While conventional clubs and pubs remain at the spiritual core of our city’s identity, many Mancunians are increasingly seeking out a variety of novel experiences to accompany the timeless joy of boozing – or, for non-drinkers, finally offer an inclusive substitute. After a growing trend in bars which ingeniously combine drinking and casual sport in the last decade or so, the party-and-play Manchester hotspots have evolved into some of the most entertaining social venues in the country.

Here’s our pick of the best.

Flight Club

Although darts is far from an obscure ale house pastime, Flight Club first appeared in London twelve years ago promising to reinvent the pub sport for the twenty-first century. A whirlwind decade of cocktails, artisanal pizza, digitized multiplayer games and national expansion later, Flight Club is the household name in ‘social darts’ for all punters of all backgrounds, catering to everything from date nights to hen parties and, of course, bottomless brunches.

Ship Canal House, 98 King St, Manchester M2 4WU
Roxy Ballroom

With branches in the Arndale and on Deansgate, Roxy Ballroom is Manchester’s glossy frat-house paradise. Think of an American bar game enjoying newfound popularity on this side of the Atlantic, and chances are Roxy has it on hand: beer pong, shuffleboard, dry curling, crazy golf, crazy pool and more are available to play with a range of cocktails and pizza by the slice, as well as off-peak pricing during the more spacious weekdays.

76-78 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2FN / Unit R3, Withy Grove, Manchester M4 3AQ
Twenty Twenty Two

Touted as ‘the Northern Quarter’s worst-kept secret’, the aptly-named Twenty Twenty Two invites Manchester for a late-night ping pong party, fuelled until 4am by its range of custom cocktails. Consistently packed on weekends, this basement club is to table tennis what Flight Club is to darts (although for good measure, Twenty Twenty Two have launched the secret Dead Eye Dart Club just off its main room).

The Basement, Little Lever St, Manchester M1 1EZ

Pledging to provide ‘bowling like you’ve never seen before’, Deansgate’s Lane7 is a sensory overload of neon cyberpunk abandon, swapping out Formica tables for booths of reclaimed wood and replacing the conventional bowling alley strip-lights with ultraviolet graffiti walls. With an expansive range of other activities—beer pong, karaoke, pool, shuffleboard, a ‘shooting pod’—and an even more expansive cocktail menu, the nationwide chain is a hive of guaranteed nocturnal fun.

Unit 3, 235 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN
Base Bar

While beer pong and crazy golf are becoming par for the course, so to speak, across Manchester’s nightlife scene, you might still assume that a gallery of more traditional baseball batting cages on the edge of the Green Quarter is a bit of a stretch. But, sure enough, Millow Street’s Base Bar offers exactly that for £30 per half hour, with customary ‘curveball cocktails’ and hot dogs on offer for a full dark fairground experience. 

5 Millow St, Manchester M4 4DR

Similarly formatted but spiritually closer to home, Sixes Social Cricket Club injects both the batting cage and the cocktail menu with English familiarity. Relatively new to the Corn Exchange after success in London, the team behind the world-renowned Mac and Wild restaurant bring VR cricket, Yorkshire Tea Tanqueray, rhubarb spritzes and even an experimental cheese-and-crackers cocktail to Manchester’s cobbles.

Cathedral St, Manchester M4 3TR
Gasworks Brew Bar

Built on the site of First Street’s Gaythorn Gasworks, this industrial bar & restaurant serves high-end takes on classic diner fare while shuffleboard tables line the aisles. Towering burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese and chilli dogs alongside perfect accompaniments from their in-house brewery have made for an immensely popular Manchester establishment that stays open late on weekends.

5 Jack Rosenthal St, Manchester M15 4RA

Anyone looking for an intense nostalgia hit will no doubt be overjoyed the moment they step into either of NQ64s Manchester sites—one in the Northern Quarter, the other on Peter Street. Retro consoles, classic arcade machines and beloved character-inspired cocktails, take a step back in time and game the night away.

12 Tib St, Manchester M4 1SH / 23 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR
Paradise Skate World

The pulsating black hole at the centre of the Great Northern galaxy, Paradise Skate World takes the traditional roller-rink experience and jettisons it onto the interstellar highway. With daily sessions and late-night rolling raves across the cosmos, the ultraviolet raceway invites punters of all abilities to lace up and skate among the stars before refuelling with a selection of trippy cocktails at their central space station bar.

Unit 5, Great Northern Warehouse, 235 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN
Black Cat

Taking over the former home of the late, great Habas restaurant, the new activity bar from the El Gato team launches this spring with a carnival of games, food and irresistible cocktails. Pitched as the first joint in Manchester to offer ‘interactive shuffleboard’ alongside Flyby darts, pizzas, burgers and a customary selection of small plates which earned its parent tapas restaurant a glowing reputation across the North West.

43A Brown St, Manchester M2 2JJ

From iconic arcade classics to EAFC24 on the PS5, the Northern Quarter’s pre-eminent gaming bar offers a veritable paradise of console entertainment with TVs in every booth, special tournaments and regularly updated titles to enjoy in pairs, groups or solo, as well as a steady stream of craft beers, cocktails, American diner fare and thumping music until the early hours.

10 Thomas St, Manchester M4 1DH
Mon 28 Mar
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Thu 14 Mar 2024