Though a great deal of my business is based on giving people advice, I don’t dare call myself an expert on all things food and travel. However, there is one thing I am without a doubt, confidently an authority on: Friday Night Live at the Royal Ontario Museum. Unless I have an obligatory birthday or wedding, I will most likely be hanging out with friends and dinosaurs under these familiar purple lights each week this season. And because I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment, I took the time to create an illustrated guide to help you navigate the event yourself. Please follow closely for maximum enjoyment.
STEP 1: Tickets. Get your tickets ($15 or $13 for students and seniors; $5 for members) online or at the door, but do not show up late. Protip: When they say doors open at 7:00 PM, they mean it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—this is not da club.
STEP 2: Coat Check. It’s almost winter in Canada, so you’ll probably want to check your parka. Coat check is $1 for ROM members or $2.50 for non-members. Protip: If you are waiting for your friends to arrive, the ROM staff members frown upon people sitting on the bench in front of coat check and contributing to unnecessary congestion. Seriously though.
Legend: stars= bathrooms; martini glass=bar; dollar sign=ROMBucks purchasing tables
STEP 3: Get your ROMBucks. There are a lot of people who immediately start to panic when they realize they don’t have an alcoholic beverage in their hand upon entering a party. This social lubricant anxiety explains why there is always an insane line in front of the first ROMBucks table. Protip: head upstairs to basically any other floor where there will be no line and get your drink and food tickets there. They’re $6 each and non-refundable.
STEP 4: Get the best food while it’s hot. If you followed my instructions and arrived at 7:00 PM, you’re probably really hungry right now. I would recommend taking a hit of protein and carbs first. There are two sets of food vendors this season, and I have indicated their location on the maps below (though this is subject to change). Might I suggest a Me.n.u Food Truck asian taco or Abokichi Japanese Grilled Cheese? The pork taco from my friend Matt at Fidel Gastro’s is also a good bet, as are the chicken skewers from my friend Shinji of Gushi Foods (good food=good friends). Protip: Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but two of the Japanese vendors are located in the Asian gallery, and they also happen to serve some of my favourite food. People don’t usually see that corridor to China right away, so if you get there early, you’re in for a treat.
STEP 5: Get jazzed. Did you know that there are also mad happenings on the 3rd and 4th floors? Well, there are. While you’re digesting, head upstairs to lounge it out with some jazz performers before heading back downstairs to party. I didn’t make a map for those floors, but you will find EDO or My Crème Caramel on the 3rdfloor depending on the week. Protip: You cannot bring food or alcohol into the elevators. Plan accordingly and don’t embarrass yourself—no one likes to watch someone chugging wine in a cocktail dress.
STEP 6: Check out a few of the galleries. After all, you paid for admission right? If you haven’t been to the ROM before, the dinosaurs and bats are definitely worth a visit. Protip: The rare gems and stones gallery is great, but conversations of engagements and proposals are always happening around this little alcove, so if it’s a sensitive topic for you, steer clear.
STEP 7: Participate in something thematic. Every week’s theme was chosen strategically, and not just for kicks. Whether it’s playing dress up with the latest Ford model car (they’re the headline sponsors, which explains why they have a car in the front and inside for no real reason), playing a new video game, or playing with leeches (they actually brought in a professional leech expert one week), try to get into the spirit of the week. You may never get to do it again! Protip: Don’t play with leeches.
STEP 8: Get your dance moves on (upstairs version). Bronfman Hall is the best place to meet up with your friends mid-event because the Peroni sign (another ROM sponsor) is so bright and obvious. It’s also the home of three food vendors, a great musical act, and close to the bathrooms. Electricity Events always provides some excellent DJ’s and bands and it’s almost like a self-contained party up here. Protip: Dance your hearts out, but don’t be those people who dance in the area between the couches and the bar. People hate that.
STEP 9: Get your fill of desserts. Always save a ROMBuck for dessert. Chantal of My Crème Caramel has a bunch of different options for you if you’re craving something French. The ladies of Curbside Bliss have a ton of different cupcakes and other treats and you can get two for one ROMBuck. Finally, for something a little molecular, Ice Volcano Ice Cream will make you some liquid nitrogen ice cream served over a dry ice cube. Protip: For Pete’s sake, do NOT touch the dry ice with your fingers!
STEP 10: Get your dance moves on (downstairs version). At some point, you will have had your fill of looking at cool stuff and just want to dance. The dance floor downstairs is not where you start, but where you end up. Protip: When the event ends at 11:00, it actually ends. As in, music stops, lights on, everyone runs to coat check. If you don’t want to wait, duck out a few minutes just before.
Provided that not everyone attending #FNLROM this week reads this article (which would also be great), if you follow my guide, you will have an excellent time.Disclaimer: I have been the guest of the ROM to this event on more than a few occasions. However, I have also attended this event a few times on my own with no media status. The ROM team did not read this post before publication and I was not compensated for writing this. Special thanks to Electricity Events for providing photos for first collage in this post.