and drop jagerbombs like Aspirin. If that’s something you like, then I’m sure there are places to go that suit those needs as well.
For me, I like areas that aren’t too overcrowded or empty, people who aren’t fighting, and folks who actually enjoy dancing and enjoying the music without being stuck up wallflowers. If no one is dancing, I probably don’t want to be there.
From a purely selfish perspective, I’d like the ratio of females to outnumber the males as well. Not that it’s a primary deciding factor, but sausage fests tend to be far more boring than parties with a good mix of genders and/or gender fluidity. The more progressive, diverse, and accepting, the more into it I am.
It goes without saying that people should be dressed somewhat appropriately and not smell bad too. I mean, I say it should go without saying, but it sadly also kind of needs to be said. You’d be surprised how many disgusting, sloppy people I’ve encountered in the wild. Take a look in the mirror and sniff yourself before going out for the evening, please.
Pick a spot whose clientele matches your own style, economic status, comfort, and preference and you’ll be much better off.
Cost and Value
These next 2 bits of detail are a bit more on the practical side, but as capitalists with finite income, we need to consider cost and value.
Is the event over-charging for a time-restricted experience that is beyond your budget? Then, you may want to explore alternatives. Is the cover charge too high for such a lame venue? Explore other options.
The ideal cost to value for me is that the venue is interesting and unique, the crowd is favorable, and the event lasts at least 4 hours. In that instance, my range of acceptable cost is pretty large.
Also, it’s important to take into account the safety measures that are necessary for the operation of the event.
In LA, I would often find myself at pop-up underground warehouse clubs that operated outside the realm of the law. In order for them to secure the space, pay for the extra security, and likely kick a few bucks into the police force’s pockets, they had to overcharge a bit for the entrance fee. This is totally fine and I was happy to pay for the value of the unique nightlife experience.
Budget your personal finances and compare that to the level of fun you can reasonably assume from an upcoming function and use that delta to determine how you’d like to proceed.
Transportation and Parking
Some other somewhat boring, but practical pieces of information to consider are how you will get to and from the event and where will you park.
Many of these complexities should be included in the overall “Cost and Value” discussion above, as it factors into your overall budget for the situation.
If you’re driving yourself, are you willing to stay sober to get home safely? If you’re not driving, is it more economical to take Lyft, Uber, a taxi, public transit, or the bipedal locomotion of walking your fat ass there under your own power? Additionally, if you are driving, how much does it cost to park and how far away will you have to park? Will your car be safe from break-ins and theft and is there a safe path to walk back to your vehicle at the end of the night?
It may be my rampant obsessiveness, but I always like to have a plan of attack laid out for these types of social circumstances and it helps alleviate any anxiety I have about attending in the first place.
I tend to rely pretty heavily on ride sharing services because I always want to drink obscene volumes of liquor when I’m around large groups of strangers. I’d rather know undoubtedly that I have a sober driver to take me home at the end of the night.
Whatever your personal preferences, make sure transportation is accounted for in your planning phase.
My final aspect of a perfect nightlife event rolls up many of the lessons learned from the above categories: where is the goddamn after party?
Just like R. Kelly said “After the show, it’s the after party, and after the party it’s the hotel lobby…” If you don’t want to go home at 2am like a pathetic loser, it behooves you to make arrangements for the party to continue long into the night.
Often times, when an event is published on a platform like Facebook, you can troll through the comments section for people advertising places to go afterward. Many times there are local DJ events, other music shows, other dance parties, bars, strip clubs, or warehouse excursions that can supplement the great time you’ve just had.
Please note that these additional parties will more likely than not have an additional cover charge, transportation, parking, and all of the above issues that were described. It’s important to still continue to take these aspects into account, even when deciding on an after party.
That being said, I can’t recommend after parties enough. Take stock of the cool kids at the initial event and get to talking to them about their plans afterward. Wherever the majority are going is where you should be going, if you want to ensure the best time possible.
In the end, the perfect night life event is the one that’s most perfect for you and your accomplices. Communication and planning are key in making for an unforgettable evening that you can post about on social media and make everyone’s FOMO sensors explode like hot lava from Vesuvius. Isn’t that the real joy in life, after all?