The Most Eye-Catching Theme Bar in Every State
Over the past couple years, Americans have been captivated by themed pop-up bars covering everything from Christmas to Game of Thrones. Themes resonate with people, through nostalgia, pop culture and a variety of other emotionally enticing things that can inspire of-age drinkers to leave their homes, buy a drink and Instagram their surroundings. The only aspect most of those bars have in common is that the pop-up eventually closes and the theme dies. But in cities across the country, some themes never die.
Nearly every state has an arcade themed bar these days (or barcade, if you prefer). Speakeasy themes with classic cocktails started in New York and are now everywhere, as are quality tiki bars. Even more obscure sources of inspiration like vikings, live mermaids and trailer parks have multiple iterations. Regardless of what the theme is, every state has at least one bar that is devoted to a single subject. Admittedly, some of these bars are less inspired, and the classification as a theme bar also encompasses places that don’t state an out and out theme.
Note: For the sake of keeping this list from being entirely tiki and barcade filled, those two categories were left out for the most part.
Alabama: The Atomic Bar and Lounge in Birmingham
The Atomic Bar and Lounge has a distinct 1960s theme complete with lava lamps, space age decorations, old TV box sets and a large modern Sgt. Pepper’s mural on the wall behind the bar. Nothing is taken too seriously here, with a signature Sex Panther cocktail that comes with a temporary tattoo and costumes ranging from Elvis to Left Shark that bar goers can wear.
Alaska: Koot’s in Anchorage
Theme bars can fall into the trap of needing a large and dedicated group of regulars, or a steady flow of tourists looking to drink. Alaska doesn’t have either. Koot’s gets around that by being seven themes in one. As it describes on the website, it’s “like an amusement park for bar-hopping, except indoors.” There’s the Kootskade (arcade theme with $10 pitchers), Ice Bar (featuring a bar top made out of 25 feet of solid ice), the Bird House (“pickles, poultry, panties and ptarmigan”), the Russian Room (the largest collection of imperialist Russian memorabilia in the state), the North Long (outdoorsy), the South Long (rustic with more than 40 years of pictures on the bar top), the Swing Bar (swing dancing) and The Deck (outside next to an old sea boat).
Arizona: Camp Social in Phoenix
Camping and the wide expanses of Arizona go hand in hand. At Camp Social, you don’t have to even go outside to see that. It’s filled with vintage camping trailers, tire swings for seats at the bar, and little tableside fires to roast your own marshmallows, which you can wash down with vanilla vodka. It’s like glamping, but better and you can leave whenever you want.
Arkansas: Cannibal and Craft in Fayetteville
Arkansas isn’t much for themes. With so few options to choose from, the state’s most eye-catching theme bar goes to pretty much the only real tiki bar in all of Arkansas, Cannibal and Craft. The bar is based off of a Caribbean island the owners visited, but is a little confused on the decor. There’s a moose head on one side of the bar, and a full-on, palm-frond topped bar and pirate flag on the other. Half price fishbowls on Wednesday will make you forget about the moose side of the room.
California: Idle Hour in Hollywood
You can’t miss Idle Hour. It’s a giant barrel where you can soak in all your favorite things that are aged in barrels. It opened in 1941, had a brief hiatus, and recently reopened in all its whiskey barrel glory.
Colorado: Mario’s Double Daughter’s Salotto in Denver
If you took the strangest parts of a Tim Burton-esque world, threw in some axes and booths, then served top-notch pizza, you’d have Mario’s Double Daughter’s Salotto. The general theme is Burton fantasy, but in a slightly horrific way, with a bloody color vibe and axe railings. A synthetic tree spreads its branches around the room, and fake doves hang from the branches.
Honorable mentions go out to the Thin Man Tavern, which has a religious theme emphasized by paintings of Jesus and crosses, and Gasoline Alley, which is, obviously, gas station themed.
Connecticut: The Russian Lady in Hartford
Walk into the first floor of The Russian Lady and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just a normal pub with some personal table TVs. Go up a floor, and you’ll realize you’re in vodka-loving Mother Russia. Continue up and you’ll hit the Billiards lounge and then the Cigar Bar Rooftop. But it’s the vodka in the Russia room that will keep you coming back for more.
Delaware: Oddity Bar in Wilmington
A modern P.T. Barnum would be proud of Oddity Bar. Taxidermied animals and costumed people fill the space, while normies gather to see the unusual and have a drink. Just don’t act too surprised if you see a Stormtrooper drinking next to you.
Florida: Stigma Tattoo Bar in Orlando
Florida’s reputation as a gathering ground for the offbeat holds true for theme bars too. Stigma really takes it to another level, though. It’s tattoo themed—as in, you can literally get a tattoo at the bar. Or just watch someone else do it. Alcohol is sanitary right? Either way, it’s definitely more intense than the glut of themed Disney bars in Orlando.
Georgia: Sister Louisa’s Church in Atlanta
It’s time to get drunk, Southern Baptist style. The bar’s full name is Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, but that can be a mouthful, so it simply goes by “Church.” Like, “let’s go to Church and drink PBR while playing ping pong while surrounded by religious art.”
Hawaii: Brewseum in Honolulu
Themes don’t always have to be full of whimsy. The Brewseum, a brewpub mixed with a museum, is housed in what used to be the Home of the Brave Museum, which opened in 1991 and was the final stop in a World War II military base tour. The Brewseum kept the artifacts and history, and added beer and the Wiki Waki Woo 1940s tiki bar.
Idaho: Taphouse Unchained in Coeur d’Alene
Bicycle lovers, assemble. This bar is the Tour de France of bicycle-themed bars and has everything you could ever imagine that goes along with two wheeled pedalling devices. The star of the show is the Margarita Bike, which is attached to a blender powered by pedaling. You pedal, you drink. Work for it.
Illinois: Monk's Pub in Chicago
A dedicated ode to the Belgian Trappist monk life. The name comes from a monastery where the owner once stayed when he was young. The theme is, obviously, Belgium, with a seemingly limitless number of beers to try, monastic decorations and heavyset Belgian monk logo.
Indiana: Ironside Viking Tavern and Eatery in Franklin
Inspired by the longhouses of Viking lore, Ironside has wood paneling, wooden shields, axes and Norwegian inspired food. There’s a bit of a modern feel to it, but you’ll quickly get in the mood and feel like plundering every glass that is set in front of you.
Iowa: Lebowski’s Bar & Grill in Robins
Fans of the Coen brothers movie The Big Lebowski will feel right at home here. Images of The Dude himself fill the walls, and a rug really ties the room together. And, unlike the other pop culture bars that have popped up around the country, this one isn’t going anywhere. White Russians anyone?
Honorable mention goes out to El Bait Shop, which is one of the top beer bars in the state in Des Moines. It’s bait shop themed, naturally, and has an overwhelming 222 beers on tap.
Kansas: The Sandbar in Lawrence
The Sandbar is more than just a beach-themed bar in the middle of the country. Inspired by Key West and Jimmy Buffett, it has the predictable tiki drinks and casual vibe; but what sets it apart is something the bar calls an “Indoor Hurricane,” which is a hurricane simulation that goes through the bar every night at 10 p.m. The bar describes the nightly event as such:
“A customer is chosen to be the mermaid and dons a sparkly green costume, stands on the bar and reads a poem. The newscast video rolls, and then the hurricane blows in. The storm lasts for a couple minutes, and then the Sandbar song ends the show while the crowd sings and dances.”
Kentucky: Holy Grale in Louisville
They like their church themes in the South. But don’t let the church decor fool you. As the website states, “Good beer, food and company is the only thing we pray for in this house of worship.” The 27 taps and huge bottle list have reinvented what used to be a small Unitarian Church built in 1905.
Louisiana: The John in New Orleans
The John has a strong wafting toilet theme, but not in a gross way. Gold-plated toilet seats sub in for chairs. Just don’t mistake them for operational.
Maine: Maps in Portland
The theme here is three-part: beer, vinyl records and, of course, maps. You’ll never lose your way looking at the walls here, if you can find the somewhat hidden entrance to the bar. It’s cozy, homey, sparse and just perfect for beer-fueled wanderlust.
Maryland: Ale Mary’s in Baltimore
If you get the feeling someone is watching you as you drink at Ale Mary’s, it might just be all of the nun-themed art. But it’s not all mother superior. The bar sells more than 600 pounds of tater tots a week, and dishes out Bloody Marys like no other during weekend brunches with the “saints & sinners sandwich” (eggs, sausage, bacon and cheese between two donuts).
Massachusetts: Alibi in Boston
This is one drunk tank you won’t regret arriving at. The building that Alibi is in used to be the Charles Street Jail, but now it serves up cocktails. It kept the prison bars and the theme—only now, people are getting drunk in the tank rather than getting drunk and ending up in the spot.
Michigan: Bad Luck Bar in Detroit
Some people drink for luck. Other’s drink for bad luck—well, sort of. Bad Luck Bar is based around Tarot cards and mystical magic. That bad luck won’t pass on to a bad night—just one filled with innovative cocktails and a slightly spooky feeling.
Minnesota: The News Room in Minneapolis
Extra! Extra! Drink all about it! Harken back to the years of the penny press and sip on drinks in this newspaper themed bar with a long custom Martini list and craft cocktails.
Mississippi: The Coop in Oxford
How do you feel about chickens? If you’re like DrinkingWithChickens’ Kate Richards, or simply want to live like you are and happen to be in Mississippi, stop by The Coop. The fourth floor lounge offers views of The Square with cocktails in a chicken house theme. Just watch out for the fox in the henhouse behind the bar.
Missouri: Voodoo in St. Louis
Voodoo can leave you feeling a little spooked inside. You might even feel a couple mysterious pin pricks after leaving. Voodoo features a cajun and creole food menu alongside cocktails, dueling pianos and voodoo dolls.
Montana: The Sip ‘n Dip Lounge in Great Falls
This isn’t your average tiki bar. You’ll feel as far away from landlocked as you can in Sip ‘n Dip (and as far away from reality) thanks to real life mermaids swimming in a giant tank behind the bar—well, they’re at least humans with mermaid fins. Make it to the middle of the country, and apparently that’s where mermaids exist.
It’s weird to find one Las Vegas themed bar in a state about as far away culturally as you can get from the Nevada city, but two? There’s a Vegas bar in two of the three biggest cities in Nebraska. While it’s bending the rules of this list to force two bars to share a title, it says something about the hopes and dreams of some Nebraskans that the most dominant bar theme in the state is Sin City.
Nevada: Atomic Liquors in Las Vegas
Skip all the glitz and glam of the occasionally tacky themes on The Strip. Go instead to Atomic Liquors, a bar that opened in 1945 and has served as a hangout for locals, tourists and the Rat Pack. It’s also the oldest freestanding bar in the city, and rumor has it people used to watch actual atomic bomb tests on the roof. It’s theme is the atomic era, and it does it better than anyone else. When you walk out of the bar you’ll feel like Dwight Eisenhower is president.
If you’re looking for something more over the top and dripping with theme, you can always go to the Millennium Fandom, which is the geekiest geek out spot you can find, whether you like Superman, Star Wars or Back to the Future.
New Hampshire: The Goat in Hampton Beach
A country bar doesn’t sound all that interesting until you realize just how far away The Goat is from the country. And sure, honky tonks may be a dime a dozen in some places, but this is New Hampshire, and The Goat is the first country themed bar to ever hit Hampton Beach. Plus there are more than 50 types of whiskey.
New Hampshire isn’t much for theme bars, but if you’re looking for a more familiar theme, there’s also Codex, a book-filled, speakeasy-themed bar.
New Jersey: Mountain Bar in Atlantic City
At Mountain Bar, you’ll feel like you’re mining for drinks inside of a mountain while traversing the Wild West. A replica mountain face is along one wall, complete with a miniature train making the rounds. It’s just right for when you didn’t strike gold at the casino and need a pick me up.
New Mexico: Low ‘n Slow Lowrider Bar in Santa Fe
Low, Ri-der drives a little higher. Low ‘n Slow features booths that look like they were ripped out of a 1970s Chevy. Hub cap seats, chrome steering wheels and specialty cocktails complete the experience.
New York: The Trailer Park Lounge and Grill in New York City
There’s no shortage of insane theme bars in New York. Among the most incongruous, though, is The Trailer Park Lounge. Nothing will make you feel as far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Billed as “the place to meet your next ex,” Trailer Park Lounge checks every box of escapism that you could ask for.
North Carolina: Coglins in Raleigh
Rounds of nostalgia from ’90s theme bar crawls will only get you so far. Coglins is all ‘80s and ‘90s, all the time, with an era-appropriate color scheme and fishbowl drinks.
There’s also Kickstand Burger Bar. That place wheelie likes bicycles.
North Dakota: Space Aliens in Bismarck
Nevada and the Southwest don’t have a monopoly on extraterrestrial fanatics. Space Aliens is “where the mothership landed first” to provide for the good people of North Dakota. There’s more of a focus on food in the restaurant portion, but hit the vibrantly colored bar and you’ll take off like a flying saucer.
Ohio: Vault 9 in Cleveland
You know those bank robber movies where the climax is when the robber has to somehow open an enormous circular vault door with more layers than baklava? Vault 9 lets you walk straight past that door and into a literal vault where drinks are served. I’d like to withdraw two good drinks and one fun time, please.
Oklahoma: Bunker Club in Oklahoma City
A bunker probably won’t save you from a nuclear explosion, so why not enjoy your time in a well-stocked bunker bar? The Atomic Age is alive and well in Oklahoma City. Survivalists take note.
Honorable mention goes out to the Pump Bar, which takes retro gas stations to another level.
Oregon: The Lovecraft Bar in Portland
It’s not all artisanal crafts and happiness in Portland. The Lovecraft Bar is a horror themed dance bar with a satanist feel. Black walls are graced with skull and dragon art. Goth, punk and alternative bands provide even more ambiance in the dim lighting. Embrace the dark side.
Pennsylvania: Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia
There’s a literal beer bible at Monk’s Cafe. The place gives off a cozy monastery vibe, only with a huge crowd of people eager to order from more than 25 beers on tap and over 200 bottles.
Rhode Island: Ogies Trailer Park in Providence
You can’t drag your own mobile home up to the bar, but if you happen to have one, Ogies will make you feel at home nonetheless. The trailer park theme gives residents and visitors to the smallest state a glimpse into the golden age of mobile homes, when it was more ‘50s glam than trailer park stereotypes.
South Carolina: Cane Rhum Bar in Charleston
South Carolina has plenty of great bars to choose from, especially in historic Charleston. It doesn’t, however, have many themed bars to choose from outside of the standard 1920s Prohibition era theme. It does have a Caribbean rum themed bar, though, and it’s filled with the biggest rum selection in the whole state. Who says tropics and dedication to a single spirit can’t be a theme?
South Dakota: Saloon 10 in Deadwood
You know what the craziest theme is in South Dakota? South Dakota itself. Bars in the state need no theme because much of the state already has a historic Wild West thing going on. Which leads to Saloon 10’s inclusion on this list. It calls itself “the only museum in the world with a bar,” and is exactly what you’d imagine old South Dakota used to be like if old South Dakota had access to countless fine wines.
Tennessee: The Greenhouse Bar in Green Hills
Ditch the lights and faux honky tonks of downtown Nashville and find greener pastures in this restaurant bar that’s literally inside of a greenhouse. It’s just the right environment to grow to your full potential until 3 a.m.
Texas: Handlebar in Austin
People always talk about keeping Austin weird, and this might be what they mean. Handlebar is completely devoted to facial hair, because what’s weirder and more hipster chic than an ironic handlebar mustache? It also calls itself “the adult wonderland,” with park toys to play with alongside your beer.
For something a little more pawposeful, you can go to the dog park bar Mutts Cantina.
Utah: Purgatory in Salt Lake City
Purgatory is a pretty daring name for a bar in such a religious state. There are plenty of ways to kill time here, from lawn games to indoor games to lots and lots of drinks. If this is what purgatory is like, then being stuck in the middle sounds just fine.
Vermont: Rí Rá Irish Pub in Burlington
The most common theme in Vermont is Vermont. Whether that means lots of farm to glass beer or farm to table food, nearly every notable drinking establishment feels very Vermont—until you step into Rí Rá, where it feels very Ireland. From the Whiskey Room to the pub, Rí Rá embodies the Irish pub theme more than most other Irish bars in the country.
Virginia: Gwar Bar in Richmond
Gwar, the heavy metal band that started in Richmond, has die-hard fans spread across the country. They’re over the top, aggressive and have a deep science fiction thing going on. The Gwar Bar is no different.
Washington: Unicorn in Seattle
The pinnacle of the unicorn craze can be found in Seattle. It’s everything nice for people 21 and over who can’t seem to get enough of single-horn mythical creatures. In addition to a pleasing rainbow of colors and unicorn art, there’s a carnival theme featuring an arcade, claw machine and photo booth.
West Virginia: The Tractor Bar in Mt. Nebo
The one tractor in the world you wouldn’t hate getting stuck behind is the tractor inside this Mt. Nebo bar. Yes, there’s a literal tractor inside the bar. The building started out as a farm equipment dealership, and when that didn’t pan out, all the farm equipment turned into bar decor.
Wisconsin: Safehouse Spy Bar in Milwaukee
The staff is anything but trusting at the Safehouse Spy Bar. You’re questioned as soon as you walk in for a drink, at least until you complete your mission. That could include passing a clearance test or decoding the drink menu.
Wyoming: Tusker Bar in Cheyenne
Step back into the days of British colonialism at Tusker Bar. A giant fake elephant head hangs above the bar, and you wouldn’t feel out of place in khaki adventure clothes.