In an ideal world, every bar would have activities. That way, life would never be boring, and every bad date could be saved by a round of skee-ball or Pictionary. But our world isn’t quite there yet—so we put together a list of our favorite places to drink and play games. Get some friends together, then head to one of these spots and try to make it through an hour of shuffleboard or Scrabble without getting weirdly competitive.
Wonderville’s arcade game enthusiasm is so nerdy that it comes back around to cool again. This is a barcade with a rotating display of independently created games, and it hosts live music, video game tournaments, board game nights, and other events every day. The creativity on display here is cool as sh*t—from games inspired by Japanese psychedelic rock and the Bosozoku motorcycle culture to a riot grrrl racing game with kawaii Grand Theft Auto vibes. There’s a full bar with good cocktails named after beloved game characters, and they serve great hot dogs crafted by Randwiches topped with things like turmeric kimchi and Kewpie mayo.
The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club
Royal Palms is like the deck of cruise ship. The only things missing are the sun, the ocean, and the ship itself. And while those things might seem essential, they really aren’t. With 10 shuffleboard courts and an infinite supply of board games, you don’t really need anything else. This place is massive, and it’s a classic spot for a birthday party or any other kind of group hang in Gowanus. If you have 10 or more people, you can reserve your own court, and there’s usually a food truck there serving something like Greek food or pastrami sandwiches.
Some bars have a video game or two, but Barcade is filled with them. Each of the three NYC locations has an abundance of vintage game machines, and they also have a lot of craft beer. Barcade is like a playground for people who are old enough to feel nostalgic for a Ninja Turtles game that wasn’t based on a film by Michael Bay. Stop by with some friends, or bring a date if you’ve already demonstrated maturity and would now like to play Street Fighter.
If you miss college, and you happen to spend time on the Upper East Side, go to Earl’s Beer & Cheese. It’s a little bar on Lexington between 97th and 98th, and it’s decorated like a dorm room. There are some Christmas lights and stuffed deer heads on the walls, and you’ll probably see some people playing Jenga or Trivial Pursuit here. This place is perfect for when you want to hang out with a beer and distract yourself for an hour or two, and they serve grilled cheese sandwiches that your college-aged self would have liked to eat every night.
Maybe you’ve seen pictures of people rolling balls in a town square in Italy. That’s bocce. Union Hall has two indoor bocce courts, and they’re first come, first served (unless a bocce league is using them). So go ahead and learn how to play. It isn’t hard, and it’s a good activity for groups, because everyone will be equally bad at it. The courts might be full when you get here, but you can always just grab a cocktail and wait on a couch. This place feels like the library in a hunting lodge, so it’s also pretty good for date night.
Technically, staring at a big fish tank is an activity, and you can do that at Dive 75. But if that isn’t fun enough for you, you can also play one of the many board games hidden in the back corner of this little Upper West Side neighborhood bar. You can even turn them into drinking games, and no one will judge you. Just claim the couch all the way in the back under the portrait of Steve Zissou, and hang out for as long as you want.
Ace Bar looks pretty average, but it has plenty of space, the drinks aren’t expensive, and your activity options include pool, skee-ball, and darts. Just know that this East Village spot gets busy on weekends, so either show up early or be prepared to stare passive-aggressively at people while you wait your turn to play games.
Freehold has a great backyard, and if drinking outside isn’t a fun enough activity for you, they also have some ping pong tables. This is a big bar in Williamsburg that feels a lot like a hotel lobby, and it gets packed on weekends—so the ping pong tables tend to be occupied. If you want to do something a little more strenuous, stick around until 11pm on a Friday or Saturday and get some dancing done.
Technically, this country club has a golf course. Although, also technically, that golf course is a mini-golf course—and it’s the worst you’ve ever seen. Also, this “country club” is actually a dive bar. They do have Big Buck Hunter, however, and bad mini-golf is better than no mini golf at all. So if you’re in Williamsburg (not Bushwick, despite the name) and you want cheap drinks and a few games, come here.
When you want a real mini-golf experience, go to Brooklyn Crab. This multi-story Red Hook spot is huge, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Brooklyn Crab specializes in crab and lobster, and it happens to have a great backyard full of games. If it’s nice out and you want to eat shellfish and play something, make a trip over. There's an Ikea nearby in case you need a dresser.
Nowadays is a huge outdoor bar, and ideally it’s where you’d start every weekend in the summer. This place is in Ridgewood, and it’s worth making a trip out here every once in a while even if you don’t live nearby. You can hang at a picnic table outside, have some drinks, and play ping pong. Or, if you come on a Sunday afternoon, you can take part in the dance party known as Mr. Sunday.
The Bad Old Days is essentially the first off-campus house you lived in when you were in college, but with legal alcohol and in Ridgewood. It isn’t huge, but there are a couple of small couches and some shelves filled with books and board games. There’s also an old Nintendo attached to a little television at one end of the bar. Swing by on a Wednesday if you want to play some trivia.
Maybe you need something a bit more exciting than a board game, and/or you’ve been watching a lot of Vikings on the History Channel. You should enjoy Kick Axe Throwing, a big venue in Gowanus where you pay for the opportunity to throw an axe at a large wooden target. It’s a fun place to go with a group, and if you’re thinking that there couldn’t possibly be alcohol here, you’d be wrong. There’s beer and wine—and the whole setup is actually much less dangerous than it sounds. Employees keep a close watch over everything, and there’s no actual person-on-person combat.
Break Bar is like an amusement park for adults. But instead of face painting and teacups that spin you around until you’re nauseous, this huge, industrial space in Astoria has pool and ping pong tables, mini bocce courts, and giant Connect 4. It’s a great spot to day drink with a group, and it also happens to be one of the best sports bars in the city. There are pitchers of beer, great buffalo wings, and TVs and projectors everywhere—including around the pool tables in case you feel like multitasking.
Dive bars in Tribeca are a rare find–and this one’s probably the only cheap-drink spot in the area with shuffleboard, a limitless jukebox, and graffiti in the bathroom. Nancy Whiskey Pub is known for its shuffleboard tournaments and the loyal patrons who’ve mastered the game on a table with no bumpers over the years. In the summer, they’re also known to break out an inflatable pool on the small curbside patio on really hot days.
If you think about it, Treadwell Park is sort of like a daycare center for people who have full-time jobs. It’s an indoor beer garden with ping pong, pinball, and TVs for watching sports. There are plenty of large picnic-style tables, so if you need a place to meet your summer camp friends on the UES, this bar is great for that. It’s also a little nicer and cleaner than your average beer garden, and they serve a ton of German/American bar food.