Game On!

Joanna Citrinbaum

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As everyone knows, drinking can lead to fun times, but let's face it: sitting on a bar stool can get a little tedious. That's why so many bars in New York City have more on tap than just beer and alcohol—and we don't mean Big Buck Hunter. What's special about the following watering holes is the quality and quantity of the amusements they offer. With plenty of shuffleboard tables, pinball machines and bocce courts—among other gaming accessories—to go around, these establishments raise the bar when it comes to the availability of activities. You'll find comfort in timeworn tavern staples like pool tables and dartboards and fall in love with recent additions like video game consoles and mechanical bulls. Many of the amenities are offered at no cost to the customer; if there's a fee, it's fair (you won't blow your booze budget, we promise). Ready to drink it all in? Put on your game face—we're about to embark on one buzz-inducing bar crawl.

For other going-out options, be sure to check out nycgo.com's roundups of Ping-Pong venues, bowling alleys and beer gardens.

Courtesy, Barcade

Arcade Games
Barcade is where your favorite childhood pastime meets your favorite adult activity. The cavernous drinking den specializes in American craft beers for drinking and arcade classics for playing. While the 37 old-school games at this Williamsburg joint rarely change—popular ones include Donkey Kong, Tetris and Galaga—the beers on offer here differ from one day to the next (see barcadebrooklyn.com for a list of what's on tap today). Another retro surprise? The games cost only a quarter to play. High scorers have the honor of seeing their name, game, points total and conquest date listed on one of two chalkboards mounted above the machines as well as on Barcade's website. Perhaps the best example of how Barcade caters to its clientele, however, is its hours: the venue is open until 4am daily, should you need to sate that middle-of-the-night craving for suds and Smash T.V.

Bocce
Brooklyn is the place to be if you want to partake in bocce. The polished decor at Park Slope's vast Union Hall could be likened to that of a university club library—if such a place also had two boisterous bocce courts and a long bar serving beer made in the borough. Floyd, NY, in Brooklyn Heights, is Union Hall's older, smaller, more casual brother. The spot sports a mishmash of beat-up benches, couches and chairs, and while there's only one bocce court here, you won't wait very long to play. Both bocce bars host leagues, if you're ready for that kind of team commitment.

Brewskee-Ball at Full Circle Bar. Courtesy, Brewskee-Ball

Skee-Ball
It's hard to top the rock 'n' roll atmosphere of Skee-Ball saloons, particularly that of Full Circle Bar. The Williamsburg Skee-Ball mecca boasts a three-lane “stadium” (whose seating and railings are made from recycled games) in the back and one machine in the “bull pen” up front. The entire venue is dedicated to the game and was built to be the home of its first national league: Brewskee-Ball. All of NYC's three-person teams—Buns of Skeel, Rolling Blackouts and Silence of the Lanes, to name a few—play at Full Circle, and the very best rollers from around the country make the pilgrimage to the City each May for the Brewskee-Ball National Championship. This year's event will take place Memorial Day weekend at a location TBA (“to be awesome,” we're told). You can Skee for free (and enjoy the gratis hot dogs and jumbo pretzels) at Full Circle on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5pm to close. There are two Skee-Ball machines at the East Village's Crocodile Lounge, and a free individual pizza with the purchase of a drink makes playing here even more appetizing. You can keep the night going at Ace Bar, another East Villager home to two Skee-Ball machines (and dartboards, pinball machines and a pool table, should you need other reasons to go there).

Bull Riding
If you feel like channeling your urban cowboy, the '80s bar-bull trend has far from faded at these straight-out-of-the-South spots. Johnny Utah's, a popular mechanical bull handler in Midtown, lets patrons ride for free all day. If you're at least 18 years old, you're allowed on the bull until 9pm; after that, it's 21 and over only. During competitions at Johnny Utah's, the best bull riders can win prizes like gift certificates and cash. The venue even schedules special events featuring Professional Bull Riders members, including an official after-party, when their showcase rolls into town. Customers at Williamsburg's Viva Toro can ride its bull for only $5; the rodeo starts at 7 nightly. Cowboys and cowgirls can show off their skills here as well: bull-riding contests are held every couple of months. In fact, a $300 prize was up for grabs at a recent event. And there's no additional charge to ride the bull at Elmhurst's Play—it's covered in the admission fee. If you're looking for a great deal, stop by on Monday nights at 8pm, when $25 gives you access to a five-hour open bar and unlimited playtime with the bull, on the bowling lanes and at the foosball, pool and Ping-Pong tables. The boroughs' bulls may look intimidating, but don't be scared to hop on—after your first ride, you'll be roped for life.

Shuffleboard
A surprising number of New York City bars offer shuffleboard—and we're not talking about the game your grandfather loves to play in Boca. West Village entertainment destination Fat Cat has an unbeatable four tables. And at 9 cents per minute per person Sunday through Thursday and 11 cents per minute per person on Fridays and Saturdays, even Grandpa can afford to play (should he want to try the stickless table version of the senior sport). It doesn't cost a penny to play at The Whiskey Brooklyn. The Williamsburg watering hole takes pride in its two shuffleboard tables, hand-built by Rick Crisp, the father-in-law of one of the bar's owners. Perhaps the most challenging of the City's shuffleboard tables, however, is the one at Nancy Whiskey Pub in TriBeCa. Its bankboard game ($1 per play) is shorter than a typical table and requires players to bank pucks off its sides (as opposed to releasing a straight-on shot). Each puck must hit the bumper one time; the shot doesn't count if the puck touches the side more than once or never comes in contact with it.

Darts
If you're in the mood to throw darts but don't want to wait all night for a board, head to these on-target taprooms. The Gaf, on the Upper East Side, and Grassroots Tavern, in the East Village, each own three dartboards, and both are frequented by the darts devotees of the New York Dart Organization. The Gaf is an Irish pub that receives praise for its inexpensive drinks and for never being overcrowded. Grassroots Tavern, meanwhile, revels in its reputation as a dive bar with a loyal, beer-loving clientele. There is one dartboard at Brooklyn Heights' Roebling Inn, named for John Roebling, the engineer who designed the Brooklyn Bridge. Other spots are hit-or-miss, but this venue's relaxed vibe makes for a comfortable game-playing atmosphere. Be sure to celebrate with a Sixpoint Sweet Action ale when you finally hit the bull's-eye. Depending on the darts destination, you may be asked to hand over your ID or some cash as collateral for the playing pieces.

Video Games
Sure, you can play video games and drink at home, but why do that in private when you can do it in a public house? Many bars have begun to keep hardware on hand for those who can't tear themselves away from their game console. Upper East Sider Manny's on Second is the video gamer's venue, with eight options (Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo 3, UFC Undisputed 2010, NHL 11, NBA 2K11, Madden 11, NCAA Football 11 and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11) available for its Xbox 360. The controllers at Manny's are wireless, so you can play on any of the tavern's 16 downstairs TVs. Whiskey bar The Gibson, in Williamsburg, has a Wii; the bartender can set you up with Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort (if a live-action game isn't already on, of course).

Billiards
Chalk it up to its reputation as a bar fixture—no matter where you are, you'd be hard-pressed to find a neighborhood watering hole that doesn't have at least one pool table. The following venues, however, have more than you could ever imagine fitting into one space in New York City. With a solid 30 billiard tables, you'll have an easy time earning your pool stripes at Park Slope's Ocean's 8 at Brownstone. Current promotions utilize social media: earn a free half hour of pool if you “like” Ocean's 8 at Brownstone on Facebook, or receive a gratis pitcher of beer or appetizer by mentioning your presence at the venue in your Facebook status. With a mind-blowing 26 tables, rest assured that you'll have little to no wait to play pool at Amsterdam Billiards in the East Village. After 10pm Sunday through Thursday, play as many games as you want for $33 (if you and three friends use the same table, that's less than $9 per person). When you're in Astoria, take a cue from the locals and stop by Break Bar & Billiards. Pool at the 14 billiard tables is free Monday through Friday from 4 to 8pm for those who are already enjoying Break's beverages (bonus: there are great drink specials) and bites. Every day until 5pm is family-friendly time at the spot, so after you show your little pool sharks how to navigate the waters of pool, make a splash by letting them play some of the arcade games.

Foosball
If you think foosball is challenging enough when you're sober, try playing it after (or while) knocking back a few drinks. You'll want to give the game a whirl at shuffleboard site Fat Cat, whose two tables are one more than most foosball-boasting bars have. At $1 a game, you can afford to lose many times over. Tournaments are held every Tuesday at 7:30pm (for $8, you'll gain access to the venue and tourney play), and during Fat Cat Fridays, starting at 7pm, the only expense is the $3 admission charge. And because it's located in the Meatpacking District, 675 Bar's no-fee foosball table will feel like the fanciest you've ever put your hands on (even though it's really no different from any other one you've played). An entire room is dedicated to it, which is also the case with the lounge's flat-top Ms. Pac-Man game, pinball machine and board games, each located in the space's other nooks and crannies.

The Gutter. Photo: Adam Kuban

Hockey
With the advent of the air hockey table, the foosball-like bubble-dome version of the game is hard to come by these days. The former bar staple still manages to score a hat trick, however, by appearing in at least three New York City bars. Since Canada is known for hockey, it's fitting that a bar named Manitoba's has both types of the game. The East Village venue's bubble-dome hockey table is a blast from the past and the air hockey machine is a modern-day marvel; at $1 per game, you'll be tempted to travel through time often. Williamsburg residents can't get their mind off The Gutter's bubble-dome hockey table (and the bowling and live music here too, we're sure). At only 50 cents a pop, there's nothing like chilling out with a game or two and a frosty brew after some heated frames and hot tunes. If your goal is to have an old-fashioned good time at an Irish pub, however, head to Kelly's Sports Bar in the East Village for its bubble-dome hockey game. Despite being in New York Rangers territory, many of the bar's fans root for the Buffalo Sabres—so break the ice with that cute hockey fan by challenging him or her to a $1 match (whoever loses buys the next round of Guinness).

Manny’s on Second. Photo: Phil Kline

Beer Pong
Beer pong, Beirut, whatever you call it—if you're thirsty to relive your college days or just want to have a good time getting your buzz on, look no further than Manhattan. The borough is spilling over with beer pong bars that have multiple tables dedicated to the drinking game. It should be no surprise that many of these venues are located in Greenwich Village, home to New York University. The motto at Wicked Willy's is “Time Flies When You're Having Rum,” but the young crowd here enjoys the cheap beer as well. The Caribbean-themed oasis has three tables on which to play beer pong and another party-school staple: flip cup. And video-game venue Manny's on Second, on the Upper East Side, is always ready to unfold an impressive six tables for beer pong. Each of these spots has experience hosting public and private beer pong tournaments—so you have no excuse not to rack up your friends and prove you're the best player in your circle.

Pat Kiernan hosts a TrivWorks event at The Bell House. Photo: Super Duper Photographic

Trivia
If you're looking to cash in on your knowledge of random stuff, make the trek to trivia night. Many bars in the City host a trivia series at least once a week. Some are free and others come with a fee, but prizes are varied and often generous and include money or free drinks. Trivia night at The Bell House in Gowanus is presented by TrivWorks and hosted by none other than NY1's Pat Kiernan. Every few months, teams of up to eight sign up for the chance to win themed prizes, including tickets to concerts and Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Kiernan's next battle royal, on March 20, pits the '90s against the '00s in an effort to decide which decade gave us the best pop culture trivia. Tickets are on sale now, but act quickly, as events featuring the local news anchor sell out fast. As a warm-up for the affair, TrivWorks founder David Jacobson will emcee a free '80s-themed trivia teaser night at The Bell House on March 13 with decade-appropriate prizes. On Tuesdays at 8pm, Williamsburg Skee-Ball spot Full Circle Bar invites everyone to “drink, think and roll” at its trivia–Skee-Ball hybrid competition. Not only does it cost nothing for teams of two to five people to participate in Rolling Trivia but complimentary hot dogs and jumbo pretzels are served and Skee-Ball is on the house from 5pm to close. The sharpest Skee-Ballers score a $75 bar tab—but, really, with the free food and gratis games of Skee-Ball, it's safe to say that everyone wins. If a more traditional trivia experience is what you seek, however, head to The Gael Pub on the Upper East Side on Tuesdays at 8:30pm. In addition to the standard sets of questions, there are audio and visual rounds. The winners and runners-up earn $50 and $25 bar tabs, respectively, and there's also a raffle to win a $20 bar tab. This event, dubbed Pub Quiz, is pretty popular, so be sure to get there early and prepare with some pre-gaming.

Courtesy, Pulse Karaoke Lounge

Karaoke
Weekly karaoke night is an ordinary event at your standard bar, but there are places in NYC whose sole focus is singing (but no worries—drinking is a close second, which is important for anyone who needs liquid courage). In Manhattan, most of these venues are located in Chinatown and Koreatown. If you've got the guts to sing in front of strangers, you'll want to go to Winnie's. The intimate Chinatown dive bar is the perfect place to prepare for your American Idol audition. Those who don't have the guts to sing in front of strangers more than likely will after a glass or two of the spot's famously strong “Hawaiian Punch” drink. One can't help but wonder if Koreatown's Pulse Karaoke Lounge is named for the venue's lighting, which is set to pulse with the music being played. The main lounge and private suites all feature customizable light panels, so you can easily set the tone for your song. As an extra-special bonus, the smoke machine in the main lounge can be used to match the mood of the music and is a great surprise for audience members as you belt out the big climax of your song. On Mondays, enjoy free karaoke and the buy-one-get-one-drink happy hour all night. “Like” Pulse on Facebook for even more food, drink and karaoke specials and to see a list of the top-requested songs each week (which is perhaps as entertaining as the karaoke itself).

Greenwich Village Country Club. Courtesy, Bowlmor

Mini-Golf
Mini-golf in Manhattan? Most certainly! With nine holes, though, perhaps it's more accurately described as mini-mini-golf. You can find it at Bowlmor Union Square's Greenwich Village Country Club, whose retro decor is straight out of the '60s. In typical New York City fashion, the course—which features greenery and restored animal statues from a 1950s mini-golf course—is on the fifth floor of the venue (which is technically the rooftop, enclosed by an enormous pressurized dome). Be a sport and give it a shot—since it's indoors, you can play whether rain or shine, hot or cold. After going a round, which costs anywhere from $7.95 to $9.95 depending on the day and time, enjoy a round of drinks at The 19th Hole, a bar whose seats are appropriately upholstered with an argyle pattern. Afterward, relax in The Par-tee Lounge, The Putt Putt Hutt, The Club House and The Fairway Lounge, where you can partake in shuffleboard, air hockey, billiards and beer pong. And if you're hungry for “mor,” head down to the third and fourth floors, where you'll find 42 lanes of bowling.

Pinball
If you've played the silver ball from SoHo down to Brighton (Beach), you already know where to find the City's best pinball bars. Satellite Lounge in Williamsburg scores points for having seven—count 'em, seven—machines: AC/DC, FunHouse, Spider-Man, Theatre of Magic, Batman: The Dark Knight and the limited-edition Avatar and Transformers games. (But that's as of press time—the options change often.) The drinking den hosts a Monday-night pinball league, which starts at the end of February and lasts for 10 weeks. Teams represent about a dozen bars, and the top scorers receive trophies. Pinball fans also race full tilt to Carroll Gardens' Bar Great Harry to play its Medieval Madness, The Lord of the Rings and Twilight Zone games. You probably wouldn't think a place with “billiards” in its name is a destination for pinball wizards, but Amsterdam Billiards is home to Family Guy, Playboy and The Sopranos machines. And Skee-Ball stalwart Ace Bar features 24 and The Rolling Stones pinball games. (Don't be intimidated by the latter—victory is right under your thumbs.) But these aren't the only flipper-friendly venues in NYC; check out this comprehensive game guide if you really want to play a mean pinball.


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