9 ways to spend your night in Melbourne without hitting a bar

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Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

After dark.

Melbourne is a city known for its nightlife.

With an abundance of award-winning venues, a bustling city centre and no lockout laws (hi, Sydney), it’s not hard to keep yourself occupied all night long. 

But it’s because we’re so used to having a constant party at our fingertips that we often fail to reflect on how this lifestyle – and the alcohol consumption that comes with it – impacts us.

As part of VicHealth’s Alcohol Culture Change Initiative, What’s Your Story? three of Melbourne’s local councils are banding together to create a more productive dialogue about drinking culture.

So, while you’re doing some (hopefully sober) soul searching, we’ve gathered a list of nine alcohol-free activities you can do around Melbourne after dark.

Go to the movies

This probably seems like an obvious one, but when was the last time you had a night out at the movies?

Hit up an independent cinema like Carlton’s Cinema Nova or St Kilda’s The Astor Theatre for a homey, luxe viewing experience. Or, if you manage to get a night off before the end of March, take advantage of Rooftop Cinema’s summer program.

Be sure to treat yourself to a choc top while you’re there, because duh, you’re at the movies.

Discover some educational art

One of the great things about Melbourne is that you can wander up pretty much any street and find some sort of art.

The Cities of Melbourne, Stonnington and Port Phillip have teamed up on three vibrant light installations for you to hunt down. Each large-scale work is based on testimonials from young people in Melbourne about the city’s nightlife.

From a shining LED arch and a series of mirrored pillars to an interactive dancefloor, each What’s Your Story? installation is designed to light up the night and make Melburnians rethink their attitude towards alcohol consumption.

The installations will rotate from Acland Plaza, Queensbridge Square, Southbank Spillway and Grattan Gardens over the next two weeks (February 15 to March 1, 7pm – 11pm).

See a comedy show 

Melbourne has some killer comedic talent at its disposal, and you can find pretty much all of them at The Comic’s Lounge in North Melbourne.

Open ’til midnight six days a week, the comedy club hosts both local and international acts.

Commit to a night of laughter and catch a show. Then follow it up with dinner, snacks or dessert at the in-house bistro.  

Grab some ice cream

Throw it back to your youth and take someone special on an ice cream date.

For the grown up’s answer to chasing an ice cream truck down the street, walk down to Pidapipò in Windsor or Carlton. There, you’ll be able to stuff yourself with traditional Italian gelato in fruity and sweet flavours.

Plus, both stores are open ’til 11pm every night, so there’s no need to rush if you’re in the mood for a post-dinner snack. 

Have a late, late dinner

Forget settling for a midnight snack. If you’re out embracing the nightlife, you should be able to enjoy a full, hearty meal well into the small hours of the morning. 

While you’re guaranteed to find plenty of places open late in Melbourne, there’s also a few 24-hour restaurants and cafes to hit up if you know where to look.

If you’re in the mood for souvlaki, for example, Stalactites on Lonsdale Street serves traditional, mouth-watering Greek food at all hours of the night.

Dine in under an imitation cave ceiling for a full-on feast, because 2am food runs aren’t just for drunk people. 

Torture yourself in an escape room

It’s an inexplicable truth that humans love putting themselves in weird, stressful situations. Thankfully, the recent escape room craze has delivered all that and more.

For those who work nine to five, plenty of escape rooms stay open well past sunset. Trapt in Melbourne’s City Centre is open ’til 10pm most nights, and ’til late Thursday – Saturday.

Whether you’re into space, history or just really small, brain-bending spaces, chances are you’ll find the perfect room to have you and your friends at each other’s throats.

Go stargazing

Right in the middle of the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Astronomical Society of Victoria has fastidiously maintained the Melbourne Observatory.

That means we, the star-struck public, can visit the site for tours and stargazing.

As well as having a closer look at the night sky through heritage telescopes, you’ll also get a rundown on the Observatory’s long history from an experienced guide. 

Tours run Monday nights, with group tours available by arrangement. 

Experience live theatre

There’s something so fancy about a night at the theatre, and the Arts Centre Melbourne is constantly hosting great plays, ballets and musical performances.

Sure, theatre tickets can be a little pricier than Scab Tuesday at the movies, but you can’t deny it’s a nice treat-yourself excursion.

Plus, if you’re not too picky about what you go to see, the centre’s tixatsix program means you can get discount last minute seats. Just line up at the Arts Centre before 6pm for your chance to buy $30 leftover tickets for that night’s performances.

See some after-hours art

Anybody who visits or lives in Melbourne should, by law, have to spend a day at the National Gallery of Victoria every now and then.

If you haven’t had the chance to swing by recently, consider grabbing tickets to the after-dark festivities at NGV Friday Nights.

Listen to some live music, eat some good food, and check out the permanent and temporary exhibitions the gallery has to offer away from the day time crowds.

Just over the next couple of months, the event will host musical acts such as Gold Fields, Japanese Wallpaper, Woodes and San Cisco.

For more info on changing alcohol culture, click here. Otherwise, head here to check out What’s Your Story on Instagram.

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