Where to drink now

Where to drink in Austin right now: 7 playful bars to feel like a kid again

Where to drink in Austin now: 7 playful bars to feel like a kid again

Spin Austin
Dive into a round of table tennis at Spin. Courtesy photo
Upstairs Circus Austin
Crafting is more fun with a mimosa at Upstairs Circus. Upstairs Circus/Facebook
Yard Bar Austin restaurant dog park Burnet Road
Bring the pups for a day of frolicking at Yard Bar. Yard Bar/Facebook
Full Circle Bar brewskee-ball games
Roll to victory with Full Circle's skee-ball machines. Full Circle Bar Austin/Facebook
Vigilante Gastropub Austin
Vigilante Gastropub is perfect for a rainy day. Vigilante Gastropub/Facebook
Spin Austin
Upstairs Circus Austin
Yard Bar Austin restaurant dog park Burnet Road
Full Circle Bar brewskee-ball games
Vigilante Gastropub Austin

There are plenty of opportunities to sip a highball while complaining about the Game of Thrones finale, but something about warmer weather brings out the need to frolic. That’s when we skip the soigné cocktail lounges and head out to spots that offer a little something extra.

From pingpong palaces to crafty downtown lounges, these places serve drinks with some seriously fun chasers. Change out of workday khakis, throw on some sneaks, and give Austin’s most playful bars a shot.

‘Bout Time II
This LGBTQ-friendly bar is miles away from Austin's small downtown gayborhood. Its atmosphere is miles away, too. Although guests can expect many of the same attractions as the Warehouse District clubs, like a thumping soundtrack and occasional drag shows, the vibe is far more laid back. Oh, and it features a full sand volleyball court. Bring a pair of aviator shades to take the Top Gun realness into the danger zone.

Full Circle Bar
Like a grown-up version of Chuck E. Cheese without the creepy animatronic band, this East Austin hangout is clamoring with bleeps and bloops from a wall of Skee-Ball machines. But that’s not the only diversion. The patio sports classic lawn games like cornhole and bocce ball and, of course, the bartenders are always ready to pour a draft beer. Alas, there’s no pizza, but a block’s walk to King Bee Lounge takes care of that problem.

Pinballz Kingdom
Technically in Buda, but convenient to South Austin, this arcade has everything from lazer tag to bumper cars to Big Buck Safari. The biergarten could get away with just serving Lone Stars and the place would still be packed. As it happened, it has a 31 draft wall serving interesting selections from local and American craft breweries. And yes, with its astonishing array of both classic and newfangled machines, it sure plays a mean pin ball.

Spin Austin
Fitness-phobes take note. Though the name evoke grueling sessions on an exercise bike, the “spin” actually refers pingpong balls bouncing back and forth. It’s still exercise, but paired with burgers and fries instead of açai bowls. One other key difference? Almost no one sipping frozen cocktails on the sand-filled back patio is wearing bike shorts.

Upstairs Circus
Archery schmarchery. The best place to be during camp was always the art cabin where tween fashionistas made essential accessories like friendship bracelets and leather keychains. The craft sessions offered at this downtown bar are a little more sophisticated — think wristlet clutches and “badass” leather cuffs — but they still effortlessly capture that summer feeling. Bright and bubbly cocktails help with the creative spirit, or at least keep guests' perfectionist tendencies at bay.

Vigilante Gastropub & Games
Sure, it’s fun to invite a few friends over for a round of Ticket to Ride, but a wine stain on a newly purchased rug can have anyone questioning the limits of hospitality. The smart set takes the party to this gamer’s paradise. Rent out a classic like Scrabble or the latest indie puzzler, order a nerdy libation like the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, and nibble on some samosa croquettes. Then spend the rest of the evening relaxing instead of dabbing out a red blob.

Yard Bar
Nothing can clear the gloom off a dreary day like a day hanging out with dozens of doggos. While pups bop about, swirl some rosé or a mocktail while noshing on easy plates like fried chicken bites, spicy deviled eggs, or crispy Brussel sprouts in a balsamic reduction. Who wants a treat? You do!