50 Drinking Experiences You Need to Have in the US
While we may spend our days daydreaming about sipping whisky in the Scottish highlands or downing shots of soju at a karaoke bar in South Korea, the truth is there are plenty of incredible drinking experiences in our own backyard. You can drink your way across America and never encounter the same drinking experience twice, collecting (somewhat fuzzy) one-of-a-kind memories like stamps in a boozy passport. From quirky festivals to locals-only haunts to quintessential imbibing traditions, these are the drinking experiences you need to have in every state.
Pound Yellowhammers on game day
Game day for the University of Alabama means throwing back Yellowhammers at campus mainstay Gallettes, before, during and after the football game. This fruity rum drink—served in a collectible yellow cup—is made with a secret recipe that no one can seem to replicate, which means you’ll just have to keep coming back to Gallettes for the real deal. Roll tide!
Sip craft beer on the Alaska Railroad
Alaska is home to some of the country’s best (and most plentiful) craft brews, which are best sampled aboard the Great Alaska Beer Train. This scenic journey on the Alaska Railroad takes you from Anchorage to Portage and serves six half pints of Glacier BrewHouse beer, with more beers for purchase; the landscape is jaw-dropping and the ale is local, fresh and delicious.
Watch a cactus wine ceremony in the desert
If you ask nicely or receive an invitation, you can participate in the rain ceremony of the Tohono O’odham, a Native American tribe that calls Arizona home. The ceremony involves dancing, singing, honoring ancestors and drinking lots of tiswin, or cactus wine. According to lore, if the natives’ bodies became saturated with wine made from the bright magenta fruit, so too would the earth become saturated with rain.
Try real moonshine in the Ozarks
The tradition of distilling white lightning is strong in Appalachia, where people have been swilling ‘shine in the Ozarks for generations. Forget the fruity drinks posing as moonshine—drink the real stuff in the mountains.
Run the Bay to Breakers
Sure, we could have said “drink through wine country a la Sideways,” but the wacky, boozy Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco is a far better example of free-spirited California living. Pregame for this costumed, ultra-weird foot race (maybe with some of that famous Napa wine), or sneak in booze in vessels like binoculars, plastic babies or “costume props.”
Learn how to pair weed with alcohol
Weed has been embraced by Colorado for so long that they’ve moved past lighting up a blunt in the basement and started pairing their joints with alcohol. Learn how to pair weed with whiskey, wine and beer at a private, educational dinner like this three-course wine and weed dinner from Cultivating Spirits.
Take a booze cruise on a real schooner
Connecticut natives love their yachts and, maybe even more, drinking on their yachts. No worries if you don’t own your own boat—you can take a booze cruise on a historic schooner, like the two-masted Argia in the seafaring village of Mystic.
Tailgate Punkin Chunkin with pumpkin beer
The annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin festival continues in Delaware, after a few years’ hiatus because of some unfortunate chunkin-related accidents. Tailgate the autumn event with the rest of Delaware by drinking Dogfish Head’s Punkin ale, and watch those pumpkins soar 4,000 feet through the air.
Complete the drinking around the world challenge at EPCOT
Walt Disney World’s EPCOT is the most insanely touristy but unparalleled drinking experience in Florida. Drink your way around the world, starting with whisky in Canada and ending with tequila in Mexico. You’ll be hardpressed to find some of the spirits anywhere else besides their native countries.
Do heavy metal karaoke with a live band
Get a taste of Atlanta’s lively music scene by actually getting up on stage at the Dark Horse Tavern’s Metalsome: heavy metal karaoke with a live backing band. It’s the perfect place to go while you wait for the seedy Clermont Lounge—Atlanta’s actual best drinking destination—to reopen later this year. Once it does, make sure you visit and get a beer can crushed in the famous bosom of Blondie, Queen of the Clermont.
The native tradition of distilling moonshine from ti root has been banned several times throughout Hawaii’s history, but now it’s making a legal resurgence. Okolehao is highly alcoholic but very sweet thanks to macerated pineapple and sugarcane. Try a bottle from Island Distillers, which is as close to the traditional recipe as you can get.
Drink like the Basque people at the Jaialdi festival
Oddly enough, Idaho became the stateside home for many Basque immigrants, who became sheepherders there in the late 1800s. Celebrate their culture in Boise’s Basque Block, which hosts the Jaialdi festival complete with dancing, traditional food like paella, and lots of Txakoli wine, cider and Sangria.
Crawl through Prohibition-era gangster haunts
Chicago is home to real Prohibition-era bars and jazz clubs, not the phony speakeasies you’ll find elsewhere. Drink in the footsteps of gangsters like Al Capone by crawling through notorious mob haunts like Green Mill, Club Lucky and the Green Door Tavern.
Party in the Snake Pit at the Indy 500
The rowdiest section of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Snake Pit has a notorious reputation for wild booze-induced antics. The Indy 500 has attempted to tame it with a more sanctioned EDM music festival in the pit, but it’s still BYOB, so the crowd is as crazy as ever.
Get tipsy with hobos at the National Hobo Convention
Hobos, by their own definition, are people that are homeless by choice and travel for a living, carrying their belongings in a bag on stick style. Hobos around the country convene in Britt, Iowa, for “Hobo Days,” crowning a hobo king and queen, toasting their fallen brethren and drinking each other under the table.
Drink around a bonfire in an open field
There’s wide open spaces aplenty in the flatlands of Kansas, and anyone who grew up there has fond memories of drinking with friends around a big bonfire in an open field. Whether it’s whiskey or brewskis, enjoy the camaraderie under the night sky’s blanket of stars.
Drink your way through the Bourbon Trail
Kentucky does bourbon best, and you can sample for yourself at dozens of landmark distilleries throughout the state. Taste a dram or two of bourbon at every stop along the official trail, then hit the bars in the surrounding towns to drink more bourbon while listening to bluegrass.
Chase chickens at rural Courir de Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is the quintessential New Orleans experience, but rural Mardi Gras is where to go to experience the holiday like real Louisianans. Courir de Mardi Gras is a Cajun tradition with creepy masked mummers, wassailers, chicken chasing, and a crazy amount of drinking in muddy fields—without the touristy Bourbon Street prices.
Have a clambake on the beach
When it comes to seafood, Mainers don’t play around, which means you’ll have one of the most delicious meals of your life at a traditional Maine clambake. While the food is cooking in a hole in the beach, enjoy copious amounts of beer and wine with your toes in the sand.
Drink Old Bay Bloody Marys
You’ll find Old Bay seasoning in every self respecting Marylander’s kitchen cabinet. They put it on everything from crab to chicken to their bodies in the form of tattoos. But one of best ways they consume Old Bay is in a Bloody Mary (sometimes called a Chesapeake Mary or a Bloody Maryland). Try it mixed into the drink, on the rim or infused into the vodka—or all above, with even more Old Bay on the side.
Watch a Red Sox game from center field at the Bleacher Bar
No stadium bar has anything on the Bleacher Bar at Fenway, whose wide window stares directly down center field, right onto the Green Monster. Grab a Sam Adams and cheer on the Sox from a vantage point like none other: ground level with the players.
Eat spiked Paczki bombs on Paczki Day
Michigan is home to a large Polish population, so their version of Fat Tuesday is Paczki Day, which features endless amounts of Polish jelly doughnuts. Small’s Bar in Detroit spikes theirs with vodka, rum, brandy and Irish cream—a tradition that informally goes back years. People line up for them, and they sell out long before the day is over.
Keep warm with beer while ice fishing
If there’s one thing Minnesota has a lot of, it’s ice, and with it, ice fishing. Whether it’s on the vast Boundary Waters or one of the many smaller lakes, Minnesotans love huddling in a hut on the frozen water, and warming up from the inside out with lots and lots of beer.
Go to a blues club on the Mississippi Delta
Blues music was born on the Mississippi Delta, and there’s nothing like spending the night drinking at a genuine blues club, listening to this soulful music live. For an authentic Delta experience, hit the Ground Zero Blues Club located in Clarksdale, the city that started it all.
Tour the Anheuser-Busch Brewery
America’s largest brewery is based in St. Louis, and a tour of the massive Anheuser-Busch factory is a must for any beer enthusiast. Learn how beer is made and taste some samples. Then visit the iconic Clydesdale horses.
Drink at an Old West saloon in a real ghost town
Forget old-timey, touristy facades—the ghost town of Virginia City is the real deal. Once a booming Victorian gold mining town, it was largely abandoned when the gold ran out, and what’s left is frozen in time. Be transported to the Old West by drinking at the Bale of Hay Saloon, established in 1863, the oldest bar in Montana.
Have a drink with the one resident/bartender/librarian/mayor of Monowi
Monowi: population one. Elsie Eiler, 83, is the sole resident of Monowi, ever since her husband passed away in 2004, leaving her to take on the duties of bartender, librarian and mayor. Pay her a visit at the Monowi Tavern, where she’ll play you an old film and serve you a cheeseburger alongside an ice cold beer.
Spin atop the Stratosphere above the Las Vegas strip
Las Vegas is home to some of the world’s most crazy bars, but the most epic is the Top of the World restaurant and lounge. Situated atop the Stratosphere casino, 800 feet in the air, the bar rotates a full 360 degrees above the strip. If that isn't dizzying enough, try one of the thrill rides connected to the top of the building afterwards.
Sip cocktails on the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train
If you’re not up for summiting one of the mighty peaks of the insanely beautiful White Mountains, the next best vantage point is from below, weaving in and out of the range on the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train, which serves fancy cocktails and seasonal fare inside of a vintage railcar.
See a show at The Stone Pony
Welcome to the real Jersey Shore, where locals keep their fists firmly clutched around a drink, partying at a rock show at The Stone Pony on the Asbury Park boardwalk, the legendary joint that gave Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi their starts. This divey club keeps the drinks cold, the floors sticky and the music as rocking as ever.
Get tipsy before entering the House of Eternal Return
Of course this interactive, performative art house/jungle gym in Santa Fe is otherworldly and confusing as heck—it came from the mind of Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. Stop at the bar inside first—the wickedly weird show is best experienced with booze in the belly.
Admire the night skyline at a rooftop bar
You won’t ever find a skyline quite like NYC, so it’s no wonder New Yorkers spend their summer nights admiring the city from above. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ritzy lounge in Midtown or laid back joint in Brooklyn—the backdrop at a rooftop bar is something even the most cynical New Yorkers will never tire of. Grab whatever summer drink is en vogue (hey, Frosé!) and get to gazing.
Drink beer at an oyster roast
Oyster roasts are popular year round in North Carolina, but in the fall they’re a weekly occurrence. Slap a big piece of sheet metal atop cinder blocks, light some firewood underneath, and break open a case of beer while the oysters start smoking.
Dance at Arthur’s Barn
Nightlife in North Dakota is sparse, leading people from all generations to come together at Arthur’s Barn for a dance party. Hosted in an actual barn, these all-ages dance parties feature live country music and a lax BYOB policy that keeps people line-dancing long into the night.
Stockpile Christmas Ale (before it sells out)
Christmas in Cleveland begins when Great Lakes Brewing Co. taps the first keg of its Christmas Ale. Ohioans are so obsessed with the holiday brew that it sells out almost instantly, forcing people to brave the snow to line up at the store and stock up for the season.
Play a tornado watch drinking game
Located in the heart of Tornado Alley, Oklahoma natives have found a way to pass the time spent in storm bunkers. The Gary England drinking game, inspired by longtime local weatherman Gary England, involves watching storm chasers on the news and drinking anytime you see storm coverage clichés, like when a shirtless tornado victim is interviewed or the weatherman issues his own warning not recognized by the NWS. Gary England may be retired now, but the format works for any overly enthusiastic weatherman.
Try all of the trendy craft beer via a Brewcycle
Every city boasts about their burgeoning craft beer scene, but Portland is the OG. As a cycling-obsessed city, they also started the absurd Brewcycle. Keep Portland weird by peddling with friends from brewery to brewery.
Drink absinthe at the oldest absinthe bar outside of NOLA
Nestled in the middle of coal country in the small town of Jim Thorpe is the unlikely Absinthe Bar, the country’s oldest absinthe house outside of New Orleans. Get your Green Fairy fix from an Absinthe Drip, served from an authentic fountain, or from one of their inventive modern absinthe-tails.
Sip Dark ‘N’ Stormys on the lawn at Castle Hill Inn
The cliff walk along the water in Newport and the Gatsby-style mansions transport you to the Gilded Age. But it’s sipping a Dark 'N' Stormy—one of the state’s most popular cocktails—on the lawn at Castle Hill Inn while overlooking the tumultuous sea that will make you feel like a true Vanderbilt.
Drink Juleps in your finest race day outfit at Steeplechase
South Carolina’s version of the Kentucky Derby is Steeplechase, complete with seersucker suits, dramatic hats and Juleps. Everyone gathers on the lawn at College Park, drinking the day away on picnic blankets while watching the ponies.
Wash down chislic with a cold beer
A classic South Dakota delicacy, chislic is cubed red meat, flavored with garlic salt and served on a toothpick. It can be game, mutton or beef, deep fried or grilled, depending on where you are in South Dakota. One thing’s for certain no matter where you are; it’s always served with saltine crackers and a pitcher of beer.
Listen to honky tonk in Nashville
Nashville is home to the best honky tonks in the world, dive bars that feature live country music. Hit up a famous joint like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, or a more locals-friendly spot like Tin Roof or Legends Corner.
Tube and booze down the river
Summer in Texas’ oppressive heat means escaping to one of its many rivers, hopping into a tube and leisurely cruising the day away with a floating cooler of beers in tow. Folks who live along the Guadalupe River are even known to toss beers to passing tubers.
Drink a 3.2-percent beer
With Utah’s predominantly teetotaling Mormon population, the state’s liquor laws can be frustrating for imbibers. Booze pours can’t exceed 1.5 ounces, beer can only be 3.2-percent alcohol, and you have to be eating food to order a drink. If you want to get around the laws, we may have heard tell of local outdoor adventurers who pour liquor into flasks and furtively drink in the awe-inspiring national parks. But you didn’t hear that from us.
Enjoy an après ski beverage
With the spectacular Green Mountains at their doorsteps, everyone in Vermont knows how to ski or snowboard. They also know the best part about hitting the slopes his hitting the ski lodge afterwards for warming après ski beverages like a Hot Toddy or spiked cocoa.
Visit George Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon
Our founding fathers knew a thing or two about booze, and none more so than President George Washington. Visit his homestead to see his still-working whiskey distillery, then sample his potent recipe for rye whiskey.
Warm up with Gluhwein at Christmas in Leavenworth
Enjoy a taste of Germany in Leavenworth, Washington’s own little Bavaria. Experience a (nearly) authentic German holiday at the village’s annual Christmas lighting festival, where revelers drink mulled Gluhwein and tipsily carol through the streets.
Down liquid courage on Bridge Day
One day a year, it is legal to jump off the astoundingly tall New River Gorge Bridge, the fourth-longest, single-span arch bridge made of steel in the world. On the third Saturday in October, hundreds of base jumpers and nearly 80,000 spectators congregate at this extreme sports event—listening to music, tasting chili cook-off contenders, and enjoying beer, wine and mixed drinks from the many vendors. Even if you aren’t base jumping, you’ll need some liquid courage just to watch people jump 800 feet from the engineering marvel and into the whitewater gorge.
Tailgate the Packers with beer and brats
Wisconsinites care about beer almost as much as they care about cheese, and you’ll find plenty of both in Green Bay on game day. Bundle up, fire up the sausages on the grill, and cheers with fellow Cheeseheads.
Get rowdy at a rodeo
Witnessing a real rodeo is a must in Wyoming, where almost everyone is born in the saddle. Check out Cheyenne Frontier Days for the biggest, boozing rodeo, which has been known to get disorderly in the best of ways.
Bonus: Washington DC
Drink at a museum after-hours parties
Even if you’ve been to every museum on the National Mall—a difficult feat in itself—you can experience them in a whole new light at one of the many boozy after-hours events. From the National Gallery’s jazz nights, to whiskey tastings and lectures at the National Museum of American History, to DJ nights at the National Museum of Natural History—there’s always room to learn (and drink) more.