Campus bars are a fundamental component of the college experience.
Students learn to love their teams, in good times and in bad, while balancing plastic cups of Keystone and watching games with their peers.
Every school has its favorite bar — the one that is as synonymous with a four-year college career as the freshman dorm, quad, or library.
Listed alphabetically by city, we found the best and most beloved college bars in the country.
Mickey’s Irish Pub – Ames, IA
Popular with: Iowa State University
Sitting along Ames’ stretch of Welch Avenue nightlife, Mickey’s is a favorite among Iowa State students. Many stop over on Tuesdays for a boisterous round of karaoke, accompanied by $2.50 Long Island iced teas, $3.50 Bud tallboys and even, on occasion, free pizza.
The bar itself is even a proponent of ISU sports, frequently tweeting and posting on its Facebook page about the school’s victories.
Rick’s American Cafe – Ann Arbor, MI
Popular with: University of Michigan
In the heart of Ann Arbor with a second location in East Lansing, Rick’s is among U of M students’ favorite places to party. Tuesday night is college night, with $1 well drinks all night and no cover when you show your student ID.
The atmosphere is more club-like than cafe-like, so students who arrive at Rick’s should be ready for a good time.
Bourbon Street – Athens, GA
Popular with: University of Georgia
In downtown Athens, students point to Bourbon Street as the place to be after sundown. Known for its popularity among UGA freshmen, Bourbon Street’s best deals are during its power hours, which tend to inspire some table-top dancing.
Those who desire a less rowdy crowd can always head to the upstairs area where pool tables and cheap beer await.
Aquarium – Austin, TX
Popular with: University of Texas – Austin
UT’s “E-bus” runs from campus to Sixth Street, a stretch of Austin particularly known for its something-for-everyone nightlife scene. Aquarium, at the corner of Sixth and Trinity, is always packed with students, and there’s no cover charge to get in like some of the other places nearby.
Every night there’s a different drink special, and students who come to party on their birthday get a free t-shirt out of the bargain.
Top of the Stairs – Blacksburg, VA
Popular with: Virginia Tech
Top of the Stairs, or “TOTS,” as it’s affectionately known among students, overflows with Greeks and non-Greeks alike most nights, especially karaoke night.
The signature drink is called the Rail, an effective mix of all the liquors on the shelf (“the rail”), which makes for both a great conversation — and party— starter. But don’t discredit TOTS’ extensive food menu, which is available at the bar and for catering.
Kilroy’s – Bloomington, IN
Popular with: Indiana University – Bloomington
Sometimes a night out at IU all depends on which one of the Kilroy’s bars everyone’s in the mood for. Kilroy’s Sports Bar, on Walnut, is a three-level bar and club with a dance floor that holds 200. And, as the name implies, “Sports” frequently shows IU games and serves all the game day munchies ever needed.
Kilroy’s on Kirkwood also shows games and has great food, and it’s the better choice for underclassmen who can get in and hang out before nightfall.
The Sink – Boulder, CO
Popular with: University of Colorado – Boulder
Known as much for its burgers as much as its bar, The Sink, which used to be the frat house for Sigma Nu back in the day, is the pick among CU – Boulder students as the place to pre-game.
It’s hard to find a better deal than their 2-3-4 happy hour ($2 wells, $3 drafts, $4 martinis), and if you’re hungry you can get your drink with the Texas Onion Straw — the burger that was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub – Cambridge, MA
Popular with: Harvard University
Formerly known as Loker Commons, Queen’s Head was the rebirth of this on-campus pub and events space nestled underneath Memorial Hall.
While Queen’s Head is intended for students, grads, and their guests, it’s an often-frequented hangout that serves great food and cheap beer. The place is also student-run, ensuring that those who come feel comfortable and are shown a good time.
Kam’s – Urbana-Champaign, IL
Popular with: University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign
Underclassmen rejoice — most of the bars in and around campus admit anyone 19 and over (but sorry, the legal age to drink is still 21).
Still, the lax entry rules allow freshmen and sophomores to mingle with their upperclassmen cohorts at places like Kam’s, one of the more popular campus-area bars with an upstairs, downstairs, beer garden, and dance floor. The bar has drink specials every night, and on certain nights it even has specials just for UIUC seniors.
He’s Not Here – Chapel Hill, NC
Popular with: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
He’s Not Here has the true UNC vibe from first drink to last call. Proud supporters of the ‘Heels, the folks at “He’s Not” have witnessed more 21st birthdays and graduation celebrations than they can count.
They have an impressive draft list for a college bar, and flaunt some of them at prices more suitable to the typical broke student on various days of the week.
Coupe Deville’s – Charlottesville, VA
Popular with: University of Virginia
Located in an active part of “The Corner” — a seven-block stretch with all the best stuff to do — Coupe’s, as the students call it, serves good, shareable grub, inexpensive drafts, and late night burgers for $1.
Known more as a freshman hangout, upperclassmen still return to Coupe’s after their first years, and the bar frequently partners with UVA organizations to host different charity events.
Cornerstone Grill & Loft – College Park, MD
Popular with: University of Maryland – College Park
Since Cornerstone took over the old Rendezvous Inn space in 1997, it’s been a fixture in the social and night lives of UMD students. They keep 16 beers on tap at this pub-style bar, and their best drink specials are on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
A fierce supporter of the Terrapins, Cornerstone posts a link to Maryland’s sports schedule on their website so those who come to watch on the screens know when to drop by.
Hurricane Harry’s – College Station, TX
Popular with: Texas A&M
Texas A&M students point to a large southern-country influence on the type and interest of nightlife in College Station — and Harry’s definitely embodies it all.
“Aggies” shuffle down to the bar for nightly dancing and drink specials, and when they’re ready to sober up after a long night they typically head to the conveniently-located IHOP down the street.
Harpo’s – Columbia, MO
Popular with: University of Missouri
Harpo’s calls itself “the Missouri bar and grill,” and indeed, it’s a legitimate Mizzou tradition to gather here for games.
With a great gameday menu — think juicy burgers, crisp fries, and bucketloads of hot wings — and cheap beer (especially on Thursday, which is “Quarter Draw” day), Harpo’s has been a Mizzou fixture for the last 40 years.
Ugly Tuna Saloona – Columbus, OH
Popular with: Ohio State University
OSU students have a heap ton of Buckeye pride, and one of the most popular places to celebrate victories — or any occasion, really — is Ugly Tuna.
Columbus is known for its wide array of happening bars and clubs in the area, but Ugly Tuna is always a safe bet for a no-frills fun time. From $3 pitchers during their “Ugly Hours” to 50-cent wings and plenty of screens to catch Big 10 games, it’s hard not to find a way to party.
Taylor’s Bar & Grill – Eugene, OR
Popular with: University of Oregon
Despite the small-town feel of Eugene, UO students lay down loyalty to Taylor’s. Cited for its boisterous, fratty environment, Taylor’s has great music, cheap drinks, and a hot crowd.
It’s a popular spot among the Greek community at UO, but non-Greeks find it’s the best spot to party ’til dawn as well.
Dain’s Place – Durham, NC
Popular with: Duke University
Dain’s offers a low-key atmosphere and a good place to get to know your classmates away from the madness at Shooters Saloon. The burgers are still out of control though. The Defibrillator — taste-tested by Adam Richman of “Man v. Food” — is a half-pound burger topped with sweet chili, cheddar, coleslaw… and a hot dog.
The owner, Dain Phelan, equates the experience of drinking at Dain’s to “going over to a friend’s house and drinking their parents’ beer in the basement.”
Salty Dog Saloon – Gainesville, FL
Popular with: University of Florida
Students don’t need to study abroad to drink up cultures from around the globe. The beer menu at Salty Dog Saloon offers roughly 80 different brews, imported from far away places like Kenya, the Philippines, Holland, Italy, China, and Czech Republic.
Drink one bottle from each country on the menu in 60 days and receive a free Globetrotter Club t-shirt.
Brother’s Bar & Grill – Iowa City, IA
Popular with: University of Iowa
The number one party school in the country, according to Princeton Review’s 2013 ranking, has no shortage of bars for Hawkeyes to choose from, but students flock to Brother’s for its Mug Club. On Thursday nights students bring $4 reusable mugs for unlimited $1 refills on well drinks and beer.
The line at the bar counter can seem neverending, but is always worth it when 25-cent wings are at stake.
The Neon Cactus – West Lafayette, IN
Popular with: Purdue University
The Neon Cactus, where the only thing bigger than the dance floor is the staff’s personality, is the go-to bar and dance club on Thursday nights. Bruce “The Piano Man” Barker, a Purdue alum, has been performing in the interior piano bar for 19 years, and is known for making fun of patrons who text while he’s on stage.
Thursdays also offer incredible drink specials, organized by “level of party preparedness.” Ordering a Code Red gets you a $2 well drink, while those in the Code Blue zone snatch up $5 Long Islands.
901 Bar & Grill – Los Angeles, CA
Popular with: University of Southern California
The “Nine O” is a sports bar that has no trouble picking sides between LA’s most infamous college rivalry: USC v. UCLA. It’s Trojans all the way, giving students and faculty a 25% discount on food and drinks.
Established in 1947, 901 offers USC fans a lively atmosphere to watch the game, and an unbeatable 2-for-1 happy hour special on all drinks.
Kollege Klub – Madison, WI
Popular with: University of Wisconsin
Affectionately dubbed “KK,” this downtown Madison landmark overflows with old memorabilia from past Badger legends. Current athletes on the Wisconsin basketball and football teams can also be spotted in KK on the weekends.
When school is in session, students delight in seasonal drink specials such as “beer-n-shot” night, when the purchase of any bottled beer comes with a free shot. Bring your own mug on Sunday nights for $1 any taps.
Kite’s Grille & Bar – Manhattan, KS
Popular with: Kansas State
The “Little Apple” hosts a shopping and dining-out district known as “Aggieville,” where the home crowd comes in droves after K-State games.
One of the area’s gems is Kite’s, home to the Will Ferrell Challenge. The “Anchorman” star stopped in Manhattan during his comedy tour in 2008 and ordered the joint’s newest burger: three pounds of fresh beef topped with American cheese, lettuce, onion, pickle, and tomato. Today, customers who can clean off their plate earn a free T-shirt (and six degrees of separation from Will Ferrell).
The Boot – New Orleans, LA
Popular with: Tulane University
Across the street from Newcomb Hall, The Boot is the place to meet up with friends before going out or to regroup after party-hopping. Tulane and Loyola University students make it their stomping ground for the 50-cent drink nights and raging Mardis Gras celebrations.
This NOLA watering hole also hosts “Hurricane parties” on days school is canceled.
Josie Woods Pub
Popular with: New York University
While NYU students have no shortage of bars to choose from, partaking in drunken shenanigans at Josie’s is a rite of passage. Filled to the brim with congregations of Greek students and campus clubs, Josie’s gives off a serious frat house rec room vibe.
It’s just $1 to play pool, $5 for a basket of buffalo wings during happy hour, and $9 for the Grateful Dead, a Jaegermeister drink described as a “blackout in a glass.”
Smokey Joe’s – Philadelphia, PA
Popular with: University of Pennsylvania
Smokey Joe’s is known as “The Pennstitution,” serving Penn’s residents for more than 70 years. It’s so embedded in campus life that, during his commencement address, President Gerald Ford called Smokey Joe’s the 17th institution of higher learning at UPenn.
Snag a table under vintage photographs of school athletes between 3 and 6pm for $1 hot dogs and $2 16-ounce pitchers.
Hemingway’s Cafe – Pittsburgh, PA
Popular with: University of Pittsburgh
Down in the “Oakland Zoo,” Panthers fans know Hemingway not as America’s beloved novelist, but as the spot to drink cheaply and excessively. Located under the freshman dorms at Pitt, Hemmie’s packs the recently-turned-21 crowd and serves burgers, cheesesteaks, and other bar fare at half-price during the afternoon and late evening.
Order a pitcher of shots (because that’s a thing) or a 20-ounce cocktail, which comes with a candy necklace or Ring Pop.
Phyrst – State College, PA
Popular with: Penn State University
Phyrst is the 21st birthday celebration capital of State College. Nittany Lions fans swarm this divey basement bar for its nightly live music performances and cast of smoking hot bartenders, known as the Phyrst Girls.
Students can show off their school spirit by grabbing a drumstick and playing the drum cadence by Penn State’s Blue Band against the wall. The bar will join in with “P-S-U!”, or make you chug if you mess up.
Faegan’s Cafe & Pub – Syracuse, NY
Popular with: Syracuse University
Faegan’s wins out over rival campus bars for its unbeatable drink specials, touch of class, and the guarantee you’ll hear “Wagon Wheel” blaring over the stereo every night. Pop in on a Tuesday for World Beer Tour, when you can snag $3 pints as you attempt to drink every beer on the menu.
And there’s no time for recovery: Head down on Wednesday for Flip Night, when the bartender flips a coin and if you call it correctly, your beer is free.
Houndstooth Sports Bar – Tuscaloosa, AL
Popular with: University of Alabama
Located just two blocks from Bryant-Denny Stadium, The Houndstooth got its name from Paul “Bear” Bryant, who coached Alabama to six national championships during his 25-year career and had an affinity for houndstooth-print hats. Memorabilia and photos of him cover nearly every inch of the faded burgundy walls.
Catch a ‘Bama game on one of the 36 flatscreen TVs (they’re even in the bathroom, so fans don’t miss a moment) or on the 120-inch HD projection screen.
The Tombs – Washington, DC
Popular with: Georgetown University
Founded in 1962 by a Georgetown alum, The Toms calls itself “a neighborhood restaurant by day and a popular gathering place for Georgetown students by night.”
Students gather for Hoya basketball games, or just to hang out, share a cheap pitcher, and munch on some tater tots from their late-night menu.