It's cold outside, football season is nearing an end, and with the lack of wintertime outdoor activities that involve drinking, if you are competitive like me, you might find yourself indoors and in need of some entertainment in the form of bar games. Here are ten of Denver's best neighborhood bars for unique and plentiful bar games.
Bannock Street Garage
1015 Bannock Street
The Bannock Street Garage stands out for punk-rock ambience with a neighborly vibe — and that extends to bar games. You can keep it mainstream by shooting pool or playing a little Golden Tee, or you can try out a challenging ring toss game, or wrestle a fiberglass arm in a game called Over the Top. (I've been in a lot of bars, and I've never seen another one like it.) If you're too hard-core to arm-wrestle mere humans, try your luck with this robot arm. You can enjoy your games with an occasional side of live music or DJs, or two-for-one drinks — if you work at nearby Denver Health.
Barry's on Broadway
Barry's isn't the only watering hole in town with Skee-Ball, but to my knowledge it's the only place where Skee-Ball skills pay off in more than just bragging rights. You can win a free shot if you score high enough on a given day. There are also pool tables, if that's more your speed, and Barry's still reigns as one of the most affordable spots to get your drink on in the Baker district. You might also meet owner Barry Zadikoff, who can teach you a thing or two about Denver history after you enjoy your bar game of choice.
The Dive Inn
1380 South Broadway
The Dive Inn offers plenty to do, both inside and out. Pastimes include old-school arcade games, billiards, darts and ping-pong. On the patio, even in winter, cornhole sets are available, and during Broncos games you can try your luck at throwing a football through a tire. If you're feeling competitive and need to play for keeps, there are weekday ping-pong and cornhole leagues you can join. If you get tired of all those games, relax and drift away in the boat that's located in the middle of the bar, perhaps while enjoying some fried chicken from Cluck Chicken, which you can order fresh from the window at the back of the bar.
Dougherty's Restaurant and Pub
5 East Ellsworth Avenue
Dougherty's is another worthy stop in the pursuit of games. Hammerschlagen is the highlight here; you may have heard of it if you're from the Midwest or Germany, where the game is said to have originated. Buy yourself a few nails from the bartender, grab some friends and gather around a massive tree stump riddled with previous players' attempts. The game is all about hammering in other people's nails in one shot, which is far more fun and challenging than something that at first seems invented for wood-shop dropouts. Hard-core hammerschlagen enthusiasts flip the hammer in the air before making their moves; consider it a safer alternative to those crazy ax-throwing bachelor parties that are starting to become a thing. Also available to keep you occupied at Dougherty's: a pool table and lots of Irish food and beer selections.
3470 South Broadway, Englewood
Two words: giant billiards. Duffer Haus is pretty new on the neighborhood bar scene but is rapidly building a following. Here, you can shoot pool on a traditional table, or you can experience a soccer-billiards combo called Gamböl, which you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Kick off your shoes and hop on a turf-covered platform resembling a pool table to try your luck kicking (instead of using a cue) miniature soccer balls into the pockets. It's $10 for a half-hour and $15 for an hour of Gamböl, or play for free on Tuesdays.
Gibby's Big Backyard
1555 South Havana Street, Aurora
Gibby's is your neighborhood spot for indoor and outdoor sports in Aurora. There's an entire game room filled with active arcade games — boxing, basketball, golf and air hockey — that rivals a Dave & Buster's. There are also pool tables, board games and Big Buck Hunter, another bar mainstay. But that's just inside. On the patio, weather permitting, you'll find folks playing beer pong, Kan Jam (sort of like miniature disc golf) and cornhole, plus there are tournament-sized sand volleyball courts in the "big backyard." On Friday nights, $5 drop-in volleyball is big, and there are a variety of volleyball leagues you can join in the spring, summer and fall organized by Intermediate Volleyball Programs. Gibby's is great for adults with wintertime cabin fever, but also welcomes kids daily until 9 p.m.
Lincoln Park Lounge
778 Mariposa Street
The Lincoln Park Lounge is a little bit off the beaten track (even many Denver natives don't know where the Lincoln Park neighborhood is), but it's well worth a visit if you're a fan of bar games that go beyond just a pool table or set of darts. Here you can play Bimini, a difficult challenge named for an island in the Bahamas where Ernest Hemingway is said to have invented the game while on a fishing trip. Bimini is equal parts skill and luck; competitors swing a ring on the end of a string attached to the ceiling in an attempt to catch it on a hook on the wall. You could play all night without ever hooking the ring, so winners earn the right to sign their names on the wall. Other games available here are video bowling, pool, beer pong, giant Jenga and Bonus Hole. Sometimes on Wednesdays, the lounge hosts a Bar Olympics competition, where teams compete for prizes in beer pong, Bimini, flip cup and Jenga.
4586 Tennyson Street
Local 46 in Berkeley keeps the tunes flowing with live music and karaoke, but it also has a nice setup to keep patrons busy with fun and games. Inside, there are billiards, but the patio is often warm enough to occupy year-round with multiple fire pits and cozy nooks and crannies. There you can pass the time with ping-pong, horseshoes and cornhole. And although it doesn't count as a bar game, it's also fun to cram as many friends as possible into the vintage phone booth repurposed as a photo booth.
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The Monkey Bar
1112 Santa Fe Drive
Owners Jen Busch and Javy Maes created this bar with a vision of an "adult playground." So there are games aplenty: Beer pong, Pac-Man, a foosball table, darts, board games and shuffleboard are available in the main bar area. Or you can step out to the covered patio for ping-pong, billiards and giant Jenga any time of year. The Monkey Bar gets bonus points for a popcorn machine and lots of monkey-themed decor.
221 West 13th Avenue
If obscure international bar games are your thing, you'll want to partake in a round or two of antique bar billiards at Pints Pub. Bar billiards is rarely seen outside of southern England, but you can find it here thanks to owner Scott Diamond's obsession with all things British. The set he found, which resembles a sawed-off pool table with smaller balls, shorter cues and pockets in odd places, was only manufactured for one year, 1939, in England. The game is a little confusing, so make sure you've had just the right amount of single-malt whisky from the massive collection that's another trademark of the pub.