15 Great NYC Bars With Games
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.
photo credit: Kristopher Medina
At Solid State, you can play board games with your friends in a setting that’s a lot more fun than your apartment. This large Woodside bar has a long counter up front with a rotating menu of local craft beers and ciders. In the back, where there are 10 pinball machines, you can become Indiana Jones in the form of a tiny silver ball. There’s a big selection of games, so play something classic like Battleship or chess, or prove once and for all that you are indeed the wittiest person in your friend group by dominating Cards Against Humanity all night long.
Swingers is an over-the-top mini golf chain from London, and their first NYC location is in a huge subterranean space in Nomad filled with astroturf, chandeliers, and enough fake flowers to throw 20 influencer weddings. If all of this sounds cheesy, that’s because it is. But between the complimentary frozen margarita shots and extravagant set-up, it’s hard to have a bad time here. The space feels like a fun, post-apocalyptic underground city with a DJ booth and more bars than you can count, and there’s a food court with vendors like Mah-Ze-Dahr and Sauce Pizzeria. Mini golf starts at $26 per person.
photo credit: Wonderville
Wonderville is a barcade with a rotating display of independently created games, and 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.
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, which looks like a library in a hunting lodge, 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.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
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. You can also play Jenga and make people around you spill their beer because they’re not expecting the sound of crashing blocks. 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.
photo credit: Enshu Chawla
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.
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.
photo credit: Nathan Chang
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.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
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.