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 darts. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, however, we’ve put together a list of our favorite places to drink and play something. Get some friends together, then head to one these spots and play a game that you’re probably less skilled at than you think.
Ace Bar looks pretty average, but it has plenty of space, drinks are pretty cheap, and there’s a room full of games all the way in the back. Games like pool, skee ball, and darts - any of which are perfect for when you’ve been drinking. And that’s why this place is one of our favorite bars in NYC. Just know that Ace Bar gets busy on weekends, so either get there early or be prepared to wait for your dart board.
If you’ve seen pictures of old men rolling balls in a town square in Italy, that’s bocce ball. 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 good for groups, because everyone will be equally bad at it. The courts might be full when you get there, 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.
Royal Palms is almost exactly 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 ten shuffleboard courts and an infinite supply of board games, you don’t really need everything else. This place is massive, and it’s a classic spot for a birthday party or really any other kind of group hang in Gowanus. There’s plenty to do, and it feels like a little vacation. Also, if you’re a group of 10 or more, you can reserve your own court, and there’s usually a food truck there serving pasta, tacos, or something else..
Fat Cat isn’t where to have a first date, and it isn’t where you have a second, third, or fourth date either. It just isn’t romantic. But it does have is games. Fat Cat has ping pong, pool, shuffleboard, foosball, checkers, chess, and probably a bunch of other things that we’re forgetting. That’s what you come here for. Sure, it kind of feels like the common area of a frat house, and you have to pay a cover - but at least they have live music, and they’re open until 5am every single night. If you want to play something in the West Village, this is the place.
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 was designed to feel like a hotel lobby, and it’s a great place to bring some people for cocktails and people watching. It gets packed on weekends, so the ping pong tables might be a little difficult to snag, but if you head indoors, you can find a few semi-hidden skee ball machines in the back. They also have Big Buck Hunter, if you like to shoot deer without any residual guilt.
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. It’s like a playground for adults who are old enough to feel nostalgic for a Ninja Turtles game that wasn’t based on a Michael Bay film. Stop by with some friends, or bring a date if you’ve already demonstrated some maturity and now you just want to play Street Fighter.
Two-Bit’s is another good spot to grab a drink and play an arcade game that somehow still exists, including that one where you hit a punching bag to prove to your friends that you care about how strong they think you are. It might not be as big as Barcade, but it also doesn’t get as busy, and while it isn’t especially vibey, it’s a good place to kill time on the Lower East Side. Stop by the next time you and a friend don’t want to be the first ones to a party, and find a fighting game so you can mash all the buttons until you probably lose.
Technically, this country club has a golf course. Although, 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 crappy 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.
If you’re looking for a real mini-golf experience, go to Brooklyn Crab. You’ll have to travel all the way to Redhook, but the space is huge, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and you can always go buy a dresser at Ikea after. This is a seafood restaurant that specializes in crab and lobster, and it happens to have a great backyard with mini-golf and cornhole (that one game where you throw beanbags). If it’s nice out and you want to eat seafood and play something, consider making a trip over.
Nowadays is a huge outdoor bar, and ideally it’s where you’d start every weekend in the summer. It’s in Ridgewood, but it’s worth making a trip out every once in awhile, even if you don’t live nearby. Maybe even do it while the L train is still running. 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.
Blue Ribbon Kanpai Garden is at the 60 LES hotel, and they have a great outdoor patio. It might only be on the second floor, but you can just think of it is a really low rooftop that’s great for day drinking. They have ping pong and board games, so go with a few people who aren’t super-competitive and won’t upset if you beat them at ping pong or board games. Although beer pong is also an option, and in that game everyone wins. Another bonus is the fact that they have frozen beer, which is essentially beer with the texture of a Slurpee. Get it.
The Diamond feels kind of like a college rec room. There’s shuffleboard, some kind of ring game, and a cutout of Pa Ingalls from the television series Little House on the Prairie hanging on the wall. They also have a seriously nerdy beer selection, which fits in with the whole college vibe. So stop by for a low-key hang with that one friend who’s always talking about that one type of beer you can only get in Colorado. You can hang in the backyard or play shuffleboard and listen while that friend gives you tasting notes.