Finding the right venue to host a birthday bash can be frustrating (“you only turn 26 once!”). Make the wrong choice, and you could be trapped in your own private wrist-banded Hell, where the drinks are watered down, and the karaoke machine has no music from the current millennium. We've scouted out 15 standout bars in Chicago that are conducive to throwing an epic birthday, from full-on party packages with booze-fueled laser tag to spacious dives where you can bring your own food.
Within this 50,000sqft complex, party-goers can partake in activities best paired with drinking: whirlyball (a mash-up of lacrosse, basketball, and bumper cars that can go in reverse), bowling, and laser tag. Courts and bowling lanes can be reserved for a nostalgic birthday gathering. The solid beer list, pub fare, giant leather sofas, and 60 flat-screens probably kick things up a notch from everyone's teenage glory days.
This old world bar is well-known for two key party ingredients: outdoor seating and whiskey. The corner tavern's powerful combo, in addition to its beer-focused cuisine, will keep the celebration going. Birthday patrons can head to the always-happening rooftop garden (or hole up by the fireplace in the mahogany-laden interior), and choose from 150+ whiskies or 27 beers on tap, including two hand-pulled casks. Just be sure to make a group reservation ahead of time.
Avoid the judgmental gaze of other bar-goers by instead locking your friends in a private karaoke room and reach for all the high notes you’ll never hit. Guzzle stiff, yet affordable cocktails while belting out tunes in a room equipped with disco lights, mics, an updated playlist, plasma screens, comfy sofas, and extra props and instruments like light-up tambourines. Reservations are definitely recommended, but they'll try to accommodate walk-in parties. BYO cake.
This cash-only establishment on a residential block is primed for birthday gatherings with its cheap booze, jukebox, ping-pong room, tent-topped outdoor patio area with a koi pond, and overall homey vibe. The best part of a dive-y celebration? Visits from the tamale guy and shot-and-a-beer deals like the $2 Hamm's + $3.50 for a shot of Jameson to keep the birthday boy/girl on the path to enlightenment.
This massive Restaurant Row temple caters to beer and bacon worshipers. The space regularly hosts events for 30+ people in private party rooms, but there's more than enough room for smaller groups to hang out with the other patrons in the 200-seat beer garden, 50-person sidewalk cafe, or on either of the interior two floors. Enjoy the skyline views from the top floor, and a couple rounds of brews and bacon grenades.
We'll start with this: YOU DRINK FREE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY. With no deposits, no room fees, and, for those of you with a few non-committal friends, no minimum headcount needed to book one of their all-you-can-drink party packages, this will be your go-to birthday destination. For $20-45 (depending on the package/duration) and attentive staff, it's totally worth it. The bar has an impressive retro ambiance with a pool table, darts, jukebox, photo booth, board games, and even a vintage cigarette machine. Reserving the back area will get you plenty of tables and comfy seating, and did we mention they're super cool with you bringing in food?
This community staple tends to draw the local arts scene, and is one of the best beer bars in America. Its roster of 450+ beers and classy cocktails alongside friendly staff and splendidly-curated DJ nights make it unparalleled meetup grounds for an eclectic mix of friends. Plus, it's a classic Chicago "slashie" (part bar, part liquor store), so take-home birthday treats abound.
Dana Hotel's year-round rooftop lounge/club/restaurant on the 26th floor boasts one of the city's most notorious party scenes. It's also the only rooftop ice bar in the winter, complete with nightly DJs, fire pits, and sexy plush robes to heat things up day or night. Level up with a VIP table here and enjoy the knock-out views.
River North (& other locations)
The locations in Lakeview and the newer, gigantic beercade in River North aren't just kickass playlands for gamers and beer enthusiasts, they're also great spots for getting all your friends who don't know each other together. You won't have to feel awkward trying to make sure that your cool colleagues get along with your nerdy high school friends. They'll either bond over NBA Jam or you can freely roam the arcade scene from group to group.
It's never a horrible idea to pretend you're on a tropical getaway for your birthday, especially if you're a Capricorn or Aquarius in our fair city. In fact, a retreat to this tiki-themed speakeasy for a kick-you-in-the-pants, fruity beverage best served in a treasure chest with dry ice fog (and a bottle of Dom Pérignon on the side) might be the most optimal way to ring in your new age bracket with six-eight lucky comrades.
This bohemian beer hall features the requisite giant boots of birthday brews, house-made German sausages, a game room, and picnic table seating for all your friends, plus all of their friends. Prost!
The hospitable neighborhood residents helming this inviting spot sling notably inventive cocktails and craft beers. You'll likely attract some new companions to the reserved party couch after a few expertly crafted social favorites like the Sassy Ginge with whiskey, ginger beer, and aromatic bitters.
Reggies Trainwreck Rooftop Deck can legally squeeze you and 98 of your closest friends atop this multi-stage music venue/record store/restaurant. Rent out the entire rooftop deck (or just a section) to take advantage of a well-stocked bar, full menu (plus food/drink packages), picnic table seating with large umbrellas, and eight flat-screens with the game on TV, in addition to the free games of pool, bags, and Pop-A-Shot basketball. Wood stove and propane heaters keep things toasty during the off-season.
Is it truly a party if you're not circling 'round bowls of strange punch concoctions with your friends in a basement? The underbelly of Dusek's specializes in a variety of punch-y goodness (and grown-up Sno Kones!) with cicerone-curated ingredients to help you forget another year of your life has passed. Snag a horseshoe-shaped booth for the imbibing and pop over to the adjacent Thalia Hall for a show later.
Skee-ball, tamales, a photo booth, and a giant, dim, red-lit dance floor already put this fine two-story establishment on our bar bucket list. They also serve up Frito Pie, which is pretty much like birthday cake, right? Let the good times roll where the beer is cheap, the wine is boxed, and the cocktails are bottled.
1. WhirlyBall Bucktown1825 W Webster Ave, Chicago
2. Fountainhead1970 W Montrose, Chicago
3. Lincoln Karaoke5526 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
4. Happy Village1059 N Wolcott Ave, Chicago
5. Kaiser Tiger1415 W Randolph St, Chicago
6. Lincoln Tap Room3010 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
7. Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar960 W 31st St, Chicago
8. Vertigo Sky Lounge2 W Erie St, Chicago
9. Headquarters Beercade213 W Institute Pl, Chicago
10. Three Dots and a Dash435 N Clark St, Chicago
11. The Radler2375 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
12. Rogers Park Social6922 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago
13. Reggies2105 South State, Chicago
14. Punch House1227 W 18th St, Chicago
15. Slippery Slope2357 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
Whirlyball combines lacrosse, basketball, and a bumper car arena -- and it's also super fun. This gigantic Whirly complex in Bucktown is complete with a 32-strong beer list, Buffalo chicken BLTs, bowling, laser tag, and 60 flat screens.
This Ravenswood tavern is a mahogany-ensconced destination for craft beer and beer-focused comfort cuisine (burgers, fried chicken, steak frites). The beer list, which features a mix of local gems and international brews, is always fantastic, and there's an equally robust selection of whiskey if you're looking for something a little stronger. During the warmer months, the rooftop garden is always happening.
Lincoln Karaoke has a few private rooms so that you and your friends can belt out tunes at the top of your lungs without the fear of getting bad looks from those 'professionals'. They also have a whole host of props and extra instruments to give your performance that extra kick.
Happy Village is a neighborhood bar located in Ukrainian Village. While it may be unassuming from the outside, the interior is sleek and lively, and there’s a back room housing two ping pong tables. The backyard beer garden -- fully equipped with a pond and goldfish -- is open year-round, though let’s face it, this is Chicago. The neighborhood bar is cash only, but with daily specials, perpetually cheap beers (Old Styles for just $2… again, the Chicago thing), and free ping pong, a visit to happy village will leave your wallet happy, too.
This absolutely insane temple of beer is adorned with a 200-seat beer garden, killer skyline views, 24 primo drafts, flights of sausage, and the heart-stopping brown sugar-rubbed bacon bomb.
A Chicago original, the Lincoln Tap Room in Lakeview has an impressive retro ambiance with a pool table, darts, jukebox, photo booth, board games, and even a vintage cigarette machine. With plenty of beers on tap and a fully stocked liquor shelf, it's safe to assume you could spend an entire extremely happy day at this bar. Reserving the back area will get you plenty of tables and comfy seating, and they're super cool with you bringing in food. Check out its monthly burlesque show with back-to-the-basic classic showgirl promenades, high kicks, and the whipping of audience members with a feather fan.
Maria's is an awesome dive bar with eclectic selections and friendly staff.
On the 26th floor of the Dana Hotel, this rooftop lounge is one of the best party spots in the Chicago hotel bar scene. In the winter, Vertigo turns into an indoor/outdoor ice bar where you can do necessary winter drinking activities like take shots on an ice luge. The rest of the year, it returns to its ultra-luxe penthouse vibe with DJs, bottles of Cristal, buckets of beer, and an outdoor fire pit.
Cheers to never growing up. Headquarters Beercade lets you relive your childhood with all of the video games you loved and the added bonus of being able to consume alcohol while you play. There’s an extensive list of American craft drafts and games galore: whether you’re a pinball wizard looking for your next conquest, or brushing up your skills at arcade classics like NBA Jam and Mortal Combat, this bar is a gamer’s paradise. The space itself is sprawling and the vibe is convivial, making it a popular weekend destination for groups.
Three Dots and a Dash is a tiki-themed speakeasy in the back of Bub City that's pouring out crazy tropical cocktails in vessels like glass skulls and treasure chests.
The Radler's a beer hall that's serving up tons of different sausages, sessionable and unique brews, and an opportunity to chant "PROST!" outside of Oktoberfest.
Rogers Park Social epitomizes the idea of a "neighborhood" watering hole, because it's actually founded and operated by neighborhood residents, who serve up inventive cocktails and craft beers inside a homey, industrial space. There's also a retro lounge where you can play games like Monopoly while you sip on bar favorites, such as the Socialite (St. George California Citrus Vodka, agave, lime, cranberry, Napoleon Mandarine Orange Cognac) or the Super Rad (CH Key Gin, Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, Pür Likor Elderflower Liqueur). It's a social spot, so bring plenty of friends, or go alone and get to know some of the locals.
This multi-stage music venue/record store/restaurant has a great rooftop bar compete with a basketball hoop and pool table. Plus the 30 specialty bottles, 24 drafts, and 17 flat-screens with the game on TV.
Located underneath Thalia Hall, Punch House is Pilsen’s underground, 70s-inspired basement pub specializing in… well, punch. With eight options on draft -- including classics like Milk Punch and Pisco Punch, and contemporary concoctions -- you can enjoy any one of them in a single-serving glass, in sno-cone form, in a carafe, or in a large-format bowl for groups. While punch is the real draw, they have an abbreviated list of craft cocktails, and a more extensive list of beer and wine for those less punch-inclined.
Skee-ball, tamales, and and an expansive, crimson-lit dance floor await at this two-story club made to replace what Bonny's once was. The beer is cheap, the wine is boxed, and we promise this will probably be one of the only times you'll hear "Mother-In-Law" (a tamale-chili combo) and not be filled with dread.