Give humans some alcohol and a decent place to drink it in, and we tend to have a good time. Give us some alcohol, a good place to drink it in, and extracurricular activities thrown in as well, and things can escalate quickly. Whether it’s karaoke, cornhole, adult coloring books, or just your old-fashioned billiards, LA bars have no problem providing some added stimulation for when you’re tired of the same old neighborhood bar you go to every weekend. Here are 17 great Los Angeles bars to turn to for activities other than just drinking.
Imperial Western is a massive beer hall attached to Union Station in Downtown LA. This former train terminal-turned-brewery looks like an old-timey train platform, except instead of stressed-out travelers trying to decipher an arrivals/departures board, it’s full of people playing games and drinking beer. There are a whole bunch of activities like shuffleboard, pool, and even some chess tables that look like they belong in Union Square Park (probably occupied by two men ferociously smacking the timer). Imperial Western brews their own beer - which is quite good - and it’s the only brewery with a raw bar we’d endorse checking out.
Drinking and bowling go together like Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Highland Park Bowl is a restored bowling alley from the ’20s that still has the Rube Goldberg-looking machine to reset the pins in the back. After a couple of excellent draft cocktails, even the most gutterball-prone bowler will be happy they’re here.
This arcade bar has every retro arcade game you could imagine, like Donkey Kong, NBA Jam, and Rampage. The beer list has a ton of options, and you should come hungry, because the absolutely fantastic Chinese-ish food, along with one of LA’s best cheeseburgers. It’s a great all-purpose spot to use for a date, night out with a crowd, or if you’ve just always had secret ambitions of plugging your initials into the high scores of Ms. Pac-Man.
Walt’s Bar in Eagle Rock bills itself as an arcade bar, but it’s really just an excellent local dive bar that happens to have a whole bunch of pinball machines. There’s a ’50s theme here that doesn’t feel corny, and an excellent selection of beer and wine. It’s a relaxed crowd, but you can still get a little rowdy here without feeling awkward. Grab some popcorn from the machine, and commandeer that Evil Knievel pinball machine you’ve had your eye on all night.
One of the oldest bars in LA, Joe Jost’s has a whole room of pool tables in the back. It’s not the place to come for a drunk, late-night game of pool, but it is an excellent place to come on a Saturday afternoon to drink a couple steins of beer, and play a septuagenarian for the rights to a table. If you get hungry, buy everyone some pickled eggs and a basket of pretzels.
Venice’s famous turtle-racing spot is now run by a big craft beer group that owns a few restaurants throughout LA. That means you can drink a fantastic IPA while you watch Squirtle and Sheldon race each other. The races happen the first and third Thursday of the month, and the side patio absolutely fills up with people from all over LA who come to watch. Even when you’re not gambling on reptiles, Brennan’s is still a great place to come for activities. There’s a huge turf yard with cornhole, and inside, they have board games and a pool table. If you come on a Friday, there’s free pizza from 4-7pm.
Block Party right along York Blvd. in Highland Park is one of the best places to drink away a Saturday afternoon on the Eastside. First off, the place is massive. There’s the front interior section with a full bar (you want a boozy snowcone), and a back patio where the real magic begins. There are large picnic tables for the whole crew, a retro hot dog stand, and cruise-ship style shuffleboard when all that booze gets people on their feet. You can bring your own food in too.
LA has no shortage of Italian restaurants, but Italian-themed bars? Not so much. Bar Clacson downtown has pulled it off, and it’s odd and excellent. Think Campari cocktails, tons of prosecco, and a bombardino (brandy and hot espresso) that will get you through the harsh LA winters. But the best part of this place is most certainly the indoor petanque court (basically, indoor lawn bowling). Check out the secret second bar in the back as well.
When it comes to bars that know how to keep people entertained, Barney’s in West Hollywood is king. On top of your requisite pool tables, dart boards, air hockey, and shuffle boards, Barney’s has nightly events throughout the week - Tuesday trivia night is legendary and Wednesday karaoke night is probably your best place to see sitcom actors sing Sting in public.
The instant that Arts District Brewery opened its doors, it became a day-drinking go-to. The craft beer is decent enough, but you’re here because of their fantastic space filled with skee-ball machines. Also, the rotisserie chicken from Fritzi next door is always a good idea.
Hamburger Mary’s might be a national chain these days, but there are still few better ways to spend a Saturday or Sunday than at the original Weho location for drag queen brunch. Is the food anything to write home about? Of course not. But you’re here to watch a drag queen death drop to a Tina Turner song, not eat a thought-provoking eggs benedict. Plan accordingly.
The Spare Room inside The Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood is one of LA’s all-time great bars, and it has its two lanes of vintage bowling to partially thank for that. What’s vintage bowling? Basically, no aggressive neon blue TV screens searing your retinas all night. Scoring is kept the old fashioned way - by writing it all down. The excellent cocktails coming out of the bar are the cherry on top.
Great karaoke isn’t hard to find in LA. But for anyone overwhelmed by the options, just head to Brass Monkey. The Ktown staple is not your typical private room karaoke joint - it’s a big bar with one karaoke machine and everyone clamoring to get their name on the waitlist before last call. If the notion of singing in front of complete strangers terrifies you to your core, don’t worry. You can sit, drink tiki drinks all night, and watch everyone else make asses of themselves.
Once upon time, the LA craft beer scene was basically Golden Road Brewery and the few bars around town that served it. A lot has changed since then, and while Golden Road isn’t the best beer in LA these days, their massive new brewery space out in Atwater Village is fantastic. They have both an indoor and outdoor section, a private speakeasy in the back, and all the games you could ever want. There are dedicated cornhole areas, tons of board games, live music on Mondays, and yoga on Saturdays. Yes, yoga.
Break Room 86
There are aggressively-themed bars and then there’s Break Room 86. The bar inside The Line hotel in Ktown (you can only access it through the loading dock) takes its 80′s theme extremely seriously, starting with the vintage vending machine you have to walk through to get inside. Once you’re on the other side, you’re transported to an 80’s high school extravaganza complete with lockers, private karaoke rooms, a dance floor, and even Michael Jackson impersonators performing on top of the bar.
Back before the arcade bar became a concept a bunch of people in Brooklyn swear they invented, there was Blipsy Bar. The Ktown dive has been around for years, and while it’s not the most impressive arcade bar in town, it’s definitely the most fun. There are tons of old-school pinball machines, Donkey Kong, Rampage, Punch-Out, and even enough room for a tiny dance floor that gets wild in a hurry. Cash only.
When you think of the great LA dive bars, Cozy Inn doesn’t always come to mind. But this dime-sized drinking spot located essentially under the 405 Freeway in Culver City is a must-visit. The place opens with a full bar at 6am daily, and by 7am they’ll have a full crowd playing on the most well-maintained shuffleboard table in town. Shuffleboard is a religion here and we are disciples.