Fancy a drink? This post highlights 18 of the weirdest, most unique, and coolest bars in America. Expect mermaids, carousels, carnivals, hidden speakeasies, spies, and Christmas year round. Meet you there?
It’s pretty easy to find a bar in America. I do a lot of traveling, and even the smallest towns in our beautiful country have at least one or two bars. I was actually just traveling through Montana and Idaho and the only sign of life I found for 100 miles was a bar. It was a great bar, too. Johnny Cash was playing and the crowd was mostly bikers and cowboys with several stray dogs thrown in the mix. Oh, and there was karaoke.
It made me think of all the other great, unique American bars I’ve been to (or have on my bucket list). Hence this list of 18 of the coolest bars in America. I have been to most of them myself, but also included a few that I think are weird, fun, and amazing. Each of them have something that makes them memorable and a little offbeat.
I hope you find yourself enjoying a libation at one of them soon.
18 of the Coolest Bars in America
Mermaids and unicorns and pirates, oh my! Grab a drink at one of the weirdest, most unique, and coolest bars in America.
Don’t worry, you’re not dizzy from having one too many. The bar is actually moving, I promise. The 25-seat half-bar, half-carnival ride Carousel Bar in New Orleans’ Hotel Monteleone is a local favorite. This whimsical revolving bar grants patrons a great view of the French Quarter, perfect for people-watching. There’s also weekly entertainment such as live music and jazz. Carousel is apparently quite inspiring, too, considering authors Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway have written about it. If you go, order The Sazerac, a Rye Whiskey and anise liquor libation that was deemed “the official cocktail of New Orleans.”
Mermaids meets margaritas? Leave it to Florida to have an underwater-themed watering hole. But what a great one it is at that. If superhero-clad mermaids don’t make this one of the coolest bars in America, I’m not sure what else would. The maritime-inspired bar has mermaid (and merman!) shows, including “aqua-burlesque swimshows.” (What?!) The Wreck Bar is also a full restaurant, popular for their seafood dishes and, of course, their tropical drinks.
Portland’s “weird” reputation certainly lives up to its name with this horror-themed bar. If you love all things dark and undead, Lovecraft is your jam. If you haven’t guessed, this PDX bar is inspired by the terrifying works of horror-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. Expect bones and coffins and… dancing? Lots of dancing. Lovecraft hosts burlesque shows and events such as Black Mass Dance Party Night, where everyone wears black clothes (the color of our souls) and dances the night away amidst the fog machines. To keep with its gothic nature, Sunday’s are deemed “Sad Sundays” and their happy hour is marketed as an un-happy hour.
Like all good things in life, you have to work for Please Don’t Tell. There’s no sign or clear entrance to this speakeasy, although thanks to Yelp and the like, the secret is out. (Hint: it has to do with hot dogs and a phone booth.) But that’s okay. The atmosphere is only one small reason you should visit PDT. Order a classic cocktail to go with your fancy, perfectly-New-York deep-fried hot dog. You’ll find a menu of inspired, well-executed cocktails that include thoughtful additions such as Absinthe, fresh herbs, rose syrup, and marmalade.
Who wouldn’t want Christmas year round? I’d take it, even if I lived somewhere that averages around 60 degrees in the dead of winter (I’d take that, too). Austin’s Lala’s (full name Lala’s Little Nugget) is a no-frills, cash-only local favorite that also happens to have Christmas decorations up year-round. There’s a pool table, a jukebox, and a huge Christmas party in December. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry with a tequila-based Reindeer Water and a side of BBQ.
Visiting Colorado’s Airplane Restaurant is probably the only time you’ll pay under ten bucks for a drink on an airplane. The restaurant and bar is housed inside a Boeing KC-97 tanker aircraft that was built in 1953. The aviation theme is strong here, with both an air-themed decor and menu. You can also tour the plane and pretend you’re the pilot in the old cockpit.
The Chandelier is literally a giant, three-floor chandelier composed of over two million glistening beaded crystals. I mean, can drinking get more luxurious than that? Each floor of The Chandelier, nestled inside Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan, offers a unique experience. The first floor hosts DJs and a lively atmosphere while the top floor provides a more intimate lounge experience. The middle floor, or “inside the chandelier,” concentrates on quality hand-crafted cocktails with a molecular spin. Cocktails will run you $16, but… they have to pay for all of those crystals somehow, right?
Perhaps the most fun part of this Alice in Wonderland themed bar is actually finding your way down the rabbit hole. The hidden San Diego lounge possesses a secret door (and hidden cameras to let those drinking inside laugh as you try to find it). But once you’re in, you can delight in a whimsical, quirky-meets-posh setting. There’s live music, DJs, dancing, tarot card readings, and an epic wine list. The unique bar is a welcome respite among the party-centric Gaslamp Quarter.
One of the coolest bars in America doubles as a fantastic indoor carnival. Seattle’s Unicorn offers everything a young-at-heart adult could want. There are corn dogs of all kinds. Popcorn. Fried Unicorn Balls (they’re really good). Funnel cake. And stiff, cotton candy-colored drinks with names like Snozzberry Frost. Combine that with arcade games, claw machines, photo booths, and karaoke, and you have yourself a good time.
A martini, please. Shaken, not stirred. The best bar to channel your inner Bond is Milwaukee’s spy-themed SafeHouse (or its Chicago sister). The hidden, quirky bar requires a password to get in. If you don’t know the password, there’s a few other ways to get in (which may or may not require you having to do a ridiculous dance). The drinks are strong and espionage-themed, and there’s a full menu, too. What do spies eat? Apparently, lots of fried cheese curds.
If you’re looking for a place to chill with your friends, it doesn’t get much cooler than this. (I’m sorry.) But in all seriousness, Minus5 Ice Bar is one of the coolest bars in America. Sure, that could be because the temperature is kept a brisk 23 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). The entire place is made of ice: the chairs, the couches, the bar, even the glasses (don’t break them, they get mad). You have to buy a “ticket” to get in, but your $20 purchase comes with a warm parka and some gloves. Minus5 has locations in Vegas, New York City, and Florida.
Arrrrg, this drink is quite strong. Pair 600 different kinds of rum with an over-the-top pirate theme and you have San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove. The bar serves up tiki-inspired exotic cocktails, and lots of them. If you can’t decide between Smuggler’s 100-drink-deep-cocktail-menu, go with a safe bet like a Mai Tai. Between the giant anchor hanging from the ceiling, the coconut drinks, and the buccaneer embellishments, it’s the closest thing San Fran has to the Caribbean. Just try not to fall in the water pool downstairs.
Northampton’s Tunnel Bar is exactly as it sounds: a vintage train tunnel converted into a swank bar. The pedestrian tunnel, built in 1896, still showcases all of the original brickwork and stone. While it’s perhaps not the best place to go if you’re claustrophobic or fear dark spaces, it is a solid choice for those who love martinis. Their oversized martinis include a combination of both classics and more adventurous flavors. There’s also a full list of “Dessertini’s,” including the Butterfinger and Funky Monkey.
Brooklyn’s Camp is proof that not all of the coolest bars in America have to be fancy. Nope, Camp takes it old-school with a rustic, outdoorsy space—mounted deer heads and all. Grab a seat at this log cabin-inspired bar, order a creamy, marshmallow-topped vanilla martini, and tell stories around the campfire. (Or just listen to the indie rock playing.) There are board games to be played and s’mores to be toasted. The cozy bar is all about S’mores and Chill, but events like DJs on weekends and karaoke every Tuesday keep things interesting.
It’s 2017, and it’s so hard to find a good mullet these days. LA’s Rusty Mullet strives to rectify this problem. The trailer park-themed bar celebrates all that is wonderful about America: beer, TV, and rock and roll. Grab a $5 shot or a $1 Happy Hour beer and you’ll forget you’re in Los Angeles. The food is mostly fried and the drinks are strong and simple. If the 25 flat-screen TVs don’t keep you entertained, there’s also events such as 80’s music nights and beach parties.
Ever heard of the heavy metal band Gwar? This Richmond, Virginia watering hole teamed up with them to base their entire bar around it. There’s fake blood-splattered walls and an “enter at your own risk” attitude. The food menu is deemed a “gourmet metal meal adventure” and the chef is quoted on the website proudly proclaiming that his mother taught him the secrets of intergalactic cooking. “And then I ate her,” he adds. Come in for their Brutal Brunch or nosh on their meat-centric or vegan pub fare. There’s also plenty of events to keep things engaging, like Metal Mondays, punk nights, karaoke, or slasher-flick movie nights. Say hi to Gwar’s guitarist, Balsac the Jaws of Death, who is often behind the bar.
Of course one of the coolest bars in America would literally be in the ocean. Ocean City’s Seacrets knows the secret to keeping guests cool: delicious, cold drinks in the Atlantic. There’s a full food menu, a raw bar, and a drink menu that features margaritas and island-inspired concoctions. Grab a Bahama Mama and dip your toes in. There’s live bands or DJs almost every night and several dance floors to get your groove on.
As a huge dog lover, I had to include Mutts Canine Cantina. This Dallas spot is half-bar, half-dog-park. And it’s wondrous. Mutts builds its business around four things: “good friends, great food and drinks, a fun outdoor environment, and of course, your mutt.” Grab a cold one from the beer garden and order a gourmet burger, hot dog, or a hand-spun creamy custard milkshake. There’s treats for the non-humans, too, like bite-sized hot dogs and a peanut butter and custard doggie dessert. While anyone can hang on the outdoor patio for free, a small fee applies to let your dog use their private dog park. However, there are attendees on duty to watch and pick up after your pet while you go drink, so that’s worth it, right?
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post on The 18 Weirdest and Coolest Bars in America! Have you been to any of them? Which ones would be first on your list to try? Let me know in the comments below!