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Bar and Skee-Ball lanes at Thriller Social Club Jonathan Fong

10 San Francisco Bars With More to Do Than Just Drink

For those who crave little competition with their beer

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As fun as bars are for drinking and carousing, sometimes you need a side of activities. Maybe you’re meeting up for a date, maybe it’s a group outing of friends — whatever the occasion, sometimes there’s a need for a little bit of social .. um, lubricant. Enter the Activity Bar: a place where there’s something to do other than stare at your drinking partner’s face and talk. There are bars made for getting competitive over board games, singing your heart out, and mashing buttons on an arcade machine. Change up your routine for a night out with a little something extra at these 10 bars.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Emperor Norton's BoozeLand

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Not everyone loves shuffleboard, but the ones who do will have the one-two combo of both a place to dominate at shuffleboard and an alternate game, such as pool, for your friend who wants to redeem themself after taking an L. There is also a decent patio out back, plus hey, a bar that references Emperor Norton can never be too bad.

Thriller Social Club

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Sure, most locals reading this map would expect Thriller Social Club to make this list, given the plentiful number of activities available for patrons, but it is worth singing the praises of Thriller Social Club again for the folks in the back who don’t know. There are midway games, air hockey, Skee-Ball, a golf simulator, and more, as well as a selection of cocktails and food that will keep the group around when the game fever has run its course.

Skee-Ball lanes at Thriller Social Club Jonathan Fong

Hockey Haven

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As Hockey Haven declared in 2018, they’re not so much a haven for hockey fans these days. But there are still a number of reasons to stop by this neighborhood dive — and one of those reasons is the pool table. Sure, it’s not a bevy of pool tables as one might find at a pool hall but it’s a place to get to know the neighborhood and vibe with the locals. (Although, if you need multiple reasons to come here, one other non-activity reason to love this bar is its patio.)

Martuni's

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Martuni’s is a classic for many reasons but perhaps it’s most notable for its live piano entertainment. There are few establishments brave enough to do an open mic piano bar, but by god, Martuni’s pulls it off in spades. The audience is invited to sing to a live piano accompaniment, so whether you’re feeling spunky enough to showcase your singing or would rather just witness the talent, Martuni’s is the space to go see it all happen, preferably with a martini of your choice in hand.

Stagecoach Greens

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Sure, there are other mini golf places out there, such as the noteworthy Urban Putt, but Stagecoach Greens is worthy of an entry for two reasons: the bevy of excellent food trucks available at Spark Social, plus the added bonus of fire pits that can accommodate up ten people or more.

The Detour

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Yes, there’s the larger, more cavernous Emporium on Divisadero, dedicated to video game playing-slash-drinking (there’s also a location in Oakland), but if you’re looking for a somewhat more lowkey space to beat your friends at Super Smash Bros. or Killer Queen with a beer in hand, the Detour is perhaps the spot. If pinball is more your speed, they’ve got those machines, too, plus a late-ish night menu with snacks like popcorn laced with furikake and sesame oil, lumpia, or cauliflower tacos.

The Detour

Slate Bar

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There’s live entertainment at this bar, such as DJ karaoke nights or open mic live comedy, if that’s your ideal activity. But Slate Bar also has both a pool table and twin Skee-Ball machines to help you while the night away. Order a cocktail, such as Z’s Fire with fiery jalapeno-infused tequila, lime juice, mint, and soda, or choose from the list of beers.

Yancy's Saloon

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For those who prefer the danger of something sharp in their hand while drinking — yes, somehow axe-throwing bars are still a thing — perhaps a game of darts might sound enticing. Inner Sunset favorite Yancy’s has plenty of lanes to get throw-y at, putting prestige at your fingertips with your (inevitable?) bullseye. There are also TVs for watching sports, and the friendly establishment is kind enough to allow outside food, in case you’re feeling peckish.

The Game Parlour

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Technically the Game Parlour isn’t a bar-bar — although for argument’s sake, it is part espresso bar — but there’s something charming about a space that earnestly wants groups to gather for the sake of gaming. Bring your Dungeons & Dragons group, or pick one of the board games on hand, while eating a mochi waffle or downing specialty drinks like Fury of Dracula, a drink made of strawberry puree, sparkling water, and strawberry jelly.

The Game Parlour

Mission Bowling Club

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The line between whether this is more bar-with-bowling-alley or vice versa is blurred, but that doesn’t make Mission Bowling Club any less fun. The 21+ age limit after 6 p.m. helps make the space feel less suburban babysitting haven and more adult. Plus, the food and drinks are pretty decent — shoutout to the Mission Burger — so it’s hard to argue against Mission Bowling when it becomes a question of where to go out at night.

Scenes Mission Bowling Patricia Chang

Emperor Norton's BoozeLand

Not everyone loves shuffleboard, but the ones who do will have the one-two combo of both a place to dominate at shuffleboard and an alternate game, such as pool, for your friend who wants to redeem themself after taking an L. There is also a decent patio out back, plus hey, a bar that references Emperor Norton can never be too bad.

Thriller Social Club

Sure, most locals reading this map would expect Thriller Social Club to make this list, given the plentiful number of activities available for patrons, but it is worth singing the praises of Thriller Social Club again for the folks in the back who don’t know. There are midway games, air hockey, Skee-Ball, a golf simulator, and more, as well as a selection of cocktails and food that will keep the group around when the game fever has run its course.

Skee-Ball lanes at Thriller Social Club Jonathan Fong

Hockey Haven

As Hockey Haven declared in 2018, they’re not so much a haven for hockey fans these days. But there are still a number of reasons to stop by this neighborhood dive — and one of those reasons is the pool table. Sure, it’s not a bevy of pool tables as one might find at a pool hall but it’s a place to get to know the neighborhood and vibe with the locals. (Although, if you need multiple reasons to come here, one other non-activity reason to love this bar is its patio.)

Martuni's

Martuni’s is a classic for many reasons but perhaps it’s most notable for its live piano entertainment. There are few establishments brave enough to do an open mic piano bar, but by god, Martuni’s pulls it off in spades. The audience is invited to sing to a live piano accompaniment, so whether you’re feeling spunky enough to showcase your singing or would rather just witness the talent, Martuni’s is the space to go see it all happen, preferably with a martini of your choice in hand.

Stagecoach Greens

Sure, there are other mini golf places out there, such as the noteworthy Urban Putt, but Stagecoach Greens is worthy of an entry for two reasons: the bevy of excellent food trucks available at Spark Social, plus the added bonus of fire pits that can accommodate up ten people or more.

The Detour

Yes, there’s the larger, more cavernous Emporium on Divisadero, dedicated to video game playing-slash-drinking (there’s also a location in Oakland), but if you’re looking for a somewhat more lowkey space to beat your friends at Super Smash Bros. or Killer Queen with a beer in hand, the Detour is perhaps the spot. If pinball is more your speed, they’ve got those machines, too, plus a late-ish night menu with snacks like popcorn laced with furikake and sesame oil, lumpia, or cauliflower tacos.

The Detour

Slate Bar

There’s live entertainment at this bar, such as DJ karaoke nights or open mic live comedy, if that’s your ideal activity. But Slate Bar also has both a pool table and twin Skee-Ball machines to help you while the night away. Order a cocktail, such as Z’s Fire with fiery jalapeno-infused tequila, lime juice, mint, and soda, or choose from the list of beers.

Yancy's Saloon

For those who prefer the danger of something sharp in their hand while drinking — yes, somehow axe-throwing bars are still a thing — perhaps a game of darts might sound enticing. Inner Sunset favorite Yancy’s has plenty of lanes to get throw-y at, putting prestige at your fingertips with your (inevitable?) bullseye. There are also TVs for watching sports, and the friendly establishment is kind enough to allow outside food, in case you’re feeling peckish.

The Game Parlour

Technically the Game Parlour isn’t a bar-bar — although for argument’s sake, it is part espresso bar — but there’s something charming about a space that earnestly wants groups to gather for the sake of gaming. Bring your Dungeons & Dragons group, or pick one of the board games on hand, while eating a mochi waffle or downing specialty drinks like Fury of Dracula, a drink made of strawberry puree, sparkling water, and strawberry jelly.

The Game Parlour

Mission Bowling Club

The line between whether this is more bar-with-bowling-alley or vice versa is blurred, but that doesn’t make Mission Bowling Club any less fun. The 21+ age limit after 6 p.m. helps make the space feel less suburban babysitting haven and more adult. Plus, the food and drinks are pretty decent — shoutout to the Mission Burger — so it’s hard to argue against Mission Bowling when it becomes a question of where to go out at night.

Scenes Mission Bowling Patricia Chang

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