I’ve had the privilege of tying one on in more US cities than you. More international cities, too, but that’s a conversation for another day. It is therefore my duty to rank the the most fun US cities to enjoy an adult beverage in. As the host of “Three Sheets” (Hulu), “Drinking Made Easy” (AXStv), “Chug” (Netflix), and “Zane’s World” YouTube+Podcast, I have made a living out drinking. I’ve done two stand-up tours in the US, hitting 53 cities. And, I’ve even written a book, with actual words and stuff!
This list has been compiled from years of experience, countless debilitating hangovers, and the exhaustive tangible research required to make these claims. Every city has their own historic bars, drinking customs and (these days) their own brewery. There are a lot of incredibly fun places to drink in this fine land of ours. However! These are the 10 Most Fun Cities in the US (for adults… to drink in)!
#1 New Orleans
Anyone who doesn’t put New Orleans at the top of their list of best party cities, best drinking cities, or best party-drinking cities, either hasn’t been there, or hasn’t done it right… Although I’m not sure it’s possible to avoid the revelry of NOLA. They drink at weddings, have parties at funerals (I’ve crashed one to validate this statement – and it was a hoot), and find reasons to imbibe every day of the year. Bourbon Street is paved in vomit and regret, and the French Quarter is where you get drunk, but feel classy about it because you’re doing it in one of the most well-preserved historical districts in the country. New Orleans is hands down the best place to throw them back in these fine United States, and they have the tradition, cocktails, open container laws, drive-thru daiquiri joints, and culinary scene to knock everyone out of first place.
#2 Las Vegas
The purpose of Las Vegas’ existence on this planet is for the consumption of alcohol and the engagement of debauchery. If you inform people that you’re going to “Sin City” they know where you’re headed. In Vegas, alcohol is the lubricant that keeps the party loose, and the main ingredient for fun times. Their motto of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” (which includes your money, dignity, and your actions — but it does not include photos on your phone and the various “take-aways” from a sexual encounter) would not exist with out their abundant libations. You can get booze in vessels of any shape (often with string to hang them around your neck #classy) and the highest concentration of the world’s Master Sommeliers is in Las Vegas. Understand me when I say that I love Vegas. It’s the world’s largest continuous party. There is no other city on the earth that is anything like it.
#3 Key West
The southern-most point in the continental US looks like a Jimmy Buffet concert just let out. The island/city is an amalgamation of Parrot-Heads, retirees, cruise ship passengers on their first stop, mixed with the ghost of Hemmingway (America’s favorite historical imbiber), confusing open-container regulations, and locals going about their day. The Conch Republic’s main thoroughfare is Duval Street, a mix of historic watering holes filled with people who have graduated from Bourbon Street. But don’t be fooled by folks walking on the street with plastic cups filled with beer or cocktails, open containers have been restricted here since 1986. Buuuuut, enforcement of the law is a bit lax (to say the least). It’s certainly less wild than Vegas or NOLA, but Key West is without a doubt, one of the most fun American cities to whet your whistle in.
It used to be that when you talked about night life in Miami, you were referring to South Beach. SoBe is still the mecca of fun times in Miami. From 1st Street to 30th (and beyond), walk along Collins Ave and you will have a hundred opportunities to join in on the fun. The partying on the beach and by the pools starts around 11am and continues until 4am, and that’s 365 days a year. But the party has spread inland. The scene in downtown Miami (as well as many other neighborhoods) is just as fun as it is on the beach. Miami is considered one of the most international cities on the planet with hundreds of cultures offering their spin on food and drinks. And, like some other cities, there are spa-clinic-type-places that let you walk in and get pumped intravenously with a vitamin cocktail that does wonders to even the most debilitating hangovers (and I’m speaking first hand).
#5 New York City
What?! You put “The city that never sleeps” at number five?! The catch with NYC (what it shares with LA) is that you need to know a bit about the city to be able to navigate yourself to the various watering holes. BUT, if you know what you’re doing, NYC offers some of the coolest bars in the world. There are over 1,500 watering holes in New York, and you can always find someone to tie one on with you. That’s my experience at least. New York has some of the best Speak Easys, Gastropubs and Sports Bars on the planet (let alone the US). It also has the best selection of International bars — I’m spent many a night in Irish Pubs, Russian Bars, Cubans Restaurants that are completely transportive, with a clientele and ambiance that makes me forget that I’m in New York. And when you’re done at any of the 1,500 bars, you can find almost as many Ray’s Pizza’s for a late night (early morning) snack.
#6 San Diego
Being called “America’s Finest City” may be propaganda created in an ad campaign to bolster tourism and residents, but it’s not terribly misleading. San Diego has beaches, cute neighborhoods, and the most consistently pleasant weather on the planet. The downtown is clean (for metropolitan standards) and its Gaslamp Quarter provides 38 acres of bars and restaurants that are filled with handsome people and good times. You can find any scene you want in the Gaslamp, from modern gastropubs, sports bars and speakeasys, to nightclubs and dives. There are also a myriad of beach cities that have great bars filled with surfers, day traders, hippies and 9-to-5’ers enjoying beer from San Diego County’s 130+ breweries.
#7 Austin, TX
Almost everyone is talking about Austin, Texas. Everyone else is moving there. The population in 1997 was about 550,000. Today it’s over 2,000,000. It’s literally grown by five people in the time it’ll take you to read this article. Why? It’s fun. The party began in 1987 with the dawn of SXSW (if you don’t know what that acronym stands for, ask somebody). The epicenter of fun is downtown on Sixth Street or SoCo, but it’s grown and evolved with the city. There are gastropubs and metropolitan lounges to go along with the classic and charming Central Texas BBQ joints and dive bars that make Austin such a cool city.
The Windy City may not be know for it’s appealing winters, low crime, or indifferent sports fans. But, they do have the reputation of knowing how to have fun and tie one on. In the winter, a Chicagoan knows that the best way to stay warm is to huddle in a bar staying toasty and toasted. On St. Patrick’s Day, with their eyes on warmer days, they dye the river green, and drink to celebrate. And when the first actual warm day arrives in spring, it kicks off several months of festivals (like Taste of Chicago) and events that celebrate being a midwesterner. And if you are a midwesterner (or know one), then you know that they are proud of your ability to throw ‘em back with the best of ‘em. Chicago turned it’s nose to prohibition and celebrates their right to have an adult beverage. But, seriously, we gotta talk about your penchant for Malört?!
#9 Los Angeles
LA likes its drink. One of the things that makes it such a great place to party isn’t just the abundance of wealthy entertainment-types looking to unwind (although that’s part of it), it’s the droves of unemployed neophytes that don’t have anything to wake up for in the morning. LA is one of the only cities where you could throw a pool party at noon on a Tuesday and have no problem finding hoards of 20-30-year old to come drink your booze. There are parties in the hills, parties downtown, parties by the beach (but not on the beach), and everywhere in between. But don’t be dismayed if you can’t procure an invite— there are countless bars full of people who share your pain, and are eager to drown their sorrows. It doesn’t hurt that the weather is so nice in LA, that many Angelinos complain that there “is no weather”. Stop it with that. If you’re looking for a good time in LA, just stop and listen. Hear that? Yup. That’s a party.
#10 Savannah, GA
After torching Atlanta, General Sherman made his way to Savannah to set it ablaze. But upon setting eyes on the city, he was said to be so impressed by its beauty that he let it stand. The historic center of Savannah is still a jewel of the south that is worth a visit. And, like most visits, it’s made better by a cocktail. While Savannah throws one of the country’s best St. Patrick’s Day parties, and there are no restrictions on open containers (but no glass containers, please), it is generally a mellow, laid back city where you you can feel the humidity seven months out of the year, which tends to make things move a little more slowly. Savannah has air of refinement that makes you feel downright sophisticated as you walk about the historic city center with you mint julep in a plastic go-cup.
Incidentally, my hometown of Syracuse, NY missed the list by only a little bit. They’re ranked at #937