Image courtesy of Paint Nite Image by: Image courtesy of Paint Nite
You're locked in a room with your pals, and it's a race against the clock to escape the scenario (think jewel heist or zombie apocalypse) by solving math, word, spatial and mechanical puzzles with your crew. "Escape rooms require teamwork, good communication and problem-solving skills," says Calgary's Susan Tran, who has participated in about 30 escape-room adventures in Canada, the U.S. and Hong Kong. "When you're with your friends in a locked room—no smartphones—and you're forced to use only your intellect, you naturally discover things about each other that you wouldn't under normal circumstances. It's a bonding experience."
Best for groups of six or fewer. Some escape rooms can accommodate up to
10 people per room, but it can get crowded.
Try it at The Locked Room in Calgary. For more information, visit thelockedroom.ca.
2. Community choirs
Image courtesy of Joseph Fuda
Sing your heart out in a church hall or a community centre as part of a community choir. No experience necessary!
- You Gotta Sing Chorus! (Halifax)
- Choir! Choir! Choir! (Toronto)
- Adult Recreational Choir Society (Calgary)
- Sing City (Vancouver)
3. Film appreciation
Back away from Netflix (and your couch) and join other film buffs at a local theatre to screen and discuss the best in 20th-century classics, documentaries and modern movies.
- Cinéclub Film Society (Montreal)
- Toronto Film Society
- Ottawa Film Society
- Sunshine Coast Film Society (Gibsons, B.C.)
4. Axe throwing
Image courtesy of Amy Jeninga
Unleash your inner lumberjack! After a throwing lesson, participants stand at the end of a lane and try to hit the bull's-eye on a wooden target. "Axe throwing is thoroughly entertaining but also cathartic," says Toronto's Yvonne Tang, who was first introduced to the sport at a bachelorette party. "It's a great physical activity and a stress reliever. First, you practise together, and then you compete against one another!" Think darts, but with way more attitude.
Best for a bigger group of a dozen or more, to encourage round-robin play. Or grab a few friends and join a weekly league.
Try it at a Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL) location in Ontario (four in the Toronto area, as well as leagues in Kitchener, London and Ottawa) or Calgary. For more information, visit batlgrounds.com.
5. Cocktail class
Image courtesy of Thinkstock
Wine is fine, but creating a handcrafted drink is impressive. "Getting together for drinks is a basic night out, and generally, I find that my friends and I frequent the same places over and over again," says Marissa Manglapus, a tax accountant in Vancouver. So step it up a notch and bring everyone to a cocktail workshop. Learn cocktail history and try your hand at muddling and mixing. Bonus: You get to sample the fruits of your, ahem, labour. "Attending the cocktail seminar with friends was more fun, more competitive and way louder than just going to the bar, especially when you're all trying to come up with the best cocktail recipe," says Marissa. "A cute bartender giving you his undivided attention doesn't hurt, either."
Best for any size group—the more pals, the more cocktails to taste.
Try it at the Brandywine Bartending School in Vancouver. For more information, visit brandywine.ca.
Traditional crafting and cooking are cool again, thanks to the maker movement. Create, DIY and innovate with tech, tools and toys, or join a jam-making session with friends.
- Quilt guilds (locations across Canada)
- Makerspaces at the Greater Sudbury Public Library, the Edmonton Public Library and additional libraries across Canada
- Canning and home preserves classes at Montreal's Preservation Society and Toronto's WellPreserved
Put the fun back into your fitness routine with a novel workout you and your friends can do together.
- AntiGravity Fitness (locations across Canada)
- Canadian Dodgeball Association (locations across Canada)
- Hike Canada (provincial associations and clubs hit local trails)
8. Paint nite
Image courtesy of Paint Nite
Don smocks, grab a drink if you like and spend the evening with your buddies creating one-of-a-kind art at a local bar or restaurant. The artist hosting the evening provides step-by-step instructions to help you paint a reproduction of the night's chosen artwork. "People are really encouraging," says Paint Nite regular Brieanne Harris of Spruce Grove, Alta. "While the paint is drying on our canvasses, everyone walks around and checks out all the other paintings. It's about two hours of mess and giggles—how can you go wrong?"
Best for a group of friends, so you can sit and laugh together and offer critiques of one another's work.
Try it at Paint Nite locations across the country, including those in Halifax, Winnipeg and Windsor, Ont. For more information, visit paintnite.com.
Reasons to get your group on
The benefits of spending time with your squad go beyond just catching up; friend time is food for the soul. A landmark University of California at Los Angeles study found that women's friendships not only assuage loneliness but also fill emotional gaps in romantic relationships, reduce stress and help us lead more joyful lives. So when a girls' night finally comes together after weeks (or months) of planning, the reconnection can be so revitalizing that it prompts a flurry of next-day emails that read, "So great to see you guys! Let's do it again soon!"
That's no coincidence, says Montreal developmental psychologist and newspaper columnist Susan Pinker, author of The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter. "Women have more oxytocin pathways than men, so we secrete more of that hormone," she says. A natural feel-good hormone, oxytocin can reduce pain, stress and inflammation. "When we reach out to other people, look after them or share information, oxytocin is released, which makes us feel better and provides physiological protection," says Pinker.
But women also hang out with friends because, well, it's fun, and prioritizing relationships outside of immediate family creates an even wider social network that can provide advice and support. "We are a social species," says Pinker, "evolved to interact in person." Time spent together may be more meaningful than your usual Facebook updates or Instagram posts. "Online connections are great for setting up get-togethers," says Pinker, "but it's the in-person events that are extremely important for mental and physical health and longevity."
Check out how to reconnect with your old friends.
This story was originally part of "Eight Fun Friend Meet-Ups" in the March 2016 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!