There’s no excuse for just sitting and drinking — particularly when Houston-area bars offer so many distractions for drinkers.
Here’s a sampling of some of our favorite stops for recreational drinking. As the shoe company would say, just do it.
Roll a strike
Most every bowling alley offers nachos and light beer. These three entertainment centers make hurling a 12-pound ball just a little bit more fun.
Main Event: We’d written this Dallas-based chain off as a bulwark of kiddie birthday parties and lacking any adult allure. After a visit to the new Main Event in Katy (just west of the Grand Parkway), we owe these folks an apology. While Main Event certainly plays host to plenty of parties, the complex also offers enticements for couples looking for a fun night out. The bowling lanes, in particular, are attractive, interestingly lit and serviced by the waitstaff. Other adult options include billiards, laser tag and a ropes course. Find the nearest location at mainevent.com.
Lucky Strike: Retro-inspired bowling alley is located downtown in the Houston Pavilions. It features 10 standard, neon-lit lanes and another four in a plush suite with separate bar. Weekday happy hours (3-7 p.m.) offer particularly good deals on food and drink, or stop by for lunch (Mondays-Fridays) and bowl for free. 1201 San Jacinto, 713-343-3300
300 Houston: This swanky cocktail lounge with 32 lanes provides an army of smiling servers and a playlist that contributes to the party atmosphere. Just keep count of the number of mojitos you drink or it could be a costly night. 925 Bunker Hill, 713-461-1207
Rack ’em up
You’re never too far from a pool table in Houston. Popular spots include multiple Slick Willie’s, Fox and Hounds, Barneys and Dave & Buster’s. Here are a couple of spots where we like to play nine-ball.
Clicks: This spot has been serving sports fans for nearly 20 years with 16 tables, as well as darts and other diversions. Still, some nights the party seems to be all out on the patio. 133380 Northwest Freeway, 713-895-9992
Union Tavern: In addition to reasonably priced pool, this Webster sports bar offers more than 100 brews by the bottle or on tap. On the weekends, there’s often live music. Let that be a warning or a reason to go. 435 El Dorado in Webster, 281-486-6644
Tee it up
TopGolf is the latest thing in recreational drinking to hit H-Town. The entertainment complex melds driving range with high-tech video game. Its three stories are home to 102 well-appointed bays that can comfortably accommodate 10 guests (six players and four spectators). An outstanding food-and-beverage program means you’ll linger far longer than you had planned. Although it’s practically sold out, this Saturday’s charity Suits & Boots event — swimwear encouraged — sounds like a blast. 1030 Memorial Brook, 281-406-3176
If you want to play volleyball, Third Coast Volleyball is your destination. Third Coast has 10 white-sand courts offering open as well as league play. Outdoor showers, a thatched-roof bar and shaded seating are among the amenities. Well-behaved dogs and children are welcome. 5652 Forney, 713-974-6837
Bowl like an Italian
Running across the random bocce court — Ciro's, Luigi’s and Patrenella's — always causes us to smile. The Italian lawn-bowling game is one of the more charming “bar” games. Its leisurely pace is particularly suited to Texas summers when we all move a little slower.
Brooklyn Athletic Club: This spanking-new Montrose bar has a backyard built for fun and games. In addition to bocce, the fun includes horseshoes, pingpong, badminton and croquet. Play on. 601 Richmond, 713-527-4440
Hans Bier Haus: The large, shady beer garden of this bar near Rice Village is a favorite of beer afficionados. The staff is cordial but not especially chatty. Take your beer and find a friend if you want conversation other than what’s on tap. 2523 Quenby, 713-520-7474
Bean-bag games are back in a big way. Yes, we know this kids’ game has a crude name that is the preferred moniker at bars.
Liberty Station: This pub offers a good selection of Texas craft beers and a terrific patio scene on the laid-back fringes of Washington. Food trucks regularly park out front, providing fuel for tossers. 2101 Washington, 713- 640-5220
OTC Patio Bar: Last year this Upper Kirby bar was the host for a Boss of the Toss tournament. In addition to bag toss, there’s pingpong for those looking for more of a workout. If there are cons to this bar, one is that the drinks are pricey. Another is that it can be hard to find a seat on a busy night, of which there are many. 3212 Kirby, 713-489-0860
The Harris County Darts Association boasts 500-plus members, organizes league play and sponsors two major tournaments annually. Dozens of bars host HCDA league play, and others are favorite gathering spots of members. Find a list at houstondarts.org. Here are a couple of our favorite stops:
Einstein's Pub: You don’t have to be a genius to know why this Katy bar is popular: friendly staff, good burgers and great happy-hour specials. 873 S. Mason in Katy, 281-398-6066
Khon’s: Darts are so serious at this Midtown wine bar that the game is part of the official name, Khon’s Wine Darts Coffee Art. This small bar has built a big reputation as a community clubhouse. Be cool — but not conspicuously so — and you’ll fit in. 2808 Milam, 713-523-7775
Take a guess
Dozens of bars offer quiz nights on which teams of drinkers and thinkers hook up to earn bragging rights and small prizes. Some bars outsource the running of the games to organizations such as Geeks Who Drink and Challenge Entertainment.
Front Porch Pub: This Midtown bar is packed with “regulars” on Tuesday nights, and the action is seriously fun. Teams might tackle an ice-cream-eating challenge or a winner decided with a game of flip cup. 217 Gray, 713-571-9571
The Harp: This venerable Montrose pub also reserves Tuesdays for quiz nights. The quizzes are notoriously tough, but the regulars will find clues posted on the bar’s Facebook page. And did we mention pizza’s involved? 1625 Richmond, 713-528-7827
Geeks Who Drink: Nearly 20 area bars, including all Little Woodrow’s locations and the Heights and Midtown Christian’s Tailgate spots use this Denver-born company to run their trivia nights. The annual Geek Bowl will be Feb. 9 in Austin. Find the Houston schedule at geekswhodrink.com.
Challenge Entertainment: In addition to running a trivia league, this homegrown company conducts trivia nights at nearly 20 bars in the greater Houston area, including several of the Buffalo Wild Wings spots, Einstein’s Pub in Katy and Tewbeleaux’s in Spring. Find the Houston schedule at >houston.cetrivia.com.
Certainly, random arcade games can be found in many bars. (Golden Tee is as ubiquitous as neon beer signs.) These places are included for embracing old-school arcade games.
Eighteen Twenty: This divey downtown cocktail bar becomes a gaming nerd’s fantasy on the first and last Friday night of each month. That’s when the doors to its neighbor, Joystix, open and for $15 patrons enjoy unlimited free play on more than 200 classic (and brand new) arcade games. 1820 Franklin, 713-224-5535
Poison Girl: A wall of pinball machines awaits visitors to this long, narrow Montrose watering hole. Cheap drinks and a laid-back vibe make this a good spot for an evening of bumper ball. 1641 Westheimer, 713-527-9929
Fashionable pool bars are mainstays for sunny resorts and Las Vegas hotels. Your options in Houston are a little more limited, but here’s where you can make a splash.
Roak: This club was involved recently in a dispute with its neighbors, but the Miami-inspired party still goes on. Housed in a former funeral parlor, this dance club’s open-air swimming pool is surrounded by cabanas and, yes, management has been known to haul in some sand for beach-themed events. 3320 Kirby, 713-489-0860
Float: Not up for Roak’s velvet-rope lines? This cute little bar fronting Galveston’s seawall has a pool that’s generally lined with patrons sipping beers and cooling their heels, literally. Float offers terrific drink deals (50 cent drafts!), and the burritos are big enough to share. 2828 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston, 409-765-7946
H20: This pool-side bar has a separate entrance from the San Luis Resort, where it is located. Also fronting the seawall, this popular spot features a mojito bar (in season). Seating is plush and, at night, the bar can be one of the most romantic spots on the island. No surprise to hear Landry’s will be expanding the H20 concept to its newly acquired casino resort in Biloxi, Miss.
Kicks Indoor: Located a few blocks off Washington, this warehouse-sized sports complex has a sports bars on its second floor. It open every evening but most popular on the weekend when sports fans gather with pitchers of beer around its flat screens. 611 Shepherd Dr., 713-426-1107