Trini nights on the town for a liming & partying people
We are Trinis – so we are limers. As Trinidad’s cosmopolitan population has grown more affluent, nightlife and entertainment choices have grown to meet the growing demand, with a range of settings and activities to keep you entertained all night long. What would you like, small lime or a big fete? Do you have the stamina to hop from lime to club to bar to club to late night doubles and back? Whatever. Trinidad has no shortage of nightlife and entertainment options. And if you just want to enjoy a movie, a play or a concert, you’re covered there too.
It’s strange that the word “lime”, as it is used in Trinidad & Tobago, up the islands and through the diaspora, is absent from most of the world’s leading dictionaries (New Oxford American excepted). “Liming” is doing anything at all in company. Its closest English-language equivalent is the American “hanging out”. You can lime with one person on a trip downtown to buy new shoes. You can lime with a group of friends at a party (where you will meet new people with whom to lime). You can lime cosily over coffee at a café.
The main thing to keep in mind is the spirit of the thing: an unquestioned acceptance that things are more fun when done with some congenial others, with room for spontaneity. It is not, as some have suggested, the art of doing nothing. Far from it. It is how to turn any and everything you do into an opportunity for a good time. In a nutshell, here’s how to “buss a lime” in Trinidad.
Bars & lounges
It wouldn’t be a true fete culture if we waited until Carnival to party! A large group of people gathered on one spot on a Friday evening, especially at the end of the month, means only one thing: they are drinking away the stress of the week at some favourite watering hole. You’d be hard pressed to find any corner of Trinidad without at least a basic roadside bar where you can shoot pool and sing karaoke while downing a six-pack. In every community and town in Trinidad, bars and pubs abound.
Roadside bars tend to be very basic in design and furnishings, while pubs are more upscale and attract a younger, more affluent clientele. Beyond the basics, there are upscale bars and lounges with swanky interiors, good food (whether you’re looking just for finger food or a good meal) and scintillating signature drinks.
Sports bars have become very trendy. They range from upscale places where you can enjoy a seafood platter and cocktails while watching televised sports off a satellite, to no-frills joints where you can shoot pool and swig ice-cold beers. The higher end ones feature big-screen TVs showing popular sports games; karaoke nights; games areas with pool tables and dart boards; and special themed nights featuring performances from contemporary rock, reggae, soca, jazz, world and fusion bands.
De Avenue (Ariapita Avenue) & environs
Ariapita Avenue – sometimes just called “The Avenue” – is a microcosm of the bar and lounge experience in Trinidad, but there are popular hangouts around Port of Spain and in all the major towns like St Augustine, Trincity, Arima, Chaguanas and San Fernando. Hotels have modern and well-equipped bars and lounges, often with great ambiance.
Ariapita Avenue runs through the middle of Woodbrook, a once genteel sort of residential area west of Port of Spain. On the Avenue at least, all pretence of quiet family life has been quite lost. This is Trinidad’s answer to Montego Bay’s Hip Strip, with its profusion of fine restaurants (Creole, Italian, Asian, and sushi), casinos, members’ clubs, bars and lounges. The entire strip is lined with bars, restaurants, street food and very, very trendy crowds out for a night of partying and liming. Once it’s not raining, chances are there’ll be as much going on on the sidewalk as in the bar. On Friday and Saturday nights, the massive crowds of after-work office workers turn the sidewalks into street parties. Many a business deal is hammered out on these nights (well, the participants get hammered, if nothing else). After all is said and drunk, the night usually ends with a visit to one of the many street vendors selling doubles, corn soup, burgers, gyros, gourmet waffles, barbecue pig tail… the menu is constantly growing and changing. One never knows what one will find for sale on ‘De Avenue’.
So if you’re in Port of Spain and your taste runs more towards the swanky lounge, the sports bar and the night club, head towards Woodbrook. Popular night spots on the Ariapita Avenue strip at More Vino, where you will find wines from around the world and fresh sushi. The neighbouring Drink! Wine Bar features DJs on Friday nights. La Casa de Ibiza, Woodford Café and Trotters serve live and televised entertainment with the food. Not far away, Aura serves cocktails, wines and cutters in elegant surroundings, and Minglers and Earth provide cosy indoor seating and picnic-table style pavement seating along Cipriani Boulevard.
The food, entertainment and atmosphere of Zanzibar, one major road over in MovieTowne, make it a favourite sports bar for group limes, and you can take in a movie or a show at the on-site cineplex and Fiesta Plaza.
But this only scratches the surface. What about the elegant bars and lounges at hotels like the Kapok (Maraval), the Carlton Savannah [being rebranded as the Brix as at early 2018] and Hilton (St. Ann’s), or the Hyatt Regency (Port of Spain water front).
If you’ve got your dancing shoes, take them to the 51° nightclub, where karaoke starts the party off on a Thursday evening. The Zen Nightclub is noted for four levels of dance floors and bars, including a special VIP level. Katalyst has a nightclub interior with an attractive deck outside; likewise, Club Alchemy has merged the night club and lounge experience. It will cost you $80 to $175 to get into a nightclub, though most clubs run regular free entry and free drinks promotions.
If you still have time and energy, fêtes, parties and live concerts featuring local and international acts might be staged in large outdoor venues like the Queen’s Park Savannah at any time, especially around carnival.
Western Main Road
For a slightly less boisterous experience, tapas bars and lounges can be found in and around Woodbrook. Not five minutes away, further west, the Western Main Road in St James offers a less shnazz but even more populous liming area.
The district of St James has been called “the city that never sleeps” because of its thumping music, sidewalk vendors and straightforward, down-to-earth drinking dens. You’ll find loads of bars along the Western Main Road. A less salubrious hip strip, it offers the quintessential Trini rumshop experience (like Smokey & Bunty’s, a legendary liming spot where regular characters who are an evening’s entertainment all by themselves, particularly around Carnival time. Hint: be on the look out for “Saucy Pow”). Hereford’s Bar also has its charms: at their infamous Hard Wine Thursdays, you can sample their “horny goat weed.”
The street food is just as tasty and varied as on the Avenue, with beef roti, chicken foot souse, jerk pork and ‘ital vitals’ among the offerings. Here the bars are more functional than fancy: you want a drink, they sell drinks. This is why St James if our official-unofficial city-that-never-sleeps. The music is loud, the carousing is of the gritty variety, the street food is the best in the country. And. Everyone. Goes. There. You’ll run into everyone from the person you bought fruit from that morning to ministers of state.
The Queen’s Park Oval
Many an expat in Trinidad can tell tales of being drunk on the Avenue or walking back to the Hyatt and somebody will stop and a familiar voice will say, ‘Boy, I go drop you back to the hotel. Glowing white man like you walking downtown – I doh want to read ’bout you in de papers tomorrow nuh.’ It turns out to be the fella who sat next to them at a cricket match in the Oval. Twenty20 cricket has brought a new wave of fans to the game. And the Trini penchant for befriending the fella sitting next to them often leads to a lifetime friendship – or certainly for cricket limes. Numerous sports bars and lounges in and around Port of Spain are popular hangouts for locals and expats. The rum shops and less salubrious bars in St James are also great places to feel the pulse of the people. Trinis love to discuss politics – local, regional and international, and with just about everyone digitally connected, conversations are anything but predictable.
Martin’s – Trinidad’s Cheers
This cosy little piano bar on Woodford Street in Port of Spain is a venerated liming institution. Its owner, the eponymous Martin, is himself a living archive of local knowledge. A great raconteur and wine lover, he has been regaling patrons – at various locations around Newtown, Port of Spain – for more than 20 years. The staff, who have been with Martin forever, treat customers like family. And the food is excellent. Reasonably priced delicious lunches – which can be served in the open-air courtyard or indoors in an air conditioned dining area – are ideal if you’re on a budget. The callaloo is heavenly. If you’re in luck, you may be treated to a live performance of old school calypso or jazz. [NB: Martin’s has closed down, and the location has been re-opened as the dynamic Kaiso Blues Café]
Important: If you’ve rented a car, be sure to obey parking guidelines or risk being towed by the police.
“Past de lighthouse”
Out of Port of Spain, it’s harder to find dedicated liming zones. In San Fernando and Chaguanas, for instance, in south and central Trinidad respectively, there are clubs and restaurants aplenty but not concentrated in one area. So too in St Augustine and Trincity in the east. Over the past few years, the night clubs of those areas have been upping their game, achieving a tough feat: they’re getting Port of Spain partiers to head out of town for their entertainment. Think about: live entertainment. Almost anywhere you go, you’ll find good music and lots of variety. But a live band, local, and one that plays originals and not only covers, is definitely a treat to look out for.
Highlights of South, East & Central
The futuristic Space La Nouba nightclub is a is the place to be in the Southland. The interior, designed by renowned masman Brian McFarlane, hosts popular drinks-inclusive Champagne Fridays and themed party nights. Privé (an exclusive nightclub with guest-list-only entry) and the 110 Jazz and Calypso Lounge are also popular.
Along the east-west corridor, Trincity Mall’s restaurants and bars include the very popular Bootleggers and J. Malone’s. Discerning limers might also drift towards Trevor’s Edge in St. Augustine or Sandbaggers in Trincity.
Party time: hit the clubs & fetes
Trinidadians love to party, and like to do it in very fine style. And once they’ve started, they don’t like to stop. In the last few years, trendy nightclubs have opened in Arima, San Fernando, Chaguanas and Port of Spain, with themed events almost every day of the week. The more exclusive ones maintain strict dress codes, operate with invitation lists, and usually require ID for entry. But no matter where you are in the country, there is a nightclub you can find to dance the night away.
It’s not only about partying, though. Some of the biggest nightclubs have evolved into spaces that present concerts with local music stars and big-name international pop, R&B, and house music acts. Performances by famous acts, both local and foreign, are staged in large sports arenas and in more intimate club settings, where different floors, or levels, cater to different musical tastes and interests. The party market has fuelled this growth of mega-clubs whose various levels and special VIP areas are packed out all weekend. Some present popular international acts like Trinidad-born Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Maroon 5, One Direction, the Marleys and others.
Cipriani Boulevard is home to a few, and there are others in every major town in the country, especially around Port of Spain, Chaguanas, St. Augustine, and San Fernando.
When the market for the party or concert is too large for even the biggest clubs, mega-concerts move to huge arenas like the Queen’s Park Oval, the Centre of Excellence, the Jean Pierre Complex, the National Stadium or the Queen’s Park Savannah. They often offer general and VIP (or VVIP!) tickets, with the pricier passes providing you with all-inclusive food and drink. These big party and concert events are concentrated around Carnival time, public holidays, and school vacations.
Apart from the clubs, private promotional outfits host parties at any time of year, with names like Unfaithful, Caution, or Unleashed. Some of these offer free premium drinks as part of an all-inclusive package. During Carnival, the parties (fetes) multiply. Some are intimate, with just a few dozen people, while mega-fetes can be packed with over 10,000 jumping and gyrating party animals. At public fetes you pay for food and drinks, while all-inclusive parties provide food and drinks as part of the ticket price.
Outside the Carnival season, there are always mega-concerts in July and August. The main events are Soca for Summer, featuring a who’s who of soca, and Colours, which features popular Jamaican singers as well as top soca acts.
More Trini nightlife
Arts & culture
For those in to the arts there are nearly always music, theatre, and dance performances at several venues to be enjoyed. Theatre, dance and concerts find homes at the Central Bank Auditorium, Queen’s Hall, and the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain and San Fernando. The CLR James Auditorium at Cipriani Labour College in Valsayn has become a popular theatre venue, and the University of the West Indies (UWI) in St. Augustine a more serious one. In south Trinidad, the main performance space is Naparima Bowl in San Fernando. See our Arts & Culture section for more information.
Films & movies
You can catch the most recent movies at several cinemas, including two multiplexes at MovieTowne, at Invader’s Bay in Port of Spain; Price Plaza in Chaguanas; and Corinth, San Fernando; Caribbean Cinemas 8 in Trincity and Southpark San Fernando; and the Digicel Imax in Port of Spain. MovieTowne hosts the Trinidad and Tobago and European Film Festivals. Classic and independent films are also screened by the Studio Film Club, UWI Campus Film Classics, and at film festivals (including the Trinidad & Tobago and European Film Festivals). The single-screen Globe (Port of Spain) and Palladium (Tunapuna) offer double features and cheap seats.
Casinos are “private members’ clubs” in Trinidad, and are threatened with closure. Slot machines were very popular (they were shut down last year), but roulette, baccarat, blackjack, Caribbean stud poker, craps and Rhum 32 were still available at press time. Trinidad residents must first apply to join, but visitors do not have to. The government has in recent years indicated the intention to close down the industry, though nothing concrete has materialised to prevent people from trying their luck! One of the most popular is Ma Pau, next to Sweet Lime on Ariapita Avenue in Woodbrook.